Category Archives: Inspirational

Sunday Devotional: On Suffering

Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4

How long, O LORD?  I cry for help
 but you do not listen!
 I cry out to you, “Violence!”
 but you do not intervene.
 Why do you let me see ruin;
 why must I look at misery?
 Destruction and violence are before me;
 there is strife, and clamorous discord.
 Then the LORD answered me and said:
 Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,
 so that one can read it readily.
 For the vision still has its time,
 presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
 if it delays, wait for it,
 it will surely come, it will not be late.
 The rash one has no integrity;
 but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

Are you suffering?

I am weeping as I write this post, overcome with grief, having lost the two most important persons in my life in the space of a month.

For months, I had prayed for a miraculous intervention, but to no avail.

Do you, as I, lament as Job did in 30:20:

I cry to you, but you do not answer me;
I stand, but you take no notice.

But to suffer is to be human — suffering is the human condition.

If you find that unacceptable and demand an explanation, it’s right there in Genesis 3 — in the account of our first parents’ deliberate defiance of God’s explicit instruction, imagining in their preening grandiosity that they can become “like gods”.

But the exercise of free will is not free of consequence. As God had forewarned Adam and Eve, the issues of disobedience were dire indeed. By their fall, a door was opened to chaos; henceforth a price must be paid for being human. Where once was joy and ease, there would be suffering, hardship, and pain. The control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered, and humanity becomes vulnerable to the ravages of sickness, disease and eventual death.

And yet, narcissists that we are, when we are in the throes of suffering, we lament and wail “Why me?,” as if we alone should be spared from the universal human condition.

Did you know that researchers have found that religious, specifically Christian, faith is the most powerful non-pharmaceutical pain reducer?

St. Paul reminds us in Hebrews 4:15:

For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way.

In other words, no one better understands and empathizes with our suffering than Jesus. So, when you are wracked with pain, physical or emotional, look to our Lord on the cross and ask for His help.

2 Timothy 1:7-8

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So…bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

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St. Francis of Assisi

This is a re-publishing of Joan’s 2014 post.

Today, October 4, is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).

St. Francis is an unusual saint in that he is known and admired by even non-Catholics and non-Christians. Lamentably, most of his admirers know only one facet of St. Francis — his endearing closeness with birds and animals. But there is so much more to this saint.

Did you know that St. Francis was called by Jesus Christ our Lord to reform and repair the Catholic Church, which had fallen to a corrupt and heretical clergy?

History repeats itself, and we find a Church similarly in disrepair in our own time. May St. Francis be a reminder and role model for all faithful clergy and laity as we are called, as he was, to repair and reform a Church in disarray.

See also “St. Francis of Assisi’s end times prophecy and the two popes“.

~Eowyn


I cannot tell you how much St. Francis has helped me in my life with all of the wonderful creatures that Our Dear Lord has entrusted to me, protecting and healing them.  St. Francis is one of my favorite saints, and I love him very much, a “giant” of holiness.  Today, the Universal Church celebrates his Feast Day.

Dante Alighieri, the famous poet, the author of the Divine Comedy, said of St. Francis, “A sun was born into the world.”  Francis was born at the end of 1181 or the beginning of 1182, to a rich family, his father being a successful cloth merchant and being raised by an adoring French mother.  He lived a carefree life, most interested in chivalrous ideals and chivalrous dreams of greatness and nobility.  Francis, age 20, participated in a military campaign, was taken prisoner and later released because he was so very ill.  This illness caused Francis to search his soul and look inward to his purpose in life, to determine and define what was important in life.  He had abandoned his worldly lifestyle and began to notice the beauty, purpose and virtues of God’s creatures, whom he loved and how they lived in simplicity.

One day, Francis rode the plain of Assisi and noticed a disfigured and horrible looking leper man.  Francis got off his horse, wherein the leper outstretched his hands to receive alms.  But Francis did more than give him money, he kissed the leper because he saw Jesus in Him, he saw “Jesus in disguise,” as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say – an event that changed Francis’ life.

After his exchange with the leper, Francis visited hospitals, served the sick and the forgotten, gave clothes and money to those who needed it.  On a particular day in or about 1205, Francis was praying at the Church of St. Damian outside the walls of Assisi when he heard a voice, an interior instruction that he took to heart, “Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.”  Francis thought that Our Lord meant to repair that specific Church, when indeed and in fact Our Lord was referring Francis to renew and repair His Church.  Pope Benedict XVI tells us, “…that at that moment, St. Francis was called to repair the small church, but the ruinous state of the building was a symbol of the dramatic and disquieting situation of the Church herself.  At that time, the Church had a superficial faith which did not shape or transform life, a scarcely religious clergy, and a chilling of love.  It was an interior destruction of the Church which also brought a decomposition of unity, with the birth of heretical movements.  Yet, there at the centre of the Church in ruins was the Crucified Lord, and he spoke:  He called for renewal, He called Francis to the manual labour of repairing the small Church of St. Damian, the symbol of a much deeper call to Renew Christ’s own Church, with her radicality of faith and her loving enthusiasm for Christ.”

Francis took clothes and supplies from his father’s storage house, selling these items, as well as selling his father’s horse.  He brought these monies to the priest at St. Damian, but the priest would not take the money, Francis leaving the money on a window sill.  Francis’ father learned what had happened and demanded that Francis return everything that he had taken from him, reporting the matter to Bishop Guido of Assisi.  The Bishop told Francis to return these monies to his father, “He (God) does not wish His Church to profit by goods which may have been gotten unjustly.”  Francis responded, “The clothes I wear are also his.  I’ll give them back.”  He stripped off his clothes and gave them to his father saying, “Hitherto I have called you father on earth; but now I say, ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven. “ Clothes of a laborer were found and given to Francis, wherein Francis made a cross upon the cloth with some chalk and left.

Pope Benedict tells us about another event that comes to mind , of the dream of Pope Innocent III in 1207.  “…he saw the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the mother of all churches, collapsing and one small and insignificant brother, whom the Pope recognized as Francis , when Francis later visited him.”  Pope Benedict goes on to say, “…it is important to note that St. Francis does not renew the Church without or in opposition to the Pope, but only in communion with him.  The two realities go together:  the Successor of Peter, the Bishops, the Church founded on the succession of the Apostles and the new charism that the Holy Spirit brought to life at that time for the Church’s renewal.  Authentic renewal grew from these together.”

In 1208, Francis lived as a hermit, but then had another internal transformation, affected by the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ discourse to the apostles whom he sent out to evangelize and teach the nations.  Accordingly, Francis went out just as the apostles did to teach by example, living in poverty and preaching the Gospel.  He had other brothers, companions who followed his way of life.  On one particular day, Francis told the brothers they were going to preach.  Francis and his band of brothers walked through a town but said nothing.  One of the brothers asked Francis why they didn’t preach.  Francis told him that they did preach saying, “Preach the Gospel constantly, and when necessary, use words.”  It was, therefore, Francis’ incredible example of holiness, and that of the brother companions, that taught the people of God.

In 1209 Francis and his brother companions travelled to Rome to propose to Pope Innocent III the plan for a new kind of Christian life.  The Pope welcomed Francis and of course, recognized Francis from the dream that he had.  The Pope welcomed Francis and encouraged him.  Pope Benedict XVI tells us that “St. Francis really did have an extremely intimate relationship with Jesus and with the word of God, that he wanted to pursue …: just as it is, in all its radicality and truth.  It is also true that initially he did not intend to create an Order with the necessary canonical forms.  Rather, he simply wanted, through the word of God and the presence of the Lord, to renew the People of God, to call them back to listening to the Word and to literal obedience to Christ.  Furthermore, he knew that Christ was never “mine” but is always “ours”, that “I” cannot possess Christ that “I” cannot rebuild in opposition to the Church, her will and her teaching.  Instead, it is only in communion with the Church built on the Apostolic succession that obedience too, to the Word of God can be renewed.”  And Pope Benedict goes on to say that “Francis knew that the centre of the Church is the Eucharist, where the Body of Christ and His Blood are made present through the priesthood, the Eucharist and the communion of the Church.  Wherever the priesthood and the Eucharist and the Church come together, it is there alone that the world of God also dwells.  The real historical Francis was the Francis of the Church, and precisely in this way he continues to speak to non-believers and believers of other confessions and religions as well.”  Indeed and in fact, in St. Francis’ “First Admonition,” he says very passionately:

“Wherefore, O you sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart (Ps. 4,3)?  Why do you not recognize the truth and believe in the Son of God (John 9, 35)?  Behold:  daily he humbles himself (Phil 2,8) as when from heaven’s royal throne (Wisd 18, 15) he came down into the womb of the Virgin.  Daily He Himself comes to us with like humility; daily he descends from the bosom of the Father (John 1, 18; 6, 38) upon the altar in the hands of the priest.  And as he appeared to the Apostles in true flesh, so now also he shows himself to us in the sacred bread.  And as they by their bodily sight saw only His flesh, yet contemplating Him with the eyes of the spirit believed Him to be very God, so we also, as we see our bodily eyes the bread and wine, are to see and firmly believe that it is His most holy body and blood living and true.  And in this way, the Lord is always with His faithful, as he Himself says:  “Behold, I am with you until the end of the world (Mt 28, 20).”

And in the writings of St. Francis, (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, Editrici Francescane, Padova 2002, 401), Pope Benedict reminds us of the love that Francis had for Jesus in a special way in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, “Let everyone be struck with fear, let the whole world tremble, and let the heavens exult, when Christ, the Son of the living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest.  Oh stupendous dignity!  O humble sublimity, that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation He hides himself under an ordinary piece of bread.”

Francis and his friars became numerous and established themselves at the Portiuncula, or the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the center of Franciscan spirituality.  Clare, a young woman of Assisi from a noble and wealthy family loved Franciscan spirituality, and established the Order of Poor Clares, the second Franciscan order.

Pope Innocent III’s Successor, Pope Honorius III, in 1218, issued a “Bull” which is a formal document, a pronouncement, which supported Francis and his development of the first Friars Minor, who began to spread the Gospel to other European countries, and even in Morocco.  In 1220, Francis visited the Holy Land, sowed the seed which is evident in today’s world, making this place the Site for the Order, showing today the great merits of the Franciscans in the Holy Land.  After Francis returned to Italy from his missions, he developed his “Rule” which was approved by the Pope.

Francis also had great communication skills with God’s creatures and control of them, a gift given to Him by God.  “His love for and power over the lower animals were noted and often referred to by those who knew him:  his rebuke to the swallows while he was preaching at Alvian, “My sisters the swallows, it is now my turn to speak.  You have been talking enough all this time;” the birds that perched around him while he told them to praise their Creator; the rabbit that would not leave him at Lake Trasimene; and the tamed wolf at Gubbio…”  Francis even had a pet falcon that he loved very much, who accompanied him where he went.

In 1224, Francis saw a vision of Jesus crucified in the form of a seraph, and after that vision, received the stigmata from the Seraph Crucifix, becoming one with the Crucified Jesus.  Francis, thus, suffered with the wounds of Christ.  Francis died humbly, on the earthen floor, on October 3, 1226, in the Portiuncula with his brother friars.

Pope Benedict XVI I believe summarizes St. Francis beautifully.  He said:  “It has been said that Francis represents an alter Christus, that he was truly a living icon of Christ…Indeed, this was his ideal: to be like Jesus, to contemplate Christ in the Gospel, to love him intensely and to imitate his virtues.  In particular, he wished to ascribe interior and exterior poverty with a fundamental value, which he also taught to his spiritual sons.  The first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3) found a luminous fulfilment in the life and words of St. Francis.  Truly, dear friends, the saints are the best interpreters of the Bible.  As they incarnate the word of God in their own lives, they make it more captivating then ever, so that it really speaks to us.  The witness of Francis, who loved poverty as a means to follow Christ with dedication and total freedom, continues to be for us too an invitation to cultivate interior poverty in order to grow in our trust of God, also by adopting a sober lifestyle and a detachment from material goods…”

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI  says, “Dear friends, Francis was a great Saint and a joyful man.  His simplicity, his humility, his faith, his love for Christ, his goodness towards every man and every woman, brought him gladness in every circumstance.  Indeed, there subsists an intimate and indissoluble relationship between holiness and joy.  A French writer once wrote that there is only one sorrow in the world:  not to be saints, that is, not to be near to God.  Looking at the testimony of St. Francis, we understand that this is the secret of true happiness:  to become saints, close to God!”

Happy Feast Day, dearest St. Francis!  I hope you are having a big party in heaven today with Our Lord, the Blessed Mother Mary whom you loved and honored, with the angels and the saints, along with all of God’s blessed creatures!  I love you!

-Joan

Sources:

  • General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI, Paul VI Audience Hall, January 27, 2010, website of the Vatican, the “Holy See”.
  • “The Body of the Lord,” website of the Vatican, the “Holy See”.
  • One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press, AOL Time Warner Book Group.
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Guardian angel saves girl from falling into the Grand Canyon

Today is the feast day of our Guardian Angels.

Below is an account of what one Guardian Angel did.

In 1977, Al Holiday of Hartland, Michigan, took his family and his 14-year-old sister Janie on a vacation to the Grand Canyon.

At a lookout point over a steep cliff, Janie ignored the posted warning sign and stepped outside a guard rail to take photos of the canyon.

She slipped and fell, plunging down into the canyon when, suddenly, she came to an abrupt stop on the practically-vertical cliff embankment.

Her family above could hear her screams but could not see her because the cliff was so steep.

Janie desperately tried to move up the steep embankment, but couldn’t.

Suddenly, she found herself back on top of the cliff although she hadn’t moved.

When Janie returned home, she told her mother Shirley about her terrifying experience.

Shirley said that at the exact moment when Janie was hanging onto the steep face of the cliff, Shirley, who was more than 1,500 miles away, had a premonition that Janie was going to die. Shirley started to cry, but then a peace came over her.

Janie believes her Guardian Angel had saved her life that day by stopping her plunge down the cliff and whisking her safely back  to the top.

H/t Spirit Daily

See also:

~Eowyn

Drudge Report has gone to the dark side. Check out Whatfinger News, the Internet’s conservative frontpage founded by ex-military!

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Sunday Devotional: The lost sheep

Jesus with black sheep by Jon McNaughton

Luke 15:1-7

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 
So to them he addressed this parable.
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.”

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: ‘I did not come to bring peace, but a sword’

Luke 14:25-27

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple….”

Today’s reading is reminiscent of another passage:

Matthew 10:34-36

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to turn a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law —
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”

Sobering words indeed.

I don’t know why a popular image of Jesus the Christ is that of an epicene, meek and mild man. Is it because our Lord willingly allowed Himself to be tortured and executed on a cross?

But the truth is that the Jesus described in the canonical Gospels is neither meek nor mild nor unmasculine. A carpenter by trade, He was muscular and strong. He got angry with the moneychangers in the Temple and overturned their tables — nothing mild about that. He took on the élite Pharisees and was outspoken in denouncing them, calling them children of the Devil and the synagogue of Satan. He spoke with complete authority and captured the rapt attention of an audience of thousands –remember the miracle of loaves and fishes? He told His followers not to be wimps, instructing them that “if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

All of which is hardly the behavior or demeanor of a meek, mild, effeminate, wimpy man.

And, as in the above passages from Luke 14:25-27 and Matthew 10:34-36, He warned us again and again that following Him won’t be easy and that we will be hated and persecuted simply because of His name, because we are His followers.

Luke 21:12, 16-19

“[T]hey will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name…. 
You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death. 
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
Stand firm, and you will win life.

For, as His followers, we are not of this world. Thus, the powers and all who are of this world will always hate and persecute us. And by their hate, we will know who they are (John 8:44).

So gird your loins.

Be prepared.

Stand firm and be strong!

May the peace and love and courage of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: Conduct your affairs with humility

Luke 14:1, 7, 12-14

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table….

“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

In his brief three years of public ministry, our Lord Jesus the Christ again and again warned against the sin of pride and grandiosity, aka narcissism, and exhorted us to be humble.

The Old Testament, too, sounded the same warning and exhortation in the Book of Sirach, commonly called the Wisdom of Sirach — a work of ethical teachings, from approximately 200 to 175 B.C., written by Ben Sira of Jerusalem, and the largest wisdom book from antiquity to have survived.

Sirach 3:17-18

My child, conduct your affairs with humility,
 and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
 Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
 and you will find favor with God. 

The opposite of humility is narcissism or grandiosity — the exaltation and excessive love of self, making ourselves “as gods”. As such, narcissism is an offense against God because it violates the first of the Ten Commandments:

“I am the Lord your God:
you shall not have strange gods before me.”

As American culture becomes increasingly corrupt, it’s no accident that studies testify to a corresponding increase in narcissism “across the board,” in the words of San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, the author of Generation Me (Free Press, 2006).

Twenge wrote that narcissism and one of its behavioral manifestations — entitlement — among college students had increased steadily and dramatically since 1979:

What we really have is a culture that has increasingly emphasized feeling good about yourself and favoring the individual over the group. And that has happened across the board, culturally, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. I have a 14-month-old daughter, and the clothing available to her has ‘little princess,’ or ‘I’m the boss,’ or ‘spoiled rotten’ written on it. This is what we’re dressing our babies in. Schools have programs designed to boost self-esteem. Parents say things like, ‘You shouldn’t care what other people think of you.’ We’re inundated with the notions of ‘feeling special,’ ‘believing in yourself’ and ‘be anything you want to be.’

For that reason, Twenge coined the term “iGeneration” (“i” as in both iPod and “me, me, me”) for the Millennials — those born in the general range of 1981 to 1999.

It is also no accident that the cultural rot and increase in narcissism “across the board” are accompanied by a dramatic increase in overt and coarsened sexuality, which permeats everything.

In a 1992 encyclical, Pastores Dabo Vobis, St. John Paul II explained the cause-and-effect connection between narcissism (the adulation of the self) and an unrestrained and degraded sexuality “reduced to nothing more than a consumer good”:

In this case, many young people undergo an affective experience which, instead of contributing to a harmonious and joyous growth in personality which opens them outward in an act of self-giving, becomes a serious psychological and ethical process of turning inward toward self, a situation which cannot fail to have grave consequences on them in the future. In the case of some young people a distorted sense of freedom lies at the root of these tendencies. Instead of being understood as obedience to objective and universal truth, freedom is lived out as a blind acquiescence to instinctive forces and to an individual’s will to power.… On the religious level, such a situation, if it does not always lead to an explicit refusal of God, causes widespread indifference and results in a life which, even in its more significant moments and more decisive choices, is lived as if God did not exist.

It is also no accident that all of these “Do As Thou Wilt” — a Satanic motto — cultural indicators are accompanied not just by the tolerance, but the celebration of homosexuality and so-called transgenderism.

Psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, with more than 35 years of clinical experience treating homosexuals, including homosexual priests, said in a 2011 interview that “Narcissism — a personality disorder in which an insatiable need for admiration often leads to attention-seeking behavior — is prevalent among men who struggle with homosexuality.”

And what’s the antidote to narcissism?

Not love of self, but the right kind of love — loving the God who humbled Himself by dying on the cross for our sins, with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength.

Luke 14:11

For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

May the peace and love and humility of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

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Today you will be with Me in Paradise

“And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  – Luke 23:43

Who was the thief on the cross?

We don’t know much about him, except that he was being executed for a capitol crime, that he also hurled insults at Jesus, and that he came to his senses, and asked the Lord to remember him when He comes into his kingdom.

He was clearly not a person we would think of as deserving respect. And yet, that one final request to Jesus brought him through the worst imaginable thing.

So how loving and forgiving is Jesus?

He was so loving that even at the most horrible moment, He could extend grace and forgiveness to someone who had mocked within the previous hour.

In fact, the only reason Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified was so one such as this could be forgiven.

So let’s do the math. Within 6 hours of this statement, both Jesus and the former thief were no longer on a cross, no longer in pain, but were walking in paradise, never to suffer again.


RIP my friend

TD

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Sunday Devotional: Only a few will be saved

Luke 13:22-30

Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

The Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study found that:

  • More than 7-in-10 (72%) Americans believed in heaven — defined as “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded” — only 2% fewer than in 2007.
  • A larger majority (82%) of religiously-affiliated Americans believed in heaven:
    • 85% of Christians in 2017, 2% more than in 2007:
      • 84% of Protestants
      • 82% of Catholics
      • 74% of Orthodox Christians
    • Among non-Christian religions, 95% of Mormons, 85% of Muslims, 51% of Hindus, 38% of Jews, and 36% of Buddhists believed in heaven.
  • In contrast, 37% of Americans who were religiously-unaffiliated or “nones” believed in heaven. Of those, only 5% of atheists and 14% of agnostics believed.

Note: The 2014 Pew survey also found that religious “nones” outnumbered Christians among Democrats and Democratic-leaning adults, and that although the “nones” had increased among Republicans, they were still outnumbered by Christians, especially by evangelicals.

According to a 2016 LifeWay Research survey of 3,000 U.S. adults with a 95% confidence level and a margin of error of ±2%, a majority (60%) said everyone eventually goes to heaven, including 64% of evangelical Christians. Indeed, a 2005 ABC News poll had found that among the 89% of Americans who believed in Heaven, 85% thought they would personally go there, such is our preening narcissism.

Today’s Gospel reading from Luke 13, however, is a sober reminder that we flatter ourselves when we imagine we are destined for Heaven, for our Lord Jesus Christ said the gate is “narrow” and many “will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

Recall that although we read and hear about near-death experiences (NDE) of what appears to be Heaven, there are NDE accounts of being in a dark place, full of demons. As an example, during his 2004 quadruple bypass surgery, Bill Clinton had a frightening NDE in which he found himself in a dark hellish place. As he recounted in an interview on ABC’s Primetime Live:

“I saw, like, dark masks crushing, like, death masks being crushed, in series, and then I’d see these great circles of light and then, like, Hillary’s picture or Chelsea’s face would appear on the light, and then they’d fly off into the dark.”

See:

The road to Heaven is a rigorous and demanding one. Afterall, Jesus did say “I have come to set the earth on fire” (Luke 12:49). So we are to look upon our life on this mortal coil as a trial by fire, wherein we must rid “ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13

Brothers and sisters,
You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
Endure your trials as “discipline”;
God treats you as sons.
For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
At the time,
all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness
to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

Only the holy go to Heaven.

I want to be holy, and I want you all to be holy. So let’s help each other trod that hard and “narrow” path of goodness, no matter the slings and arrows, the trials and tribulations. And at all times, “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1, 2), and tell Him you love Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength.

Rejoice that we have lived to see another glorious Sunday!

And may the love and peace and joy and goodness of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: ‘I have come to set the earth on fire’

Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing! 
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! 
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? 
No, I tell you, but rather division. 
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

“I have come to set the earth on fire….
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?”

What sobering words.

If we wonder and lament about the evermore vicious Culture War we find ourselves in, recall those words, for Christ did warn us in Luke 21:12, 16-19:

“[T]hey will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name…. 
You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
Stand firm, and you will win life.

For, as His followers, we are not of this world. Thus, the powers and all who are of this world will always hate and persecute us. And by their hate, we will know who they are (John 8:44).

In the undeclared but de facto civil war that we are in, when you and I get all puffed up with righteous moral indignation, be sure that we’re not being self-righteous — “Having or characterized by a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior.”

So what’s the antidote to self-righteousness?

Three things:

  1. Be sure that when we are on that moral high horse, our cause and our justice are God’s cause and justice.
  2. Humility: Don’t imagine that being righteous makes us morally superior or better than others.
  3. Love: The right kind of love. Not love of self — getting all puffy and grandiose that we are morally better than others — but love of God.

It’s always narcissism. Our stumbling block is always narcissism.

Remember that the Greatest Commandment of all is to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and with all our strength.

He is our lodestar. Always.

Fix our eyes not on ourselves, but on Him — while we battle for what is good, and right, and true, and just.

And then perhaps someday, when it’s time for us to go, we too can say what St. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7:

I have fought a good fight;
I have finished my course;
I have kept the faith.

And may the love and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: On Faith

Matthew 14:24-32

[T]he boat was already a considerable distance from land,
buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.
When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.
“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them:
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied,
“tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat,
walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and,
beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
Then those who were in the boat worshiped him,
saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

The dictionary defines “faith” as:

  • Great trust or confidence in something or someone
  • Strong belief in God

Our lives sometimes are buffeted by problems and challenges that, try as we might, are beyond our ability to repair or resolve.

So, in our helplessness and desperation, we turn to God, for who else is there?

Below are some Bible verses I found on faith. I hope they can be your anchor in troubled times.

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” -Hebrews 11:1

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seeks Him.” -Hebrews 11:6

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” -2 Corinthians 5:7

“And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible for one who believes.’” -Mark 9:23

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” -Matthew 21:22

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:5-8

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” -Proverbs 3:5-6

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” -Luke 1:37

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone…. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” -James 2:14-17, 24, 26

And if you ever doubt your faith in God, consider this:

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” -James 2:19

 

Just remember that:

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13:13

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20

Keep the faith, and may the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Eowyn

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