Tag Archives: St. Paul

Sunday Devotional: The call of God is irrevocable

Matthew 15:21-28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! 
My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. 
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.” 
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.” 
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith! 
Let it be done for you as you wish.” 
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

As the above passage from Matthew 15 indicates, Jesus told the Caananite woman — a Gentile — that He was sent only to Israelites, i.e., Jews, not Gentiles. But Jesus was moved and persuaded by the woman’s faith in Him, and so He granted her request and exorcised the demon from her daughter.

That is one of the great mysteries of humankind — why Jews not only rejected Jesus the Christ, despite the many foretellings of His coming in the Torah, the Hebrew Bible and Christianity’s Old Testament, their leaders actually demanded that He be put to death, although Jesus had committed no crime. Not just put to death, but executed by the cruelest method that the Romans reserved for the worst criminals — crucifixion.

All of which raises the question of why most Jews, then and now, refuse to believe that Jesus is who He said He is.

Among the reasons why they don’t, according to the article “Why Don’t Jews Believe In Jesus?,” are:

  • The Jewish Messiah must be descended on his father’s side from King David, but Jesus was not because Christians say he was the product of a virgin birth and therefore had no father. (Hmm, does that mean Jesus is not Jewish?)
  • Jews don’t believe in miracles: “Even if the individual claiming personal revelation performs miracles [as Jesus did], there is still no verification that he is a genuine prophet. Miracles do not prove anything. All they show—assuming they are genuine—is that he has certain powers. It has nothing to do with his claim of prophecy. Judaism, unique among all of the world’s major religions, does not rely on ‘claims of miracles’ as the basis for its religion. In fact, the Bible says that God sometimes grants the power of ‘miracles’ to charlatans….” (Hmm, but don’t Jews believe in the miracles of  Moses parting the Red Sea, and the manna from Heaven during the time Moses led Jews wandering in the desert?)

Now you see why the Talmud, the collection of the sayings and writings of rabbis regarded as superior even to the Torah, calls Jesus a “bastard,” “fool” and “charlatan,” His mother Mary a “whore,” and Christians “idolators” and less than human. (See Rev. I. B. Pranaitis, The Talmud Unmasked: The Secret Rabbinical Teachings Concerning Christians; first published in St. Petersburg in 1892.; and “Truth About the Talmud“.)

Jews really should heed this:

But the rejection by Jews turns out to be to our benefit. As St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, said in Romans 11:11-12, 15, 19-20, 23, 28-29:

But through their transgression
salvation has come to the Gentiles…

their transgression is enrichment for the world…
their rejection is the reconciliation of the world….
Indeed you will say, “Branches were broken off
so that I might be grafted in.”
That is so.
They were broken off because of unbelief,
but you are there because of faith.
So do not become haughty, but stand in awe….
And they also, if they do not remain in unbelief,
will be grafted in,
for God is able to graft them in again….
In respect to the gospel, they are enemies on your account;
but in respect to election,
they are beloved because of the patriarchs.
For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.

So if you hear His call, do not harden your heart.

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

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: Be persistent in proclaiming the truth

2 Timothy 4:1-8

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
convince, reprimand,
encourage through all patience and teaching.
For the time will come
when people will not tolerate sound doctrine
but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity,
will accumulate teachers
and will stop listening to the truth
and will be diverted to myths.
But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances;
put up with hardship;
perform the work of an evangelist;
fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well;
I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day,
and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

Sometimes God uses a drastic method to get our attention. That’s what happened to an awful man named Saul.

Born c. AD 5 in the Mediterranean city of Tarsus (in today’s south-central Turkey), Saul was a Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin, whose father and grandfather were Pharisees.

An approximate contemporary of the twelve Apostles, Saul neither followed nor even saw Jesus preach. Instead, being a zealot for Jewish law and traditions, he saw Jesus’ disciples as enemy and dedicated himself to the persecution of the early Christians, most notably the killing by stoning of St. Stephen.

When Saul was in his late 20s, as he was approaching Damascus from Jerusalem on a mission to arrest all Christian Jews in Damascus, he and his company were struck by a great light and fell to the ground. Saul alone heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked the voice to identify  himself. The voice answered, “Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.” Trembling, Saul cried out, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” The resurrected Christ told Saul that in Damascus, he would learn what would be expected of him.

As Saul got off the ground, he realized he had become blind. He was led to Damascus, where he remained blind for three days, without eating or drinking.
Like all genuine encounters with God — including our own, should we be so graced — Saul’s dramatic encounter with the risen Christ changed him forever.

Now renamed Paul (which means Little), not only did he stop persecuting Christians, he became a devoted follower of Christ, perhaps the most influential early Christian missionary. The first Christology — doctrines and theories of the meaning of the belief in Christ — was developed by Paul.

More importantly, more than any of Christ’s disciples, it was Paul who fully understood that, by His incarnation, death and resurrection, Jesus replaced the convenant of the Old Testament with a new convenant. This was made clear by Christ Himself in the Last Supper:

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11.25; cf. Mt 26.27-29; Mk 14.24, Lk 22.20; Heb 8.6, 9.15)

Henceforth, God’s chosen are all who “take up their cross” and follow Jesus the Christ. In other words, what once was a tribal religion — Judaism — is now superceded by the universal faith of Christianity.

That is why St. Paul is called the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Without the work of Paul, formerly the sinful Saul of Tarsus, you and I might not be Christians.

Paul was beaten, arrested and imprisoned on more than one occasion. Neither the Bible nor other sources say how or when Paul died, but Ignatius, probably around 110, wrote that Paul was martyred. According to Christian tradition, St. Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero, on June 29, AD 67 — the same day as St. Peter was crucified upside down.

Shortly before he was martyred, St. Paul had written to St. Timothy these famous words:

“I am even now ready to be sacrificed, and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. As for the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love His coming.”

For all these reasons — the sinful pre-conversion Saul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, teaching us about Jesus’ New Covenant — I love St. Paul with all my heart. I hope that, should our time darken to that point when Christians are persecuted as in the days of the early Church, I too will “finish my course,” “keep my faith,” and stand “ready to be sacrificed.”

I now conclude this “Sunday Devotional” with my favorite passage from St. Paul (letter to the Ephesians 6:10-16):

Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ 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: The persecution of Paul and Barnabas

Acts 13:14, 43-52

Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga
and reached Antioch in Pisidia.
On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats.
Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism
followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them
and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.

On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered
to hear the word of the Lord.
When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy
and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.
Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said,
“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,
but since you reject it
and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life,
we now turn to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord has commanded us,
I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
that you may be an instrument of salvation
to the ends of the earth.”

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this
and glorified the word of the Lord.
All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.
The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers
and the leading men of the city,
stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas,
and expelled them from their territory.
So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them,
and went to Iconium.
The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

St. Barnabas was a Jew named Joseph, born in Cyprus. He sold his property and gave the proceeds to the Apostles, who gave him the name Barnabas, and lived in common with the earliest converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. He was sent to Antioch, Syria, to look into the community there, and brought Paul to Jerusalem from Tarsus.

St. Barnabas’ missionary journeys took him to Cyprus, Perga; Antioch in Pisidia, where he and St. Paul were so violently opposed by the Jews that they decided to preach to non-Jews, the Gentiles; Iconium and Lystra in Lycaonia, where he and St. Paul were stoned out of the city. When a dispute arose regarding the observance of the Jewish rites, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, where, at a council, it was decided that non-Jews did not have to be circumcised to be baptized.

Christian tradition holds that St. Barnabas was martyred, stoned to death, at Salamis, Cyprus, in 61 AD. He is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Orthodox Church. St. Barnabas’ feast day is June 11.

St. Paul was born Saul, c. AD 5, in the Mediterranean city of Tarsus (in today’s south-central Turkey). A Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s father and grandfather were Pharisees. The Pharisees claimed prophetic or Mosaic authority for their interpretation of Jewish laws. Though a Jew, Saul was by privilege a Roman citizen.

An approximate contemporary of the twelve Apostles, Saul neither followed nor even saw Jesus preach. Instead, being a zealot for Jewish law and traditions, he saw Jesus’ disciples as enemy and dedicated himself to the persecution of the early Christians, most notably the killing by stoning of St. Stephen.

When Saul was in his late 20s, as he was approaching Damascus from Jerusalem on a mission to arrest all Christian Jews in Damascus, he and his company were struck by a great light and fell to the ground. Saul alone heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked the voice to identify  himself. The voice answered, “Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.” Trembling, Saul cried out, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” The resurrected Christ told Saul that in Damascus, he would learn what would be expected of him.

As Saul got off the ground, he realized he had become blind. He was led to Damascus, where he remained blind for three days, without eating or drinking.
Like all genuine encounters with God — including our own, should we be so graced — Saul’s dramatic encounter with the risen Christ changed him forever.

Now renamed Paul (which means “little”), not only did he stop persecuting Christians, he became a devoted follower of Christ, perhaps the most influential early Christian missionary. The first Christology — doctrines and theories of the meaning of the belief in Christ — was developed by Paul. More importantly, more than any of Christ’s disciples, it was Paul who fully understood that, by His incarnation, death and resurrection, Jesus replaced the convenant of the Old Testament with a new convenant. This was made clear by Christ Himself in the Last Supper:

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11.25; cf. Mt 26.27-29; Mk 14.24, Lk 22.20; Heb 8.6, 9.15)

Henceforth, God’s chosen are all who “take up their cross” and follow Jesus the Christ. In other words, what once was a tribal religion — Judaism — is now the universal faith of Christianity. That is why St. Paul is called the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Without the work of Paul, formerly the sinful Saul of Tarsus, you and I might not be Christians.

Paul was indefatigable in bringing the Word of Christ to both Jews and Gentiles, in a time when travel was arduous and dangerous. Through his missionary activity and writings he eventually transformed religious belief and philosophy around the Mediterranean Basin.

Paul was beaten, arrested and imprisoned on more than one occasion. Neither the Bible nor other sources say how or when Paul died, but Ignatius, probably around 110, wrote that Paul was martyred. According to Christian tradition, St. Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero, on June 29, AD 67 — the same day as St. Peter was crucified upside down.

Shortly before he was martyred, St. Paul had written to St. Timothy these famous words:

“I am even now ready to be sacrificed, and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. As for the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love His coming.”

In a powerful passage in his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul specifically addresses unbelieving Jews. His words should be a reminder to us that, however difficult, we are to pray for instead of curse them.

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

See also:

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

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: The radical departure from Judaism

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
—For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

The word “covenant” means a binding agreement; a compact; a contract.

Jesus, again and again, said that He came to make a new covenant:

“This cup that is poured out for you
is the new covenant in my Blood,
which will be shed for you.” –Luke 22:20

St. Paul, who was a Pharisee — a member of the ancient Jewish sect that emphasized strict interpretation and observance of the Mosaic law — further emphasized in Hebrew 8:13 that:

In speaking of a new covenant,
He makes the first one obsolete.

The above passage from Mark 7 makes clear that, in making a new covenant, Jesus is a radical departure from Judaism, which had become mouldy and encrusted with the writings and sayings of men (rabbis) — torturous instructions on dietary laws (Kashrut), personal hygiene, and day-to-day life, much like the Koran. Collectively known as the Talmud, those writings and sayings of men came to (and still do) supersede the Torah (Christians’ Old Testament) in importance.

But with a few chosen words, Jesus sweeps aside the minutiae of the Talmud and gets to the gravamen of the matter: It is what is in our hearts that counts, not meticulous observations of dietary dos and don’ts.

To do otherwise — to cling to “human precepts” and outward shows of dos and don’ts, while our hearts are evil — is to be hypocrites. And for being called out the pretentious hypocrites that they were, the Pharisees would nurse their hatred and malice, until they had their revenge at last on Golgotha.

Jesus, I love you with my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole mind, and with all my strength.

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

~Eowyn

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Church attendance reduces suicide risk by half

The recent spate of “celebrity” suicides by hanging — actor Robin Williams in 2014; fashion designer Kate Spade and “celebrity chef” Anthony Bourdain this month — are famous examples of the 25% increase in U.S. suicides since 1999.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented a steep rise in suicides in the United States between 1994 and 2014, among men and women and in all age groups between 10 and 74. Although women are still less likely than men to commit suicide, the gender suicide-gap is closing. Among women between 45 and 64 — the ages at which women are most likely to kill themselves — the rate of suicide in 2014 dramatically increased 80% from 1999.
Speculations abound about the suicides of Spade and Bourdain:

  • Were they depressed from relationship failures? –Spade and her mouse-mask wearing husband were separated; Bourdain might have been dumped by his satanic girlfriend Asia Argento.
  • Was it a case of auto erotic-asphyxiation?
  • Was Bourdain Arkancided (just because he said in a tweet that Hillary Clinton’s operatives harassed him for joining the #MeToo movement against criminally-prosecuted Hellywood mogul Harvey Weinstein?)

There is one thing that Williams, Spade and Bourdain all had in common: They did not have the Light of Christ. Williams and Bourdain were Jews; Spade, who graduated from a Catholic all-girls high school, was not observant.

St. Paul said in his Letter to the Ephesians 6:10-16:

Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

A study by a team of researchers led by Tyler J. VanderWeele of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, confirms the correctness of St. Paul’s injunction.
Published in the August 2016 issue of JAMA Psychiatry, “Association Between Religious Service Attendance and Lower Suicide Rates Among US Women,” the study found that mmidst the wave of despair and suicide, one group of women are bucking the national trend.
Melissa Healy reports for the Los Angeles Times that, using data from 1996 to 2010, the study found the following stunning facts:

  1. Compared with women who never participated in religious services, women who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide. In a study population made up of 89,708 nurses aged 30 to 55, and dominated by women who identified themselves as either Catholic or Protestant, the suicide rate observed was about half that for U.S. women as a whole — only 36 of them committed suicide at some point in the course of 15 years.
  2. Which church, Protestant or Catholic, matters. Although Protestant women who worshiped weekly at church were far less likely to take their own lives than women who seldom or never went to church, Catholic women were even less likely — seven times less likely to commit suicide than Protestant women.
  3. How often one attends church also matters: Among especially devout Catholic women, suicides were non-existent. There was not a single suicide among the 6,999 Catholic women who said they attended Mass more than once a week.
  4. It’s not whether one is Christian; it’s about church attendance: The suicide-prevention effect of religion was clearly not a simple matter of group identity: Self-identified Catholics who never attended mass committed suicide nearly as often as did women of any religion who were not active worshipers.

The study’s authors concluded that church attendance is “a form of meaningful social participation” that buffers women against loneliness and isolation — both factors that are strongly implicated in depression and suicide — and that “Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that psychiatrists and clinicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate.”
Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, director of the medical ethics program at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, and co-author of The Catholic Guide to Depression, said the lengthy duration of the 2016 study — women were asked about their religious attendance every two years starting in 1996 and then followed until 2010 — “suggests a causal relationship between religious practice and a significantly lower risk of suicide, especially among Catholics“:

“Religious convictions and practices can help people foster a sense of hope, even in the midst of major crises or adversities. Religious faith can help people find a sense of meaning and purpose even in suffering. It’s not our role to ‘prescribe’ religion… or proselytize to our patients. It is safe to assume that religious conviction and faith must be genuine and sincere if they are to provide the mental and physical health benefits that several studies have suggested. [But if patients are inclined to explore religion or spirituality,] doctors can encourage patients to explore such activities confident that religious practices will likely not harm, and may indeed, help, their patient’s mental health.”

The 2016 study confirms and adds to recent research on the potential benefits of religiosity, contrary to Sigmund Freud’s sneering denunciation of religious belief as the “universal obsessional neurosis of humanity.”

See also:

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: On slavery and welfare

Philemon 9-17

I, Paul, an old man,
and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus,
urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus,
whose father I have become in my imprisonment;
I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.
I should have liked to retain him for myself,
so that he might serve me on your behalf
in my imprisonment for the gospel,
but I did not want to do anything without your consent,
so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary.
Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while,
that you might have him back forever,
no longer as a slave
but more than a slave, a brother,
beloved especially to me, but even more so to you,
as a man and in the Lord.
So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

The above reading from St. Paul’s letter to Philemon is a powerful statement against both slavery as well as the institution of government-enforced welfare.

The letter was written by St. Paul during an imprisonment, believed to be in Rome between A.D. 61 and 63. The letter concerns Onesimus (pronounced “o-NEH-sih-muhs”), a slave who had run away from his master, Philemon (pronounced “fih-LEE-muhn”), an early Christian in Asia Minor who was a slave-owner and a minister of the house church that met in his home.

In their imprisonment, Paul converted Onesimus to Christ, then sends him back to his master, Philemon, with a private letter appealing on behalf of Onesimus, asking that he be welcomed not as a slave but as an equal — a brother in Christ.

By presenting Onesimus as “brother, beloved…to me, but even more so to you,” Paul voiced an idea that was revolutionary because, at the time, human slavery was an accepted institution that the Christian communities of the first century were in no position to challenge.

It is no wonder that the abolition movement that began in the 18th century in the UK and the US was pioneered, led, and staffed by Christians — a fact that is little known or publicized today.

Both Philemon and Onesimus were martyred at Colossaei during the first general persecution in the reign of Nero, and are regarded as saints by several Christian churches. (Note: The word “saint” simply means “holy”; the title of “saint” is honorific, a sign of our respect.) For the martyrdom of Paul, see “St. Paul, whom Christ struck blind”.

As for welfare, an institution that has become colossal and immovable in our time in the form of the bloated welfare state, there can be no more powerful statement against it than Paul’s words in his letter to Philemon:

“so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary”

Charity is voluntary, which studies show conservatives give more in both money and services than liberals.

But welfare, the revenue for which is extracted via confiscatory taxation, is not charity because it is enforced, and an involuntary “good” is no longer a good.

And yet “liberal” Christians precisely support this enforced charity — an oxymoron — in the name of “social justice”. But then those same “liberal” Christians also are “pro-choice,” a euphemism for government-sanctioned abortion — the lawful killing of unborn and entirely innocent human beings, for whom Christ weeps.

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

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: How to evaluate someone who claims to be Christian

Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11

Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died,
and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,
circumcision and uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

TOPSHOTS-BRAZIL-LIGHTNING-CHRIST THE REDEEMER
We are in the midst of another presidential election season.
And since Christians still constitute a majority, though shrinking, of the U.S. population, the two major parties’ nominees and VP running-mates all claim to be Christians.
But surely, we are not gullible little children who believe someone just because he or she claims to be one? As an example, the Democratic Party’s presidential and vice-presidential nominees both claim to be Christians, and yet both support the absolute “right” of women to kill their unborn. Some followers of Christ they are! More absurd still is Tim Kaine, the Democratic Party’s VP candidate, who says he’s a Catholic when the Catholic Church’s unchanging and unwavering principle is that abortion is an intrinsic evil, for which there can be no excuse, rationalization or justification.
But in the above passage from his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul had given us a simple yardstick to ascertain the truth or falsity of someone — including ourselves — who claims to be a follower of Christ:

“Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another….”

Five of St. Paul’s criteria — immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed — are internal attributes that may be opaque for outsiders to see. But the sixth criterion — lying — is an external behavior that is observable and verifiable.
It is also a violation of one of the Ten Commandments — the 9th.
But it’s not just the 9th Commandment, for lying is at the basis of every one of the Ten Commandments. Think about it . . . .
I suggest that we ask ourselves when we are in the voting booth this November 8:

“Which candidate(s) lies, constantly, for which we have incontrovertible evidence?”


No matter your party affiliation, no matter your self-interested reasons for supporting a candidate, imagining that she/he would give you what you want, do you really think a Christian would lie, constantly?
And if she lies about everything, can you believe the promises she’s making in her quest to be president? Seriously, are you really that deluded or stupid?

John 8:43-44

Why do you not understand what I say?
Because you cannot bear to listen to my words.
You are from your father, the devil,
and you prefer to do what your father wants.
He was a murderer from the start;
he was never grounded in the truth;
there is no truth in him at all.
When he lies he is speaking true to his nature,
because he is a liar,
and the father of lies.

Jesus says the Greatest Commandment of all is to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and with all our strength.
So if you love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength, how can you lie to others and to yourself, not just once, not just an occasional lapse from grace, but repeatedly, constantly, relentlessly?
See also:

May the joy and peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
~Eowyn

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Apparition of Virgin Mary in photos taken in chapel

In his Letter to the Corinthians 11:23-26, St. Paul wrote:

Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Catholics believe that the Eucharist or consecrated Host is the very Body of Christ.
In every Catholic church, there is a tabernacle containing the Eucharist. Some Catholic parishes (as well as some Anglican and Lutheran churches) set aside a special time during a weekday for people to come before the tabernacle, where the Eucharist is displayed in a monstrance, to adore Jesus Christ, our Lord.
monstrance1
Recently, at just such an occasion, a parishioner of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview, Illinois, took some pictures of the parish’s Adoration Chapel with her cell phone.
In each of the pictures (see below) is a bright light in the shape of the familiar silhouette of Jesus’ mother, Mary.
Mary1Mary3Mary2
Here’s the Google translation of an account from the website Reina del Cielo (Queen of Heaven):

On more than one occasion we have seen manifestations of God that leave us very surprised. Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the world, signs and Eucharistic miracles that reveal the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine consecrated.

This time we have three pictures that were taken during the exposition of the Blessed, in the Adoration Chapel of the Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview, Illinois, United States.
We do not claim to be a real presence of the Virgin, but not completely deny. Simply we share these images that can lead to reflection.
The photographs were taken by a parishioner with her cell phone. At first glance, he says, there was nothing but the camera caught what we see.
Maria always present with his Son in the Eucharistic Bread. She calls us to worship the living God present in all the altars of the land, the daily miracle that occurs at the hands of priests, in the perfect prayer that is the Mass.

H/t Spirit Daily
~Éowyn

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St. Barnabas, Patron Saint of Cyprus

St. Barnabas

Today, June 11th, the universal Church honors St. Barnabas, a great evangelizer and martyr.

St. Barnabas was a Jew of the Tribe of Levi, born in Cyprus. He was not one of the chosen twelve apostles, but because of his important apostolic works, the Early Church Fathers and St. Luke himself referred to him as an apostle because of the special commission he received from the Holy Spirit. His original name was Joseph. However, the apostles changed it to Barnabas which is interpreted, “man of encouragement.”

We find St. Barnabas first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, wherein there is an explanation how the converts at Jerusalem lived in common and that as many were landowners or homeowners, those properties were sold and the proceeds of those sales were given to the apostles for distribution. Hence, St. Barnabas’ property is therein mentioned.

Subsequently, the apostles thought that one of them should be sent by the Church in Jerusalem to Antioch, to instruct the Faith. They chose St. Barnabas who enlisted the assistance of St. Paul, who spent a year with him teaching the Gospel in Antioch. St. Barnabas and Paul were very successful and many converts were made.

Sometime later, the flourishing Christian Church in Antioch raised money to help their brethren in Judaea as the people there were suffering from a famine. This money was given to St. Paul and St. Barnabas and they returned to Judaea giving the members of the Church there this generous gift.

St. Paul and St. Barnabas received a commission to go on a missionary journey to Iconium, the capital of Lycaonia. They escaped this jurisdiction, having almost been stoned to death. However, a miraculous cure of a crippled individual occurred at Lystra through St. Paul, which inspired the people there to believe that actual “gods” were among them. Therefore, they referred to St. Paul as the god “Hermes,” and St. Barnabas as the god “Zeus” or “Jupiter.” Of course, both St. Paul and St. Barnabas set forth the real Truth and preached the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. They then went to Derbe, making many Christian converts, retracing their steps wherein they went to those cities to confirm the converts and to ordain presbyters. They then returned to Antioch, being very pleased with what happened.

paulSt. Paul’s journeys (click map to enlarge)

It is most likely that St. Barnabas was still living and working in 56 A.D. or 57 A.D. pursuant to I Corinthians ix, 5 and 6. However, St. Paul’s invitation to John Mark to join him whilst he was a prisoner in Rome, infers that by on or about 60 or 61 A.D. St. Barnabas must have died. It is said that St. Barnabas was stoned to death at Salamis.

We thank you for your holy example of faith, hope and love, as well as your immense courage, to preach the Gospel to everyone who would listen, to bring Christ to everyone and to die for Jesus and His Church. We ask you to help us in this world, inasmuch as there is tremendous “in your face evil.” St. Barnabas, please pray for us that we may be the Light of Christ to everyone.

With love and respect,

Joan

Sources: Franciscan Media; One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press; Vatican website

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