Friday, December 13, 2013

Devotion for today: but deliver us from evil…the Good News

Romans 8:31-39:  What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”Psalm 44:22
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Yesterday we looked at the final petition of The Our Father and identified the singular evil that is at the heart of all evils in the world, and the biggest threat to our holiness. Today we look at the Good News, the salvation won for us by Christ Jesus. “If God is for us, who can be against?” We see in today’s commentary that Jesus is with us always, and no power on earth or under the earth or anywhere can harm us as long as we fill ourselves with Him and Him alone. Who could ask for anything more?

Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2853 Victory over the "prince of this world" was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is "cast out." "He pursued the woman" but had no hold on her: the new Eve, "full of grace" of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever virgin). "Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring." Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: "Come, Lord Jesus," since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One.

Pope Benedict XVI (Jesus of Nazareth, Ignatius Press, 2007): Today, on the other hand, there is also the ideology of success, of well-being that tells us, “God is just a fiction. He only robs us of our time and our enjoyment of life. Don’t bother with him! Just try to squeeze as much out of life as you can.”  These temptations seem irresistible…. The Our Father in general and this petition in particular are trying to tell us that it is only when you have lost God that you have lost yourself; then you are nothing more than a random product of evolution. Then the “dragon” really has won. So long as the dragon cannot wrest God from you, your deepest being remains unharmed, even in the midst of all the evils that threaten you…. This then is why we pray from the depths of our souls not to be robbed of our faith, which enables us to see God, which binds us with Christ. This is why we pray that, in our concern for goods, we may not lose the Good itself; that even faced with the loss of goods, we may not also lose the Good, which is God; that we ourselves may not be lost: Deliver us from evil!
 Cyprian, the martyr bishop… finds a marvelous way of putting all of this: “When we say ‘deliver us from evil’ then there is nothing further left for us to ask for. Once we have asked for and obtained protection against evil, we are safely sheltered against anything the devil and the world can contrive. What could the world make you fear if you are protected in the world by God Himself? (de dominica oration 19; CSEL III, 27, p. 287)

Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2854: When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ's return By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has "the keys of Death and Hades," who "is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are Yours, now and forever. Amen.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Devotion for today: but deliver us from evil

John 17:15. "I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one."

John 8:40-44: As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.”“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who is against us?

Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2851: In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who "throws himself across" God's plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.

2852: "A murderer from the beginning, . . . a liar and the father of lies," Satan is "the deceiver of the whole world." Through him sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat all creation will be "freed from the corruption of sin and death." Now "we know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one."
The Lord who has taken away your sin and pardoned your faults also protects you and keeps you from the wiles of your adversary the devil, so that the enemy, who is accustomed to leading into sin, may not surprise you. One who entrusts himself to God does not dread the devil…

We now come to the last petition in the Our Father. In it we find Jesus addressing the presence of the devil within our lives and within the world. As we look at the words Jesus uses, we see that He has us pray in the plural as He does throughout the prayer. We are reminded that the evil one attacks every human being on the face of the earth. We note that we need to be delivered from this evil, that we cannot do it ourselves, and that we need God to fill us with His grace to fight the master of lies and deception. We need to pray for all our brothers and sisters to be delivered from their personal sins as well. As we have noted time and again in this blog, it is not enough to get ourselves to heaven, but it is necessary to bring as many people with us as possible.

 This is very difficult today. It is not “correct” to even mention the reality of sin, the possibility that actions accepted by the world are unacceptable to God. It is not “correct” to call a sin “a sin” and to remind people that the devil exists, he is real, as are his minions, and that they wreak havoc on the beautiful souls of the beloved children God created in His image. 

The world has always succumbed to the dance of the devil in the acceptance of inhumane practices such as euthanasia, human trafficking, abortion, sexual abuse, oppression of human rights and the indifference of the rich towards the sick, the elderly, and the poor. We cannot help but picture the devil sitting in a chair, puffing on a fine Cuban cigar, wearing an Alexander Amosu suit and fine leather shoes, smirking as he watches countless souls buy his lie. He must love it every time someone clicks on a pornographic image, or fights for abortion rights, buys another expensive unnecessary gadget and chooses to play games with strangers on the internet instead of joining an organization to mentor youth, offer financial support and personal time to help women in unwanted pregnancies, or assist in programs which are designed to give the unemployed the skills they need to get a job. Why does this make him happy? Because, it causes us to put ourselves and our own desires ahead of the needs of others. We then become easy targets for any action, even sin that will make us happy. We have become immune to the feeling of shame in sinful thoughts, words, and deeds because we have locked our consciences in a box and thrown away the key. 

Not a single person in the world, now or in the past, or in the days to come can escape the evil one. The best we can do is tell ourselves He doesn’t exist, or blame the evil in the world on everyone else, or waste our time asking “Where was God” when horrible crime happens. Horrible crimes happen when horrible people commit them. Horrible people exist because they threw God away, or never had the chance to meet Him. This has been true throughout history: once societies decided they were better off keeping God away from the people, stopped using the instruction manual God created for the world, and came up with their own gods and laws, evil was unleashed. For us today our freedom truly can be defined as “nothing left to lose.” We have to be monitored everywhere by cameras because we can no longer be trusted to respect our fellow man. We have to be stopped from living our faiths in society because we cannot be tolerated as marching to a different drummer.

 The evil one, my friends, laughs all the way to hell, taking as many hapless souls with him as he can. Remember Jesus’ words: deliver us from evil. We must believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist and receive Him often. We must believe that the Bible holds the truth about living and follow its commands. We must study Jesus, and live the way He lived. And we must frequent confession. Once we are too proud to admit that we have sinned, and too proud to get down on our knees and ask forgiveness, do penance and begin again, we will have a tough time avoiding the temptations of the evil one.

 A child might not believe you when you tell him that fire is hot, but once he sticks his finger in a burning candle he knows the laws of physics and the truth of a wise parent. My friends, the fire exists, and it will burn you.

Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen (prayer given to the children at Fatima by the Blessed Virgin Mary, to be prayed after each decade of the rosary)


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Devotion for today: “and lead us not into temptation”

As we continue our meditation of The Lord’s Prayer, we will consider the somewhat curious line “…and lead us not into temptation.

James 1:13: Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one.”

When I began to carefully study the Our Father, I was a bit taken aback when I realized that I was not saying what I thought I was saying. My mind said, “and pull us away from temptation” but what I was actually praying was, “Oh Abba, (Oh Daddy), please don’t lead me into temptation.” What child of a loving father ever asks his daddy not to lead him into temptation? It sounds as though we are expecting God to take us directly into temptation unless we ask Him not to do it. Given that this prayer comes from the lips of Jesus Himself, I knew there had to be more. Obviously the clue had to exist somewhere in the translation of the words ‘lead’ and ‘temptation’.  So I began to research. The answers that I think are most succinct are from the Catechism and from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let’s start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2846: 

This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to "lead" us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both "do not allow us to enter into temptation" and "do not let us yield to temptation." "God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one"; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle "between flesh and spirit"; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.

Pope Benedict XVI (Jesus of Nazareth, Ignatius Press, 2007): 

The way this petition is phrased is shocking for many people: God certainly does not lead us into temptation. In fact, as St. James tells us …. ‘He himself tempts no one’.

Okay, now I understand that the word “lead” is not the literal English translation, so what I had been praying and meaning were really the same thing. Now, let’s move onto the word “temptation”.

2847 The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death. We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a "delight to the eyes" and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Jesus of Nazareth): 

The Book of Job can also help us to understand the difference between trial and temptation. In order to mature, in order to make real progress on the path leading from a superficial piety into profound oneness with God’s will, man needs to be tried. Just as the juice of the grape has to ferment in order to become a fine wine, so too man needs purifications and transformations; they are dangerous for him, because they present an opportunity for him to fall, and yet they are indispensable as paths on which he comes to himself and to God. Love is always a process involving purifications, renunciations, and painful transformations of ourselves – and that is how it is a journey to maturity… When we pray the sixth petition of the Our Father, we must therefore, on the one hand, be ready to take upon ourselves the burden of trials that is meted out to us. On the other hand, the object of the petition is to ask God not to mete out more than we can bear, not to let us slip from his hands. We make this prayer in the trustful certainty that Saint Paul has articulated for us: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor 10:13).

Aha! That’s it! The truth lies in the difference between a trial and a temptation. God always allows trials. If we want to see how that works, we really should read the Book of Job. Every one of us is constantly undergoing trials. Some of us are surrounded by difficult people; others have constant illnesses, and still others pray for the fulfillment of dreams that may never happen. God allows trials because that is the only way we will grow in our faith. As Michael Jordan discovered when he was cut from the freshman basketball team in high school, our reaction to trial is what makes us failures or great people. Michael worked and trained and threw himself into becoming an outstanding basketball player. He didn’t give into the temptation to become discouraged, hate the coach, and whine about not getting what he wanted. No, he turned himself into a superstar on the basketball court. That is how we are to react when God sends us yet another trial. We pray that we not yield to the temptation to reject Him, to give up and to cave into the devastation of sin. The trial is from God; the temptation to turn it into evil and sin is from the devil. We pray to be delivered from those wicked hands, and to be place into the loving hands of a loving Abba.

A Prayer Against Temptation

Behold me, O my God, at Your feet! I do not deserve mercy, but O my Redeemer, the blood which You have shed for me encourages me and obliges me to hope for it. How often I have offended You, repented, and yet have I again fallen into the same sin. O my God, I wish to amend, and in order to be faithful to You, I will place all my confidence in You. I will, whenever I am tempted, instantly have recourse to You. Until now, I have trusted in my own promises and resolutions and have neglected to recommend myself to You in my temptations. This has been the cause of my repeated failures. From this day forward, be You, O Lord, my strength, and this shall I be able to do all things, for “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” Amen.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Devotion for today: take a risk

Today’s Monday meditation asks us to evaluate our trust in God and our desire to risk everything for Him.

Psalm 23:4
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 9:10

  Those who know your name trust in you,

    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

John 12:26

 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Be willing to go out on a limb with Me. If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be. Your desire to lead a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Your longing to live close to Me is at odds with your attempts to minimize risk. You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe.

Let me lead you step by step through this day. If your primary focus is on Me, you can walk along perilous paths without being afraid. Eventually, you will learn to relax and enjoy the adventure of our journey together. As long as you stay close to Me, My sovereign Presence protects you wherever you go. (Jesus Calling, Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1993)

Selflessness Prayer

O Dearly beloved Word of God, teach me to be generous, to serve Thee as Thou dost deserve, to give without counting the cost, to fight without fretting at my wounds, to labor without seeking rest, to spend myself without looking for any reward other than that of knowing that I do Thy holy will. Amen.