ARTICOLI QUOTIDIANI

L’uomo può rifiutare Dio – Catechismo 29

29

Ma questo “intimo e vitale legame con Dio” [Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Gaudium et spes, 19] può essere dimenticato, misconosciuto e perfino esplicitamente rifiutato dall’uomo. Tali atteggiamenti possono avere origini assai diverse: [Cf ibid., 19-21] la ribellione contro la presenza del male nel mondo, l’ignoranza o l’indifferenza religiosa, le preoccupazioni del mondo e delle ricchezze, [Cf Mt 13,22 ] il cattivo esempio dei credenti, le correnti di pensiero ostili alla religione, e infine la tendenza dell’uomo peccatore a nascondersi, per paura, davanti a Dio [Cf Gen 3,8-10 ] e a fuggire davanti alla sua chiamata [Cf Gn 1,3 ].

“Heavenly things revealed to infants”

Scripture:  Matthew 11:25-27

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Meditation: Do you want to know the mind and thoughts of God? Jesus thanks the Father in heaven for revealing to his disciples the wisdom and knowledge of God. What does Jesus’ prayer tell us about God and about ourselves? First, it tells us that God is both Father and Lord of earth as well as heaven. He is both Creator and Author of all that he has made, the first origin of everything and transcendent authority, and at the same time he shows loving care and goodness toward all his children. All fatherhood and motherhood is derived from him (Ephesians 3:14-15).

Pride and inordinate love of self
Jesus’ prayer also contains a warning that pride can keep us from the love and knowledge of God. What makes us ignorant and blind to the things of God? Certainly intellectual pride, coldness of heart, and stubbornness of will shut out God and his kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness. Pride is the root of all vice and the strongest influence propelling us to sin. It first vanquishes the heart, making it cold and indifferent towards God. It also closes the mind to God’s truth and wisdom for our lives. What is pride? It is the inordinate love of oneself at the expense of others and the exaggerated estimation of one’s own learning and importance.

Simplicity of heart
Jesus contrasts intellectual pride with child-like simplicity and humility. The simple of heart are like “infants” in the sense that they see purely without pretense and acknowledge their dependence and trust in the one who is greater, wiser, and more trustworthy. They seek one thing – the “summum bonum” or “greatest good,” who is God himself. Simplicity of heart is wedded with humility, the queen of virtues, because humility inclines the heart towards grace and truth. Just as pride is the root of every sin and evil, so humility is the only soil in which the grace of God can take root. It alone takes the right attitude before God and allows him, as God, to do all. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). Only the humble in heart can receive true wisdom and understanding of God and his ways. Do you submit to God’s word with simple trust and humility?

Jesus reveals the Father to us
Jesus makes a claim which no one would have dared to make – he is the perfect revelation of God. One of the greatest truths of the Christian faith is that we can know the living God. Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to knowing something about God, but we can know God personally. The essence of Christianity, and what makes it distinct from Judaism and other religions, is the knowledge of God as our Father. Jesus makes it possible for each of us to personally know God as our Father. To see Jesus is to see what God is like.

In Jesus we see the perfect love of God – a God who cares intensely and who yearns over men and women, loving them to the point of laying down his life for them upon the Cross. Jesus is the perfect revelation of God – a God who loves us completely, unconditionally, and perfectly. Jesus also promises that God the Father will hear our prayers when we pray in his name. That is why Jesus taught his followers to pray with confidence, Our Father who art in heaven ..give us this day our daily bread.  Do you pray to your Father in heaven with joy and confidence in his love and care for you?

“Lord Jesus, give me the child-like simplicity and purity of faith to gaze upon your face with joy and confidence in your all-merciful love. Remove every doubt, fear, and proud thought which would hinder me from receiving your word with trust and humble submission.”

Psalm 103:1-8

Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Revealed to babes, by Epiphanius the Latin (late 5th century)

“And he revealed these things to children. To which children? Not those who are children in age but to those who are children in respect to sin and wickedness. To them Jesus revealed how to seek the blessings of paradise and the things to come in the kingdom of heaven, because thus it was well pleasing before God that ‘they should come from the east and the west and that they should lie down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but that the sons of this worldly kingdom should be cast into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:11-12).'” (excerpt from INTERPRETATION OF THE GOSPELS 26)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2017 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“Will you be exalted to heaven?”

Scripture:  Matthew 11:20-24

20 Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Meditation: If Jesus were to visit your community today, what would he say? Would he issue a warning like the one he gave to Chorazin and Bethsaida? And how would you respond? Wherever Jesus went he did mighty works to show the people how much God had for them. Chorazin and Bethsaida had been blessed with the visitation of God. They heard the good news and experienced the wonderful works which Jesus did for them. Why was Jesus upset with these communities? The word woe can mean misfortune, calamity, distress, sorrow, sadness, misery, grief, or wretchedness. It is as much an expression of sorrowful pity and grief as it is of dismay over the calamity and destruction which comes as a result of human folly, sin, and ignorance.

Why does Jesus lament and issue a stern warning? The people who heard the Gospel here very likely responded with indifference. Jesus upbraids them for doing nothing! Repentance demands change – a change of heart and way of life. God’s word is life-giving and it saves us from destruction – the destruction of heart, mind, and soul as well as body. Jesus’ anger is directed toward sin and everything which hinders us from doing the will of God. In love he calls us to walk in his way of truth and freedom, grace and mercy, justice and holiness. Do you receive his word with faith and obedience or with doubt and indifference?

“Most High and glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our hearts and give us a true faith, a certain hope and a perfect love. Give us a sense of the divine and knowledge of yourself, so that we may do everything in fulfillment of your holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Prayer of Francis of Assisi, 1182-1226)

Psalm 48:2-8

1 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!  His holy mountain,
2 Beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.
3 Within her citadels God has shown himself a sure defense.
4 For behold, the kings assembled, they came on together.
5 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded, they were in panic, they took to flight;
6 trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in travail.
7 By the east wind you did shatter the ships of Tarshish.
8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God, which God establishes for ever. [Selah]

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Even after miracles they did not repent, by Jerome (347-420 AD)

“Our Savior laments Chorazin and Bethsaida, cities of Galilee, because after such great miracles and acts of goodness they did not repent. Even Tyre and Sidon, cities that surrendered to idolatry and other vices, are preferred to them. Tyre and Sidon are preferred for the reason that although they trampled down the law, still Chorazin and Bethsaida, after they transgressed natural and written law, cared little for the miracles that were performed among them.”  (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 2.11.22.1)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2017 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”

Scripture:  Matthew 10:34 – 11:1

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. 40 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. 41 He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.  42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matthew 11) 1 And when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Meditation: Why does Jesus describe his mission and the coming of God’s kingdom in terms of conflict, division, and war? Jesus told his disciples that he did not “come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). The “sword” which Jesus speaks of here is not a physical weapon that cuts people down, but a spiritual weapon that cuts through the inner core of our being to expose the corruption of sinful thoughts and intentions as well as the lies and deception of Satan and his kingdom of darkness.

Sword of the Spirit
Scripture speaks of God’s word as a sharp two-edged sword that “pierces to the division of soul and spirit… discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, Revelations 19:15). Scripture also describes “God’s word” as the “sword of the Spirit” which has power to destroy every spiritual stronghold that keep people in bondage to sin, deception, and Satan (Ephesians 6:17). Jesus came to rescue us and bring us freedom to live as citizens of God’s kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

Spiritual warfare
Jesus’ mission was an act of war against the spiritual forces who oppose the kingdom of God and his rule over the earth and the heavens. That is why Jesus identified Satan as the ruler of this world whom he will cast out (John 12:31). The battle Jesus had in mind was not an earthly conflict between individuals and nations, but a spiritual warfare between the forces of Satan and the armies of heaven. Jesus came to wage war against the spiritual powers of this present world that turn the minds and hearts of people away from God and his kingdom of peace and truth.

Kingdom of light versus kingdom of darkness
The Scriptures make clear that there are ultimately only two kingdoms or powers and that they stand in opposition to one another – God’s kingdom of light and  Satan’s kingdom of darkness. John the Apostle contrasts these two opposing kingdoms in the starkest of terms: We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). The Scriptures describe the “world” as that society of people who are opposed to God and his kingdom of righteousness, truth, and goodness. Jesus came to overthrow Satan’s power and to set us free from everything that would hold us back from knowing, loving, and serving God who has loved each one of us with boundless mercy, compassion, and goodness.

God must take first place
Jesus told his disciples that if they followed him it would be costly because they must put God’s kingdom first and obey his word. Whenever a great call is given it inevitably causes division between those who accept and reject it. When Jesus remarked that division would cut very close to home his listeners likely recalled the prophecy of Micah: a man’s enemies are the men of his own household (Micah 7:6). The love of God compels us to choose who will be first in our lives. To place any relationship or any other thing above God is a form of idolatry. Jesus challenges his disciples to examine who they love first and foremost. A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ. Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than that owed to spouse or kin. It is possible that family and friends can become our enemies if the thought of them keeps us from doing what we know God wants us to do.

The just reward
True love for God compels us to express charity towards our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to the people of Christ will not go unrewarded. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is. Jesus sets before his disciples the one goal in life that is worth any sacrifice and that goal is the will of God which leads to everlasting life, peace, and joy with God. Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)?

“Lord, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has conceived the things you have prepared for those who love you. Set us ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit, that we may love you in and above all things and so receive the rewards you have promised us through Christ our Lord.” (from A Christian’s Prayer Book)

Psalm 124:1-8

1 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, let Israel now say —
2 if it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us,
3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;
4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;
5 then over us would have gone the raging waters. 6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us  as prey to their teeth!
7 We have escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers;  the snare is broken, and we have escaped!
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: How peace requires a sword, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)

“What sort of peace is it that Jesus asks them to pronounce upon entering each house? And what kind of peace is it of which the angels sing, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace’? And if Jesus came not to bring peace, why did all the prophets publish peace as good news? Because this more than anything is peace: when the disease is removed. This is peace: when the cancer is cut away. Only with such radical surgery is it possible for heaven to be reunited to earth. Only in this way does the physician preserve the healthy tissue of the body. The incurable part must be amputated. Only in this way does the military commander preserve the peace: by cutting off those in rebellion. Thus it was also in the case of the tower of Babel, that their evil peace was ended by their good discord. Peace therefore was accomplished. (excerpt from THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 35.1)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2017 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“Why do you speak to them in parables?”

Scripture:  Matthew 13:1-23

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

Closed eyes and dull hearts
10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  12 For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: `You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’  16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not  hear it.

Jesus’ explanation of the parable
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is  what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately  he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it  proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Meditation: What is the best and easiest way to help people understand God’s kingdom? Like the rabbis of his time, Jesus very frequently used parables – short stories and images taken from everyday life – to convey hidden truths about the kingdom of God. Like a skillful artist, Jesus sketched memorable pictures with short and simple words. A good image can speak more loudly and clearly than many words. Jesus used the ordinary everyday illustrations of life and nature to point to another order of reality – hidden, yet visible to those who had “eyes to see” and “ears to hear”. Jesus communicated with vivid illustrations which captured the imaginations of his audience more powerfully than any abstract presentation could. His parables are like buried treasure waiting to be discovered (Matthew 13:44).

What can the parable about seeds and roots teach us about the kingdom of God? Any farmer will attest to the importance of good soil for supplying nutrients for growth. And how does a plant get the necessary food and water it needs except by its roots? The Scriptures frequently use the image of fruit-bearing plants or trees to convey the principle of spiritual life and death. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:7-8; see also Psalm 1:3)

How do you listen to God’s word?
Jesus’ parable of the sower is aimed at the hearers of his word. There are different ways of accepting God’s word and they produce different kinds of fruit accordingly. There is the prejudiced hearer who has a shut mind. Such a person is unteachable and blind to what he or she doesn’t want to hear. Then there is the shallow hearer. He or she fails to think things out or think them through; they lack depth. They may initially respond with an emotional reaction; but when it wears off their mind wanders to something else.

Another type of hearer is the person who has many interests or cares, but who lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important. Such a person is too busy to pray or too preoccupied to study and meditate on God’s word. Then there is the one whose mind is open. Such a person is at all times willing to listen and to learn. He or she is never too proud or too busy to learn. They listen in order to understand. God gives grace to those who hunger for his word that they may understand his will and have the strength to live according to it. Do you hunger for God’s word?

The refusal to believe and understand
Jesus told his disciples that not everyone would understand his parables. Did Jesus mean to say that he was deliberately confusing or hiding the meaning of his stories from his listeners? Very likely not. Jesus was speaking from experience. He was aware that some who heard his parables refused to understand them. It was not that they could not intellectually understand them, but rather, their hearts were closed to what Jesus was saying. They had already made up their minds to not believe. God can only reveal the secrets of his kingdom – that which is hidden to the spiritually blind – to those who hunger for God and humbly submit to his truth.

What can makes us ineffective or unresponsive to God’s word? Preoccupation with other things can distract us from what is truly important and worthwhile. And  letting our hearts and minds be consumed with material things can easily weigh us down and draw us away from the heavenly treasure that lasts for eternity. God’s word can only take root in a receptive heart which is docile and ready to hear what God has to say.

How God’s word takes root in us
The parables of Jesus will enlighten us if we approach them with an open mind and heart, ready to let them challenge us. If we approach them with the conviction that we already know the answer, then we, too, may look but not see, listen but not understand. God’s word can only take root in a receptive heart that is ready to believe and willing to submit. Do you submit to God’s word with trust and obedience?

One lesson from this parable is clear: the harvest is sure to come. While some seed will fall by the wayside and some fall on shallow ground and never come to maturity, and some be choked to death by the thorns; nonetheless a harvest will come. The seed that falls on good soil, on the heart that is receptive, will reap abundant fruit. God is always ready to speak to each of us and to give us understanding of his word. Are you hungry for his word? And do you allow anything to keep you from submitting to God’s word with joy and trusting obedience?

“Lord Jesus, faith in your word is the way to wisdom, and to ponder your divine plan is to grow in the truth. Open my eyes to your deeds, and my ears to the sound of your call, that I may understand your will for my life and live according to it”.

Psalm 65:9-13

9 You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it;  the river of God is full of water; you provid their grain, for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty; the tracks of your chariot drip with fatness.
12 The pastures of the wilderness drip, the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The shallow and rootless mind, by Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 A.D.

“Let us look, as from a broader perspective, at what it means to be on the road. In a way, every road is hardened and foolish on account of the fact that it lies beneath everyone’s feet. No kind of seed finds there enough depth of soil for a covering. Instead, it lies on the surface and is ready to be snatched up by the birds that come by. Therefore those who have in themselves a mind hardened and, as it were, packed tight do not receive the divine seed but become a well-trodden way for the unclean spirits. These are what is here meant by ‘the birds of the heaven’” But ‘heaven’ we understand to mean this air, in which the spirits of wickedness move about, by whom, again, the good seed is snatched up and destroyed. Then what are those upon the rock? They are those people who do not take much care of the faith they have in themselves. They have not set their minds to understand the touchstone of the mystery [of being united with Christ]. The reverence these people have toward God is shallow and rootless. It is in times of ease and fair weather that they practice Christianity, when it involves none of the painful trials of winter. They will not preserve their faith in this way, if in times of tumultuous persecution their soul is not prepared for the struggle. (excerpt from FRAGMENT 168)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2017 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“Fear him who can destroy soul and body in hell”

Scripture:  Matthew 10:24-33

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. 26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Meditation: What does fear have to do with the kingdom of God? Fear is a powerful force. It can lead us to panic and flight or it can spur us to faith and action. The fear of God is the antidote to the fear of losing one’s life. I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. O fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no want! Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. (Psalm 34:4,9,11)

Godly fear – reverence for God
What is godly fear? It is reverence for the One who made us in love and who sustains us in mercy and kindness. The greatest injury or loss which we can experience is not physical but spiritual – the loss of one’s soul to the power of hell (Matthew 10:28). A healthy fear (godly respect) and reverence for God leads to spiritual maturity, wisdom, and right judgment and it frees us from the tyranny of sinful pride, cowardice – especially in the face of evil, and spiritual deception. Do you trust in God’s grace and mercy and do you obey his word?

When Jesus proclaimed the kingdom (reign) of God he met opposition and hostility. Many religious leaders opposed Jesus because they refused to believe that he was the Messiah (God’s Anointed One) and that his authority and power came from God. They claimed his power came from Beelzebul – the prince of demons who is also called Satan or the devil. Jesus demonstrated the power of God’s kingdom through his numerous signs and miracles and his power to set people free from Satan’s harm and deception.

Choosing for God’s kingdom
There are fundamentally only two kingdoms in opposition to one another – God’s kingdom of light – his truth and righteousness (moral goodness) and Satan’s kingdom of darkness – his power to deceive and tempt people to rebel and do what is wrong and evil. And there are no neutral parties – we are either for God’s kingdom or against it. We either choose for Jesus and the kingdom he brings – God’s rule of peace and righteousness, or we choose for the kingdom of this world which opposes God’s truth and righteousness. That is why Jesus told his disciples that they must expect the same treatment of opposition and hostility if they accept him as their Lord (Messiah) and Master (Teacher).

There is both a warning and a privilege in Jesus’ statement. Just as Jesus had to carry his cross to suffer and die for us, so every disciple of Christ must bear his or her own cross of suffering for Christ and not try to evade it. To suffer for the Christian faith is to share in the work of Jesus Christ. As one Christian hymn states: Lift high the Cross of Christ! Tread where his feet have trod. The Holy Spirit gives us supernatural power, freedom, and grace to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Do you trust in God who gives us the strength and perseverance we need to follow his will and to embrace our cross each day for Jesus’ sake?

“Lord Jesus, it is my joy and privilege to be your disciple. Give me strength and courage to bear any hardship and suffering which may come my way in serving you and obeying your will. May I witness to others the joy of the Gospel – the good news of your kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness.”

Psalm 105:1-7

1 O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, tell of all his wonderful works!
3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
4 Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually!
5 Remember the wonderful works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
7 He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Do not bewail death – but sin, by Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

“The gospel is life. Impiety and infidelity are the death of the soul. So then, if the soul can die, how then is it yet immortal? Because there is always a dimension of life in the soul that can never be extinguished. And how does it die? Not in ceasing to be life but by losing its proper life. For the soul is both life to something else, and it has it own proper life. Consider the order of the creatures. The soul is the life of the body. God is the life of the soul. As the life that is the soul is present with the body, that the body may not die, so the life of the soul (God) ought to be with the soul that it may not die.”

“How does the body die? By the departure of the soul. I say, by the departure of the soul the body dies, and it lies there as a mere carcass, what was a little before a lively, not a contemptible, object. There are in it still its several members, the eyes and ears. But these are merely the windows of the house; its inhabitant is gone. Those who bewail the dead cry in vain at the windows of the house. There is no one there within it to hear… Why is the body dead? Because the soul, its life, is gone. But at what point is the soul itself dead? When God, its life, has forsaken it… This then we can know and hold for certain: the body is dead without the soul, and the soul is dead without God. Every one without God has a dead soul. You who bewail the dead rather should bewail sin. Bewail ungodliness. Bewail disbelief.” (excerpt from SERMON 65.5–7)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2017 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Sheep in the midst of wolves – wise and innocent

Scripture:  Matthew 10:16-23

16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.

Meditation: What does Jesus mean when he says his disciples must be sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16)? The prophet Isaiah foretold a time when wolves and lambs will dwell in peace (Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25). This Old Testament prophecy certainly refers to the second coming of Christ when all will be united under the Lordship of Jesus after he has put down his enemies and established the reign of God over the heavens and the earth (Ephesians 1:10 and Revelation 11:15). In the meantime, the disciples must expect opposition and persecution from those who oppose the Gospel and the coming of God’s kingdom.

The readiness to serve and face hardship for Christ and his kingdom
Jesus never hesitated to tell his disciples what they might expect if they chose to follow him. Here Jesus says to his disciples: This is my task for you at its grimmest and worst – do you accept it? This is not the world’s way of recruitment for service and toil with promise of honor and reward. After the British defeat at Dunkirk (June 1940), Churchill offered his country blood, toil, sweat, and tears.

This is not the message we prefer to hear when the Lord Jesus commissions us in his service for the advancement of God’s kingdom and the battle against Satan’s kingdom of darkness and death. Nonetheless, our privilege is to follow in the footsteps of the Lord and Master who willingly laid down his life for us in order to bring us victory over Satan, sin, and death. Are you willing to accept hardship and suffering in serving the Lord Jesus Christ?

“Lord Jesus, help me to patiently and joyfully accept the hardships, adversities, and persecution which come my way in serving you and your kingdom of  love, truth,and goodness. Strengthen my faith and give me courage that I may not shrink back from doing your will.”

Psalm 37:3-5,18-19,27-28,39-40

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.
4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will abide for ever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times, in the days of famine they have abundance.
27 Depart from evil, and do good; so shall you abide for ever.
28 For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. The righteous shall be preserved for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their refuge in the time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Spirit of your heavenly Father speaks through you in every age, by Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

“To be sure, we heard in that reading, ‘But when they deliver you up, do not be anxious how or what you are to speak… for it is not you who are speaking but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you.’ And he says in another place: ‘Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world’ (Matthew 28:20). Does this mean that the people who heard those words of the Lord would be here until the end of the world? The Lord was referring, rather, not only to those about to depart from this life but also to the others, including us and those who would come after us in this life. He saw everyone in his single body, and the words he spoke, ‘I am with you even to the end of the world,’ were heard by them and by us too. And if we did not hear them then in our knowledge, we heard them in his foreknowledge. Therefore, safe as sheep among the wolves, let us keep the commandments of him who directs us. And let us be ‘innocent as doves but cautious as snakes’ (Matthew 10:16). Innocent as doves that we may not harm anyone; cautious as snakes that we may be careful of letting anyone harm us.” (excerpt from the  Sermon 44a.2)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2017 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“Freely have you received – freely give”

Scripture:  Matthew 10:7-15

7 And preach as you go, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay. 9 Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, salute it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Meditation: Do you believe that the Gospel has power to change your life and the lives of others? Jesus gave his disciples a two-fold commission to speak in his name and to act with his power. The core of the Gospel message is quite simple: the kingdom (or reign) of God is imminent! What is the kingdom of God? It is that society of men and women who freely submit to God and who honor him as their Lord and King. In the Lord’s prayer we pray for God to reign in our lives and in our world: May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Doing the works which Jesus did
Jesus also commissioned his disciples to carry on the works which he did – bringing the healing power and mercy of God to the weary and oppressed. The Gospel has power to set people free from sin, sickness, fear, and oppression. The Lord Jesus will free us from anything that keeps us from loving him and our neighbor with joy and confidence.

Sharing generously what God has given to each one of us
Jesus said to his disciples: Freely you have received, freely give. What they have received from Jesus they must now pass on to others without expecting a favor in return, whether it be in the form of a gift or payment. They must show by their attitude that their first interest is in serving God, not receiving material gain. They must serve without guile, full of charity and peace, and simplicity. They must give their full attention to the proclamation of God’s kingdom and not be diverted by other lesser things. They must  travel light – only take what was essential and leave behind whatever would distract them – in order to concentrate on the task of speaking the word of the God. They must do their work, not for what they can get out of it, but for what they can give freely to others, without expecting special privileges or reward. “Poverty of spirit” frees us from greed and preoccupation with possessions and makes ample room for God’s provision. The Lord wants his disciples to be dependent on him and not on themselves.

Support the work of the Gospel with your resources
Secondly, Jesus said: the worker deserves his sustenance. Here we see a double-truth: the worker of God must not be overly-concerned with material things, but the people of God must never fail in their duty to give the worker of God what he or she needs to sustain themselves in the Lord’s service. Do you pray for the work of the Gospel and do you support it with your material and financial resources?

Jesus ends his instructions with a warning: If people reject God’s invitation and refuse his word, then they bring judgment and condemnation on themselves. When God gives us his word there comes with it the great responsibility to respond. Indifference will not do. We are either for or against God in how we respond to his word. God gives us his word that we may have life – abundant life in him. He wills to work in and through each of us for his glory. God shares his word with us and he commissions us to speak it boldly and simply to others. Do you witness the truth and joy of the Gospel by word and example to those around you?

“Lord Jesus, may the joy and truth of the Gospel transform my life that I may witness it to those around me. Grant that I may spread your truth and your light wherever I go.”

Psalm 80:1-3, 15-17

1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!  You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
2 before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh! Stir up your might, and come to save us!
3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
15 the stock which your right hand planted.
16 They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance!
17 But let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The gift of power to reign with the Lord, by Hilary of Poitiers (315-367 AD)

“All the power possessed by the Lord is bestowed upon the apostles! Those who were prefigured in the image and likeness of God in Adam have now received the perfect image and likeness of Christ. They have been given powers in no way different from those of the Lord. Those once earthbound now become heaven-centered. They will proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, that the image and likeness of God are now appropriated in the company of truth, so that all the holy ones who have been made heirs of heaven may reign with the Lord. Let them cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out devils. Whatever impairment Adam’s body had incurred from being goaded on by Satan, let the apostles wipe away through their sharing in the Lord’s power. And that they may fully obtain the likeness of God according to the prophecy in Genesis, they are ordered to give freely what they freely have received (Matthew 10:8). Thus a gift freely bestowed should be freely dispensed.” (excerpt from commentary ON MATTHEW 10.4)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2017 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Jesus gives his disciples authority to heal and set free

Scripture:  Matthew 10:1-7

1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and  every infirmity. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And preach as you go, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

Meditation: Do you believe in the life-changing power of the Gospel and experience its transforming effect in your life? The core of the Gospel message is quite simple: the kingdom (or reign) of God is very near! What is the kingdom of God? It is that society of men and women who know God’s love and mercy, and who willingly obey and honor God as their Lord and King. In the prayer which Jesus gave to his disciples (the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father), he taught them to pray for God to reign in their daily lives and in the world around them: May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The power of the Gospel to heal and set free
When Jesus proclaimed the good news of God’s kingdom he also demonstrated the power of the Gospel with supernatural signs and wonders. Jesus healed people who suffered physical, emotional, and mental illnesses. He freed people from spiritual bondage to sin and demonic powers. Jesus gave his disciples the same authority he had to heal and set people free from spiritual bondage.

The Gospel (which literally means “good news”) which Jesus proclaimed is just as relevant and real today, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. If we believe in the Lord Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, and in the power of the Gospel, we will know and experience the freedom, joy, and power he gives us that enables us to live and witness as his disciples. No one can buy heaven; but if we know the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, then we already possess heaven in our hearts! Do you believe that Jesus can change and transform your life and share with you the power and authority of God’s kingdom?

Jesus chose ordinary people to do extraordinary work
Jesus commissioned his disciples to carry on the works which he did – to speak God’s word and to bring his healing power to the weary and oppressed. In the choice of the twelve apostles we see a characteristic feature of God’s work – Jesus chose very ordinary people. They were non-professionals, had no wealth or privileged position. They were chosen from the common people who did ordinary things, had no special education, and no social advantages.

Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well. He chose these men, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power. When the Lord calls us to serve, we must not think we have nothing or very little to offer. The Lord takes what ordinary people, like us, can offer and uses it for greatness in his kingdom. Do you believe that God wants to work in and through you for his glory?

“Lord Jesus, you have chosen me to be your disciple. Take and use what I can offer, however meager it may seem, for the greater glory of your name.”

Psalm 105:2-7

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, tell of all his wonderful works!
3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
4 Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually!
5 Remember the wonderful works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
7 He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Jesus empowers his disciples to act in his name, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)

” If the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified, how then did the disciples cast out the unclean spirits? They did this by his own command, by the Son’s authority.2 Note the careful timing of their mission. They were not sent out at the beginning of their walk with him. They were not sent out until they had sufficiently benefited by following him daily. It was only after they had seen the dead raised, the sea rebuked, devils expelled, the legs of a paralytic brought to life, sins remitted, lepers cleansed, and had received a sufficient proof of his power both by deeds and words – only then did he send them out. And he did not send them out unprepared to do dangerous deeds, for as yet there was no danger in Palestine. They had only to stand against verbal abuse. However, Jesus still warned them of larger perils to come, preparing them for what was future.” (excerpt from THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 32.3)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2017 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“Never seen anything like this”

Scripture:  Matthew 9:32-38

32 As they were going away, behold, a dumb demoniac was brought to him.33 And when the demon had been cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” 35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity.  36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  38 pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Meditation: What help and hope can we give to someone who experiences chronic distress or some incurable disease of mind and body? Spiritual, emotional, and physical suffering often go hand in hand. Jesus was well acquainted with individuals who suffered intolerable affliction – whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. A “dumb demoniac” was brought to Jesus by his friends with the hope that Jesus would set the troubled man free. These neighbors, no doubt, took pity on this man who had a double impediment. He had not only lost his ability to speak, but was also greatly disturbed in mind and spirit. This was no doubt due to the influence of evil spirits who tormented him day and night with thoughts of despair and hopeless abandonment by God.

Jesus brings freedom and healing
Jesus immediately set him free from the demon who tormented him and restored his ability to speak at the same time. This double miracle brought wonder to the crowds who watched in amazement. “Nothing like this had ever been done before in the land of Israel!” Whenever people approached Jesus with expectant faith, he set them free from whatever afflicted them – whether it be a disease of mind and body, a crippling burden of guilt and sin, a tormenting spirit or uncontrollable fear of harm.

How could Jesus’ miracles cause both scorn and wonder at the same time from those who professed faith in God? Don’t we often encounter the same reaction today, even in ourselves! The crowds looked with awe at the wonderful works which Jesus did, but the religious leaders attributed this same work to the power of the devil. They disbelieved because they refused to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Their idea of religion was too narrow and closed to accept Jesus as the Anointed One sent by the Father “to set the captives free” (Isaiah 61:1; Matthew 11:5). They were too set in their own ways to change and they were too proud to submit to Jesus. They held too rigidly to the observances of their ritual laws while neglecting the more important duties of love of God and love of neighbor. The people, as a result, were spiritually adrift and hungry for God. Jesus met their need and gave them new faith and hope in God’s saving help.

The Gospel brings new life and freedom
Whenever the Gospel is proclaimed God’s kingdom is made manifest and new life and freedom is given to those who respond with faith. The Lord grants freedom to all who turn to him with trust. Do you bring your troubles to the Lord with expectant faith that he can set you free? The Lord invites us to pray that the work of  the Gospel may spread throughout the world, so that all may find true joy and freedom in Jesus Christ.

“Lord Jesus, may your kingdom come to all who are oppressed and in darkness. Fill my heart with compassion for all who suffer mentally and physically. Use me to bring the good news of your saving grace and mercy to those around me who need your healing love and forgiveness.”

Psalm 115:3-10

3 Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.
4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk;  and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.
9 O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
10 O house of Aaron, put your trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Freedom and healing in Christ, by Hilary of Poitiers (315-367 AD)

“In the deaf and dumb and demoniac appear the need of the Gentiles for a complete healing. Beleaguered on all sides by misfortune, they were associated with all types of the body’s infirmities. And in this regard a proper order of things is observed. For the devil is first cast out; then the other bodily benefits follow suit. With the folly of all superstitions put to flight by the knowledge of God, sight and hearing and words of healing are introduced. The declaration of the onlookers followed their admiration over what took place: ‘Never has the like been seen in Israel.’ Indeed, he whom the law could not help was made well by the power of the Word, and the deaf and dumb man spoke the praises of God. Deliverance has been given to the Gentiles. All the towns and all the villages are enlightened by the power and presence of Christ, and the people are freed from every impairment of the timeless malady. (excerpt from ON MATTHEW 9.10)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2017 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager