Tag Archives: Christianity

Betrayal

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John 13:30 So he (Judas) took the morsel and left at once.  And it was night.

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Judas, one of the original twelve, Jesus right hand man and treasurer.  So many of us know him as the one who betrayed Christ.  Yes, Judas was the betrayer.  Yet through his story, we are challenged to look at our own “judases” in perhaps a new, softer light.

Who among us has not felt betrayed?  Have we not all seen betrayal doled out to others in our lifetime. In my own family, we had a betrayer.  A supposed man of God, baptized and baptizer, treasurer of his church, well respected in every circle he ingratiated himself into.  Yet this man was a man of horrible choices and severe personality disorder who raped and pillaged the women in his midst. Who even in his dying breath was violent in that he killed his wife in cold blood because she suffered Alzheimer’s and then shot himself, rather than asking for the respite he most definitely needed.  Like Judas, a man, who through the many choices in his life up to his last breath chose the darkness over the Light.

In my Bible study today, I was reminded of this man from my past as we talked about Jesus, washing feet, eating one last meal with loved ones, and of course Judas and betrayal.  It is Passover, and Jesus knew that His hour had finally arrived. (John 13:1)  He had humbled Himself to become man to teach us a new way to be.  He had performed signs and taught of love and forgiveness. We find him in the upper room, ready to share what He must surely know is His Last Supper with these twelve imperfect humans whom He has tried over the previous three years to teach and strengthen and love. Judas is there among The Twelve, with his life of poor choices, self interests, and frustration at not being able to make The Son of God adhere to his whims.  Had Judas not recently complained when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, had anointed Jesus feet out of her love for Him and her foreboding of the changing attitudes that would only mean death for her Teacher?  Judas, who is about to make a very horrific choice, is to become the betrayer of Emmanuel, God Among Us (His creation).

So it is time for a Passover meal and The Twelve are at the table, reclining, dirty feet and all on the cushions set at table, waiting to be served.  Jesus, who in coming to us as a simple man and having disrobed His Glory when arriving here as a mere Babe to a poor carpenter’s family, arises to humbly serve His Twelve, in love and respect He takes on the humble service normally provided by the lowest of servants.  He disrobes and pours the water in a basin, much like He will soon pour out His Blood for the forgiveness of our transgressions.  Ever so tenderly, He takes each precious foot and begins to wash it and then dry it with the towel around His waist.  No one is left out of this washing.  Not Peter with his protesting nor Judas with his betraying nor those who most likely sat there in awe wondering if they were His favorite.

Has anyone ever washed your feet?  I’m not talking the pedicure you just received from the local salon so your sandals look pretty in summer.  I am speaking of whether someone you respect as a good man has taken your feet into their hands and washed and dried them with a cloth around their waist.  I have had this happen twice while participating in our church’s Christ Renews His Parish retreat.  The last service at this retreat is when our priest washes each participants feet.  When Father Paul washed my feet, I cried.  I cried because, who was I to have my priest lower himself and touch my stinking, dirty feet. I cried because I knew that it was my job to go out and wash the feet of others.  An overwhelming task of which I alone am not worthy of undertaking.  Yet, I hold fast when trying to humbly serve The One Who Sent Me to His Promise “I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in (me) will carry it through to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Yet in our lesson today, Christ, The Son of God, The Messiah, The Savior of the World, Emmanuel, is washing feet of everyone, those who love Him and the one who will betray Him.

When Jesus is done with the foot washing, he arises and puts his outer garments on, much as He will put on His glory at the Resurrection.  He, The Teacher, who has given so much of Himself to the ones He loves, continues in these final hours to reach out to The Twelve to teach them a better way to live; a life of humble, simple acts of love to all, to the least, even to the betrayers.

Jesus then gives them a warning, a prediction, of sorts while feeling troubled that one of them will betray Him. Of course, none of The Twelve know of Judas stealing from their coffers nor of his hardened heart nor of his being tempted by satan and allowing satan to enter him.  They are confused and questioning.  Jesus does not condemn.  He does not bring to light in front of the others Judas’ sins in the past nor the sin he is about to partake in.  Jesus simply places a morsel of dipped bread into Judas’ hand.  Judas has been caught so to speak.  He must surely know that Jesus is on to him.  It is his last chance.  Confess!  Confess! is what I want to yell at him.  It is about choice.  Judas, you have the chance right now to make a different choice, change your heart and your ways.  Jesus is offering you with love and respect a different way to be, just as Jesus offers this to each of us no matter our sin.  Alas, Judas is a stubborn one with a plan of his own, and no willpower against the temptation of satan.  He leaves quickly and heads into the night, into the darkness, leaving the Light of the One who came to Save him behind in the upper room.  Jesus, the Light of the World, must surely know that all of The Twelve in the end will betray Him in their own way.  Yet, He continues on through these Last Hours showing love and forgiveness even unto His Final Hour.

So we are left with the knowledge that our choices will draw us closer to the Light of Christ or leave us wondering in the darkness.  Just like Judas, our life is made up of a multitude of choices every moment of every day.  These choices will culminate into the whole of our life.  A life, if we choose, of living in the Light of God or wandering in the night of separation from His Light.  “As long as it is day, (we) must do the works of Him who sent (us).” ( John 9:4 )  Those works include how we deal with our judases.  Are we filled with anger, condemnation, darkness?  Do we plot our revenge so that everyone might know of the hurt we have been dealt?  Do we hold that grudge for eternity?  I’d like to think that though we are human and prone to grudge holding anger, we might look to Jesus and walk in His Light of humble love and respect. It is not our place to condemn nor judge.  It is God’s place to judge with a Holy Judgment at the time He sees fit.  For God does not leave us to deal with our judases alone.  He strengthens us and endures our pain with us, no matter the situation.  He also provides us with an unending peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) when we give Him the darkness and stay to the Light.

Though many were angry when the man in my family passed, I was not angry, nor filled with condemnation for him.  Rather, I was then and most days still am filled with an incredible sadness that he chose as an example for his life the same darkness that Judas chose.  So many choices he made could have been different and would have brought him despite his sin to Christ.  Jesus, who watched over this man’s life as He watched over Judas’ life would have welcomed both of them Home to Him had they only realized their sin and asked forgiveness from the Great Forgiver.  If Jesus had been willing to forgive them, then who am I to hold on to my unforgiveness?

Praying that each of you find your path to forgiveness with the judases in your life.

May you find Gratitude and Peace in every moment,

Joan

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A Slave of God, If My People, Day 4

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Deuteronomy 28:1-3 New Living Translation

28“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God:

Your towns and your fields will be blessed.

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If My People prayer pilgrimage, Day 4, has us really thinking about some hard stuff, mainly,  on obedience to God.  In our ego driven culture of self fulfillment, immediate gratification, monetary wealth, it is hard to think of answering to a higher being… to God.  While few of us have any trouble maxing out our credit cards and selling our soul to the banks for immediate gratification of whatever trivial thing crosses our path, we bulk at the thought that we owe our humility, our love and respect, our very existence to One Mightier than All Others… God.  

Today’s Word tells us that if we fully obey God and carefully keep all his commands, that he will bless our nation and each of us individually. In James 1:1, he begins his book with “James, the slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”  A slave of God. I have to tell you, the first time I read this verse several years ago, I was irritated.  Who wants to be a slave to anyone, including God.  If I was a slave to God, that would mean that I needed to give up who I was and become totally who God wanted me to be and continually do His bidding.  I just didn’t want to think about it as I had been existing quite happily with my compartmentalization of God to Sunday morning Mass and Thursday evening small church group with a prayer tossed in here and there.  It was a balanced life with no one even thinking of tossing me into the Bible Thumping Group.  I knew where God fit in and more importantly, God knew where He fit into my life.  It was convenient.  It was safe.  It was acceptable to the culture that I lived in.  But it wasn’t the plan He had for me, which I soon discovered entailed so much more.

A slave of God is actually found many times in the Bible.  In the Old Testament the word doulos (meaning slave, one who is subservient to and entirely at the disposal of his master) is used from ancient Greek to describe the Patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament including the following:  Moses (1 Kings 8:53), Joshua and Caleb (Joshua 2:8 and Numbers 14:24), Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 9:27), Job (Job 1:8), Isaiah (Isaiah 20:3), Amos 3:7, Zechariah 1:6, Jeremiah 7:25.  For these men of the Bible, the title of doulos was one of honor.  Was it difficult?  Yes.  Challenges and strife along the way doing God’s work?  Definitely.  Worthwhile and meaningful?  Without a doubt.

“Obeying God to the point that we are His slave,” what does that really entail? Am I filled with images from Civil War era movies of cuffs, starvation, ill kempt, bone weary work.  Is this what God has in store when I grudgingly agree to do His bidding.  No!  Of course this is not His desire for any of us.  I have to get my heart in the right place when I think of being His slave.  I give Him my absolute obedience.  I am absolutely His possession and I agree that I will follow Him in whatever He has in store for me without thought or question.  I give Him my absolute humility.  I focus myself on my duties and obligations to God over my privilege and rights.  I give Him my absolute loyalty.  I am utterly pledged to God and to everything for His glory, not my own.  If I can fill my heart with obedience, humility and loyalty to Him who knew me before He formed me in my mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5),  He will bring blessing not curses to me.  Blessings too numerous to list here.  For being His slave is so different than being man’s slave or even slave to this battered world we live in.  He brings light into the darkness of the world (John 8:12), beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3), plans of hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

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So in this time of darkness with racial tension and ISIS and inflation and lack of jobs to the point of homelessness of many, where many children are being raised by social media and our elderly mostly forgotten, it is time to grab on to His promise that if we commit our ways to Him, trust in Him, He will act (Psalms 37:5).  He will act with justice and steadfast love and tender mercies.  He calls us to obey Him and follow His commands.  The greatest of these is to love our God with our whole heart and to love our neighbor as our self (Matthew 22:38).  He says love all our neighbors as our self, whether they are black, blue, Muslim, homeless, disabled, gay and on and on and on.  He does not say to pick and chose the neighbor that makes you feel most comfortable and looks like you and thinks like you and has all the same stuff you have.  No, He gives us more of a challenge today just as it was when Jesus walked among us 2,000 years ago.  Love the Pharisee. Love the Gentile. Love the Good Samaritan. Love the Police Officer. Love the Thug. Love the Woman in Burqa. Love the Transgendered Woman in the Target Bathroom.  Love the Gay Couple stating their vows.  Love. Love. Love.  Let the judging and the justice come from Him above, not from us.  Reach out your hand, though you may be filled with fear and just Love….  Then, He will place you where your doings and loving and kindness will bring the greatest glory to Him and He will then bestow you with great, magnificent blessing.

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Praying that you find that place in your heart to say, “Lord, I am your slave.  Do with me as you wish.”

May you find peace and gratitude in every moment.

Joan

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You, Jesus, Complete Me.

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Philippians 1:6 “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6. God Completes What he Starts. Art Within the Ar

Artwork by Mark Lawrence, Copyright.  The Battlefield of the Mind Collection inspired by Joyce Meyers.

Giving my heart to him again and receiving his special words to my soul.  Music that made me dance and music that made me cry.  Witnessing that got to the heart of the matter of the struggle to follow His footsteps.  Quiet time to sort out my life and pray and find buttercups in full bloom in the grotto of the retreat center.  Reconciliation to give Him my sorrow over poor choices in the past and present and to find forgiveness.   This was my past weekend at our Parish Woman’s Retreat.

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Buttercups in the Grotto.

Sunday morning, as I entered the chapel, I realized that I had not yet signed the altar cloth and it was “last call” so to speak.  So up I headed, purple fine line marker in hand with final instructions that I could leave a message if I so desired with my name.  I stood pondering what message to leave on an altar cloth that will be brought back to the retreat year after year.  What words to write in this tiny little space that I found had not been written on yet….  It came to me fairly quickly.  The Bible promise that I have held on to since those early days of parenting and MOPS and not knowing what I was doing with my life and being filled with anxiety and struggles just to make ends meet while my husband finished medical school.  The promise that He would complete me, Philippians 1:6.  So I wrote on the altar cloth the simple sentence with a prayer that it would bless the other women present now and to come:

You, Jesus, complete me.  Joan Marie 2016

I headed back to my seat and waited for the big group celebration and then Mass to close out our retreat.  As they had all week-end, our group celebration began with a Bible verse.  Surprisingly it went like this:  “A Letter from St Paul to the Philippians.  ‘I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. ..And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception to discern what is of value so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.'” Simply put, it was my God promise that I had just prayed over my sisters in Christ not ten minutes earlier.

While I sat there contemplating the meaning of this “coincidence,” the group went on to sharing time.  Woman after woman bravely standing and speaking into a microphone sharing what the retreat had meant to them.  Woman after woman sharing their struggle, their lepers, their pain.  Sexual molestation, substance abuse, death…  I sat listening with my own struggles and heard that small, still voice saying to me “speak My promise to these woman.”  Alas, I am not so brave as to stand in front of just shy of 200 woman and be vulnerable.  I just could not bring myself to raise my hand, though I tried and tried to gather up the courage to say what I knew He wanted me to say.  For that I am sorrowful.

So I am here saying to each of you, now, in this place to take courage.  Do not see yourself as the leper whom others fear.  Do not look at yourself only through your pain and struggles feeling that you are the only one.  We all have pain and struggles.  We all have death and illness and abuses somewhere in our lives or the lives of loved ones whom we care for.  Suffering comes to all of us.  But He, the one who created us, bore our sins, and overcame the sting of death, looks down on us with steadfast love and tender mercies and He completes each of us.  He never leaves nor forsakes us.  He is in each of us helping us through whatever suffering this life brings by giving us whatever it is we lack to get through it.  I am small, weak, and cowardly.  Yet, with his merciful heart and outstretched arms, Jesus wraps Himself around me in those moments of suffering and weakness and completes me so that I am able to stand strong and brave and proclaim His love to all my suffering Sisters and Brothers in Christ.  He promises to do this for you as well.

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Praying that each of you can find the confidence to know in your very being that He who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus, as well.

Amen, Joan Marie

Flee to the Lord

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Mark 14:50-52, “And they all left him and fled.  Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.”

It is Holy Thursday in this reading of Mark.  Jesus has just celebrated the Last Supper in which he proclaims to his most beloved Apostles that his body and blood will be given up for each of them as well as each of us who follows him.  Judas, the misinformed zealot Apostle has made his choice and gone to the authorities to hand Jesus over.  Jesus goes to Gethsemane to pray for his Father’s will to be done.  While there, he is handed over to the authorities with a kiss from Judas.  There is a scuffle and a miracle and suddenly the Apostles flee, distancing themselves from their Master, the one who has come to set all of us free through His captivity.  Now this is the part that gets interesting in Mark, where each of us can identify in some way.  Just three short sentences with an unknown character.  A young man follows the posse with Jesus in their midst wearing only his linen cloth, think underwear or loose robe.  Most likely his disrobed body draws attention and the young soldiers grab his cloth trying to seize him.  He flees as well in his nakedness and shame for all to see.

Who is this young man?  Some say Lazarus, who is wearing his burial linen cloth.  Others think Mark is making a brief appearance to show that he was actually present at the time.  Still others claim everything from the owner of the garden to the man who appears again at the end of Mark announcing our Lord’s resurrection.  Will we ever know the true identity of this man?  Is it important that we know who he really was?  Perhaps what is of more importance is to look at why the Holy Spirit felt it important to inspire Mark to include this unknown man in his account of the Passion of Jesus, note that only Mark includes this part of the Passion Story.

This young man causes us to think about frightening or difficult times, when we are asked to faithfully follow Jesus rather than running to those things which bring us comfort.  We have all had these experiences, though different for each of us.  The single mother who must find a way to put food on the table for her children and pay the rent with not enough money for both.  The teacher who struggles to keep the brightest children in her class challenged while encouraging the children with learning disabilities to try and keep up.  The son who must find time to deal with his angry elderly mom while meeting the responsibilities of being a husband and father to his family.  The teen who yearns to be popular but realizes how unsafe it is to follow the crowd into sexual experimentation and substance abuse to gain that popularity.  The missionary in the Middle East who lives with the threat of terrorism daily but knows that God is leading their life to bring His Word to this troubled part of the world.

We all struggle…..  And yet, we are each faced with a choice.  Do we leave Jesus and flee when the going gets tough?  “Thanks, Lord, but no thanks.  I’ve got it from here on my own.  I can take care of this problem better than you.  It’s getting scary and tough to be associated with the likes of you, Lord.  Sorry, but heading out to keep myself safe on my own.”  Perhaps, we head towards Jesus in the midst of our fear and trembling, almost naked, for all to see.  “Lord, it is getting scary here.  Time for a miracle.  I am needing a little help here.  You going to do something to make it better.  No worries though Lord, I’ll take care of this little area over here on my own.”  Yet, when they see we are looking to Him for our answer, we back away and run with our sin naked for the world to see, abandoning Jesus just like his Apostles and the young man in his skivvies did the night of Holy Thursday.

Me, I prefer to keep my  eyes on Jesus, clothed or otherwise.  “Lord, I am frightened here.  I don’t want to grumble.  I don’t want to die.  I have things that I want to do and see and be for You and Your glory.  Even when times get tough, overwhelming, alarming, I hold to Your promise that in the midst of all this mess, You ‘will never leave me nor abandon me’ (Hebrews 13:5).  You, Lord are my refuge so that no one may say ‘flee like a bird’ (Psalm 11:1).  I am strong and courageous as You have promised to always go with me  (Deuteronomy 31:6).  I need not turn and flee when frightening times come to me knowing that you are ever present (1 Chronicles 28:20).

So I take heart that when the others fled Jesus in his moment of great strength, which appeared to human eyes as weakness, there was this lone young man who ventured towards Him.   In his nakedness, he followed Jesus for as long as He dared.  And though he turned and fled when the world seized Him, I am sure that Jesus looked upon Him with great compassion as He does to each of us in those moments.  Knowing each of our hearts, with open arms, He claims over us His steadfast love and tender mercies through the most terrifying of times.  With this we know that unlike this lone young man, we have nothing to flee in fear from.   And so we run into his outstretched arms for the strength and courage we need to endure those most difficult times to bring glory to Him, our Master and Savior.