Pierced to the Heart

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I was pierced to the heart while reading the Gospel of John.  Jesus is telling his disciples that He is going to become like a grain of wheat, which needs to fall to the ground and die so that it can yield great fruit.  He is predicting His suffering and crucifixion along with His glorious Resurrection.  He is ALSO binding us to the same way, and he says “He who loves his life with lose it; he who is an enemy to his own life in this world will keep it, so as to live eternally.

You’ve heard it said that you must die to yourself.  The need to die to ourselves is for the purpose of finding eternal life.

There is a legend that Peter was leaving the city of Rome to save his life.  As he was leaving, He met Jesus on the way and asked Jesus where He was going.  Jesus said that He was going into the city of Rome to be crucified again.  Peter was distressed and said to Jesus that he would go with Him.  As Peter turned to go back into the city, Jesus disappeared.  Peter knew then that Jesus had appeared to him to remind Peter that he must bear witness to Jesus.  Peter must lose his physical life so that he could gain eternal life in Heaven.

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As I read this passage today, I recognize that Jesus is reminding me to stop living for myself, and that I must live for Him, so to gain eternal life.  John 12:25 pierced my heart today.

Prayer Workshop: Lectio Divina

For other posts concerning the Prayer Workshop, click HERE.

I frequently recommend praying with the Scriptures (aka the Bible), but I haven’t always done a good job of explain how to pray with the Scriptures. Sorry about that. Here’s an attempt to remedy this problem.

In today’s Prayer Workshop, we’re going to talk about one of the more popular ways to pray with a passage from Scripture, namely Lectio Divina, which is Latin for Divine Reading. There are many ways to pray with the Scriptures, but this is one I’ve found to be most helpful for my life of prayer. Here’s a basic outline of Lectio Divina:

  • Pick out a passage of Scripture. Something from one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) will probably be best if you haven’t prayed in this way very often in the past.
    • A great option may be the Gospel passage from Mass for the day or for the upcoming Sunday. You can find that HERE.
  • Start with a simple prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind and heart during this time of prayer.
    • Example: “Come, Holy Spirit! I ask that you help me remain focused during this time of prayer. Make this passage come alive in my mind and heart. Show me whatever you want me to know. Amen.”
  • Read the passage, either out loud or silently. Rest in silence for 2-3 minutes. Meditate on the passage you just read. Is there a word or phrase that stands out to you? Let that word or phrase penetrate your mind.
  • Read the passage again. Rest in silence for 2-3 minutes again. This time, are there any images that come to your mind? Are there any particular emotions that come up? Or any ideas about what Jesus has said or how the people are responding to him?
  • Read the passage a third time. Rest in silence for 2-3 minutes again. How does the Lord want this passage to change your life? Do you sense a particular invitation from Jesus? What does he want you to do now that you’ve spent this time being refreshed by him? How is this passage of the Word of God piercing your heart?
  • Finish your time with a prayer of thanksgiving.
    • Example: “Thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving me this time to rest in the Word. Give me the grace I need to keep this Word at the front of my mind and heart. Let it penetrate everything I say and do. Amen.”

Discipleship [SERMON] …with Reflection Questions!

Discipleship is an important topic here at Evangelical Disciple. What does it mean to be a disciple? Why would I want to be someone’s disciple? Why would I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Give this homily a listen and then check out the reflection questions below.

 

Reflection Questions:

  • Am I a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
  • Do I take time to study the life of Jesus? Do I spend time reading the Gospels and reflecting on what I’ve read?
  • Is there anything in the life of Jesus that I find attractive? In what ways could I try to imitate Jesus?
  • How generous have I been toward Jesus and his people?
  • What worldly comforts and securities have I sacrificed for Jesus? How often do I make sacrifices for him?
  • Is my life any different than those who do not claim to be disciples of Jesus?
  • Would I actually be willing to change my life in order to follow and imitate Jesus more perfectly?

Lessons From John the Baptist

John heralded [Jesus’] coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, “What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.”   – Acts 13:24-25

From this short passage, we can learn at least three things from St. John the Baptist:

1. We need to be men and women of repentance.

John was preparing the people of his time for the coming of Jesus, the Savior. At this time in history, Israel was deep in sin and needed conversion. The one who would save them from eternal damnation was about to come, so they had to prepare by repenting from this deep sin and turning back to the way the Lord wanted them live. In our time, we know the Savior has already come, and still we sin. The Savior has saved us from eternal damnation, but we so quickly reject his saving work. We need further conversion. We need to repent of our sins daily and turn back to the Lord.

2. We need to call people to repentance.

John the Baptist had a particular awareness about the Lord’s grace that others in his time didn’t have, so he shared that awareness by telling people about the coming of the Savior. So many people in our time have forgotten about the grace of the Lord, so we need to remind them of the power of his mercy. We need to remind others that there is more to life than the world we see around us. There is actually another world that awaits those who have humbled themselves before the Almighty God and who have imitated the Savior by denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following him.

3. We need to point to Jesus at all times.

As you might imagine, John was getting quite a bit of attention for preaching such a radical message. Some even thought he was the Savior. What was his response? “I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.” He redirected all attention to Jesus, the Savior. His life was different from those around him because he knew the Savior was coming and he wanted to be saved. Everything he did and said pointed to Jesus. We need to be the same way. Each of us needs to ask: Does everything I say and do reflect a lived relationship with Jesus Christ? How can I change my life habits so I can better reflect a lived relationship with Jesus? What’s one thing I can do today to begin pointing to the one who has come into the world to save us from our sins?

John’s life was deeply affected by Jesus even before the two met each other in the four Gospels. How much more, then, should our lives be affected, since we have Jesus living within us?

From a New Angle: 1 Corinthians 16

This post is part of a series of posts looking at 1 Corinthians and pulling out ideas from each chapter and using them to look at our lives from a new angle. For a complete list of the series, click here.

1 Corinthians 16:

Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

I will visit you after passing through Macedonia—for I intend to pass through Macedonia— and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

If Timothy comes, see that he has nothing to fear among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord just as I am; therefore let no one despise him. Send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I am expecting him with the brothers.

Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but he was not at all willing to come now. He will come when he has the opportunity.

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

Now, brothers and sisters, you know that members of the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; I urge you to put yourselves at the service of such people, and of everyone who works and toils with them. I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence; for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. So give recognition to such people.

The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, greet you warmly in the Lord. All the brothers and sisters send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.

Questions to consider:

– Do I contribute to the needs of the Church?

– Do I contribute a fair portion of my prosperity? Do I budget well so that I can give a fair portion?

– Do I keep quiet when matters of faith come up in conversation, allowing others to verbally push me around, or do I stand firm in the faith, courageously presenting the truth in love (to the best of my ability)?

– Do I show honor to those who have dedicated their lives to serve the Lord and his Church?

From a New Angle: 1 Corinthians 15

This post is part of a series of posts looking at 1 Corinthians and pulling out ideas from each chapter and using them to look at our lives from a new angle. For a complete list of the series, click here.

1 Corinthians 15:

Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection’, it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised,
‘Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.’
Do not be deceived:
‘Bad company ruins good morals.’
Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on the imperishable, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Questions to consider:

– Do I hold fast to the faith I have received? Or have I allowed God’s grace toward me to be in vain?

– Do I believe in the resurrection of the dead?

– Do I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

– Do I consider all things in terms of eternity?

– Or do I tend toward only living for this life and its immediate pleasures?

– Do I ruin the morals of others?

– Have I allowed others to ruin my morals?

From a New Angle: 1 Corinthians 14

This post is part of a series of posts looking at 1 Corinthians and pulling out ideas from each chapter and using them to look at our lives from a new angle. For a complete list of the series, click here.

1 Corinthians 14

Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their building up and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you in some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? It is the same way with lifeless instruments that produce sound, such as the flute or the harp. If they do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is being played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves; if in a tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different kinds of sounds in the world, and nothing is without sound. If then I do not know the meaning of a sound, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.

Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unproductive. What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will sing praise with the mind also. Otherwise, if you say a blessing with the spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say the ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving, since the outsider does not know what you are saying? For you may give thanks well enough, but the other person is not built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you; nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults. In the law it is written,
‘By people of strange tongues
and by the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people;
yet even then they will not listen to me,’
says the Lord. Tongues, then, are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all. After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, ‘God is really among you.’

What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let them be silent in church and speak to themselves and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to someone else sitting nearby, let the first person be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. And the spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets, for God is a God not of disorder but of peace.

(As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only ones it has reached?)

Anyone who claims to be a prophet, or to have spiritual powers, must acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.Anyone who does not recognize this is not to be recognized. So, my friends, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues; but all things should be done decently and in order.

Questions to consider:

– Do I actually desire spiritual gifts? How is this revealed in my life?

– Is love my aim in everything I do?

– With the gifts I’ve received, do I strive to build up the Church?

– Is this even a thought in my mind, “How can I build up the Church?’ or do I only focus on myself?

– Am I always mature in the way I think?

– Do I strive to maintain childlike innocence? Do I check my curiosity when online so as to avoid temptation to sin?

– Have I encouraged or led others into serious sin?

– Do I strive to edify (lift up, encourage, etc) in everything I say and do?

– Do my words and actions bring disorder or peace to others?

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