Category Archives: Growing in Holiness

Right Where We Are Wrong

Right Where I Was Right
My Conversion to Catholicism brought with it many shifts that I did not expect. I was confirmed in the Catholic Church on May 21st, 2011 because I had become convinced that She was right. I fit with the theology of the Catholic Church more fully than I ever did anywhere else. I came to believe not only that She was right, but that every other expression of Christianity was incomplete. I say this not to cause conflict, but only to say that if I had found another home that I thought would have sufficed, I would not have become Catholic.

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Declaring Thomas

“Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” — John 20:27-28

Thomas gets a bad rap! Year after year, we go around calling him Doubting Thomas, like school children on the playground trying to get under his skin. I’m sure he didn’t expect that his one moment of grief would define him.

The truth is, Thomas only asked for what the other disciple’s received. After the Resurrection, Jesus came into the midst of ten of the disciples and he showed them his wounds, spoke peace over them and commissioned them to the work of the kingdom. When the ten disciples saw this, they were “glad.” I think to myself, surely that is an understatement, but that is what the text says — “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”

When Thomas returned from where he had been, the disciple’s excitedly told him all that they had seen. They told him of the wounds, they told him of the peace, they told him of the mission. Thomas’, with a heart full of emotion, only longed for those very proofs that Jesus offered to the ten. Thomas statement could be more accurately read, “When I see what you saw, I’ll believe like you believe!” or “I want to experience what you experienced!”

One week later, Thomas was given that chance! Behind locked doors, Jesus appeared to them. He walked straight over to Thomas and offered his wounds. Thomas didn’t ask Jesus for proof, he had asked the other disciples. But Jesus, knowing the heart, walked straight to the one who had been away and freely offered his wounds. Thomas’ response, however, was slightly different than that of the other disciples. Thomas answered him, “My Lord and My God!”

Thomas was the very first (that I can find) who asserted the Divinity of Jesus. Oh, sure, I know we all think it was Peter, but I’m not sure Peter had quite grasped that aspect of Jesus. Peter declared that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Those terms, however, which are found in Psalm 2:2 and 2:7, were simply Davidic or Messianic. The Jewish people did not associate the messiah with Divinity. Messiah simply meant “anointed one.” Son of the Living God comes from God’s statement to David in 2:7, and likely refers back to 2:6, which reads, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

Peter recognized that Jesus was the Lord’s Anointed, but he was speaking in royal terms, he was looking for a King. It was Thomas who first recognized that Jesus was far more than Israel’s conquering king. Jesus was, Thomas recognized and declared, God himself in their midst!

I often wonder why Jesus chose to reveal himself to all but one. Was Thomas slow getting the Mary’s report to meet Jesus in Galilee? Was it on purpose that Jesus came when he was gone? Did Jesus want to test Thomas’ belief? Did he want to set Thomas up for the revelation of Jesus’ divinity? Did Jesus want to create a moment where he could bless all of those who believe and have not seen?

All we, who have not seen and yet believe, are blessed by the faith, revelation and declaration of Thomas.

Homework this week: Meditate on the declaration, “My Lord and my God!”

Let Us Break Bread Together

“Suppose a brother or sister is without … daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” —James 2:15-16

A traditional part of the Lenten devotion is almsgiving. By caring for those who have no other means, we participate in the providence of God. Almsgiving makes the statement to God that we know he provides for our needs. We give, even out of our want, to provide for others, knowing that God will provide also for our needs. This almsgiving is a gift beyond the tithe that provides for the needs of others.

Homework this week: Consider making a gift to “Pastors Alms,” a fund that helps cover the immediate needs of people in our community.

Consider bringing an extra dish to the Pot-luck this Saturday as we feed almost 60 college students who will have no other source for dinner.

Lay It Down, Pick It Up.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'”—Matthew 16:24

Self-denial isn’t something we like to think about. Everything in our culture is directed toward the fulfillment of every desire. The very thought that we would purposefully suppress those desires is akin to failure in our minds. But Christ offers us a different picture.

Deny yourself. Not only on a small scale of personal desires, but deny yourself unto death (take up your cross). We ask, “What possible good could come of me laying down my life, or what good could possibly come from denying my desires?” Jesus expounds on the call, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

From the earliest days of the church, in the days leading up to our Lord’s passion and death, it has been the practice of Christians to lay something down, and pick something up. What gets laid down is between you and God. In fact, God may already be telling you what it should be. Traditionally the fast has included some type of food, but may also include fasting from leisure activities and hobbies. The purpose of this fast is to listen for the voice of God. How is God calling you to grow as a disciple this Lenten season?

The Lenten fast consists of the 40 days (Sundays excluded) between Ash Wednesday [Mar 9] and Easter Sunday [April 24]. Each time you hunger for what you gave up, listen for the voice of God. Let Him stir in you a hunger for righteousness in its place. I encourage you to meditate on Hebrews 12 throughout your fast.

But the fast is only half of the equation! Lay something down (fast), Pick something up (devotion).

During the season of Lent we are calling the Church into increased devotion. Start by meditating on the life of Christ. Read two chapters of a Gospel per day. This will have you reading the entirety of the four gospels by Easter. Join or start a small group during Lent. There are cards throughout the hallways of the church that can guide you in that group. Next, take up your cross, literally. Wear a cross necklace to remind you, and to proclaim to others the death and resurrection of Christ. Lastly, share that cross. Don’t worry, we have plenty, you can get a new one once you’ve given it away.

Have You Seen?

“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” —Matthew 17:1-2

Peter, James, and John were in the inner circle. Jesus would tell and show them things that he didn’t reveal even to the other disciples. They went everywhere with him. They saw the masses fed, the sick healed, and the dead raised. Jesus was doing things that only the prophets of God had ever done before. It was clear to them that Jesus belonged in the ranks of the holiest men known to history.

But for all that they had seen, nothing could prepare them for that day on the mountain. They expected this was just another “small group meeting.” They would pray for one another and for the Kingdom of God. Can you imagine their surprise when before their very eyes Jesus was transfigured? He shone like the sun, and his garments became pure white (no more dinginess from the dust of the road). Then out of thin air, Moses and Elijah, the champions of the law and of the prophets, appear with Jesus. If this isn’t enough to shake them, they then hear a voice from heaven proclaiming that Jesus is His son, and that they should listen to Him.

I’m sure this isn’t what they expected when they woke up. They had been with Jesus every day for almost three years; they had served with Him, taught with Him, walked with Him, done everything with Him. They thought they knew everything about Him. But before we judge them for their blindness, let’s ask ourselves the question. “Have I seen Jesus?” We too serve with Jesus, we’ve seen Him as we work in mission and as we’ve sought justice for the oppressed. But have we seen a Jesus that shines? Have we seen Jesus in the splendor of holiness? Have we heard the voice from heaven declaring that Jesus is His son, and that we should listen to Him?

Lent is sandwiched between this moment of splendor, and the moment of God’s greatest glory, the cross. In one we see in His radiance that He is holy and blameless. In the other we see His divine sacrifice for our sakes, that we might be blameless and holy too.

As we enter the season of Lent, this season of self-examination, let us call to mind both our Lord’s transfiguration and his crucifixion. It is in this picture, when we truly see Jesus, that all of our work for the Kingdom of God finds value.