Scripture: "God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His own will." (Hebrews 2:4)
Scripture: "By the power at work within us, He is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask, dream or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20)
Let us once again invite the Holy spirit into this moment. Come Holy Spirit and break open the Word of God for us that we may be changed, encouraged, inspired and transformed into living words of Jesus, our Lord.
Happy Sunday. It's double portion Scripture day! May the grace and peace of Christ guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7) I hope that you were able to spend some time yesterday with the anointing that is on you. Today we want to look at what we DO with that anointing. Several years ago, I was on a personal retreat for a few days. At some point in my very quiet, quiet time, I had what was either a vision (I think I was awake) or a dream. (who knows?!) I saw three panels. The first looked like a large framed picture of the Sacred Heart. Most of you know the image of the Sacred Heart, but for those who don't, it's the resurrected Jesus with His wounds visible, and fire shooting out of His Heart. Here we were, and He was looking at me and He said, "Anne, the wounds MUST stay on the outside of the body. They must stay on the outside of the body." I was aware that His pierced Heart was bleeding but not gory, and what most caught my attention was the love in His eyes. I wasn't sure what to do with that, and my spiritual director was no help. (ha!) "Hmmm, she said. Well it looks like you have a lot of leaning on the Holy Spirit to do." I thought about this for a year, never getting very far. Sometimes God intentionally keeps us waiting so that when He speaks it's like a bomb going off.
A year later, I was preparing for a retreat in Naivasha, Kenya for a group of missionaries of several denominations. Wondering why these Protestant missionaries were wanting a Catholic, I was told that they wanted to know about monastic spirituality. I probably knew about as much as they did, but I set about gathering resources, talking to monastic friends and learning all I could so it wouldn't be the blind leading the blind! One of the books that came in seemed like all the others from the description on Amazon. Remember that for one whole year I had asked the Lord daily to explain that picture of the Sacred Heart I'd seen. I certainly didn't expect my research on monastic life and sacred pauses to bring the Lord's crystal clear answer to my question. In Moments of The Day, by Fr. Christopher Collins, SJ, the author tells the story about his first miserable assignment as a young priest. He was sent to an Indian reservation in South Dakota to teach at the mission school there. Most of the Native American students didn't trust their white teachers, and they REALLY didn't trust the new guy coming in halfway through the year. One day he went to the chapel after work to whine to Jesus about his terrible life, and his eyes focused on a Sacred Heart statue that was in the chapel. He had poured out his woes to the Lord...his thoughts ran the gamut from, "How could they be so ungrateful," to "I must be a loser as a teacher, and probably as a person." You know how the enemy can get in our minds and make mincemeat of our courage and resolve. It always astounds me that he is about as harmful as a mosquito (we stand in the authority of Christ), but it's REALLY difficult to stay focused on that when that mosquito is buzzing in your ear! He sounds like he's 10 feet tall.
Fr. Christopher says, "It was my first personal encounter with the Sacred Heart. Jesus was standing there with His Heart opened up, vulnerable, on the outside of His body. The Heart was pierced and bloody...I noticed His hands too, one pointing to His Heart and the other beckoned to me. There He stood, looking at me with such intense love; it was if He was speaking directly to me saying, "This is the way I live. This is the way I love. Truly, this is the only way to love. You can do it. You MUST do it. There is no other way." As I looked at the Heart, I realized that's how my heart felt too. Mine was getting pierced in smaller ways than Jesus' Heart, but in very real ways nonetheless...As they rejected me every day, my students were in a real way piercing my heart. I could see Jesus' Heart had been pierced long before mine, but maybe His heart was continuing to be pierced right along with mine... More important, I began to situate this whole context into a larger framework. The piercings my students had undergone in their own lives were far greater than anything I was feeling. I began to see their suffering, my suffering and the suffering found in the whole of human history...and now I was seeing it in the light of the pierced Heart of Christ. But that Heart was more than just pierced. I also saw the fire emerging out of it. Even though the piercings are real, continuous wounds, they did not destroy His Heart. He could take the piercings, all the way to death and still live. And it wasn't a matter of taking the pain in some heroic, stoic, tough-guy way. I could see in a new way that Jesus had a way of transforming these sufferings into fire, into life, and into love. I began to see that the piercings and the fire go together. In fact, the power and the brightness of the fire is made possible only by the piercings."
He continues, "If I try to avoid piercing, I might be able to for a while, but then the fire will go out. I can build up barriers around my heart to make sure I don't get disappointed or hurt. I can become cynical and bitter and not get my hopes up to avoid the hurt of disappointment. I can numb my heart in many ways. But, in every case, the fire will go out. Once I began to see the Sacred Heart in this way...I saw that this is all there is. The point of our lives is love. There is no love without piercings along the way, but the piercings will not do us in. I will be wounded along the way but I can remain on fire. There is a fire that will not be quenched if I keep my heart open, if I resist the temptation to shut down, to defend, to hide. this is Jesus. His whole mission has always been to open up the Heart of God to the world and not flinch in doing so." Fr Christopher Collins, SJ, Moments Of The Day.
I look at today's Gospel, John 11:38-44, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Several things struck me today. Jesus knew that Lazarus was dying but he waited to go. He told His disciples that the sickness would not end in death, but that the miracle Jesus would do would bring honor to God by glorifying the Son. It must have been confusing to them when they arrived and Laz had been dead for several days. Then Jesus wept. Even though He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he wept. That has always intrigued me. And finally, Jesus brought him back to life, but he made the people "Unbind him." Sometimes God waits. He doesn't answer our prayers right away. Everyone doesn't get healed. I've prayed for healings thousands of times at this point. And I've seen some astounding miracles. Some very quickly unfolding and some after years of prayer. But I've also prayed for some situations for years and years and still see no breakthrough. We don't know the mind of God, but if we KNOW that He is good, if we KNOW that He loves us, we must trust Him that He is working everything out for our good.
Jesus wept. For years I've asked why? But in lieu of Fr. Collins's reflection on the pierced Heart of Jesus, it seems that He never stops allowing His Heart to carry our pain. Fr. Richard MacAlear says that he is convinced that when they pierced Jesus' Heart, the water that came out was every tear we've ever cried. He has held them all, and He continues to. Jesus carries ALL that pierces us. Our precious Savior is with us right now, in this storm, absorbing our fears, our pains, our woundedness, and if we will allow Him, He will set a new fire in us so that we, like Him, will see with the eyes of heaven and not lose our focus, much less lose our courage and faith. The third thing that stood out to me was that Jesus had the people unbind Lazarus. And take note: it wasn't some super spiritual guru that got to unbind him. Jesus just called out to "them," the ‘whoevers’, the regular folks, actually anyone who would take Him at His word and just step out and do it. Now in the practical, human arena, this man had been dead for 4 days. They were expecting a stench. No minimizing that one. FAITH TAKES RISK. And, sometimes, what God requires of us will get us dirty and in someone's mess. But if we will do that, we get to be part of a miracle. Maybe a miracle of healing, maybe a miracle of bringing hope or transformation in someone's life. And maybe the miracle of just being willing to be present to someone in their deepest pain if no miracle seems to be coming. But always the miracle of His living fire growing in us, as we absorb others' piercings as Jesus transforms everything, through His holy FIRE, into life and love.
Right now, there are heroic health care workers putting themselves at risk by working with very sick people. So many of them have families. They know that their incredible courage and care is not a protection from this virus. I've been told that some have quit. Everyone can understand their concerns. But look for the "whoevers," the regular folk, who allow Jesus to become so alive in them, those in the middle of this mess unbinding the Lazaruses over and over, day after day. Ordinary people with an extraordinary God. Hebrews 11 talks about it. Some experience miracles and some are asked to suffer terribly. Hebrews 11:13 tells us where we all need the grace to stand. "These people all died controlled and sustained by their faith, but not all received the tangible fulfillment of God's promises..."
We don't know what life holds, but we do know Who holds life! Are you ready to tell the Lord you are ALL IN? If we are seeking Ballistic Breakthrough, we must find ourselves planting our hearts, minds and souls totally in the blazing Heart of Jesus. If He doesn't rescue us FROM, He will give us the grace IN. Daniel 3:15-17 tells the story of 3 boys threatened with death by the king because they would not worship him. The king was furious. He asked them, "Who is this God that can deliver you out of my hands?" Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered the king, "If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, He will deliver us out of your hands, O king. But if not, be it known to you that we will not worship other gods." (Daniel 3:17-18) You know the story. Jesus was IN the fire with them. Miraculously, they were not harmed at all. And the king was converted, both by their courage and by the Presence of the One who is still the miracle worker.
Read the Scriptures for today. Tomorrow, we will talk about the reality of healings today. Know your anointing! But all healing, miracles, signs and wonders must come from the mercy and compassion in the Heart of Jesus. If we don't allow the Lord to do heart surgery on us and give us His Heart, (Ezekiel 36:26) we will not be bringing those in our midst into an encounter with His love. Someone can get a healing but never encounter the Healer. That would be a tragedy. You can get a physical healing and still be a jerk! This is about bringing people into an encounter with the living, burning Heart of God that transforms a life. Lord let it begin with ours. By the power at work in us, Jesus, make our hearts like Yours.
Declaration: We praise You, Jesus, that You are replacing our hearts of stone with Your Heart of love, mercy and compassion (Ezekiel 36:26) We thank You, Jesus, that you call anyone who will come to be part of the unbinding of the dead, the brokenhearted, the sick, the desperate (Isaiah 61:1-3). We thank You, Jesus, that day by day you are doing far more in us than we can dare ask, dream or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). We praise you and give you our lives and ALL glory and honor. Amen and Amen.
All glory to the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. May every grace and blessing be multiplied to you.
May every grace and blessing of the Father be given to you in abundance today and always.