Tag Archives: Edith Stein

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Downward Ascent 8: Woeful Well-Being

‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you…’ (LK 6:26)
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.’ (Matt. 5:10)

Being hated for loving Jesus means you are doing something right. Authentic peacemakers provoke war. Jesus may wash feet, defend children, empower women, and cure lepers but He also mirrors the truth of our sin (JN 15: 18-25). His reflection so unsettled the religious and political figures of His day that they smashed that mirror every way they could. His disciples might expect the same. The servant is not greater than his master.

I refer to the backlash prompted by authentic righteousness, not self-righteous bluster. A pagan friend roughed me up in the early days of my conversion when I was prone to quoting Scripture in faux dulcet tones. I deserved to be decked–religion was making me insufferable. That differed from the gossip that surrounded me when I pulled away from gay friends. Although I was sorely tempted to serve both God and Baal, I knew that the former demanded loyalty.

Jesus makes us very unpopular. How else do you explain Mozilla/Firefox Chief (Silicon Valley magnate) Brendan Eich who resigned under pressure when it became known that a few years earlier he gave $1000 in support of Proposition 8? A popular gay website posted this about Eich and anyone who stands for marriage: ’For enforcing misery, shame, and frustration, you are our enemies, and we wish you nothing but failure.’

Be forewarned: the ‘gay marriage’ machine has just begun to steamroll opponents. Note that its energy is essentially ‘anti-Christ.’ To reconfigure marriage means a failure to recognize both the context and purpose of sexual love as advocated by Jesus Himself. (Matt. 19:4-6) People hate chastity and genuine fruitfulness; for all their talk about wanting ‘gay marriage,’ gay activists hate marriage. Blessed are those persecuted for upholding the righteousness of marriage. Blessed is Brendan and blessed are we.

Two years ago, a global gay-rights group did some research and discovered that Desert Stream Ministries was the source of the Living Waters Training week, which are currently being sponsored in nations throughout the earth. These activists never inquired of us but saw fit to launch a virtual smear campaign throughout the globe, using ads to describe our trainings as coercive and based on the premise that one begins the week with their ‘gay dial’ on and we claim to change the dial to ‘straight.’ All in 7 days! (Preposterous, as the training is for lay leaders being equipped to run church groups.)

Using this visual ‘dial’ image and a paragraph of pure lies, they amassed nearly one million signatures online against us. They submitted these signatures to governments around the world and requested that these nations shut us down for the sake of human rights.

The result? Governments around the world warned our constituents in those nations to distance themselves from us or else. It worked. Colleagues whom we had served on their soil for decades put up fire-walls from us to preserve their ministries.

Those who rejoice in the Cross must also be willing to endure the cross He asks us to bear. Consider the promises you make. Those who enter through the Crucified must share in that suffering. Heaven asks it of us.

From what aspect of Jesus’ righteousness do you seek to distance yourself? What cross do you avoid to maintain peace? As we enter Holy Week, be aware of your own ‘Hosannas.’ Will your love endure beyond the palms and hymns? Will you go the distance with Him to Calvary?

Edith Stein was a German Jewish convert who became a Carmelite nun. She exhorted her sisters with these words before being killed by the Nazis:

‘Will you remain faithful to the Crucified? Consider carefully! The world is in flames, the battle between Christ and Antichrist has broken out into the open. If you decide for Christ, it could cost you your life. Carefully consider what you promise.’

PRAYER for Sunday April 13th: ‘On this Palm Sunday, we rejoice that You choose to dwell with us, Humble King, the Prince of Peace. At the same time, we know that our hearts are not much different from the disciples who loved You during the parade and rejected You in the persecution to come. Have mercy on our fickle hearts.’

PRAYER for Monday April 14th: ‘Reveal any “peace at any price” tendency in us. Show us how we adjust the truth to look good before men rather than before God. As we approach the Cross this week, make us true.’

PRAYER for Tuesday April 15th: ‘Jesus, grant us the grace to distinguish rejection based on righteousness rather than rude, proud behavior. We turn from truth without love. Amplify truth-in-love. Remind us of the intimacy reserved for those who endure alienation from others for Your sake.’

PRAYER for Wednesday April 16th: ‘Father, show us any person or issue toward which we fear to be the truth. Grant us the love to include others in the whole of Your Gospel: crucifixion unto resurrection. Forgive us for wanting You only in the joy of new life and not in the grief of letting go. Forgive us for rejoicing in only one aspect of Your Cross and actually hating the other. Help us to love all that You are as we approach Calvary.’

New Birth and Battle

New Birth and Battle

‘Now burn, new born to the world!’ – Gerard Manley Hopkins

I recall one December when two warring nations agreed to a cease-fire. In light of the Prince of Peace, they agreed to a temporary peace, only to resume the battle a day later.

Like you, I will awake on Dec. 26th to the sounds of air-raids and bombs dropping. I will not linger in misty dreams of an eternal cease-fire; I must face the battle.

I derive courage from Bonhoeffer who warned his ‘army’ opposing Hitler to not use Christmas as a fantasy island, a nostalgic defense against the threat of death. Rather, he implored them to welcome the Child-King into their depths, the Christ who descended there on Christmas to make them His freedom-fighters, faithful and true!

My church bears witness of this Christmas passion eloquently, upon the altar. Christ Crucified remains central, even at Advent. But from the Lamb a sash of royal purple descends and frames a small figure of Mary on the side. She is illuminated, open and humble, and one can see that the strand of purple that descends to her also ascends from her to the babe, her Son Crucified. In a flash, the symbolism helped me recognize the indivisible bond between the God who became flesh, and the flesh that was pierced.

Mary helps us here, as we can understand the whole of Christ’s human life through her eyes, from the crib to the cross. In her humanity, we can understand His: her marvel of the Babe, and the sword that pierced her soul at His piercing.

Christmas peace brings a sword. From the cradle to the tomb, He waged and won the war that we must still fight—the fight for all to know Mercy, and be reunited with their original dignity.

Deeply grateful this Christmas, I still grieve over the state of the wounded and deceived. I just read that one in five women in the United States has been sexually assaulted, that the Obama administration recently championed gay rights as fundamental human rights to all the nations of the earth at a UN Council (a secular view of human sexuality, at least), and that divorce is now so common among conservative Christians that ‘anti-divorce’ arguments have all but disappeared’ from our ranks.

We run the risk of losing our bite and our fight as Christians, choosing to dull the darkness rather than combat it with the radiance of Jesus.

This Christmas, let us welcome the Babe who composes us in order to rouse us. From the crib to the cross, He gave all. He won our hearts, that we might hold nothing back to win the world. May His peace prepare you for war.

Like Bonhoeffer, Edith Stein was executed in a Nazi death camp. She writes: ‘The way from Bethlehem leads inevitably to Golgotha, from the crib to the cross. When the blessed virgin brought the child to the temple, Simeon prophesied that her soul would be pierced by a sword, that this child was set for the rising and falling of many. His prophecy announced the passion, the fight between light and darkness that already showed itself at the crib.’

‘Now burn, new born to the world!’

Patience and Mercy

Day 29 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Patience and Mercy

‘The greatest power is hidden in patience. I see that patience always leads to victory, although not immediately; but that victory will become manifest after many years.’ (1514)

During this fast, we are crying out for many ‘fruitless’ ones who have wandered far from their home in Christ. We beg God to manifest His Mercy to them. At the same time, we know that God is priming us to be merciful, an answer to our own prayers. He intends to fertilize and break up the fallow ground of all involved!

Yet we struggle. Loved ones possess the dignity of their will. Especially with family members, we understand that our best intentions can be motivated by our impatience and desire to control them. My will be done, O God, now…

So we die daily to our divinity; we entrust the beloved to God. We surrender our native control and anxiety. Safe in Jesus’ care and timing, the beloved then becomes one whom we can pray for in the specifics of his/her need. That is where listening for the healing word can help.

(S)he is unlike any other. The Father knows him/her even better than you do. Parents, remember you are only the co-creators of your child. The Father is the Parent, capital P, both his/her Creator and Redeemer. So listen for the Father’s voice on behalf of your beloved. And pray accordingly. You may begin praying according to his/her need, not your own, a great preparation for the face-to-face time you may have at some point.

St. Faustina writes:

‘We should pray and ask for light in order to know how to deal with each one, for each soul is a world of its own.’ (568)

So God employs the vast expanses of time between our will and His for the beloved to change us. We learn how to surrender the other and to pray; we learn how to pray with a more attentive ear for the other, and a more merciful heart.

We discover something essential about Christianity–patience. Edith Stein writes: ‘Waiting in patient expectation is the essence of the spiritual life.’

How terrible is that! I hate to wait for anything, especially when a loved one’s future and well-being is in peril. So we pray harder; God always hears the cry for Mercy as we surrender a loved one (yet again) to His care.

That frees you from an intolerable burden. And it frees you for an inspired expectancy. God will act! Through prayerful surrender, we can wait patiently with undiminished expectation.

We are becoming like Abraham, who ‘did not waver through unbelief concerning the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.’ (Rom. 4:20, 21)

Patient prayer changes us, and makes a merciful way for loved ones. My entire family prayed for decades for our dear, unbelieving father, without any sign of a crack in his armor. In the last 48 hours of life, he was quietly asked by my brother (for the 549th time, I reckon) if he wanted to receive Jesus. Dad clearly agreed and was welcomed by Jesus face-to-face a few hours later. Our grief at his passing was superseded by gratitude. Our God saves!

‘I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word, I put my hope.’ (Ps. 130:5)

‘I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong, and take heart, and wait for the Lord.’ (Ps. 27:13, 14)

‘Patience, hard thing! Father, grant us Mercy, that we would be changed by the time gap between our will and Yours. Show us how You are changing us. Please teach us to pray in ways that please you. Incline our ear to Your stirrings on behalf of the beloved. Teach us to wait with expectation, not despair. You are God, You are good, and You want all to know Your Mercy.’

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

Mercy’s Meal

Day 20 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Mercy’s Meal

‘Jesus, may Your pure and healthy blood circulate in my ailing organism, and may Your pure and healthy body transform my weak body, and may a healthy, vigorous life throb within me…’ (1089)

I have the privilege of taking communion most mornings at a church down the street from me. This is my daily bread: the Word spoken, the Word broken and offered generously to hungry ones like me.

At the center of this church is a huge cross, on which Christ hangs, His finished work dripping upon the communion table beneath Him. Amazing: He who gave everything for us now says: ‘Take Me, drink Me, eat Me; I gave Myself wholly to you.’

John Paul ll describes communion as the re-presentation of the Cross in which the central event of our salvation becomes present to us. I marvel: Jesus longs to be savored, and so impart Mercy to us at the most basic, authentic level possible.

He who was broken and punctured for us wants to sustain us with the fruit of His wounds. He wants none of His suffering to be wasted. He wants life to spring forth from His death. Communion is how death becomes life, how Holy Wounds heal us. He who fills all in all allowed Himself to be broken in order to become the Merciful Source and sustenance of our lives.

Raised in an Anglo-Catholic Church, I am not unfamiliar with communion. Yet as I age its meaning becomes increasingly precious and essential. At 53-years-old, the wounds I have sustained and the wounds I tend in others requires daily Mercy. Humanity is fractured—longing for love and connectedness and yet defended, bitter, stuck. The Church of Jesus is as unified as she is divided. We are her!

So daily I savor the host as it breaks within me, and like St. Faustina I trust that His brokenness will intermingle with mine and raise me up whole. I drink the cup, trusting that its Almighty Mercy will dissolve walls in me.

As I circle around the church after communion en route to my seat, I am usually overcome with an inexplicable joy, as if all present are one, the bride that has made herself ready. I go forth onto the fragile ground of a new day, stepping lightly and lively from the Mercy just received.

Truly communion embodies the fullness of both Christ Crucified and Resurrected! In the words of St Ambrose, ‘He rises daily for us’, setting our hearts on fire with the burning love of Jesus!

‘It is most important that the Holy Eucharist becomes life’s focal point; that every day is received from His hand and laid back therein; that the day’s happenings are deliberated with Him. In this way, God is given the best opportunity to be heard in the heart, to form the soul, and to make its faculties clear-sighted and alert for the supernatural.’ Edith Stein

‘Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.’ (Is. 55:2)

‘Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains, abides, and dwells with Me, and I remain, abide, and dwell with him/her.’ (Jn. 6:54-56)

‘Jesus, thank you for Your Holy Meal. You died to give us this gift of life. You rose to raise us up through it. May we never take communion for granted but approach it with child-like faith and adult sobriety. Let Mercy have its perfect way in us through these elements that embody You, Merciful God. Make us Merciful and generous like You, through You.’

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

Suffering for What is Right

In His mercy, Jesus redeems our suffering. Some of the sorrow we submit to Him is not of particularly noble origins—it may be, as we have seen, the bad fruit of our sin, or the normal wounds and losses we sustain this side of Heaven.

He loves us to the extent that He will take every opportunity to invite us to surrender our sins and wounds. He grants us ‘cross-time’: an opportunity to receive and extend mercy. He makes us that much more fruitful in love.

But suffering for what is right: that is the highest form of suffering, and one to which the Christian seeking mature identification with the Crucified must aspire.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: ‘The cross is suffering that comes only from our commitment to Jesus Christ…the cross is not the normal suffering tied to natural existence but the suffering tied to being Christian.’

That is what Jesus referred to in the Sermon on the Mount when He spoke of persecution for the sake of righteousness. (Matt. 5:10)

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