On Loving the Enemy

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  Matthew 5:44–45

    How far would you go in keeping these words of Jesus? ‘Love your enemies?’. Can Jesus be serious? Doesn’t He know how evil some people are? How can I, how can anyone, love those who seek to do us harm?

    I have pondered this part of the Sermon on the Mount ever since the first time I heard them. Then I read those words, several times, and I still cannot wrap my mind around what they are asking of me. Jesus' words are plain enough, love those who are your enemies and pray for those who would harm you. It runs counter to every instinct of self-preservation that is within me. Jesus is asking us to go to a depth of love and charity that is truly a foreign land to us.

    I begin to discover how to explore that foreign land when I first read St. Paul's words in Romans: For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:10 Jesus gives Himself for us, who by our rebellion have become God's enemies, to the point of His death on the cross. It is the mercy of the Father through His Son that transforms those who are His enemies into His dear children. It is that kind of love that has transformed the world.

    Jesus calls us to love as we have been loved, even to the point of surrendering our lives in that love so that even our enemies might be transformed. It is not an easy path for there is a cross in it, a cross upon which self-love dies and the new self-arises. It is who we are in Christ, called to love even those who are our enemies.


On Welcoming the Stranger

Greetings in Christ,


At one time you could see printed under a help wanted sign: “Irish Need Not Apply”. This could have meant for my ancestor, Eve Shaddock, that she would not be allowed to work in the United States. My friend from seminary days, Glenn Nagashima, a fifth generation American, had in his family history the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. During World War I, German Americans were not allowed to worship in German as it was considered disloyal to the nation.


I am not sure how much you have heard about children who are illegally entering the country with their families are being treated. It appears that many are separated from their parents, who have been arrested for entering the country illegally, and are being housed separately.


I do not know all of the facts of the matter. I do not know if this is being applied to all families or if the separation is long or short. I do not know which administration of our government instituted this policy.


I do know that the firestorm that this has created online and in the media is intense. There are at times circumstances where removing children from a dangerous situation is warranted. I do not know anyone in law enforcement who likes the idea of separating children from their families, but they do so when the safety of the children is paramount.


Then there are times when those who make the laws overstep what is good and decent and create situations where more harm than good is done. Automatically separating children from their families as a practice mandated by law without due process is wrong.


If this is the policy of our government, then it does not follow Jesus. Far more troubling is the use of Scripture by some in the government to justify what appears to be an unfair practice. Scripture is to be used to lead people to our Lord and not to give legitimacy to an unjust law.


We are a nation of immigrants. Nearly every one of us has come from some other place to this country. We have always found a way to welcome the immigrant. We have not always accomplished this perfectly, but we have found a way.


I pray that we continue to find a way to welcome the stranger that is just and fair to everyone.



On Suicide

Greetings in Christ,


“Out of the depths I have cried unto Thee, O LORD, O LORD, hear my voice.” Psalm 130.1

Recent celebrity suicides have been in the news causing one to wonder why these folk who appeared to have it all going their way took their own lives. Reports also detail a disturbing rise in suicide rates across the nation as well as in several European countries. Again, questions are raised as to why people in some of the wealthiest nations find life too challenging to bear.

For far too long we have been unwilling to talk about suicide and the factors that lead up to a person ending their own life. Add to that the guilt and shame the survivors experience and it is not surprising that we still are uncomfortable talking about it.

Christians who believe that each person is created in the image of God it is an act of love and charity to openly discuss suicide and to address the factors that lead up to it. Like the psalmist, many people live their life in the depths of emotional and spiritual pain. Life for them is often so challenging that the thought of struggling through another day is so painful that they would rather not go on. Depression and other emotional illnesses are often at the root of suicide. It is important to begin regarding all emotional and psychological illnesses as illnesses. A person who is depressed can not just ‘get over it’ any more than a person with high blood pressure will that disease away. For far too long we have treated emotional illnesses as a moral failing and not a disease. Like all diseases, it has to be diagnosed and treated.

As Christians, we also need to try to comprehend that nearly everyone is carrying a burden that is a challenge for them to bear. They may on the surface appear to be doing well, but underneath things aren’t as good. We often cannot change the circumstances of another’s life but can be there for them. We can listen, really listen to what they are saying. It may not be easy for them to put into words what their struggle is like, but to have someone take the time to hear them is an important step toward helping them get their life back on track.

Of course, if someone actually threatens to harm themselves, that is the time to act. If the danger of self-harm seems immediate do not leave the person alone until medical help can be obtained. Call their doctor, the local law enforcement or EMS and get them to the ER.

The vast majority of suicides can be avoided by another person taking the time to truly care about the one who is struggling. It won’t solve all their problems, but it will provide them with someone who believes their life is valuable.



On Feast Days

Greetings in Christ,

On my liturgical calendar in my study are several useful tools. The days are color coded to show the season of the year or the Feast that particular day celebrates.  As Lutherans, we are familiar with a few of the Feasts of the Church year, Easter, Christmas, Pentecost and such. We may even know some of the less familiar Feast days such as St. Peter and St. Paul. All of the important witnesses to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are remembered on a Feast day, usually the day of their death.  

All around these major and important Feast Days are lesser know witnesses to Jesus. In the month of June we could observe the Feasts of Blandina and her companions, June 2, who were martyred in 177 A.D.. We could celebrate the Council of Nicaea on June 12. We could give God thanks for the ministry and witness of Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, A.D. 444, whose Feast day is June 27. Nearly every day of the week has a remembrance of persons on events that were important in the life of the Church.

Most Protestants don’t observe Feast days as we are concerned with making too much out of them at the expense of Jesus. It is true that we should keep our focus on the Lord, but it is important that we learn from the witness of those who have gone before us. Their examples of faith and service can inspire us to a deeper devotion to Jesus as well as a better outreach to the world around us.


On Memorial Day 2018

Greetings in Christ,

They went into the maelstrom of war. Some went at the first call, others when they were called to go. They faced those who would harm the innocent at home and abroad and said, 'You will not pass, not on my watch' Some did not come home having given their lives in the defense of us all. They sleep now in foreign fields, at Arlington and thousands of tiny cemeteries around the land. Remember them, not just today, but always as we live our lives in freedom and peace.



On the Holy Trinity

Greetings in Christ,

This coming Sunday, May 27, is Holy Trinity Sunday. On this Sunday we are called upon to contemplate the mystery of the Holy Trinity, One God in Three Persons. Every effort to adequately explain the Trinity without falling into heresy breaks down at some point. Perhaps the best way we can begin to grasp the nature of the Trinity is through the Athanasian Creed, which we will use this coming Sunday.

Of course, as we will see as we confess the Athanasian Creed that it does not explain, it confesses the Trinity. In the worship and witness of the Church, a confession is a statement of faith and acknowledgment of the truth. We confess that we believe in God whose completeness and perfection we cannot begin to understand. We trust that God whom we worship in all His holiness and beauty is also the God who has made Himself known in the person of His Son, Jesus.

In Jesus we are shown the love and mercy of God so we can learn to love the God we cannot see or comprehend. In Jesus, we receive the unbounded grace that flows from the Trinity. In Jesus, we are drawn to the Trinity so the completeness of love that is the Trinity might become our dwelling place.



On the Holy Spirit

Greetings in Christ,

I believe in the Holy Spirit, one holy Christian church, the community of the saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the flesh, and eternal life. Amen.

 What is this?

I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my LORD or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Small Catechism - Third Article of the Creed

I remember the first time I read this part of the Small Catechism and began to memorize these words: 'I believe that I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit calls me through the Gospel...'. As a teenager struggling to find a way to be sure that God loved me and that I would go to heaven when I died, this confession from the Catechism was like a drink of cold water.

'I believe that I can not...' summed up how I felt about my faith. I could not believe in Jesus enough to have any lasting peace. The faith that I could generate did not last nor could it rise to the level of trust I knew in my heart was needed. It just wasn't in me. Reading that someone like Martin Luther had the same struggle that I had with faith brought the peace to my heart and soul that all my efforts could not accomplish. The Good News that the Holy Spirit was the One who worked faith in me, apart from my efforts, open the gates of heaven for me.

This coming Sunday is Pentecost. Pentecost recalls the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and began the new life of the Church empowered by the Spirit. The same Spirit that fell upon the disciples is at work in us still today, creating faith when and where He pleases in those who hear the Gospel. In this is our true freedom in Christ for we are liberated from the need to save ourselves or create the faith needed to believe in Jesus. All that is a gift and blessing we are given when we are baptized and the Holy Spirit is poured out on us.



On Parenting

"Honor your Father and your Mother.”

The highest human office is that of a parent. Luther was entirely correct when he observed that God place this commandment first among the commandments that speak to how we live with other people. It is through our parents that we receive the gift of life. It is the office of parent that we teach us what it is to be a human being.  We are to honor our parents for the gift of our lives and the responsibility they took on to teach us how to be human.

Luther also acknowledges that parents are human beings and are not always going to achieve perfection as they do the work of parenting.  Most parents do the best the can with the gifts they have. All fall short in one way or another and could have been better parents. Some are not up to the task at all and are not the parents they could have been.  It saddens me that this is so, but human frailty too often gets in the way.

As Christians, we learn from Jesus that we have a Father who does not fail us in any way.  Jesus was clear in Scripture that God is our Father. He taught that consistently throughout His ministry. Jesus wants us to know God as the Father whose love for us is unending. Jesus leads us to know the Father and His love for us each day.

As Mother's Day and Father's Day will soon arrive, us let us give thanks for the gift of life we have received from our parents, bless them for the good they have done for us and learn to forgive their failings as parents. Let us also give thank for the Father whose love for us is unending.

On St. Athanasius

Greetings in Christ,

Athanasius Contra Mundum - Athanasius Against the World

May 2 is the Feast of St. Athanasius. While we in the West may not know much about him, he was a defender of true Christian Faith as was Martin Luther. This is a brief account of God’s Servant, Athanasius.

The Church has always faced challenges to its’ message of salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. While the Church in our age faces significant challenges, there was a time in the very earliest years of the Church’s life that it faced an even more significant threat. In the face of this threat, God raised up Athanasius as the champion of Orthodox Christianity.

In the early fourth century, the Church was faced with the double crisis of the Arian heresy and desire of the Roman Emperors to hold supreme authority over the Church. The Arian heresy holds that Jesus is not the eternal Son of the Father, of the same essence and being with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Arius and his supporters held that there was a time in which Jesus did not exist and that he was created when he was begotten by the Father. This denies that Jesus is God in the same manner that the Father and the Spirit are God.

This heresy gained popularity throughout the Church and was the source of much conflict among Christians. In a move to settle the dispute, Emperor Constantine called the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea. Though not a bishop at the time of the Council and not allowed to sit in on the Council, Athanasius worked in the background helping to shape the work of the Council. The Council produced the Nicene Creed that we affirm to this day, but it did not end the support for the Arian heresy.

At the same time, the Arian heresy was gaining support in the Church, the Emperors who followed Constantine wanted to use the Church as means to consolidate their power. They enlisted the support of Arian bishops and theologians who affirmed the Emperor’s authority over the Church in exchange for imperial protection.

Athanasius, who was now bishop of Alexandria in Egypt, refused to affirm the Emperor’s authority over the Church and was steadfast in his opposition to the growing Arian heresy in the Church. His refusal led to not one, but five separate exiles for Athanasius. Yet, even the threat of imperial might against him and the widespread acceptance of the Arian heresy, Athanasius refused to yield. it was indeed for a time Athanasius against the world as empire and heresy threatened to take over the Church

His confession that Jesus is true God, Son of the Father from eternity and that the Church is not the puppet of the state earned him the honor of being called the Father of Orthodoxy. His courageous and faithful stand when it appeared that none were standing with him helped to return the Church the faith confessed in the Nicene Creed, the faith we affirm to this day.



On God's Will

Greetings in Christ,    

“Thy Will be done,”

I have been pondering that petition from the Lord’s Prayer. The Prayer is so much a part of our lives in Christ that like our heartbeats, we rarely think on it, but it is essential for life.

We know that God's Will is done at all times, but it becomes quite a challenge for us when that Will seems to conflict with what we see as the good in our lives. It is nearly impossible for someone who has just received a diagnosis of stage-four cancer to rejoice in God's Will. Those who are plunged into sorrow at the unexpected death of someone they love find little comfort in hearing, "It is part of God's Will.”

We all can witness to times and places where we are challenged by the trials of life and are left wondering about the "good and gracious Will of God." It simply does not always add up.

We pray, "Thy Will be done." Unless we are merely parroting the words of the Our  Father, we are asking for God's Will to be done in our lives.  As we pray this petition, we are asking the Father to teach us to trust Him in every circumstance of life. We are asking for the faith to believe that even when we cannot begin to understand what or why something is happening to us, that we trust that the Father's Will is accomplished.

We are asking that we learn that even in the darkest valleys of life, that we come to understand that the Father's Will is working to bring blessing out of the darkness. We may not be able to see or understand that blessing in this life. I pray that we might, but if it lies beyond us here, I am confident that we will understand it when we come into His Kingdom.

Until then, let us continue to pray, "Thy Will be done," in faith that the Father's Will is being done and that through His Will we are all brought into the Kingdom.



On Taxes, Caesar and God

Greetings in Christ,

‘Render unto Caesar the things that Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

I wish that I could say that I like paying taxes, but that would not be honest. No one I know enjoys having others decide how much of their income will be taken even before the paycheck it cashed. Still, we live under a government that provides protection and services that we alone could not afford. Our taxes, when properly used, can perform many useful things on our behalf, for the good of the nation.

Fair-minded folk can debate what the good use of our taxes might be, and that is why we elect people to our local, state and national offices. Through them, the will of the people is done with the money they receive from us. 

As Christians, we owe allegiance to the government that is over us as all human authority comes from God. We do not give mindless allegiance; instead it is an allegiance that regards good government as a gift from God. When we are asked by our government to pay our taxes, we do so with the understanding that it is pleasing to God that we support the government to whom God has given the authority to govern.

It is important to remember that our first love and loyalty is to God. If our government acts in a manner that is contrary to the will of God, then we must obey God instead of the whims of human beings. The believer can and should refuse to obey any law that is opposed to God's will or compromises the Christian faith.

A government is always a temporary thing, given to serve the people, control the lawless and provide for the well-being of the governed. The Rule of God is eternal and will continue throughout the ages.


On Forgivness and Reconciliation

Greetings in Christ,

Jackie and I attended the movie, ‘I Can Only Imagine’ in Elkader last night. It is the story of the writer of one of the most popular modern Christian songs in recent years. The writer of the song, Bart Miller, had a traumatic childhood with an abusive father and a mother who abandoned him at age ten. Bart found sanctuary in music as a child, and a high school football injury led him to discover his singing voice.

Bart joins a Christian band which becomes the band known as Mercy Me, and they struggle by singing at small venues, doing well, but never entirely breaking through. Through all of these years, Bart is haunted by his childhood and his anger at his father and his abuse. Bart returns home to confront his father to get beyond his anger. Once home he discovers that his father is dying and has become a Christian.

Bart’s struggle to forgive his father, their reconciliation and his father’s death is the source of the song ‘I Can Only Imagine.’ It is well worth your time to see.

As Christians, we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven. Forgiveness is among the most challenging things we are to do as believers. Forgiveness often faces deep and traumatic pain retracing paths of injury that can be nightmarish to confront, much less forgive. As Christians our learning to forgive begins with Jesus as he is being crucified, as he is enduring the pain and humiliation of the cross, the taunts and jeers of the mob, the abandonment of his disciples and the looming horror an unjust death. It is was there that he spoke, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’

I pray that all can learn the depth of love that forgives even when there is no earthly reason to forgive. I pray we can learn to forgive as Jesus did from the cross.

On Holy Week

It is Holy Week. There is no time in the life of the Church that is more central to who we are than this week. We began with the shouts of ‘Hosanna’ on Palm Sunday as we recalled Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Few, if any, had a clue what would follow in the days ahead. Jesus knew that the days before Him would bring Him to the hour for which He came into the world.

He celebrated the Passover with His disciples and gave us Lord’s Supper as our eternal participation in that night. As St. Paul teaches, ‘as long as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” In the Supper, we are surrounded by the ‘communion of saints’ both those who have gone before us and those surrounding us.

As we gather around the Cross on Friday we are reminded that Jesus is bearing in Himself what we could not begin to bear. The words of the hymn, ‘Ah, Holy Jesus’ become all to real as we sing: ‘Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee. ’Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied Thee; I crucified Thee.”

The long hours between Friday when Jesus is laid among the dead and the First Day of the Week is where we keep our Easter Vigil. We are waiting, hoping that what the hands of hateful human beings have done, the grace and mercy of God will undo.

Then the morning of Easter comes. In light beyond description, Jesus bursts forth from the tomb, risen and glorious, never to taste of death again. That which ended in sorrow and death is made new in the risen life that brings life to all. As our Orthodox brothers and sisters sing at Easter, ‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs bestowing life!’ We have life again, life forever, life in the love and mercy of God.


Greetings in Christ,

I had a conversation with a person who had spent the past four years caring for a sick relative. After a long illness, their relative had died earlier this year, and this person was still recovering from loss as well as the emotional, physical and spiritual fatigue that comes with long-term caregiving. If you have been in a similar situation, you know what they were talking about. Being a caregiver is very often an act of love, but it is also demanding. There are hours on the road going to doctors and therapy. There is the constant concern about doing the best you can for the person who is ill.There is the pressure to find the time between work, family commitment and the needed care for the one who is ill.  It is not surprising that caregivers often fall ill themselves, become depressed or simply don’t have the energy to do any more than what is needed to get through the day.

The most significant surprise this person discovered was that so many folk thought now that their loved one had died and their care for them at an end, that they should be back to life at 100%. It is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t gone through the experience of long-term caregiving how hard it is even to begin to feel normal. After the caregiving is over, it can take a long while to recover the emotional, spiritual and physical strength that was expended.

It is essential that we give love and support to those who are dealing with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. It is also vital that we do what we can to help their caregivers. Each situation will be different requiring thoughtful and loving questions. If you make an offer of support, follow through. Too many caregivers hear, “Let me know what I can do.” only to discover the offered help wasn’t a serious offer. 

Most importantly, once the need for caregiving is passed, remember that those who were the caregivers need time to heal, to become renewed and become strong again. Your love for them, your support, your willingness to give them the space they need will go a long way in helping them move forward.



Alien Righteousness

Greetings in Christ,

Create in me a clean heart, O God, 

and renew a right spirit within me. 

Cast me not away from your presence, 

and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, 

and uphold me with a willing spirit.    Psalm 51. 10-12

Psalm 51 is all around us during Lent and Holy Week. We say or sing some or all of it during the weeks from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday. Psalm 51 is a psalm of confession and repentance. It is a psalm of recognition that before God there must be mercy for my sin is ever before me, and because of that sin, I cannot stand in God’s presence. It is a psalm that understands that there must be a change within me so that my life can be lived in and for God.

Psalm 51 also recognizes that the change that needs to take place in my life has to come from outside myself. It is a change that I cannot make on my own. It is a change that has to come from outside my personal righteousness.  Luther talked about 'alien righteousness,' that is a righteousness that is not our own but comes from outside of us to us. 

'Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.' is our plea to God to make us a new creation. It is a plea we all must make for as St. Paul confesses in Romans, 'We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.' Our Lenten journey is our recognition that the righteousness we need for salvation has to come to us from God. Without that mercy and grace, we would have nothing upon which we could stand before the Lord.



God's Love

Greetings in Christ,


And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   John 3.14-17

Greetings in Christ,

This passage from John's Gospel contains one of the most recognized verses in the whole of Scripture. Even folk who have no connection with the Church would know this passage. It is 'the Gospel in miniature' as Luther put it during the Reformation. It indeed is what our faith is about and contains a word of hope for anyone who hears it. The gift of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus is the message the Church has been proclaiming for over 2000 years.

It is a simple message from God. The Father has sent His Son as a sign of His love for the world, indeed, for the whole of creation. It is this love that calls forth faith in those who encounter it. It is the faith that clings to the outpouring of love from the Father.

We live by this faith in the love the Father has for us. We live by this faith that Jesus freely bore the weight of sin and death for us. We live to proclaim that love that has saved us so the whole world might not only hear of this love but come to the One who is this love.



On the Resurrection

Greetings in Christ,

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  

    1 Corinthians 15:19 (ESV)

The core of the Christian faith is the death and the resurrection of Jesus. We confess and believe that not only did Jesus die on the cross, but we also confess and believe that He rose physically from the dead. 

There many things that are a part of the Christian faith that, though important, are not necessary to be a Christian. However, we cannot let go of truth of the resurrection. If we do, we cease to be Christian. We may be religious, we may be spiritual, we may be wonderful people, but if we do not confess and believe that Our Lord Jesus was raised from the dead, then we are not Christian.

I write this after reading what several pastors of the ELCA wrote in an online pastor's forum. They freely admitted that they believed Jesus lived and died, but they refused to confess that He was raised from the dead. It did not fit with modern science that someone could be raised from the dead was their argument.

It is one thing to struggle with one's faith and the things we confess, and it is another to flat out reject them. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then why are these people allowed to be pastors? Far worse if they are teaching their parishes that Jesus is not raised from the dead, they are endangering their salvation.

There are many things that we in the Church can discuss and compromise upon, however, the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is not one of them. As long as I have breath in my lungs, I will proclaim the Risen Christ among you.



Mary's Heart

Greetings in Christ,

Sunday, March 25th is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. It also happens to be the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord.  The Annunciation recalls the day when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary to proclaim to her that she has been chosen to bear the Son of God. 

Now Mary watches as her Son is welcomed into Jerusalem by cheering multitudes, waving palm branches and shouting 'Hosanna! Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!' Even as she witnesses this celebration of her Son, the words of Simeon spoken to her over thirty years before, 'This Child is set for the rising and falling of many in Israel. And a sword shall pierce your soul also.' haunts her soul.

Perhaps Mary watched all this with a sense of foreboding as her Son enters Jerusalem, a foreboding that could not grasp what was to come, but knew that the life and ministry of Jesus was coming to its climax. Perhaps she dreaded what lay before her as the child she had carried in her womb, to whom she gave birth, loved and raised was going to face his death on the cross.

The anguish of Mary at the foot of the cross is a reflection of the agony of God the Father as His only Son suffers and dies for the sin of the world. What for us can too easily become a part of the turning of the seasons of the Church year, was for Mary and the Father, a heartrending event.
We began Lent hearing from the prophet Joel that the Lord desires that we rend our hearts and not our garments. We heard that the suffering and death of Jesus is real suffering, real death, for us that we might receive the mercy of the Father.

The path to the Joy of the Resurrection is always through the suffering and innocent death of Jesus on the Cross. We may not be able to imagine the pain of God the Father's heart might have been, but we can identify with the pain in Mary's heart as her Son dies.

Both the Father and the Theotokos, the Mother of our Lord, bore the pain of their Son's death so that death might no longer have a claim on us. Let our joy this Easter find it's fullness as we recall the cost of our salvation.

'Thoughts and Prayers'

Greetings in Christ,

"Thoughts and prayers" have become a target in recent days. It is a phrase that is quite common in the wake of a tragedy, a disaster, an unexpected illness or nearly any other life-altering event.  If it is a sincerely stated conviction of what you are planning to do in response to the crisis that has presented itself, then, by all means, offer them. When we hold someone in our hearts and prayer, we are doing a positive thing for them in the midst of a difficult time.

If, however, 'thoughts and prayers' are mere window dressing, a phrase we use to discharge a social obligation, then it is less than helpful. Offering an empty phrase does little to ease the suffering of others. Indeed, the lack of sincerity can add to their burden.

Prayer in the Christian life is intended to accomplish several things as we grow in Christ. We pray to get to know the Father as He knows us. We pray to comprehend the deep mysteries of God so that we might better witness to His love. We pray for and on behalf of others so that they may know the love of Christ as we lift them before the Lord.

We also pray as Jesus often did, to prepare us to act. In many places in the Gospels, Jesus withdraws to pray just before critical moments in His journey to the cross. He prays for the strength, the courage and the wisdom to act in the Father's Name.

Prayer in the Christian life is to lead us deeper into the love and mercy of God so that we might live out that love and mercy in the world around us. As we offer our prayers for those who are suffering, let us remember that our offer of prayer is not an exemption from an action, but the first step in God's calling to us to be His love at work in the world.



Another senseless act.

I am not a wise enough man to know how to end the violence that took 17 more lives. I do know that blaming someone else is not the solution. Yes, something must be done, I just wish I knew what that something was. The human heart is a broken place in the best of us.

What I can do is repent of the violence in my own heart. Repent of the violence that wants me to hate the shooter. Repent of the violence that wants me to degrade those who disagree with me. Repent of the violencethat refuses to listen to any voice other than my own.

Then I must pray, pray for the charity to truly listen to those who are struggling with life so they know that they have at least one person who is trying to understand the burdens they are carrying. I must pray for the charity to listen to those whose opinions are different from my own in order to understand those opinions and learn from them. I must pray for the courage to challenge falsehood whenever it arises, in myself, in those I love, in those I agree with and with those whom I disagree, I must pray for all who are in positions of authority that they may exercise that authority for the good of all.

I must pray for the courage to protect life from conception to natural death, for if I believe that God is the Creator of life, then I have no right to end any life or stand idly by while others do.

Above all, I must pray that I live each day as the servant of the One I claim to love, not merely in words, but in all my actions, thoughts, and words.