“Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”

A storm had arisen in my life, and then I read today’s reading: Matthew 8:23-27.

As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him.
Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea,
so that the boat was being swamped by waves;
but he was asleep.
They came and woke him, saying,
“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?
Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea,
and there was great calm.
The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this,
whom even the winds and the sea obey?”

Thank you Heavenly Father and Lord Jesus for sharing this reading with me today. My life is in an upheaval lately because our family is preparing for a move; we are coming to the zero hour for moving day, and we are worried we won’t make it. Add to that, our daughter is autistic and has Asperger syndrome and isn’t taking the changes at all well, and we are all on edge. It’s very much like being in a storm at sea. So this reading is very timely for us.

Lord, save us! Maybe we aren’t perishing, but we do feel like we are drowning. We are terrified. “O you of little faith,” I hear Him saying. And then I feel him calming me, reassuring me, making things better.

Correlation isn’t causation, they say. This was today’s reading long before it was decided we were going to move. But God nudged me to read this just now. I’d been busy all day and hadn’t looked up the reading until I needed His help. And there these words were. Perhaps in the long-term scheme of things God knew I’d need His words at this moment. Or perhaps He just knew at this moment His words right now would comfort me. Either way, God works in wonderful ways. And if we trust Him to work in wonderful ways for us, He will.

Thank you Heavenly Father and Lord Jesus for being there for me now. Thank you for nudging me to read today’s reading. And for settling the storm in my soul. I can always count on you.

In moments like these, I recite the Act of Love:
Oh my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I pardon all who have injured me and ask pardon of all whom I have injured. Amen.

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Short Hiatus

This will likely be my last posting for a while. We are in the process of moving, and I must focus on sorting and packing and, ultimately, moving. Then I have to set up an internet connection. Thank you for joining me in Reading with God. I will be back soon. God watch over and protect you and give you a life filled with grace and joy.

Please pray for us that everything goes smoothly for our move and for us. As Jesus teaches us, with God, all things are possible!

See you soon.

Alan

“As you have believed, let it be done for you”

In Matthew 8:5-17 we learn that Jesus healed those who had faith.

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven,
but the children of the Kingdom
will be driven out into the outer darkness,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
And Jesus said to the centurion,
“You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.
And at that very hour his servant was healed.

Jesus entered the house of Peter,
and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
He touched her hand, the fever left her,
and she rose and waited on him.

When it was evening, they brought him many
who were possessed by demons,
and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick,
to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:
“He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

And so there it is: “As you have believed, let it be done for you.” In many of the stories in the Gospels, Jesus the Christ heals people by touch, but many are healed because of their faith in Him. In this case, a Roman centurion came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant and feeling unfit for Jesus to come into his home, stated his belief that Jesus could heal his servant simply by word. By the centurion’s faith, Jesus healed his servant from afar.

As this reading proceeds, we see that Jesus cured the sick and the possessed by touch and by word. Were they all believers? I think we have to assume so.

Jesus has said before that with fervid faith we can move mountains. That what we ask God in need, He will provide.

God has never failed to provide when I truly needed something and I prayed to Him for it. Sure, I was disappointed a time or two when there was something I just wanted and I didn’t get it. But when it came to real, actual needs, He has come through every time. So I can attest to the power of prayer. And the power of God’s wisdom and compassion.

Are there people who pray and aren’t cured? Apparently. So what’s with that? Is it that God didn’t come through or that their faith wasn’t strong enough? We cannot know – that’s between them and God. As the saying goes, “God works in mysterious ways.” So does humanity. But here we have one Gospel story among many of Jesus healing through faith. And I have to believe that it’s fervent faith that wins the battle. It’s up to us individually working with God to prove the case.

And here’s another way to look at this reading. This idea came about after Pope Francis’ recent interaction with a group of refugees, engaging them to make a point not just about refugees but about the afflicted. And his point was to touch others. Often in trying to help others we keep them at a distance; we fail to actually touch them. In today’s reading, yes Jesus acted to heal the centurion’s servant at a distance, but He also touched Peter’s mother-in-law to heal her and He touched the sick to heal them. How can we not follow Jesus’ example and touch the afflicted, whether they are refugees or the sick, to show compassion and, as Pope Francis says, know their pain? Maybe by our faith, in touching the afflicted we will help their faith and help heal them.

“I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers”

In Matthew 7:21-29 we learn the importance of listening to Jesus’ words and acting on them. There are those who claim to be Christians but whom Jesus will never recognize.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

When Jesus finished these words,
the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as their scribes.

That first paragraph is so powerful. It speaks to those who make a big show of praying and prophesying and “healing” before big crowds and on television. Yet they fail to follow the very words of Jesus the Christ and the will of the Father, who as Jesus often says act as one. Many of these so-called Christians sew hate and distrust and cast judgment on others, when Jesus’ very message is to love one another and do good for neighbor and alien alike.

Jesus’ message to them is simple: “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.” Their judgment day will come, possibly not in this life but in the next. They are getting their reward now for any good they may do, as Jesus says, but there will be no reward in heaven.

We are not to judge. We are not to condemn. Jesus himself refused to do either, except when it came to hypocrites, the publicly pious, and the self-righteous — the scribes and Pharisees. We are not to try to predict the final days, for only the Father knows the day and time. We are not to hate one another or call one another fools for the sake of belittling them. When we think we are above others who have sinned, Jesus reminds us that simply desiring that sin is enough to condemn ourselves, as in the case of lust or anger.

Rather, Jesus commands us to love and nurture and care for one another. That was His ministry on Earth. And when we listen to His words and act on them, Jesus assures us, He will know us.

Remember WWJD — What Would Jesus Do? The simplest way to find out is to read His Gospels. If you don’t find the answer there, you won’t find it anywhere. That’s why I use only the Gospels for this website. These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. The evildoers find plenty of backup elsewhere for their hatred and name calling and judgmentalism, but where they almost never find it is in Jesus’ words. When they do find it there, it’s usually a sound bite missing its context, twisted to fit their narrative. If you are a Christian, why would you not follow every word that He uttered?

What would Jesus do? He would love. And He would command us to love, too. Listen to His words and act on them.

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged”

Jesus gives us a straightforward command in Matthew 7:1-5, one few today seem to heed.

Jesus said to his disciples:
Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

Jesus’ lesson in this reading is very straightforward: Don’t judge others.

We all have plenty to be judged by, despite our self-perceived piety and self-righteousness. But there seem to be many among us who haven’t taken Jesus’ words to heart. They see a fault in others and point their fingers and shout it out to the world. Or even if they don’t shout it out to the world, they still find ways to point it out in a hurtful and unjust way. Well, according to Jesus, so it will go for them.

What are the wooden beams in our own eyes? Jesus tells us to remove them before we try to remove the splinter from someone else’s eye. It’s another way of saying, “Let he who is not a sinner cast the first stone” and “if they will not condemn you, neither will I.”

He who was without sin refused to condemn sinners. How can we who are sinners do differently? And Jesus says, as we treat others so God will treat us. Think about it.

“You cannot serve God and mammon”

Often our priorities are messed up, as Jesus explains in Matthew 6:24-34.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

It took me some time to puzzle this reading out. At first the meat of the reading appeared to be the latter section. But then it seemed to be about the first section. And then there was that last sentence, “Sufficient for a day is its own peril.” How does that relate to the material above it?

I thought I knew what “mammon” is. I didn’t. A search revealed it means money, wealth, or material possessions. And there was the key to coming to terms with this reading.

Also key to understanding it is realizing who Jesus was talking to. He was talking to His disciples, although as a community of faith we need to generalize this to ourselves as well. Yet imagine how the disciples were living their lives. Once used to making a living, feeding and clothing and housing their families, suddenly they found themselves moving from village to village without a source of income and worried about barely feeding and closing and housing themselves. And Jesus told them, your concern is no longer about the material world, it’s about the spiritual world. Your Father in heaven knows what you need and He will provide it. Focus on the road ahead; it is perilous enough — be faithful to God and He will provide.

That’s the condensed version, of course.

And we can relate to this. We live in a material world, one that expects us to forget about not only our spiritual needs but those of others, to focus not on the needs of others but just on ourselves. And that’s the opposite of what Jesus teaches on his journeys through the holy land. He teaches us to care for – to love – one another. To feed the hungry, to care for the sick, to protect the weak, to enable the disabled, to home the homeless, to empathize with the prisoner, and on and on. And in this reading, Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Nature shows us that the Father will take care of our everyday needs. And He already knows what those needs are.

If we are to serve God as many of us say we will, Jesus tells us, we cannot also serve money, wealth, and material possessions, because we cannot serve both. Jesus once told a wealthy man that even if he obeyed all the commandments, if he wanted to gain heaven he needed to sell all of possessions and give them to the poor, then follow Him. This reading echoes that sentiment. Money, wealth, material possessions – worrying about tomorrow instead of relying on the Father – will get in the way of our attaining eternal life. No one can serve two masters: You cannot serve God and mammon. Which will it be?

 

 

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him”

In Matthew 6:7-15 we are given what some call the Our Father and some call The Lord’s Prayer. It’s Jesus’ gift to us in the perfect communication to the Father.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’

“If you forgive others their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

There are some interesting points in Jesus’ words here. First, He tells us not to babble in prayer like pagans. Not to go on and on in useless phrases to impress and manipulate, not to tie thoughts and requests into knots. Instead, Jesus tells us that our Father in heaven knows what we need before we ask Him. So cut to the chase and ask for His help.

Second, Jesus teaches us how to pray. He gives us an actual, concrete example. And it’s a beautiful prayer that glorifies God and petitions God for our basic needs and asks for His forgiveness, at the same time reminding us to forgive others, and then entreating our heavenly Father to keep us safe. All that in one concise prayer.

Third, Jesus reinforces the imperative to be forgiving and reminds us of the expected return on investment in that being forgiving. It is the Father’s will that we love one another.

But what really jumps out at me is Jesus’ statement, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” God is all knowing. He is also all caring. Remember, He can count the hairs on your head. He provides the needs of the sparrows in the field, how much more will He provide for your needs? Voicing our needs through prayer, we let God know that we understand His all-ness and that we want His help and that we love Him.