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Let Love Prevail – Love Never Fails!

painting-picture-image-jesus-christ-love copy“Listen, stay alert, stand tall in the faith, be courageous, and be strong. Let love prevail in your life, words, and actions” (1 Cor. 16:13-14).


My fellow pilgrims and bothers and sisters in Christ,

In reading the words of the opening citation some of us who are struggling to move forward in our spiritual lives might be tempted to say: “easier said than done”.

Without realizing it, we are actually stating  a realization of a truth that God the Father wants us to be fully aware of. Namely, that when we attempt to grow spiritually out of  our own human zeal and drive, no matter how well intentioned, our devotions, we will always be disappointed.

The main reason being, that somehow, because of the lack of inspired catechesis and prayer, we do not realize that spiritual growth CANNOT come from within us. It must come from the the Holy Spirit giving us Spiritual Birth, Spiritual Food, and Spiritual Energy. I say this, remembering what Jesus told His disciples… “ [only] Spirit can beget spirit” (see Jn 3:6) and “without me you can do nothing” (see Jn 15:5) , we begin to understand that there is nothing in our unredeemed human nature that can generate or maintain spiritual life, we must totally rely on God for all that is spiritual.

That is why Jesus also told us that He was “the Door” and that “no one can come to the Father But by Me”

True Spiritual Life can only come when we, through an act faith willingly acknowledging that Jesus died for our sins and, through believing in Him in repentance for our sins, we repent, yielding ourselves to Him and accept to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Now, what we also don’t understand is that if we are baptized as babies and confirmed at 13 years of age, the Spirit of Christ may be in us but has not necessarily been activated through a deep personal knowing and willing act of our will. Without such an activation the Holy Spirit may work around us or through the circumstances of our lives but He will not be active in the inner sanctuary of our lives, “our spirit”, because He respects our inner self so much that He will not force Himself on us.

This lack of understanding will prevent us from establishing a true and living personal relationship with Jesus. There may be various reasons and circumstances why this happens, but the main one being that we don’t come to “know Jesus”  as a living person, who loves us and  lives in us. Such a personal relationship with Jesus begins when we open the our hearts to Jesus the Son of God, not only as Our Savior but also as Our Lord who earnestly desires for us to know Him and dialogue with Him. Remember Jesus, Himself, expressed His desire to commune with us as follows…

jesus-knocking-the-door

Jesus is knocking at your door …

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)

Incited by His Word, we may ask ourselves, “I want to yield to Him and activate His Presence in me – how do I go about doing that?”

First of all, I suggest that we put ourselves in the right state of heart and, meditating on His Word and especially, what the Lord said through Jeremiah, and speak out His promise:  , “And [if] you shall seek me, [you] will find me, when you search for me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13)

We do this in such a manner that we express our utmost desire to be with Him with all our heart …. Then,as you sense His Presence before you, in your spirit, open the door and let Him into your heart by praying  smoethiung like this …

(Prayer of Commitment)
Lord Jesus, I believe that you, the Son of the Living God came down from heaven to reveal the Father’s Love to me by suffering and dying for my sins. I believe that through your death and resurrection you have brought redemption and life not only to me but also all else who believe in you. I further believe that it is only through knowing you in a loving personal relationship of discipleship that I can know the Father.


It is because I have a burning desire to know you and abide in you that I now yield myself completely to you and your love. I open the door to my heart so you can come in and sup with me and thus begin the special relationship with you for which you died and for which I hunger. At this moment I yield myself to your love. Enter in and activate my spirit with your Holy Spirit so that I can go beyond just mere intellectual belief in you to a personal spiritual knowledge of you and the Father.


Lord, cleanse me from my sins and make me a fit vessel for your presence. Permeate my entire being with your life and your love so that I can truly be your instrument in this world. Be my Lord, Be My God, Be my King to rule and to reign in me. In faith and by your grace I receive you and I receive your word. Abide in me just as you abide in the Father and the Father in you! Thank you for giving yourself for me. Amen


Admitting Him in this way, personally into our lives, also means that not only are we are yielding ourselves to His reign, but also we enter into His Kingdom – The Kingdom of His Divine His Love. And it is His Love that must prevail in our lives if we are to fulfill the Father’s for each of us!

That my brothers and sisters, is why at one point this is what Jesus was emphasizing to His disciples when He told them about seeking the Kingdom (of Divine Love)…

“… seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and everything else  in the Father’s purposes for you will follow” (see Mathew 6:33).

This Kingdom – the Kingdom of Agape Love – is what Jesus was referring to, not only to His disciples then but to us,His disciples today. This is the Kingdom of Love that you have just yielded yourself to.  Praised be His Holy Name!!

We also should note that the prayer that we call the “Our Father” was, in fact, intended by Jesus to be a prayer for his disciples teaching them on how to dedicate themselves to the “Kingdom of Love” and how to maintain themselves in that “Kingdom” so that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Here is prayer Jesus taught them….

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us this day our daily bread,
 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:9-13)

However, because we believers sometimes practice our devotions with such a routine of custom and tradition that we lose sight of  the inner depth of what Jesus was really teaching in this prayer.

First of all we must remember that this was NOT Jesus’ exact prayer to His Father. If it were His prayer it would have begun with “My Father”, since He always made the distinction: “my Father and your Father” to indicate their adopted status versus His as “only Begotten”. So the prayer that He taught them should really be termed the “disciple’s prayer”, since it was tailored for them, so that, in praying to the Father, they made clear that the person they were praying to was so Holy or hallowed, that they should not even pronounce His Name! However, the Key point was that as His adopted children in Christ they now could petition Him as “Father”.

The second thing to remember is that the first petition of the prayer was not just  a petition that the Lord sovereignly bring about His Kingdom on Earth. NO, the petition He was asking His disciples to make was to yield themselves totally, body,soul and spirit to the Father so that by His Spirit of Love working in them and through them His Will could be accomplished in this world “as it is in Heaven”. Rephrasing the prayer accordingly it could be more appropriately stated as follows:

“Our Father… [Let] Your Kingdom come [into me so that the Your LOVE will reign in me and through me, so that] Your will may be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”.

This brethren, is the key offering or dedicating of oneself, totally to God – it is how one truly enters into true discipleship under the kingdom of His Love. It is the same as St. Therese give herself fully to God’s “Agape” Love, which she termed “Charity” and entered into her discipleship following Jesus. (“It was December 25, 1886, that I received the grace of leaving my childhood, in a word, the grace of my complete conversion . . . I felt charity enter into my soul, the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I’ve been happy!” – St. Therese of Lisieux )

For you see, the “Kingdom” that Jesus referred to in the “Our Father” was not an apocalyptic “kingdom” to come in the future but a Real Spiritual Kingdom that all believers can enter right NOW! And it we enter it when we yield ourselves totally to the Father’s Love that is in us (Rom. 5:5) and submit ourselves to His reign, the reign of Divine Love in us and through us every day of our lives. This is what St.Therese did and why she manifested God’s Divine Life through the remainder of her life!

Now, in order to fulfill our yielding to the Divine each day of our lives, our commitment to God needs to be strengthened and affirmed on a regular basis. That is why the Disciples Prayer continues by asking for the Spirit to re-affirm His Love in us through a frequent, if not daily, reception of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of His Love! And also to forgive us our sins that tend to weaken our fellowship with the Divine and thus our ability to truly be a channel go His Love to others. For, Jesus told His disciples (and us) that we are to “Love one another as I have Loved you” (John 15:12). And not just the human kind of love, but the Divine kind… “As the Father has  Loved Me so I have Loved you” (John 15:9).

The common way we understand Jesus’ directive to “Love one another as I have Loved you” is to think we are to force or discipline the natural love with which we have been endowed to imitate Jesus’ love for his disciples. We take to this understanding because the real spiritual meaning is too hard for us to believe. For you see the Love which Jesus is asking us to place into action in our lives is the Divine Love that the Father has placed in us for His Glory, not ours.

This kind of love is the supernatural Divine Love that flowed from Jesus to His disciples through the Holy Spirit, who is the Divine Love. It is a Love that can only be experienced through a relationship with the Divine. It is such a Love that He is now asking to flow between each of us as the manifestation of His Kingdom.

This is the Divine Love that has been poured into our spirits. However, Living out our lives in this type of Love is not easy. The following is what the Apostle Paul says about living out the spiritual pathway to this type of Love…

“ … we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His [divine, agape] love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us”. (Rom. 5:3-5)

This kind of Love cannot be forced through any natural discipline it can only come when we Christians enter into a personal relationship with the Father through the Son and surrender ourselves completely to the Holy Spirit so that we are totally free to be channels of this Divine Love to each other. In order for His Kingdom of Divine Love to come in us we must, out of our faith and will, come to the awareness of this divine type of Love and, surrender our human selves to its embrace, and the dying to self that it entails.

Now, besides our Faith and the free will offering of ourselves, there are conditions placed on our entering and maintaining ourselves in His Kingdom of Love.

<> The first of these conditions is that we Love One another:

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him. Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. The word that you hear is not My own, but it is from the Father who sent Me.… (John 14:22-24)

We must rely continually on His Spirit to strengthen us in our resolve – that is why we need to repent, and receive our daily bread from the Sacrament of His Love – the Eucharist.

<> The other condition being that we express our Love by forgiving others in the same way He has forgiven us.

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14 )

<>  If we are faithful to His Command of Love Jesus will ask the Father to empower us with the Holy Spirit so that we can fulfill our role as the messengers of His Love.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John14:15)

In conclusion brethren, I pray that His Kingdom Of Love come into each one of us so that, in yielding to His Reign, we may become His instruments in seeing that His will is accomplished, here on earth as it is in heaven! Praised be His Holy Name!

Your Brother In Christ and Fellow Pilgrim … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2017])

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From Repentance to a Renewed Life

The Word is a Double Edged Sword

The Word is a Double Edged Sword

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)

 

 

 

My Dear Brothers  and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

Self assessment

Assessing Our Inner Self

Yes, God does make a distinction between “Soul” and “Spirit”, but it takes the inspired Word of God to help us discern between them.

The inspired Word of God is key to discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Without access to the inspired Word and prayer we cannot fully come to the sincere self-assessment appropriate to this season of Lent.

As we enter the season then, let us remember that the main objective of this liturgical season is to stir our minds and our hearts to look at ourselves in God’s spiritual mirror and, upon seeing what God sees in us, to turn to Him in sincere and deep repentance, asking not only His forgiveness, but also for His transforming grace to conform us to the image of His Son.

This is, a transformation that activates the Spirit of Christ in us so that His will, His thoughts, and His desires become one with our own. This transformation does not happen automatically – one must yield and permit the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us!

We must also remember that the traditional group or personal devotions we observe during lent are only meant to act as spiritually inspired  catalysts to enable us to go deeper into our very spirits and hear what His Word is telling us about where we need to change.

The Holy Spirit must also lead us to open ourselves for Him to work in us and through us, to effect the changes that will enable Him to fulfill His purpose in our lives – that is, to permit God to use the circumstances of our earthly lives to form us to His Image, thus fully becoming another of Jesus’ spiritual brothers and sisters.

<> This Season we need to Re-affirm Our On-Going Transformation

“For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son; that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren.”  (Rom.8:29)

As always we should never enter this season with fear and trepidation regarding our sins and failures for the Lord has already reconciled us to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son on the Cross. All we need to do to continue our progress is to sincerely repent and reaffirm our commitment for Him to continue our transformation.

Because of God’s Mercy at our sincere repentance, our sins and failures can no longer impede us. As St. Paul indicates to us, “Therefore there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” ( Rom. 8:1).

And again, we find words of encouragement in the Letter to the Hebrews:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

<>  Confession and  Sincere Repentance Is Gateway to Reconciliation

In order to ensure our access to the reconciliation procured for us in Christ Jesus we must come before the Father in Faith and sincere repentance.

Listen to what scripture tells us about our ability to enter into fellowship with Him if our sin  get in the way: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”—Psalm 66:18

So it is that  without confession and repentance our sins impede God’s ability to hear our prayers and thus hinders us from cooperation with His Grace for His purposes.

“If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true;  but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 Jn 1: 6-10)

Thus Scripture makes it clear that Repentance is key to the  Good News of His Reconciliation that is feely offered through His Son’s sacrifice on the Cross and His Resurrection. As Jesus told His Apostles …

“…Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24: 46-47)

Since our sins have already been forgiven by Him in eternity, All that the Father wants us to do receive His Reconciliation is to reach out to Him in sincere repentance, as an act of faith – to freely draw in His eternal forgiveness for the salvation of our souls to meet our present day need for justification through the Blood of Jesus.

<> Our Practice of Repentance Needs to be Continuous

Saint Paul, in order to help us cooperate with the Father’s Grace in conforming us to the image  of His Son, explains our need to continuously receive the Father’s Reconciliation …
“…namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  (2Cor. 5: 19-21)

And, at the same time he (Paul) exhorts them (and us), that because of the above we are to consider every day of continuous repentance as a day of “Salvation”…
“Working together [with the Spirit], we entreat also that you not receive the grace of God in vain, For he says, “At an acceptable time I listened to you, in a day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation. ” (2 Cor. 6:1-2)

Our main challenge, then, to freely and continuously to receive this Grace of Reconciliation, is to remain in Christ, as branches on the Vine, so as to maintain our attachment to the Vine, through Faith, otherwise,unless we repent, we may fall from Grace and be be cut off and cast into the fire (cf., Jn. 15:5ff).

Now, even though the Father has eternally reconciled  us to Himself, we can only cooperate and receive that reconciliation in our present “today” through the continuous practice of sincere repentance. This is so because we can only “sincerely” repent of our past and present sins and, thus, we must also continue in our practice of repentance to receive our share in the “eternal” reconciliation until we come into the heavenly realm where day-to-day “time” no longer reigns.

<> Our Continuous Repentance Reaffirms Our Continuing Transformation

The Father cannot begin His process of conforming us to His Son as His adopted Children until we have first been reconciled to Him, and since it is beyond our ability to do so, He, through the death of His Son, has paid the price for all the sins of humanity, to reconcile us to Himself for all eternity. So, since in order to remain in the sanctifying Grace of Reconciliation, we must likewise practice continuous repentance in order for the Holy Spirit to continue His work of Conforming us to the Image of Christ, whose Spirit Lives in us.

If we break this process through our sinfulness, The Father has graciously provided provided us the necessary Graces through the sacraments of Confirmation, Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. These sacraments restore us to the necessary state of Reconciliation and provide us the spiritual strength to overcome the World and the evil spirits that control the world system that surrounds us.

<> Understanding Sincere Faith-Inspired Repentance

From the above reasoning we understand why “repentance” is most certainly one of the Keys for entrance into the Kingdom.

The only condition placed on our repentance is that it must be a sincere act of faith on our part.  That is, it must be a result of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts through His Word to give us the awareness that we done something that is against God’s will for us and, at the same time, an awareness that by turning to The Father for mercy we immediately receive access to the “eternal forgiveness” which has already been obtained for us through Jesus’ death on the Cross.

“Repentance in faith”, then, is the manner which the Lord has ordained through which we humans are to access the eternal blessings of His eternal forgiveness for all humanity. This, without doubt qualifies, the grace of repentance, as a primary Key to the Kingdom.
Just remember that we can only sincerely repent of our past and present sins – we cannot sincerely repent of the sins we commit in our futures. Thus the Lord has ordained that through such a faith-inspired repentance we can continue to draw on His forgiveness as we live out the span of our lives.

Also, Remember that “True Repentance” includes a sincere commitment to turn to God and His grace to keep you from committing, not only the sin(s) you are confessing, but also all thoughts, words, and actions that are counter to God’s will for you. Without such a commitment your “repentance” cannot be considered  “sincere”.

<> Carrying Out Our Commitment

Since we as fallible human beings are not capable of living a transformed life out of our own effort, the way the scripture indicates for us to truly live a life surrendered to Christ is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to Him so that the the Spirit of Christ that is in us  may live out His Life through us, in our submitted body and soul.

St. Paul expresses this commitment to a New Transformed Life in Christ as follows:
“ I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2))

He also tells us the effects such a commitment had on him and, through inference, the effect it will have on those of us, who commit ourselves to live a New Life In Christ.

Jesus-crucified

It is finished!

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Gal. 2:20)

 

 

<>  Living out Our Renewed Life In Christ

In conclusion. I add the exhortation Paul gave the Colossians about how to begin to live out this Renewed Life in our Communities:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in Him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.” (Col. 2:6-10)

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You and may the Holy Spirit inspire you, to not only make this commitment (see below), but also provide you the faith, strength and graces you need to carry out the Father’s purposes for you in your Renewed Life in Christ Jesus.
Praised Be His Holy Name!  Amen and Amen!

Your Fellow Pilgrim In Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus.

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])

PS:  The following are some additional items that may help you in making your decision:

<> A Quote from St.Ignatius:
“There are very few people
who realize what God would make of them 
if they abandoned themselves into his hands,
and let themselves be formed by his grace.”

<> A prayer of personal commitment:
“Lord Jesus, I am deeply aware that my sins have separated me from you and from the eternal life which you have promised to those who believe. I also acknowledge that these sins impede me from fulfilling the Father’s purposes for me. I, therefore, repent of my sins and turn to you in faith for the salvation and forgiveness you won for me on the cross through the shedding of your blood even when I was yet a sinner and without merit before God.

In addition, I abandon my life to you totally, body soul, and spirit as a Living Sacrifice So that Your Spirit in me may be the driving force to let your Love work through me.  Come into my heart, be the Lord of my Life, as well as my Savior and my King.  Live in me and through me so that I can truly represent you in my service to others in your Name.” Amen.

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true_repentance

Repent and Believe

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation. We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:17-21)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

This Ash Wednesday as the priest placed ashes on my forehead and said to me, “repent and believe”, I felt the Lord leading me to share with you some of the thoughts the Holy Spirit has been dealing with me on exactly those themes.

As a son of the Catholic Church I am blessed to be part of a community for which coming to “repentance” is a blessing which has permitted me not only enter and continue my spiritual growth within the community but, because of my ability to express my “repentance” through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, has also opened the doors to a deeper intimacy with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in enabling me to experience a continuing Heavenly Presence in my spirit through my frequent participation in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

I have been saddened, however, because in my ecumenical apostolate I interact with some of my brothers and sisters who are not catholic and with whom the term “repent” has a somewhat negative sensitivity. Now, I love and respect these brothers and sisters very much because I know they are “in Christ” through conversion and Baptism and are very immersed in putting the Word of God to action in their lives. However, I notice that a certain few of these brethren have a skewed understanding of just what “repentance” entails they find it difficult to let the Grace of Repentance do its full work in their spiritual lives and thus limits them in proclaiming the “Good News” of Repentance and Forgiveness to others.

From their point view, repentance is a one-time act that occurs at conversion when one responds in faith to the proclamation of the crucified Jesus, the son of the Living God as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and those of all mankind. In their manner of thinking we have all been reconciled by Christ’s atoning work on the cross, so once we are in Christ why do we need to concern ourselves further with “reconciliation” if God has already reconciled the world to Himself?

One of the things that they overlook is that even though the Father has reconciled the world to Himself, the fullness of that reconciliation cannot be fulfilled until the other party accepts that offer of reconciliation through repantance, by saying, “I’m sorry, I accept your forgiveness”. That is what our repentance accomplishes.

LeadsYoutoRepentance1These brothers and sisters in Christ that I interact with, apparently do not comprehend that true repentance is not a “work” of man, it is, in reality, a work of grace, in that it is the Holy Spirit at work in us to bring us to the awareness of our break in fellowship with God and the need to ask forgiveness for our transgressions. It is NOT something we do to merit the Father’s forgiveness, rather it is an act of faith to access the eternal forgiveness for sin that was paid for by Jesus’ Death on the Cross. Our repentance can be likened to the good thief who was crucified at Jesus’ side who in his act of repentance said to Jesus, “…. remember me when you come into your kingdom” or the like the woman with a flow of blood who, when she stretched out her hand to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, He said to her… “your faith has saved you”.

“True repentance” is merely the grace of our Baptism continuing its work in our lives so that each day we may reach out and access the grace of salvation, the atonement for our sins that Jesus died for, and whose forgiveness is in the Father’s storehouse of Grace in the eternal realm. Repentance is an act of faith to access the forgiveness we need at the moment we become aware that we need forgiveness.

In other words, repentance is merely our acknowledgement that we need God in our lives and that the life we are living at the moment is separating us from Him. Repentance is any word or action we take to turn to God for help in accessing His forgiveness and returning to Him. It is like the decision taken by the “prodigal son” when he became aware of his dire situation in a pig sty, who said to himself, “I don’t belong here, I will return to my father’s house even if I have to be a servant to my father”.

Although we have all been reconciled to the Father through the sacrifice of His Son and His Resurrection, we can only receive that grace of reconciliation through Faith – and repentance is the expression of faith that accesses the Father’s forgiveness. It is the act that Paul was referring to when he exhorted the Corinthian community to “be reconciled with God”. In that same letter He had already told them that the Father had “reconciled the world to Himself” through the sacrifice of His Son and in his letter to the Romans He also said that “… there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ”, so, what could he have meant by exhorting them to “be reconciled”, unless he was exhorting them to bring their repentance up to date by repenting for your sins up to “today”?

In further explanation regarding repentance, listen to what Paul continues to say to the Corinthians:

“…we entreat also that you not receive the grace of God in vain, for he says, ‘at an acceptable time I listened to you, In a day of salvation I helped you’. Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6: 1-2)

.
“… now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.…” (2Cor.7:9-11)

Yes, “Today is the Day of Salvation” for all of us, because repentance, in order to be sincere, is necessarily tied to each of our “todays”. This is so because we humans cannot sincerely repent of our future sins, only our past and present sins can be truly repented at any moment in time. For our repentance, in order to be truly sincere in godly sorrow, it can only be valid in each of our “todays”.

That is why, regarding the Great Commission”, Jesus told his disciples to preach the Good News of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins to the whole world …

…saying to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-48)

And Peter, himself, in fulfilling the command of the Lord, told the crowd at Pentecost to “repent and believe” so that they, themselves, could then be empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

This Jesus God raised up, to which we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this, which you now see and hear. For David didn’t ascend into the heavens, but he says himself, “The Lord said to my Lord Sit by my right hand, Until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ 8Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized’, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and [then] you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call tohimself.” (Acts 2:32-39)

Cheap Grace or Costly Grace?

Dieterich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor and theologian in Germany who died for his faith under Hitler’s Nazi rule, contrasted “cheap grace” and “costly grace”.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves… the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance… grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate… Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

God invites each of us as his friends to his heavenly banquet that we may celebrate with him and share in his joy. Are you ready to feast at the Lord’s banquet table?

“Lord Jesus, may I always know the joy of living in your presence and grow in the hope of seeing you face to face in your everlasting kingdom.”

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If this brief proclamation has stirred you awareness, let us, then, use this time of Lent as a time of quiet mediation on the Word of God, asking the Holy Spirit make us aware of the places in our lives where we have to yield to Him in repentance so that we may be formed as useful instrument for His purposes and Glory.

Praised Be His Holy Name!

 Your Brother and fellow servant in Christ … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2015])

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Be Reconciled with God !

“… God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. [How] Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, [how]much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Rom. 5:8-11)

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Sometimes, due to our superficial and simplistic reading of Scripture, we not only miss the spiritual depth and scope of what is being communicated, but sometimes misunderstand the basic meaning of the concepts being presented. For instance in the concept regarding “reconciliation” being presented by the Apostle Paul in the initiating citation from his epistle to the Romans, Paul is telling us that through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, the Father accomplished that which, under human wisdom, was deemed an impossibility, the reconciliation of the relationship between God and humankind. Upon mankind’s fall from Grace, our intimate relationship with God had been ruptured by the sin of pride, rebellion and disobedience against God – a sin that in God’s words could only be atoned for by the death of the sinner …

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:15-17)

“Thus says Lord, … the soul that commits sin shall die” (Ezek. 18:4)

Our Need for Reconciliation with God

There is little doubt, brethren, that each of us, as children of Adam, have partaken of this forbidden fruit and are children of this rebellion since the carnal brokenness of our fleshly lives gives evidence to our disobedience and separation from God. For as St. Paul also concludes: “… all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Thus, if in order to satisfy God’s Justice, you paid with your life, what good would that be to you or to God since, without life, you could no longer derive the benefit of reconciliation from the settlement of your debt to God? Thus, the mere fact that you paid your debt with your life certainly would not result in reconciliation would it? You have to be alive to experience true and complete reconciliation.

The Father’s Gift of Reconciliation in Christ

So in a magnificent display of God’s wisdom, mercy, and Love for those whom He created, He determined from eternity that the only way that true reconciliation, that included the propitiation for the sin of mankind, could be accomplished was to send His Son, the Image of Himself, to take on our sins through His sacrificial death on the Cross and to be resurrected to Life so that those who believe in Him might not only be redeemed from their sins but also be brought to new life in His Anointed and so enjoy the restoration of fellowship with the Father as His adopted children! Now that is a true and complete Reconciliation!. This is the fullness of the Forgiveness, Restoration, and Reconciliation that we who believe have in Christ Jesus! Praised be His Name Forever!

In the Old Covenant, God chose not to reveal this mystery to Israel, the mystery of how He could forgive sin and not hold it against them, even though this apparently went against the principle of His eternal Justice. Instead, through His Word given to Moses, He instituted, a set of sacrificial rituals for sin that symbolized the Mercy and Love that would be later revealed in His Son, the Messiah (His anointed One) and through which His Justice would be eternally satisfied.

With regard to Jesus’ sacrificial offering of Himself, the writer of Hebrews, directing his teaching to the a Jewish-Christian community, states:

“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

I have been crucified with Christ…

And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:13-22)

Thus, my brothers and sisters, in and through the shed blood of Christ Jesus, we have come under a New Covenant, where we, who believe and have been brought into covenant with the Father, are called to be messengers or envoys of the Good News of this Reconciliation to the whole world, so that all may comprehend the universality of His Love and His Mercy for those that believe!

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:17-21)

Appropriating the Reconciliation

Now, here is an apparent conundrum: the Apostle Paul clearly states that, “… we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son”, and “… not counting their trespasses against them”, yet, Paul continues by entreating, on behalf of Christ, that all who hear these “Good News” to ” … be reconciled to God”, obviously seeking a response from them in the present. The questions is: how is it that, if God, in the past tense, “…. having reconciled the world to Himself”, is now, through Paul’s preaching, appealing to all who hear to take some kind of action to complete what has already been accomplished? If reconciliation has already been achieved eternally through Christ’s death and resurrection, what is it that is left for the hearer’s to do to bring that Reconciliation into manifestation in the NOW of their lives?

Obviously, if St. Paul is entreating those who are the object of His preaching, to “be reconciled to God”, it must be that, what he is requiring of his hearers is an act of faith to receive that reconciliation. Like all spiritual blessings and graces, the reconciliation being preached, cannot be appropriated except through faith – a faith that is validated by an act of our will. So what Paul is really asking, is for his audience to “Believe and Repent” in order to receive the Promised Graces of Reconciliation.

This means that even though we all have been reconciled to God in eternity, an act of faith is required by us to appropriate this Grace in the present – in the NOW of our lives. The Grace that we reach out to with our faith is the Reconciliation that Christ has won for us and that is already available to us in the heavenlies, but which may only be appropriated by us through an act of faith – that act of faith being our sincere repentance in faith!

Just remember, repentance is NOT a “work”, it is an act of faith through which God’s Grace proceeds.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph.2:8-9)

Repentance has to be by Faith and NOT by works, because it is only by Faith that we can please God. And, also, from the context of what Paul is teaching – repentance is a grace that turns our hearts towards God in sorrowful acknowledgment of our sins and in a fully yielded acceptance of the Gift of Forgiveness and Reconciliation that is being offered.

Our need for Ongoing Repentance

Continuing in this train of thought, it then becomes clear to us that, although at our conversion and Baptism we repented of all of our sins to the moment of receiving the sacrament, there will be occasions in our future lives where, due to the weakness of human flesh, we will fall again into sin, and when we do what recourse do we have to maintain ourselves in reconciliation (or Fellowship) with the Father? Since we can only repent of the sins we are aware of, do we have to be baptized again every time we accumulate new sins?

No, of course not! The reason being, that the Lord also provided for us the continuing means whereby, those of us who have become part of the Body Of Christ through Baptism may maintain or fellowship with the Father. The Fountain of Grace that the father provides is not limited by our time-bound constraints on repentance. The Living water He provides is like a never-ending fountain available to us throughout our lives not only here but through eternity. All we have to do is to reach out to this Grace of Graces through our continuing repentance in Faith!

For those of us in the Catholic tradition we believe that the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist are outlets of His continuing and out-flowing Life-giving Grace exactly because they provide us, the faithful, with the sacramental means to express our repentance in faith and receive spiritual restoration continually though out our lifetimes.

Remember when Jesus washed His Disciples feet before the last supper …

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, …..” (John 13:6-10)

Like the disciples we, as His Children, have been washed clean in the eternal cleansing of Baptism but, because we are temporal creatures, we are being continually exposed to the world and it sinfulness. Thus, we also need to have our feet (our souls) washed at regular periods if we want to continue to have part with Jesus. That washing of the feet is what the Sacrament of Reconciliation provides.

Remember also what John the Apostle said about our need to confess our sins,

“If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:6-10)

In Jesus’ metaphor that He is the Vine, He reinforces the need for us to maintain a continuous fellowship with Him:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 1:6-10)

If we are to continue to abide in the vine and bear fruit we must undergo a continuous pruning, and that is why our continuous self-assessment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and His Word (with repentance, as necessary) is extremely important if we are to continue to grow spiritually and not become a “dry branch”.

Maintaining Our Fellowship with God

Again, we find in the Word that God does not ask anything from us for which He does not provide the appropriate Grace. When Jesus ask for us to abide in Him, He also tells us the Grace that is provided to this purpose, namely, the Sacrament of the Eucharist, otherwise called “Holy Communion” or “Holy Fellowship”. For He says to them: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,,, I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:35, 48-51)

Unless you eat of my flesh and drink my blood…

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:52-58)

Quickly bring a robe and put it on him …

Beloved, what more can be said about the Father’s generous and unconditional Reconciliation. Not only does He accept us, and forgive all our trespasses and receives us to new life as His adopted children, but, also, through the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, continuously restores us to Fellowship with Him as a continuation of our inheritance in Christ, just as the prodigal son’s father received and restored His returning runaway son (Luke 15: 22 – 24) and restored Him to his place in the estate by placing his robe of righteousness on his body and his ring of authority on his finger.

In conclusion, brothers and sisters, I pray, that in my simple way, I have clarified the importance of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist as the institutionalized means by which the church attends to the needs of us, the faithful, to assist us in the restoration and maintenance of Our Reconciliation and Fellowship with Him in Christ Jesus, His Son and to strengthen us to hold fast unto Him as we continue on the way of discipleship to Him.

To Him be all Glory and Honor Forever! Amen and Amen!

As we continue in our walk with Him I leave you with the following scriptures to encourage and strengthen you continue in the Way in Him, Jesus, The Son of the Father and Our Savior and Lord!

Baruch Ha Shem, Blessed Be His Name Forever!

St. John:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1John 2:1-6)

St. Paul:

“Now, brothers[and sisters], I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” (1 Cor. 15: 1-2)

“… Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. (Eph 4:30-5:2)

Moses:

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Num. 6:24-26)

Jesus:

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:25-27)

Be Courageous and Strong in the Lord, for the testing of all Christians is at hand …

Your Fellow Disciple and Pilgrim in Christ Jesus…. Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2012])

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