PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

ON EVANGELIZATION AND MISSION
(Part 10)

PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM

July 6, 2011
Today‚s reading: Matthew 10:1-7

Today‚s gospel is about the commissioning and sending on mission of the Twelve by Jesus. In the same way, Jesus commissions us in CFC-FFL and sends us off on mission. We are a missionary community.

Jesus „gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.‰ (Mt 10:1). The apostles literally did that–driving out evil spirits from physical possession of people and physically healing people from their illnesses. Today these still happen in Christian ministry, but no longer as extensively. What does happen is the spiritual reality behind the physical manifestations. Driving out unclean spirits is to bring people from out of the dominion of the evil one to a renewed and transformed life in Christ. It is a transition from darkness to light. Curing every disease and illness is the work of total human liberation–bringing people to fullness and wholeness of life as children of a loving and generous God.

Just like the Twelve (Mt 10:2-3), those whom God calls to serve Him are a motley lot, mainly ordinary folk. Just like them, we have no previous experience of Christian ministry. And as was then, some of those called still betray the Lord (Mt 10:4)–veering away from the call, disobeying Church authority, maligning other workers in the vineyard.

What basically was the work of the Twelve? They were to proclaim that „the kingdom of heaven is at hand.‰ (Mt 10:7). This is the work ofevangelization. For us in CFC-FFL, we have been given the same call. In fact, this is what our charism is all about. We are to do rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization. We are to proclaim Christ. We are to bring people to Christ and help form them into living their lives in and for Christ.

The Twelve were also instructed thus, „Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.‰ (Mt 10:5-6). Today the house of Israel corresponds to the Catholic Church, the Samaritans to our separated Protestant brethren, and the pagans to those who are non-Christians. Our work in CFC-FFL is a work of re-evangelization, basically within the Catholic Church. We are a Catholic ecclesial movement and we reach out to Catholics, especially those who are nominal, cultural or lapsed. We desire to help strengthen our Church, which today is the only institution standing against the global anti-life and anti-family forces.

Jesus called and commissioned the Twelve two millennia ago. Today Jesus still calls and commissions all those who profess to be his disciples. To be a true disciple is to be an apostle, that is, one who is sent. The Twelve faced a daunting task. Today the Catholic Church also faces a formidable task, in the face of powerful diabolical forces rampaging throughout the world. It is an all-out war for the hearts, minds and souls of people.

We in CFC-FFL are privileged to be part of God‚s work. We have been called, commissioned, and given the very strength of God. Let us go forth and continue proclaiming the kingdom of God.

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BRINGING IN THE HARVEST

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST

(Part 39)

 

BRINGING IN THE HARVEST

 

July 5, 2011

Today’s reading: Matthew 9:32-38

 

 

Today’s gospel again speaks about Jesus’ mission, which is also our mission in CFC-FFL. As we continue with our work after 30 years, God once again reminds us of why He raised and restored us, and that is, to send us forth to do mission. (Please see “On Evangelization and Mission (Part 9)” about “Jesus’ Mission, Our Mission,” issued last December 4, 2010).

“Jesus went around to all the towns and villages” (Mt 9:35a). We too, together with the whole Church, are sent to every person and to every place in the world. Our mission in CFC-FFL is rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization.

Jesus went “teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.” (Mt 9:35b). This corresponds to our evangelistic work of continuing formation for our members, of proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus, and of total human liberation. We invite people to our CLSs, but that is just the start of a very long process of formation in Christ, with the goal of holiness and Christian perfection. Thus the desirability of Christian community. Through the process of transformation in Christ through the years, we become whole and begin to experience life in its abundance. We are freed from the dominion of the enemy, and no one is left in need.

 

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has given his life for his sheep. He has already won salvation for us all. He has already made it possible for us to live a life of abundance, here and certainly in the hereafter. Despite this, many people are still troubled and abandoned, living like sheep without a shepherd. This moves Jesus’ heart to pity.

Our work is to help gather God’s sheep. Our work ought to please Jesus, as he sees more people whom he has died for coming into a vibrant life in him. We please Jesus as we live our lives for him, and as we evangelize more and more.

Now Jesus has brought us into Christian community. Even for those who have been brought into the sheepfold, there is a need for continuing evangelization, as we live out the fullness of the gospel in our lives. People need instruction, correction, counsel, encouragement, inspiration, and so on. As such, there is also a need for shepherds after God’s own heart. These are the servant leaders in community.

Moses was used by God to establish His people Israel. Moses, in looking to his successor, said to God, “May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, set over the community a man who shall act as their leader in all things, to guide them in all their actions; that the Lord’s community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Nm 27:16-17). From the Servant General, to the District Servants, to the Chapter Servants, and all the other servant leaders, God’s call is for them to pastor His people.

The servant leaders have a great responsibility, to keep the mission going, and to ensure that the community members do not become like sheep without a shepherd. Since they stand in the very sandals of Jesus, they are to strive to be like him in every way. They are to grow in holiness, and act in complete commitment and obedience to the Father. The rest of the brethren in turn must give the servant leaders their active submission and all-out support.

 

When community gets its act together, according to the ways of God, then it will become an effective and fruitful instrument. Then there will be an abundant harvest. The harvest will be abundant because Jesus has already won salvation for all on the cross, and their salvation is the will and desire of God. But in the mystery of God’s ways, He has also made Himself dependent upon His people to bring in the harvest.

Right now, the laborers for the harvest are few (Mt 9:37). Many Catholics are nominal. Many of those who are active in church do not evangelize, that is, actively bring people into the sheepfold. There is a dire need for more laborers.

In CFC-FFL, every member ought to be an evangelizer. Jesus has already issued the great commission, telling his disciples to go into the whole world to proclaim the gospel to all. Let us pray for the grace to respond. Let us continually “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Mt 9:38). And let us certainly do our part.

 

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THE MOST HIGH OUR STRONGHOLD

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 44)

 

THE MOST HIGH OUR STRONGHOLD

 

July 4, 2011

Today’s reading: Psalm 91:1-15

 

 

We are now 30 years old and have started on our 31st year. God has offered us the fullness of His strength, and we in turn “have made the Most High (our) stronghold.” (Ps 91:9b). We have the strength to do the very divine work of God, and God affords us security and protection as we do the work.

As doing the work of God gets us deep into spiritual warfare, against the powerful forces of the enemy, as we suffer affliction and pain and even death, we need to be constantly reminded that we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High, (that we) abide in the shadow on the Almighty.” (Ps 91:1). We are under God’s care and protection! As such, we simply look to the “God in whom (we) trust” and “say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and fortress” (Ps 91:2). We take refuge in a fortress!

 

Though the enemy intends to trap us and destroy us, “God will rescue (us) from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague” (Ps 91:3). Though the enemy hurls its diabolical slings and arrows against us, God “will shelter (us) with pinions, spread wings that (we) may take refuge; God’s faithfulness is a protecting shield.” (Ps 91:4). As such, we need never “fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day” (Ps 91:5). Even though thousands fall all around us, we are protected (Ps 91:7).

Not only that, God fights for us. It is His work after all. We are just instruments. It is God who wields the instruments. And it is God who is the stronger being who can defeat the strong enemy. If we allow God to use us as His instruments, then we “need simply watch; the punishment of the wicked (we) will see.” (Ps 91:8).

We are God’s soldiers. As such, God not only provides us our weapons and armor, but He also provides us guardian angels. These powerful beings are right there in the thick of battle with us. “For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways.” (Ps 91:11).

With God and our guardian angels, then we can overcome the works of the enemy. God has already won over the ancient serpent, the dragon, and we are doing the mopping up operations. We share in God’s victory. “You shall tread upon the asp and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon.” (Ps 91:13).

 

With God as our stronghold, we are promised that we can always call on Him for deliverance from our distress. “All who call upon me I will answer; I will be with them in distress; I will deliver them and give them honor.” (Ps 91:15). Imagine being able to call, not only upon covering fire or back-up forces, but upon the great Creator-God Himself!

To effectively call upon God and experience deliverance, we need to have our personal relationship with Him. This way we cut through the bureaucratic red tape and go direct to the Commander-in-Chief. We acknowledge Him as our Lord and Savior. We turn our whole lives over to Him. We live out our covenant. We stick to God like glue! “Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever knows my name I will set on high.” (Ps 91:14).

When this is the case, then whatever else happens in our lives will be in accordance with God’s will. We are assured that “no evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent.” (Ps 91:10). Though we know that we will experience harm and scourges and disasters and afflictions in life, God will always turn these evils around so that they become blessings to us. Suffering becomes redemptive. Being humbled is a prelude to being exalted. Being emptied prepares us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Embracing the cross makes us true disciples of Jesus. All things then work for our good.

 

“My God is now my strength!” (Is 49:5). My God is now my stronghold!

 

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MY GOD IS NOW MY STRENGTH!

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 43)

 

MY GOD IS NOW MY STRENGTH!

 

June 24, 2011

Today’s reading: Isaiah 49:1-6

 

 

It is so significant that on the eve of our 30th anniversary, the reading for today would be from the very verses that form our theme for this year, that of Isaiah 49:1-6. It is the Lord affirming what He has intended to teach us and show us and impress upon us.

And so we review what God has been telling us.

 

“The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” (Is 49:1)

 

This is about destiny. According to the eternal plan of God, He raised CFC in 1981 and gave us our mission, that of evangelization through family renewal.

 

“He made of me a sharp-edged sword …. He made me a polished arrow” (Is 49:2)

 

This is about formation. In order to fulfill our destiny, we need to be formed according to the mind and heart of God. So through the years, God formed us to be His instrument and army. As His weapons, we would go into spiritual battle against the dominion of the evil one.

 

“You are my servant, …. through whom I show my glory.” (Is 49:3)

 

This is about servanthood. We are not just formed about the technicalities of our work, but we are to be those servants loyal, obedient and faithful to the Master. If we do the very work of God according to His mind and ways, then His glory will shine forth in and through us.

 

“Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.” (Is 49:4)

 

This is about endurance and perseverance. If we are to be the good and faithful servants the Lord desires, we need to endure through the hardships of mission. There will be ups and downs, victories and seeming defeats. But we persevere, never giving up, never backing down. In times of frustration or impending disillusionment about how our work might be going, we look to God. We stand on the faithfulness of God. We trust in Him. And we know that whatever happens, if we do what we are called upon to do, then God will reward us in the end.

 

“For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, …. It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel” (Is 49:5,6a)

 

God now reiterates what He is about. He called us from all eternity, He raised us in 1981, He gathered us as His people and formed us as His servants through the years, He restored us as a remnant in 2007, and He has manifested His glory through our life and work. But even all that is still too little. There is so much more.

 

“I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6b)

 

God raised, formed and restored us in order to do the work of rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization. The work God has given is all about the great commission, given to all Christians, to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus. We do this by the witness of our lives and the testimony of our words. In this, the very light of Jesus shines in and through us.

 

We do divine work, according to a divine calling. As such we can never do this on our own human strength or resources. Indeed, through all these 30 years, we have relied on the power and strength of God. We are mere instruments.

Now, 30 years after, our vision and mission are clear. Our purification and formation through fire have been accomplished. Now, more than ever, knowing that the great and wonderful work of God in and through us over 30 years is still too little, we face the future with hope, joy and trust in the Almighty God who is just and righteous. Now, in work of proclaiming the good news of Jesus, in renewing families and in defending life, God is making available the fullness of His strength.

Let us give totally of ourselves, in even greater commitment and faithfulness, and always be able to say: “My God is now my strength!” (Is 49:5).

 

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PREPARED TO TAKE ON GOD’S STRENGTH

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 42)

 

PREPARED TO TAKE ON GOD’S STRENGTH

 

June 20, 2011

Today’s reading: Psalm 33:12-22

 

 

God is consistent in His prophetic and guiding word. Through the years from the crisis of 2007, God has spoken to us strongly, preparing us for the greater work that is to come. Now, on the eve of our 30th year, in the same way that He summarized our CFC history through Isaiah 49:1-6, from where we get our theme for this year, God now summarizes our themes from 2007 to the present in one psalm. This is God showing us how He knits together the themes during the crucial restoration years of 2007 to 2011, affirming to us those critical aspects of our life and mission that He emphasized in these five years, and assuring us of His continuing and consistent call.

 

Our themes for 2007, 2008 and 2009 were hope, joy and trust, taken from the books of Lamentations, Zephaniah and Isaiah, respectively. Here they are in the psalm.

 

“For in God our hearts rejoice; in your holy name we trust. May your kindness, Lord, be upon us; we have put our hope in you.” (Ps 33:21-22)

 

These three virtues are crucial to our life and mission. Properly understood and lived out, they enable us to weather any storm, withstand any onslaught, and endure through any oppression. Mind you, there will be plenty of such challenges, especially as we continue to assault the dominion of the evil one.

In 2007 we had the crisis and split. Many thought the “future (was) lost, all that (they) hoped for from the Lord.” (Lam 3:18). But God gave us the theme of hope. “My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lam 3:24). No matter how bad things are, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, we learned that “the favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23). Thus we simply prayed and hoped: “Lead us back to you, O Lord, that we may be restored: give us anew such days as we had of old.” (Lam 5:21). God heard our prayers and answered. He raised a remnant, the restored CFC, now called CFC-FFL.

In the first half of 2007, our situation was dire. “The joy of our hearts has ceased, our dance has turned into mourning” (Lam 5:15). In an instant, in the second half of 2007, the Lord turned that around. He turned our mourning into dancing, and planted joy in our hearts.

 

And so it was that for the next year, 2008, God gave us the theme of joy. God had restored CFC to its authentic charism, through a remnant that had been humbled by the crisis and that earnestly sought His help. “But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord.” (Zep 3:12). Suddenly, from despair there was hope. From grief there was joy. From lamentations it became celebration. “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” (Zep 3:14).

But more amazingly, it was not only we who rejoiced, it was God Himself who was rejoicing. “He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you” (Zep 3:17b). Why was God rejoicing? Because He was back on track with His eternal plan for CFC. Because the enemy was not able to destroy CFC as he intended. Because by raising CFC-FFL, He had restored His authentic work. God forgave any transgressions we might have made, and removed those who persisted in their infidelities and veering away. “On that day you need not be ashamed of all your deeds, your rebellious actions against me; for then will I remove from your midst the proud braggarts, and you shall no longer exalt yourself on my holy mountain.” (Zep 3:11).

We have hope because God can turn our mourning into dancing. And we have joy because our life and mission are in His hands, and He is about accomplishing His eternal plan. Whatever is happening in our lives, if we live our lives according to God’s ways and commands, we can always have joy.

 

At the core of our work is Jesus the Savior. He has won salvation for us on the cross, he continues to save us in this life from all that would bring us down, and finally he will bring us to eternal salvation. Our work of evangelization is about proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus. We look to the salvation of souls.

In 2007, God reminds us of this. “It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.” (Lam 3:26). In 2008, God reiterates this. “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior” (Zep 3:17a). In 2009, God enables us to affirm the reality. “God indeed is my savior” (Is 12:2a).

And if God indeed is our Savior, we are to trust fully in Him. And so it was that God gave us our theme of trust. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid” (Is 12:2a, RSV). Whatever happens in our life and mission, no matter what affliction we suffer, no matter how adverse circumstances might be, however low we are brought down by the slings and arrows of the enemy, we are simply to trust God. We trust in His eternal call to us, we trust in His saving help, we trust in His love by which He withholds no good thing from us.

 

Now we come to 2010. In that year our theme was “The Almighty: Just and Righteous is He!” (from Job 37:23). God is the Creator, the Omnipotent One, on whom everything depends. The years had been building up to this. In 2007 God asserts that He is in control. “Who commands, so that it comes to pass, except the Lord ordains it” (Lam 3:37). In 2008, God stresses His awesome power. “I have destroyed nations, their battlements are laid waste” (Zep 3:6a). In 2009, God ordains that His awesome name is to be proclaimed to all the nations (Is 12:4-6). Now, in 2010, we simply are called to marvel at His awesome splendor. “From the North the splendor comes, surrounding God’s awesome majesty!” (Job 37:22).

In 2010, we learned the true meaning of worship. That is very important, because our very proper posture before the King of kings is what brings us into the throne room of grace and enables God to truly form us as His people. We also learned about redemptive suffering, from the story of Job, and we were led to joyfully embrace the cross of Christ. If Jesus is the Savior, and he went to the cross and suffered to win salvation for us, then, if we are to truly follow him as Master and Lord, we too should deny ourselves and carry our cross.

With a proper understanding of redemptive suffering, together with the virtues of hope, joy and trust, we can never be brought down by the enemy. In fact, when things get really rough, that is when we surge on ahead even more strongly.

 

The 2010 theme is reiterated in today’s psalm.

 

“By the Lord’s word the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth all their host.” (Ps 33:6). “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all who dwell in the world show reverence.” (Ps 33:8). “The Lord loves justice and right and fills the earth with goodness.” (Ps 33:5).

 

Finally we come to 2011. Our theme for this year is “My God is now my strength!” (Is 49:5). This too is reflected in today’s psalm, by way of reminding us that our life and work are not to be accomplished through our human strength. We need to look to the Lord, who in turn is looking upon those who are just and righteous and who hope in Him.

 

“A king is not saved by a mighty army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength. Useless is the horse for safely; its great strength, no sure escape. But the Lord’s eyes are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for his gracious help” (Ps 33:16-18).

 

In fact, this theme has also been building up through the years. In 2007, God warns us that He cuts down even His beloved people as they have relied on their own strength. “He broke off, in fiery wrath, the horn that was Israel’s whole strength.” (Lam 2:3a). In 2008, God avers that His power is greater than those of the nations. “I have destroyed nations, their battlements are laid waste.” (Zep 3:6a). In 2009, we learned to look to God for our strength. “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior.” (Is 12:2b). In 2010, God Himself speaks about His power and strength. “Have you an arm like that of God, or can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9). God affirms that the strength of a war horse (Job 39:19), Behemoth (Job 40:16) and Leviathan (Job 41:4) only came from Him.

 

So today, on the eve of our 30th year, God reminds us of what He has been teaching us over the crucial four years of restoration, through the themes over five years. We will do well to learn and re-learn all the lessons, including the lessons of Lamentations and the lessons of Job.

The lessons are meant to form God’s people, who will relate to Him as Almighty God and Savior. The lessons are intended to prepare His people for the all-important work of this third millennium. This is the work of evangelization and mission. And this work is to proclaim the glory of God.

In 2007, we acknowledged who God is, the King of kings. “You, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your throne stands from age to age.” (Lam 5:19). In 2008, God avers why He raises up a people to serve Him, “that they all may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord.” (Zep 3:9b). In 2009, the prophet Isaiah brings these two together, stating that God’s people proclaim God to the world so that they will give praise to Him. “Give thanks to the Lord, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name. Sing praise to the Lord for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth.” (Is 12:4-5). In 2010, we were given the opportunity to look even deeper into who God is, with the end result that humankind would give Him what is His due. “The Almighty! we cannot discover him, pre-eminent in power and judgment; his great justice owes no one an accounting. Therefore men revere him” (Job 37:23-24a).

 

Here we are now, in the middle of 2011, with the lessons of the past hopefully learned (though it is a continuing learning and growing in God’s wisdom), with the prospects for the future bright. And God has brought us to our present theme and its context in a passage from Isaiah.

God reiterates the call and the mission. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6b). We have been through a lot, and all we have been through has been part of God’s formation. God raised CFC in 1981, restored CFC-FFL in 2007, but that is yet too little (Is 49:6a). We are God’s servant, and in doing His divine work, His glory will be shown through us (Is 49:3). When that happens, then we too will be “made glorious in the sight of the Lord” (Is 49:5c).

In learning the lessons God has taught, in understanding and accepting the call and mission, in living out the virtues of hope, joy and trust, in looking to awe of God, worship and redemptive suffering, we are now ready to look to what is beyond our 30th year. And we can confidently and joyfully do so, knowing that “(our) God is now (our) strength!” (Is 49:5d).

 

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LOVE, GRACE AND FELLOWSHIP

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

ON THE TRIUNE GOD

(Part 4)

 

LOVE, GRACE AND FELLOWSHIP

 

Trinity Sunday

June 19, 2011

 

Today’s readings:

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

John 3:16-18

 

 

Paul ends his second letter to the Corinthians as follows: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Cor 13:13). This is one of the clearest Trinitarian passages in the New Testament.

God is Trinity–three Persons in one God. The Trinity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They have different roles–Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. In this passage, we also see that they manifest different critical aspects of Christian life–love, grace and fellowship.

 

God is love. In what is possibly one of the most important verses of the Bible, we read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16). God created the whole universe and our first parents out of love. To love is to share, and God shared Himself with His creation. He intended for our first parents to live eternally with Him in heaven. But paradise was lost. So God looked to how He could continue to love and effect His plan for humanity. He did it by sending His own Son Jesus into the world. By our faith in Jesus, we can re-enter paradise or heaven.

We in turn are called to respond also in love. We are to love God, and we are to love our neighbor. When we live out these two commandments, we can be assured of making it to heaven.

 

In the world, we live by the grace of Jesus, freely given by him. Apart from God’s grace we could never live a life pleasing to him and thus make it to heaven. Grace enables us to live a life of holiness, “that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14b). So Jesus saved us so that we will have the opportunity to enter heaven, and he gives us the grace by which we can be holy so that we will indeed enter heaven. “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.” (2 Tm 1:9).

Further, since we live in a valley of tears, there will be many challenges in our walk with God, both in becoming holy, and also in serving Christ. Since we are weak, we can only depend on the strength of God. What in fact happens is that, because of grace, our weakness leads to power. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9a). Thus we can look to what is outside of us, to what comes from God, to what is designed to allow us to truly live the Christian life. And so Paul exhorts Timothy: “So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tm 2:1).

 

God provides further support for our Christian walk, and that is Christian community. This is where we experience the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, in and through our brethren. On our own, even with the abundant grace of Jesus, we would find it very difficult to walk in God’s ways. We need mentors, pastors, counselors, teachers, co-workers, encouragers, and so on. These we find in community, where we have committed our lives to the Lord and to each other.

The Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. There the Church was established. The disciples lived a communal life. They had formation, the Eucharist, worship, sharing of resources, meetings (Acts 2:42-46). They became effective witnesses to Christ, and they were able to do rapid and massive evangelization (Acts 2:47).

 

Visualize it this way.

 

Trinity

Roie

Aspect of Christian life

Fruit

Father

Creator

Love

Love of God

and neighbor

Son

Redeemer

Grace

Holiness and

Strength to serve

Holy Spirit

Sanctifier

Fellowship

Communal life

and Evangelization

 

We then are a people of the Triune God, and that has such a profound and diverse meaning. We are loved by the Father, who sent His own Son, who then won for us salvation and pours out upon us his grace and his Spirit, who then enables us to live a communal life together for the sake of the gospel and making known the love of God to the world. It comes around full circle.

 

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STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 41)

 

STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS

 

June 18, 2011

Today’s reading: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

 

 

Paul said, “I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Cor 11:30). Paul we know to be a strong, powerful, effective proclaimer of the gospel. He was a great apostle, even having “visions and revelations” (2 Cor 12:1b), even being “caught up into Paradise and (hearing) ineffable things” (2 Cor 12:4a). Yet the badge of honor he wore was the suffering he underwent as he served Christ. He reveled not in his strength but in his weakness. His paradigm was totally opposite from and contradictory to that of the world. He indeed was a great apostle, but he, like his Lord, knew that the call was to be a suffering servant.

Aside from following the very footsteps of the Master, which leads to the cross, what is it about weakness that is so important in Christian life and service?

 

Paul understood that pride was one of the strongest enemies of the Christian. As servants, God intends His glory to shine through our life and work (Is 49:3). And why not? If we do the very divine work of God, then inherent in that work is glory. It is God’s work after all.

But many who mightily serve God may begin to think that it is they who are so great, that it is because of their abilities and resources that God’s work is accomplished. Then pride sets in. It might be like the colt on which Jesus rode that thought the hosannahs were directed at him.

And so, with the glory, God gives affliction. This keeps us down-to-earth rather than our heads soaring above the clouds and swelling. It makes us realize how weak and vulnerable we are even as we are able to accomplish great things. It helps us to get back to full dependence on God and not on ourselves.

For Paul, aside from all the hardships, it was the thorn in the flesh. What was God’s purpose? Paul says it twice in the same breath. “Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.” (2 Cor 12:7b). We of course are elated when we bear fruit for God, and rightly so. But Paul was concerned about becoming too elated, to already fall into sinful pride.

Now Paul knew he was intensely committed to God, that he had dedicated his life to Christ, that he would even die for the cause. Given everything that he was already suffering, he felt he could do without the thorn in the flesh, which to him was intolerable. And so he prayed, nay, begged, insistently, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me” (2 Cor 12:8).

God knew better. Or God wanted to deepen even more Paul’s already deep spirituality. So God gave the principle: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9a). God wanted Paul not just to experience some power, but to experience His power being made perfect in him. That could only happen through intense and seemingly intolerable affliction, where, at the end of our human strength, we rely totally on God’s grace, and become an emptied and humbled instrument that can now accept the fullness of His strength.

Paul understood the point. He could see the connection between human weakness and God’s strength. The less we look to our human strength, the more God can fill us with His own strength. The more we are humanly weak, the more God can be strong in us. And so Paul fully embraced and rejoiced in what God had designed for him: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” (2 Cor 12:9b).

 

How about us? God allows us to suffer, but do we realize the redemptive nature of suffering? Do we shun suffering, to the point of veering away when we see the cross on the road? When we are suffering deeply, do we incessantly pray for the cup to be lifted, rather than at some point accepting and even rejoicing? Do we get angry at God, rather than thanking Him for His great purpose in our life in allowing us to suffer? Do we give up on the mission when the going gets really touch, rather than enduring and persevering till the end?

For the true servant of God, affliction is a given. To a great apostle of God, severe and incessant affliction is to be expected. If an angel of Satan beats us as we serve God, we must rejoice, for we are deemed worthy to be afflicted by the enemy.

We must know God’s principle. It is simply this: “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10b). If that is so, our posture is already defined. “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ” (2 Cor 12:10a).

When we are finally able to grow in that posture, then we may be able to claim, “My God is now my strength!”

 

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