Behold Your Mother

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved,
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one,
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken
and they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs,
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side,
and immediately Blood and water flowed out.-John 19:25-34

The episode mentioned in today’s Gospel is one that in only mentioned in John’s Gospel.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke have no mention of it for good reason.  John was the only disciples that stuck with Jesus during the crucifixion, and there he witnessed an amazing exchange.  Watching the savior of the world in agony on the cross must have been amazing enough, but he also witnessed a son loving his mother.  In his final moments he wanted to make sure that his mother was taken care of.  He tells John “Son, behold your mother”.  This would not have happened if Mary had other children.  In fact, it would have broken Mosaic law to do so.  It was the responsibility of the eldest son to take care of mom, and if something would have happened it would go to the next oldest.

There are a couple observations to take from today’s Gospel reading.  Firstly, Mary had no other children which would go to prove Church teaching about her perpetual virginity.  Secondly John takes care of Mary as his own mother.  John’s mom was still alive during the crucifixion, and yet Jesus hands her over to him.  As Christians we are adopted sons, and therefore Jesus is also giving Mary to us as our mother.  Christ is the head of the church, and Mary is his mother, as adopted sons she is our mother.  She is the mother of the Church.  Behold your mother.

 

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“If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother.” -Saint Maximilian Kolbe

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Feed My Lambs

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. 
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”-John 21:15-19

There is a lot that are going on in today’s Gospel reading.  It may helpful to oneself in the place of St. Peter to fully understand.  You may recall that when Jesus was on trial, and according to Matthew’s Gospel Peter denied him three times.  In today’s passage Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.  The significance of this was not lost on Peter as John describes Peter as being in distress about this.  Peter would go on to be the head of the church on earth, and the first Pope in the Church.  This was a moment of restoration and forgiveness.  Christ goes on to tell Peter that he would suffer martyrdom.

What does this mean for us?  In Matthew 16:18 Christ calls Peter the rock and says that church will be built on him.  Just a few verses later Jesus tells Peter that he is acting contrary to the will of God.  He even denied Jesus!  How many of us have acted contrary to the will of God?  How many of us even denied him?  The bottom line in the life of Peter is about a man who was restored even though he fell from grace.  God’s mercy is greater than anything we have ever done.  Peter went on to lead the early church and feed the sheep.  We may not be priests or bishops, but we all have a gift that help to feed the flock.  Are we using it?

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“We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is more reasonable, nothing more profitable.”
-St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Seek Unity

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name
that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the Evil One.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”-John 17:11b-19

Today’s Gospel reading from the mass is very interesting.  This is what is known as the high priestly prayer of Christ, and it happens before he is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus prays that the disciples may be unified as Christ was in unity with the rest of the Trinity.  However Christianity is anything but united today.  The Protestant reformation ripped the church apart, and the division has not stopped since.  So what are we to do?

Christ consecrated the disciples, and steadfastness to the truth is what we are called to.  Speak, listen , and inform.  There are a lot of misunderstandings about the Catholic church, and we have the obligation to speak the truth.  In a loving manner lets address the concerns of our Protestant brethren, and in turn lets listen to what they have to say.  It will be frustrating at times, but they love Christ as well and we need to remember that.  We are not of this world and we don’t write off people because they believe differently than we do.  Christ wants unity, and that was one of his last prayers.  How are we bridging the divide?  Let’s address the questions of our Protestant brethren.  Not all of us are comfortable speaking, but if they are sincere about learning the truth they should be ok with getting a link or book.  Remain steadfast in the truth of the faith.

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Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup for the unity of his blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the elders and deacons [lit. servants], my fellow-servants.-St. Ignatius of Antioch

Go and Bear Fruit

I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.-John 15:16

Today’s gospel reflection is taken from the antiphon before today’s Gospel reading.  Jesus makes a very direct point and simply says “Go and bear fruit that will last”.  It seems so easy, and yet so complicated at the same time.  To bear fruit you have to start with a seed.  In its journey to become fruit the seed go through various stages.  As a seedling it pushes through the dirt towards the sun, it relies on the rain and the sun to nourish it to maturing, and when the time is right it brings forth fruit to bring nourishment to the recipient.

In the Christian life we look to the Son, Jesus, and he provides nourishment through his scripture and the church.  Scripture says that all of us have a gift that can help with the mission of the church.  Some are given the gift of teaching, administration, leadership, mercy, etc.  Each gift is vital and needed to fulfill the mission of the church.  Are we being faithful in this mission?  Using this gift is fruit that will last.  It lasts because it spreads the Gospel and helps teach the next generation that will pass it on.

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He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows. –St. Gregory of Nissa

 

Gospel Reflection: Go Into All The World

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.-Mark 16:15-20

Today we celebrate the ascension of the Lord.  With his earthly mission now complete Jesus has some last words for his disciples.  He tells them to go and preach the Gospel to every creature.  Mark phrases slightly different that Matthew and Luke.  In Matthew’s Gospel Christ tells the disciples to go to all nations and teach them all that he commanded and to baptize in the name of the blessed Trinity (Matthew 28:19-20).  Luke’s version takes place in the first chapter of Acts, and he writes that Christ commanded the disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and the rest of the world (Acts 1:1-11).

These were the last words of Christ on earth and they were significant.  When we lose a loved one we remember the last words that were spoken.  We remember them and we cherish them, and we try to fulfill their last wishes.  We should do the same with these last earthly words of Christ.  After 2,000 years the church is still spreading that Gospel message as Christ commanded, but what are you and I doing individually?

We have a tendency to think that this is the work of our priests and deacons, but spreading the Gospel is the duty of all of us as disciples of Christ.  Are we taking these words of Christ seriously?  This doesn’t mean that we have to go overseas.  We can be that witness at work, with our families at home, and in our neighborhoods.  May we go forth today and spread the Gospel as Christ commanded.

 

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The minute you walk outside of your church on Sunday you’re in mission territory.
Bishop Robert Barron

Gospel Reflection: True Peace

The disciples said to Jesus,
“Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech.
Now we realize that you know everything
and that you do not need to have anyone question you.
Because of this we believe that you came from God.”
Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now?
Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived
when each of you will be scattered to his own home
and you will leave me alone.
But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”-John 16:9-33

There is nobody in the world that is exempt from worry.  We are being bombarded from a million different directions.  We have family obligations, work obligations, church obligations, and many more.  We don’t take enough time to rest and refresh ourselves.  What does this have to do with today’s Gospel reading?  If you think about it carefully, the two are very closely related.

The disciples made a statement that they believe that Christ came from God.  Christ responds by saying that each will be scattered.  What happens when we let the pressures of the world become our priority?  We try to do so much that don’t study scripture, the catechism, or may even miss mass.  Everything else becomes more important than God.  At this point we become scattered, and Satan has easy prey.  He has someone that he can deceive and twist their priorities.

In today’s Gospel Christ tells the disciples that He has overcome the world.  He also says that true peace lies in himself.  We have busy lives, but you will find peace in your job, money, or more toys.  True peace is found by cleaving to Christ.  Is Christ our priority today?

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“Christians must lean on the Cross of Christ, just as travelers lean on a staff when they begin a long journey. They must have the Passion of Christ deeply embedded in their minds and hearts, because only from it, can they derive peace, grace, and truth”.-St. Anthony of Padua

May 8 Gospel Reflection: We Have An Advocate

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Now I am going to the one who sent me,
and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’
But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts.
But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.
For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.
But if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he comes he will convict the world
in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation:
sin, because they do not believe in me;
righteousness, because I am going to the Father
and you will no longer see me;
condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”John 16:5-11

When I read scripture, I often try to put myself in the place of the disciples.  I wonder how I would reacts in a particular situation.  I have the benefit of looking back and asking the disciples “How did you not see that?”  To do that is to miss the point in my opinion.  They walked, talked, and ate with Christ.  They were friends and went with him wherever he went.  At this point in Jesus’s ministry he was telling them that he had to leave, and this was a terrifying prospect for them.

What I find interesting is that not one disciple inquires as to where Jesus is going.  They were so terrified at the though of not living with Jesus that they couldn’t gather the courage to ask.  As I put myself in their shoes I don’t blame them.  I would be terrified as well.  Especially after all the bad things that Christ said would happen to those who believe in them.  However, that was not the case and he was looking out for them as he does with us.

The Holy Spirit, the advocate, had to come to empower the disciples.  In today’s passage we see the disciples as being scared, but when the Holy Spirit comes they boldly proclaim the Gospel, preserve the truth, and helps them teach the ways of God.  The Holy Spirit also convicts the world of its sin, and is acts in the defense of the disciples.

Like the disciples we may be afraid and think that Christ has left us.  The Holy Spirit is present and working among us even if we don’t realize it.  The Holy Spirit works in the Church and through us today.  Through scripture and sacred Tradition the Spirit is working for the ultimate good of all of us.  Are we open to the Holy Spirit prompting us to action?  Are we open to the Holy Spirit telling us that we are doing something wrong?  What is the Holy Spirit telling you to do today?

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O  Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.  –Saint Augustine

Three Ways Suffering Can Lead Us Closer to Christ

There was a man that was hunting in a forest just outside of Pittsburg.  It was early in the morning, the sun was just starting to rise, and there was snow as far as the eye can see.  The hunter sat down against a tree to catch the beautiful sunrise.  He would eventually fall asleep against the tree, and would be awakened by a loud snort.  He opened his eyes and noticed that an 800 pound grizzly bear was right in front of him.  The hunter, who was a professed atheist yelled, “God!  Help me!  Make this bear a Christian bear!  Help him do the right thing.”  The man opened his eyes to look at the bear.  He noticed the bear was on his knees.  Then the bear started speaking and said, “Bless this oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from your bounty through Christ our Lord.”

Obviously this story is not true, but it does illustrate something that we all encounter at one time or another.  That something is suffering.  It is in our nature, and popular in our culture to look at suffering as a negative that could not possibly have anything good come out of it.  Our text today shows the suffering of a great man of faith who realizes the great good that has arisen out of his suffering.

You may have heard of this man.  He is perhaps the greatest evangelist who ever lived, he planted many churches, and wrote thirteen books of the New Testament.  His name is Paul, and he suffered much for the sake of the Gospel. Much can be said of the suffering that Paul underwent.  2 Corinthians 11-23-29 states, “23 Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant[1]?”  To say that Paul endured suffering for the Gospel would be an understatement.  He endured more than you and I have or may ever will.  Did he see it as a burden?  Did he see it as punishment for something he did?  To answer that question we will look at our primary text for today.

Philippians 1:12-18 states, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.  Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.  Yes, and I will rejoice[2].”

 

SUFFERING CAN BE A BLESSING

Depending on the kind of suffering involved it is hard to see the light that it can bring.  When Paul was writing to the church in Philippi he was writing to reassure them, and to encourage them to continue in the faith.  The churches founder was arrested, and it was well known that Christians were heavily persecuted in Rome.  To see this clearly a closer look at Philippians 1:12 is in order.  Again the passage states, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel[3].”  The KJV Biblical Commentary says in regards to this passage, “His bonds led to a wider witness.  Paul turned his prison cell into a gospel chapel.  His chain did not curtail the gospel, but advanced it[4].”

Paul saw being in prison as having a captive audience, and as a result he added members to the kingdom of God.  This is something that we can incorporate into our own lives.  When we go through trials do we see it as an exercise to increase our faith, or as an obstacle to our faith?  When we go through various trials the Lord may be preparing us for events later on.  It may be a way to better minister to a group, our families, or even our churches.  Just as the suffering of Paul did not hinder his ministry, we must not let it hinder ours[5].  He kept a positive attitude and accepted it as an honor to suffer on behalf of Christ.  This is echoed in Philippians 1:13 where Paul writes, “As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ[6].”

No matter where we are or what we are going through there is someone who needs the gospel.  How we handle our suffering may be the witness needed for someone to enter into a relationship with Christ.  What a blessing it would be to be going through a hard time, but at the end of it your words and actions led someone to Christ?  May we echo the words of Paul, “What difference does it make, as long in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed?  And in that I rejoice[7].”  We cannot always trace the hand of God, but we can always trust the heart of God. His heart is devoted to working all things together for good for his people[8].  We must be like Paul and focus on the end that Christ has in store for us.  The enemy will try to discourage us with different trials, but we must proclaim Christ and rejoice that the gospel is being proclaimed in spite of what we are going through[9].

SUFFERING CAN BRING US CLOSER TO CHRIST

In times of great struggle we find out what we are made of.  We find out what is a priority in our lives, and depending on the situation suffering assists us in realigning our priorities.  In my own situation this is really the case.  All was going well in my life.  I had a great job, beautiful wire, two great kids, and we were expecting twins.  One day I was driving to work and was involved in a rollover accident.  I received a severe concussion and fractured a vertebrae in my neck.  More months I was in severe pain and had memory problems, and one day I decided I wanted to end my life.  I was depressed, had anxiety, and became addicted to pain medication.

I could not go through with the deed.  I called a suicide prevention hotline, and later that night I had a heart to heart conversation with God.  I could not do it on my own.  I asked to be delivered from the addiction, and rededicated myself to Christ.  That happened over two years ago and I have not had another pain pill since.  Our worst times help us to realize what is important, and in my case Christ was an afterthought before that day.  We never know when our time on earth will be over, and suffering assists in reminding us that we must be ready.

By taking another look at the Apostle Paul’s situation we can see many examples of suffering bringing him closer to Christ.  We see this in Philippians 1:14 which states, “and so that the majority off brothers, having taken encouragement in the Lord from my imprisonment, dare more than ever to proclaim the word fearlessly[10].”  The Christians in Philippi looked upon the suffering of Paul, drew encouragement from it, drew closer to Christ because of what they witnessed, and proclaimed the truth of the gospel like never before.

The writers of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary say in regards to this, “God’s grace has emboldened others to fill the vacuum in the work of preaching created by the restriction of Paul[11].”  How does this situation described apply to us?

We all attend a church which is a community of Christians.  Each of us has a job to do, and must not ignore or task.  Often times we elevate our leadership to a place they should not be.  How many of us have left a church because the pastor left?  How about when it was discovered that the pastor was in sin?  If we leave the church because of situations like these, though they are difficult, have we left for the right reasons?  Chances are we left under some state of emotional distress and acted irrationally.  If our pastor leaves we are left without leadership.  How is this any different from the church in Philippi when Paul was put in prison?

Let us look again at verse fourteen of our text, “and so that the majority of the brothers, having taken encouragement in the Lord from my imprisonment, dare more than ever to proclaim the word fearlessly[12].”  If our pastor were imprisoned would we take encouragement and proclaim the lord more fearlessly.  In regards to this encouragement the great Bible commentator Matthew Henry writes, “They saw that those who served Christ, served a good master, who could bear them up in their sufferings for Him.  That which was intended by the enemy to discourage preachers of the gospel, was overruled for their encouragement, and they were bold to speak the word without fear[13].”

Would this happen in our church today?  Is your faith such that you would step up with boldness to proclaim Christ in the midst of suffering?  I would venture to say that most congregations in the country would scatter like sheep among wolves.  In this regard we must take the lead of Paul who writes, “I want you to know brothers, that my situation has turned out rather to advance the gospel[14].”  To put this in a fuller context a look at Colossians 1:24 may prove beneficial.  Colossians 1:24 states, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church[15].”

Paul is not saying that there was something lacking in what Christ did for us on the cross.  However he is saying that if we suffer as Christians that we are participating in that suffering.  By suffering for his cause we are further being conformed to his image.  This will allow us to be bold, be a better witness, stand in the face of tyranny, stand for what is right, and proudly proclaim the gospel.  Theologian Wayne Grudem puts it well by saying, “We should see all the hardship and suffering that comes to us in life as something God brings to us to do us good, strengthening our trust in him and our obedience, and ultimately increasing our ability to glorify him[16].”

WE MUST BE WILLING TO GO WHEREVER CHRIST LEADS US

            Ministry was something that was always in the back of my mind, but it was something that I would only if something else did not work out.  My goal was to get an MBA, go as high as possible in corporate America, and make as much money as possible in as little time as possible.  These are goals I had when I first entered theology in the summer of 2011.  These are not the normal goals of the average theology student.

After six classes I decided to change majors to what I really wanted to do, or what I thought I wanted to do.  I changed my major to Business Administration and set course for everything I had ever wanted.  This path was not what the Lord had intended for my life.  After just two classes there were so many things spiraling out of control in my life that I have to leave the University.  To say that I was disappointed is an understatement.  In my mind I let myself and my family down.

After one year of a meager existence that had little direction I received any email.  This email was from a theology professor who was just checking in to see how I was doing.  This kind gesture came just in time as I had developed a pain pill addiction and was on the verge of losing my family.  I decided to do something I had not done in a while…I decided to pray.  I prayed for help with the pills, help with my family, and completely handed my life over to God.  I have not touched a pill since, my wife and I have had two more children, and I went back to school to pursue my calling of teaching church leaders of the future.  Sometimes in the midst of suffering we get direction, but we must be willing to go where Christ leads us.  This was a lesson that I had to learn the hard way.

The Apostle Paul willingly went where Jesus asked, and the churches he founded flourished.  Some had the issues, but the church in Philippi obeyed Christ and the teaching of Paul.  They willingly went where Jesus was leading them.  In regards to Paul we read in Philippians 1:16, “The latter act out of love, aware that I am here for the defense of the Gospel[17].”  The Holman New Testament Commentary says in regards to this passage, “Motivated by Paul’s example, those who preach with right motives do so in love. Such love flows out to Paul, to unbelievers needing the gospel, and to God. Such love realizes that Paul was suffering, not for some wrong he had done, but because he preached Christ[18].”

In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 the Apostle Paul speaks about the greatness of faith, hope, and love.  He goes on to state that the greatest of the three is love.  It was love that led to God creating each of us.  It was love that gave Christ strength to die for us.  It is love that allows us to persevere in our faith when we are in the midst of suffering.  It is love that allows us to go where Christ wants us to go.  As Christians we have an obligation to go where the master leads.  The question that must be answered is, are we?

Do we have this kind of faith?  We confess Christ, and are quick to call on him but do we believe in him?  When trials arise many Christians look at the Lord as a cosmic butler waiting to budge to our will.  To view God in this manner is to lose sight of who he really is.  We should call upon the Lord when we are suffering.  In fact, he encourages that because he loves us with an everlasting love.  We need to reciprocate that love in all situations, and when we are suffering it will help us draw even closer to him.

 

IN ALL WE DO WE MUST PROCLAIM THE NAME OF JESUS

We see this written plainly by the Apostle Paul who writes, “What then?  Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice[19].”  What really matters is not the attitude of one group or the other to Paul himself but that Christ is being proclaimed. His actions have been for the sake of the gospel, and because his stand has not been ineffective, he is filled with joy[20].

While Paul was in prison there were those who were preaching out of love, and there were those who were preaching to undermine his ministry.  In both of these situations Paul rejoices because the Gospel is being preached.  In not retaliating the great Apostle is showing an incredible sign of Christian virtue.  He is doing what the Lord commanded when he said “Love your enemies[21].”  How much of a witness could this have possibly had on those around Paul?  Those in prison, and the guards surely would have noticed his charity, and the seed of the gospel would have been planted.  Is this something that we do?  If you are like me you jump quickly to defend yourself, and in doing that say something hurtful and foolish.  That may be that individual’s only chance to hear the gospel, and that is not a good first impression.  Every situation in an opportunity to live and share the gospel.  Are you willing to share it?

 

CONTINUE TO ENRICH EACH OTHER

            So far we have looked at how suffering can be a blessing, how it can bring us closer to Christ, how we must be willing to go where Christ leads us, and that we must rejoice and proclaim Christ.  All are critical components to understand and exercise in the Christian faith, but we must also remember that Jesus gave us the church.  His people need to encourage and strengthen each other as we each journey towards our heavenly home.

Paul writes in Philippians 1:12, “I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel[22].”  Although the Philippians were concerned that the apostle’s adverse circumstances in prison as he awaited the outcome of his trial might have dealt a blow to his ministry of the gospel to Gentiles, Paul wants to assure his readers that far from having the effects they had feared his affairs had actually served to advance the gospel[23].  The concern that the church had for Paul served to encourage him and enrich him while he was in prison, and in turn Paul wrote the letter to encourage the church.

As people of faith we must realize that we are in this together.  If we see someone struggling we must not be afraid to say a kind word of encouragement.  If we see a brother stumbling we must reach out to help.  We are called the body of Christ because we are all in this together.  Being accountable and encouraging each other will assist in helping individual faith grow.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anders, Max. The Holman New Testament Commentary:  Galatians-Colossians. Edited by Max Anders. Nashville, TN:  Broadman &​ Holman Publishers, 1999.

Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Ellsworth, Roger. Opening Up Philippians. Leominster, UK: Dayone Publications, 2004.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology:  An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.

Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible. Volume III ed. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1979.

King James Version Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005.

Loh, I-jin, and Eugene A. Nida. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1977.

O’Brien, Peter. The Epistle to the Philippians:  A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991.

[1] 2 Corinthians 11: 23-29 (New Revised Standard Version).

[2] Philippians 1:12-18 (New American Standard Version).

[3] Philippians 1:12 (New International Version).

[4] King James Version Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005), 1584.

[5] King James Version Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005), 1584.

[6] Philippians 1:13 (New International Version).

[7] Philippians 1:12-18 (New American Bible).

[8] Roger Ellsworth, Opening Up Philippians (Leominster, UK: Dayone Publications, 2004), 27.

[9] I-jin Loh and Eugene A. Nida, A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1977), 26.

[10] Philippians 1:14 (New American Bible).

[11] Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), 793.

[12] Philippians 1:14 (New American Bible).

[13] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, volume III ed (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1979), 225.

[14] Philippians 1:12 (New American Bible).

[15] Colossians 1:24 (New American Bible).

[16] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology:  An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 812.

[17] Philippians 1:12 (New American Bible).

[18] Max Anders, The Holman New Testament Commentary:  Galatians-Colossians, ed. Max Anders (Nashville, TN:  Broadman &​ Holman Publishers, 1999), 209-210.

[19] Philippians 1:18 (Revised Standard Version).

[20] Peter O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians:  A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 105.

[21] Matthew 5:44 (New International Version).

[22] Philippians 1:12 (Revised Standard Version).

[23] Peter O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians:  A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 89.

Episode 6: Three Ways Suffering Can Bring Us Closer to Christ

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It is in our nature to look at suffering as something horrible.  As something that no good can possibly come from.  Throughout Christian history that is no shortage of examples of people who suffered greatly, but much good came from it.  One such person is the Apostle Paul.  In this episode I look at Philippians 1:12-16 to look at a bad circumstance that Paul was in, and how much good came from it.

Episode 1 of the Hope Within Radio Program

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