"The words of Jesus can keep us erect and confident in the midst of the turmoil of the end-time. They can support us, encourage us, and give us life even when everything around us speaks of death. Jesus' words are food for eternal life. They do much more than give us ideas and inspiration. They lead us into the eternal life while we are still being clothed in mortal flesh. When we keep close to the word of Jesus, reflecting on it, "chewing" on it, eating it as food for the soul, we will enter even more deeply into the everlasting love of God." (Henri Nouwen) The habit of reading a portion of the Scriptures each day is a good one. But not just reading, it involves reflecting on the Word that we read so that it can penetrate the fiber of our being. How often do we just hear the Word on Sunday and never really think further on what we heard. It is like going to a cafeteria and seeing all the food and walking away without tasting anything. If we did this, we would physically starve. When we do this in regards to the spiritual food offered us in the Word, then we spiritually starve. St. James tells us in his Letter that we must not just hear the word, but act on it for it to benefit us.
The Father as a nurturer.
It is a well-known fact that any man can father a child, but not every man with a child is truly a father. All we have to do is check the statistics that show so many one parent families, with men abandoning their paternal responsibilities. Then there are the testimonies of so many scared young people whose father was physically present as a material provider, but did not know or failed to be an emotional provider for their children. But there are many conscientious and committed fathers who are doing their best in these areas. So it goes to say that fathers are central to the emotional well-being of their children.
According to Dr. Gail Gross, “studies show that if a child’s father is affectionate, supportive, and involved, he can contribute greatly to the child’s cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement as well as spiritual, a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity.” Wow! That’s a lot that rests on the shoulder of a father.
The child’s primary relationship with his/her father can affect all of the child’s relationships from birth to death, including those with friends, lovers, and spouses. Those early patterns of interaction with the father are the very patterns that will be projected forward into all relationships...forever: not only the child’s intrinsic idea of who he/she is as he/she relates to others, but also, the range of what the child considers acceptable and loving. This is the nurturing aspect of fatherhood.
It is somewhat frightening how so much of the child’s future behavior is based on the model of the father, as well as the mother. There are some exceptions, but the norm is clear. Don’t we reflect this when we say both positively or negatively: “You are just like your father.” Or we say, “The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
So, if the father is one who treats his wife abusively or with deep respect, what have the children learned in treating their spouses? If the father is present to their children or absent by intention, what does that say to the children about how important they are to the father?
Dr. Gail goes on to affirm. “Children, who are well-bonded and loved by involved fathers, tend to have less behavioral problems, and are somewhat inoculated against alcohol and drug abuse. Yet when fathers are less engaged, children are more likely to drop out of school earlier, and to exhibit more problems in behavior and substance abuse.”
Men must step up to the plate. Uninvolved fathers need to become more involved in the lives of their children. Already involved fathers need to continue and deepen the nurturing of their children. It is a matter of emotionally bankrupt children or healthy, mature children who will continue the pattern in their own families.
How much quality time do you invest in and with your children? How often do you affirm them for who they are and not for what they do? Is your love demonstrative and tangible?
Lord, how often your ministry of gaze made a difference in another's life. You first physically and intentionally gazed at Matthew as he was collecting taxes. It was the gaze of encounter, offering him the grace of mercy, leading to ultimate salvation. That gaze so penetrated his heart, devoted to selfish material gain, that it became the moment of lasting change in his life. He changed from a tax collector of means to a disciple with no where to lay his head. Every aspect of his life was impacted by that momentary graze of love for him as a person of worth. Matthew may have heard of you from others; he may have heard you preach; he hay have seen you at a distance. Maybe you were even aware of him at those times and gazed on him then. But he wasn't ready to respond. In this encounter as he collected taxes, your gaze was the connecting point of the future relationship between you and him. Lord, you have similarly gazed on me at various times in my life. Some, I, too, was oblivious of. But your gaze of mercy and love have made a difference in my life. I am grateful.
Jesus said to the Pharisees:" There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
The rich man, in his luxury and comfort, is totally oblivious of the poor man. The rich man isn’t named, whereas the poor man is.
"When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
The underworld where there was torment is the hell that we understand.
Now, the rich man, deprived of his isolated comfort, recognizes the poor man as
the beggar at his door. He did not provide for him on earth, but the rich man wants
Lazarus to provide for him.
so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.' But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.' He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"
What is our attitude towards our possessions? How readily do we share with others in need?
Paul says that giving alms covers a multitude of sin. How do you understand this?
"Many people live with the unconscious or conscious expectation that eventually things will get better; wars, hunger, poverty, oppression, and exploitation will vanish; and all people will live in harmony. Their lives and work are motivated by that expectation. When this does not happen in their lifetimes, they are often disillusioned and experience themselves as failures. But Jesus doesn't support such an optimistic outlook. He foresees not only the destruction of his beloved city Jerusalem but also a world full of cruelty, violence, and conflict. For Jesus there is no happy ending in this world. The challenge of Jesus is not to solve all the world's problems before the end of time but to remain faithful at any cost." (Henri Nouwen) We can do our best to bring about change in the world. But that is not the most important thing for us, if we are not making the necessary changes in our lives. Faithfulness to God in our commitment to him is what God will judge us on. Not that we did we change the world, but that the world did not change us in our thinking or actions. As St. Paul says: "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." (Roms 12:2) This is the fidelity God is looking for in our lives. It is Jesus' fidelity to the will of the Father even to the death on the cross that brought about change in the lives of billions of people over the centuries. While the world may not have changed so much, the world of those who follow Jesus does change drastically.
How often in my human weakness and introverted nature, I don't encounter the other, but meet them. To meet another is to keep any interaction on the surface level. To encounter another touches deeply the lives of both parties, because each becomes vulnerable to the other. A true encounter impacts me. In a sense I cannot be the same afterwards. Lord, you didn't just meet people, you encountered them. At times, something happened to you. You were moved with pity and love; you reached out to teach or heal, to love or to forgive. Something takes place in the one encountered. Either they respond or they walk away. A mere meeting fails to interact. An encounter causes interaction. the former may lead to indifference, while the latter to something new and exciting. There is divine grace in an encounter.
“You cannot have God for your Father if you do not have the Church for your mother.... God is one and Christ is one, and his Church is one; one is the faith, and one is the people cemented together by harmony into the strong unity of a body.... If we are the heirs of Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are the sons of God, let us be lovers of peace” (St. Cyprian) Recently, the Holy Father talked about one of the tactics of the devil is to create division in families, in society and in the Church. Disagreement and division are two different things. People can disagree but still be in unity and peace. But when disagreement results in division, that is not of God. That is why St. Paul states: "Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force."(Eph 4:3) Ours is the work of peace and unity not of division and animosity. In the first we are acting as children of our Father, and disciples of Jesus and cooperators with the Spirit.