Category Archives: Christology

I AM the Way!!

I AM – In the Greek language, “I am” is a very intense way of referring to oneself. It would be comparable to saying, “I myself, and only I, am.”

“O Christ, eternal Truth, what is Your doctrine? And by what path do You direct us to the Father? I can find no other way but the one which You have marked out in virtue of the fire of Your charity. The path, O eternal Word, which You have marked with Your Blood is the way.

O loving, tender Word of God, You tell me: ‘I have marked the path and opened the gate with My Blood; do not be negligent in following it, but take the same road which I, eternal Truth, have traced out with My Blood.’ Arise, my soul, and follow your Redeemer, for no one can go to the Father but by Him. O sweet Christ, Christ-Love, You are the way, and the door through which we must enter in order to reach the Father” (St. Catherine of Siena).

Love,
Matthew

I AM the Truth!!

I AM – In the Greek language, “I am” is a very intense way of referring to oneself. It would be comparable to saying, “I myself, and only I, am.”

“O divine Father, You have opened the Book of Life, Jesus Christ, before us, Your children. In Him, the God-Man, we find all that we could wish to know. Reading in Him, we shall be filled with holy knowledge; we shall find all the doctrine we need for ourselves and for others. But, O my soul, if you want to be enlightened and instructed, you must not read this Book of Life hastily or superficially, but slowly and attentively; then you will be inflamed with divine love and you will know the truth.

Above all, O my soul, try to have a true knowledge of God and yourself; you can obtain this only by reading, meditating, and studying the Book of Life, Christ, Our Lord” (St. Angela of Foligno).

Love,
Matthew

I AM the Life!!

I AM – In the Greek language, “I am” is a very intense way of referring to oneself. It would be comparable to saying, “I myself, and only I, am.” Several other times in the Gospels we find Jesus using these words. In Matthew 22:32 Jesus quotes Exodus 3:6, where God uses the same intensive form to say, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In John 8:58, Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM.” The Jews clearly understood Jesus to be calling Himself God because they took up stones to stone Him for committing blasphemy in equating Himself with God. In Matthew 28:20, as Jesus gave the Great Commission, He gave it emphasis by saying, “I AM with you always, to the end of the age.” When the soldiers came seeking Jesus in the garden the night before His crucifixion, He told them, “I AM He,” and His words were so powerful that the soldiers fell to the ground (John 18:4–6). These words reflect the very name of God in Hebrew, Yahweh, which means “to be” or “the self-existing one.” It is the name of power and authority, and Jesus claimed it as His own.

“May my mind, my heart, my body, my life, be wholly animated by You, my sweet Life! I will love You Lord, my strength; I will love You, and will live, no longer through my own efforts, but through You.” (St. Augustine).

Love,
Matthew

Concealed Divinity


-Dante Angelic Choirs, please click on the image for greater detail

“You may not see My face, for no one can look upon Me and live.” -Ex 33:20

Our reward is the promised “beatific vision”, which means the eternal and direct visual perception of God. It means seeing God face to face. St. Thomas Aquinas reasoned that one is perfectly happy only when all of one’s desires are perfectly satisfied, and this cannot occur until we are fully united with God. That complete union can happen not through human imagining nor even in the most deeply contemplative prayer, but only by the direct presence of God in heaven.

Hell is to be completely separated from God for beyond eternity: no hope, no life, the second death, and that is why it is suffering beyond eternity. God will grant us our heart’s desire. Like on Earth, He will not violate our free will. If our desire is to be separated from God, by will, or by action, without repentance in this life, He will grant that, too. I say this first of all to myself, and frequently I remind myself, “Repent!! And, BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL!!!” This IS LIFE!!

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Give me light, O Lord Jesus, to see in the lowliness of the Child, the indescribable Majesty of the Son of God.

MEDITATION

Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature; for in Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible … all things were created by Him and in Him. And He is before all, and by Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:15-17). This text from St. Paul summarizes the infinite greatness of Jesus. As the Word, He is the perfect, substantial image of the Father, having the same divine nature as the Father and proceeding from Him by eternal generation. As the Word He is the first-born of all creatures, begotten of the Father before all creation; furthermore, the Father created everything through Him, His Word, His eternal Wisdom. St John of the Cross teaches, “God looked at all things in this image of His Son alone, which was to give them their natural being and to communicate to them many natural gifts and graces…. To behold them … was to make them very good in the Word, His Son.” (St John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 5,4). But the Word is not only the first-born of all creatures. Possessing the same divine nature as the Father, He is also their Creator, for “without Him was made nothing that was made” (John 1:3).

All these splendors, which belong by nature to the Word, became the splendors of Jesus, the Man-God, by reason of His Incarnation and His hypostatic union. In fact, St. Paul declares that “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead corporeally” (Colossians 2:9).

Jesus was pleased to conceal all the infinite riches of His divinity in the obscurity of the manger; yet, guided by faith and love, we shall not be slow to recognize and praise Him in this lowly guise.

COLLOQUY

“Thou hast multiplied Thy wonderful works, O Lord, my God; and in Thy thoughts there is no one like to Thee” (Psalm 40:6). “It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to Thy Name, O Most High, to show forth Thy mercy in the morning, and Thy truth in the night. For Thou hast given me, O Lord, a delight in Thy doings; and in the works of Thy hands I shall rejoice. O Lord, how great are Thy works! Thy thoughts are exceeding deep.” (Psalm 92:2-3, 5-6).

What work could be more wonderful than the Incarnation of Your only-begotten Son? Is there any masterpiece more sublime than Jesus Christ, true God and true man, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3)?

O Jesus, You make me understand that You are really God made man and You manifest Yourself to my soul with such majesty that I can no longer doubt Your infinite greatness. O Lord, who can comprehend the depths of Your great Majesty, You who are the absolute Ruler of heaven and earth?

“O Christ, my God, my hope, lover of mankind, the light, the way, the life; the salvation, honor, and glory of all Your servants, You live eternally, reigning now and for all eternity…. You are my living and true God, my holy Father, my loving Lord, the great King, the good Shepherd, my only Teacher, my incomparable helper, my guide to heaven, my straight path … my immaculate Victim, my holy Redeemer, my firm hope, my perfect charity, my true resurrection, my eternal life. I long for You, my sweetest, most beautiful Lord!…

O splendor of the Father’s glory, who sit above the Cherubim and scrutinize the abyss, true light, shining light, unfailing light, on Whom the angels desire to gaze, behold my heart before You; drive away the darkness from it that it may be more abundantly inundated with the splendors of Your holy love.

Give me Yourself, O my God, give me Yourself, that I may love You; and if my love is not very fervent, make me love You more ardently.

“I cannot measure what is wanting in my love to make it what it ought to be, to make it run to meet Your embrace, and not to leave it until my life is hidden in the light of Your face; this I know, that all is a source of evil for me except You, O Lord, and not only what is outside of me, but also what is within me. All wealth which is not my God is poverty and misery for me” (St. Augustine).

Love,
Matthew

I seek not My own glory – Jn 8:50

“I honor My Father…. I seek not My own glory.”
“I receive not glory from men.”
(John 8:49, 50; John 5:41)

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, increase within me Your love and Your zeal for the glory of the Father; teach me to despise all personal glory and to flee from it.

MEDITATION

“Jesus ever sought His Father’s glory, and to this end He chose for Himself utter humiliation, even to becoming “the reproach of men and the outcast of the people” (cf Psalm 22:7). Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary—the three great stages of the humble, hidden life of Jesus, in which He veiled His glory as the Son of God. Even during His public life, when His divinity was more openly manifested, Jesus tried to flee as much as possible from human glory. Many times after performing a miracle, He imposed silence on those who had witnessed it. He forbade the three Apostles who had been present at the Transfiguration “to tell any man what things they had seen, till the Son of Man shall be risen again from the dead” (Mark 9:8). After the first multiplication of the loaves, “when He knew that they would come to take Him by force and make Him king [He] fled again into the mountain Himself alone” (John 6:15).

The glory of Jesus lies in the fact that He is the Son of God; He desires no other glory. It is as though He would relinquish this essential glory by accepting any other. Therefore He said: “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father that glorifieth Me” (John 8:54). Jesus knows that after His death He will be glorified and acknowledged as the Son of God and the Savior of the world, but He desires that even this glory may be for the glorification of His Father: “Father, the hour is come, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee” (John 17:1).

COLLOQUY

O Lord, give me Your love for Your Father’s glory, so that I too, wretched and poor though I am, may serve my God in some small way and give Him glory.

“May it be Your pleasure, my God, that the time may come when I shall be able to pay at least a small part of the immense debt I owe You; do You ordain it, Lord, according to Your pleasure, that I may in some way serve You. There have been others who have done heroic deeds for love of You; I myself am capable of words only; and therefore, my God, it is not Your good pleasure to test me by actions. All my will to serve You amounts to nothing but words and desires, and even here I have no freedom, for it is always possible that I may fail altogether. Strengthen and prepare my soul, Good of all good, my Jesus, and then ordain means whereby I may do something for You, for no one could bear to receive as much as I have and pay nothing in return. Cost what it may, Lord, permit me not to come into Your presence with such empty hands, since a man’s reward must be according to his works! O Lord, here is my life, my honor, and my will! I have given it all to You; I am Yours; dispose of me according to Your desire. Well do I know, Lord, how little I am capable of, but keep me near You. I shall be able to do all things, provided You do not withdraw from me. If You should withdraw, for however short a time, I should go where I have already been—namely, to hell” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 21).

Make me understand, O Lord, that if I wish to work for Your glory and the glory of Your Father, I must be entirely detached from every desire for personal glory; otherwise I shall deceive myself, thinking that I am working for You, whereas in reality I am but serving my own ego.

You know, O Jesus, that herein lies the greatest danger for me, that which I fear most in my good works, especially in the works of my apostolate. Therefore, I beg You, Lord, to use every means to save me from it. And if this requires humiliations, failure, criticism, use them, and use them abundantly. Do not consider my repugnance, pay no attention to my tears, for I do not want to lessen Your glory or ruin Your works by my pride.”

Love & His glory,
Matthew

Is Christ the Way? Who is Jesus?


-by Br Timothy Danaher, OP

““All men by nature desire to know.” Aristotle’s opening line of the Metaphysics was true of humans then and is true of humans now. Children still explore the front lawn on summer mornings, asking eternally: “What’s that?” But what about those things beyond simple understanding? What about complicated things, like macroeconomics or human decision-making? And what about God?

Any foray into apophatic, or so-called “negative,” theology, the teaching that what we know about God is more about what we don’t know about Him, must mention its most venerable cheerleader Dionysius, a monk from the early 500s: “We ascend from the particular… to contemplate the superessential darkness that is hidden by all the light that is in existing things” (Mystical Theology, ch. 2).

Mystical journeys aside, we must ask: Is Christ that way? Isn’t he the light of the world, revealing God to us in words we can understand? Paul says, “God has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will… which He set forth in Christ” (Eph 1:9-10), but he also says, “As for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect” (1 Cor 13:9). Years back, I was struck by an anecdote in a First Things essay by David Bentley Hart:

The Christ of the gospels has always been—and will always remain—far more disturbing, uncanny, and scandalously contrary a figure than we usually like to admit. Or, as an old monk of Mount Athos once said to me, summing up what he believed he had learned from more than forty years of meditation on the gospels, “He is not what we would make Him.”

Right when we think we have Christ pinned down, He escapes us. In trying to preach Him, in public or in private, His mystery seems to defeat us. In my reading of late, I’ve found that various authors speak to the same point, that of Christ using images but always being beyond them:

God speaks to us, not in propositions and syllogisms, but in stern commands, in images, signs, gestures, whisperings of love, by both his manifest presence and his tangible absence, by both his words and his dramatic silences, always upsetting, overturning, the ordinary meaning of words and things. God’s logic may thus be compared to a logic of fire, which enkindles everything it touches. (Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, 42-43)

Christ clothed himself in the archetypal images of Israel, and then began to do and to suffer. The images were further transformed by… being combined in his one person. What sort of victorious David can it be, who is also the martyred Israel and the Lamb of sacrifice? What sort of new Adam can it be, who is also the temple of God? And what sort of living temple can it be, who is also the Word of God whereby the world was made? (Austin Farrer, The Glass of Vision, 109)

It is the most difficult mission imaginable… to convince men, by using all means of thought and evidence available, of something that lies beyond all the categories accessible to men; that God is triune love. This could be demonstrated only through Christ’s word, work, conduct, and suffering… even though before the coming of the Spirit no one was able to glimpse the seamless whole in the scattered pieces. (Hans Urs von Balthasar, You Have Words of Eternal Life, 53-55)

Christ clothed Himself in what came before Him. He is like Moses and David and a prophet and the Passover lamb. But He is not these things. He is God. Even after His coming among us, we must sing: “How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways” (Rm 11:33).

To follow Christ is to be humbled, not just by our sinfulness but by the poverty of our minds. But there is joy, in eternal life and this life. Someday, says Paul, “I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood” (1 Cor 13:12). All men by nature desire to know. Even truer, all men desire by nature to be known. God assures us we already are, and for now that makes all the difference.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 2 – Candlemas, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – Nunc dimittis & sin’s effect…


-“Simeon’s song of praise”, by Aert de Geider, ~1700-1710, oil on canvas, Height: 94.5 cm (37.2 in). Width: 107.5 cm (42.3 in), Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:
Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.

Lord, now You may dismiss Your servant. (cf Lk 2:26)
For mine eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared before all people;
To be a light to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.
-Lk 2:29-32


-by Br Isidore Rice, OP

“We tend to shy away from our sins and weaknesses coming to light. When we hear of someone caught and punished for committing injustice, we might be tempted to think them worse off than those ‘lucky’ evildoers who get off scot-free. Yet, even by the light of his natural reason, Socrates saw through this instinct:

“But in my opinion, Polus, the unjust or doer of unjust actions is miserable in any case,—more miserable, however, if he be not punished and does not meet with retribution, and less miserable if he be punished and meets with retribution at the hands of gods and men.”

Socrates is motivated by the conviction that just actions are healthy for the soul while unjust actions sicken it. Whatever suffering just punishment may bring to the body, it is nothing compared to the misery caused by sin festering in the dark corners of one’s soul. Thus, for Socrates, the path forward for an evildoer is clear:

“[If anyone] does wrong, he ought of his own accord to go where he will be immediately punished; he will run to the judge, as he would to the physician, in order that the disease of injustice may not be rendered chronic and become the incurable cancer of the soul.”

All this is true, but it does not seem particularly hopeful. After all, as Socrates says, the “doer of unjust actions is miserable in any case.” For Socrates, the evildoer is still miserable even while his wrongdoing is brought to light and he receives justice.

But we have a greater light, a light which not only brings us to justice, but brings justice into our hearts. We may be tempted to shy away from this light as well, for, as the prophet says, “Who will endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?” (Malachi 3:2).

And yet, this coming light is none other than Jesus, our savior. The presentation of the baby Jesus, carried in the arms of His mother Mary into the Temple, hardly seems like a day that must be endured. Simeon and Anna did not quail in fear when this light was presented. Rather, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, they drew near and rejoiced. But, as Simeon prophesied:

“Behold, this child is destined

for the fall and rise of many in Israel,

and to be a sign that will be contradicted

and you yourself a sword will pierce

so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk. 2:34-35).

This same Jesus will soon hang on the cross between two thieves as a sign of contradiction, with Mary, her heart pierced by a sword of sorrow, at His feet. One thief, seeking merely to avoid punishment for his crimes, falls into the greater crime of blasphemy. The other, accepting justice and hoping for mercy, rises with Jesus. And the good thief is not merely brought to the state of lesser misery offered by Socrates. That very day St. Dismas entered paradise to enjoy the vision of God Himself in the light of glory (Lk. 23:43).

May the same Holy Spirit who led Simeon to encounter Jesus in the Temple and St. Dismas to turn to Jesus on the cross lead us to encounter Him in the Sacrament of Confession. Lord Jesus, give us the grace to open our hearts to your light so that you may burn out all evil lurking there. Let us then hear the wonderful words, “may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins,” so that with Simeon, we may rejoice and pray,

“Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel” (Lk. 2:29-32).”

Love, & His peace, which is beyond ALL understanding, His gift He left to us, if only we would avail,
Matthew

The True Vine

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O my Lord and Redeemer, grant that I may understand the deep intimate ties that bind You to us, whom You have redeemed.

MEDITATION

Jesus is the “one Mediator between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5); however, He did not will to effect the work of our redemption independently of us, but used it as a means of strengthening the bond between Himself and us. This is the wonderful mystery of our incorporation in Christ, the mystery which Our Lord Himself revealed to His apostles the night before His Passion. “I am the true vine; and My Father is the husbandman…. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:1,4).

Jesus strongly affirms that there is no redemption, no supernatural life, no grace-life for one who does not live in Him, who is not grafted onto Him. He points to the vine: the shoots will not live and bear fruit unless they remain attached to the trunk. Jesus wishes to actualize this close connection between Himself and us, a connection which is necessary for our salvation and sanctification. We cannot receive the least degree of grace except through Christ’s mediation, even as the smallest drop of sap cannot reach a branch which is detached from the tree.

Moreover, Jesus declares that, if we abide in Him, we shall not only have supernatural life, but we shall become the recipients of special attention from our heavenly Father, the “Husbandman” of the mystical vine. In fact, our heavenly Father acknowledges us as His adopted children, loves us as such, and takes care of us, precisely to the degree in which He sees in us Christ, His only-begotten, His well-beloved Son. The grace of adoption, then, is wholly dependent upon our union with Christ, a union so close that we form, as it were, a “living part” of Him, as the branch forms a living part of the vine.

COLLOQUY

“O most high and eternal Trinity, Deity, Love, we are trees of death, and You are the tree of Life. O infinite God! How beautiful was Your creature when a pure tree in Your light! O supreme purity, You endowed it with branches, that is, with the faculties of the soul, memory, intellect, and will…. The memory, to recall You; the intellect, to know You; the will, to love You…. But this tree fell, because by disobeying it lost its innocence. Instead of a tree of life, it became a tree of death and brought forth only fruits of death.

This is why, O eternal, most high Trinity, in a sublime transport of love for Your creature, seeing that this tree could produce only fruits of death because it was separated from You, Who are Life, You gave it a remedy with that very same love by which You had created it, grafting Your Deity into the dead tree of our humanity. O sweet, gentle grafting!… Who constrained You to do this, to give back life to it, You who have been offended so many times by Your creature? Love alone, whence by this grafting death is dissolved.

Was Your charity content, having made this union? No, eternal Word, You watered this tree with Your Blood. This Blood, by its warmth makes it grow, if man with his free will grafts himself onto You, and unites and binds his heart and affections to You, tying and binding this graft with the bond of charity and following Your doctrine. Since it is through You, O Life, that we bring forth fruits of life, we wish to be grafted onto You. When we are grafted onto You, then the branches which You have given to our tree bear fruit” (St. Catherine of Siena).

How encouraging it is to think, O Jesus, that my longing to be united to You is not a vain fantasy, but is already a reality! It is a reality because You have willed to graft me onto You as a shoot is grafted onto the vine, so that I live wholly by this union with You. Oh! grant that my soul may become always more closely united to You, and may always be ready to receive the vital sap of grace which You produce in me, Your branch!”

Love,
Matthew

Betrayed with a kiss -Lk 22:48

Mohandas Gandhi was known to read the New Testament every day. A British reporter asked him if he intended to become a Christian. Gandhi replied, “Your Jesus I like. If I ever meet a Christian, I will become one.”

-by Don Steiger, pastor of Dakota Ridge Assembly, Littleton, Colorado

“It has been said that there are two reasons why people do not go to church: They do not know a Christian, or they do know a Christian. Several times through the years I have heard people say they are no longer serving God because someone in the church let them down. Our maturity as Christians is put to the test when people disappoint us. No one has gone through life without such experiences.

Several years after I came to Colorado Springs to pastor Radiant Church a fellowship of pastors decided it would be a good thing to bring our churches together for a united worship service. We secured the city auditorium and invited our congregations to gather for a Sunday night service. The response was terrific and the building was packed when we started the worship. The evening went well up to the conclusion of the service. To my surprise, the pastor responsible for the closing prayer departed from the planned order of service and asked all the pastors to come to the front and face the audience. He then said, “If anyone has a grievance against a pastor come forward and work it out.” Billy Graham would have been envious of the response to this altar call. People got out of their seats and moved toward me and my fellow pastors in what looked like a tidal wave of disgruntled parishioners. A line formed in front of me and one by one I listened to their complaints and responded as best I could. This process probably took an hour or two, but it seemed more like an eternity. After it was all over my wife Loretta said, “Don, I don’t know if you realize it, but you had the longest line.” This distinction was not one I wanted when I entered the ministry. I must admit I left that service wounded by the people I had worked so hard to serve.

The apostle Paul also experienced his share of troubling relationships. In his last recorded words Paul includes a listing of several people who played important roles in his life. Some were positive in their influence and some were negative. His response is instructive as we make our way through the variety of relationships life presents to us.

In 2 Timothy 4:9–22, Paul mentions several people by name as he concludes his last epistle. He is writing from a Roman prison cell facing the possibility of martyrdom. Among the names mentioned is a representation of some of the critical relationships we experience in our Christian walk.

First, there was an adversarial relationship—“Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm” (verse 14, NIV). It may be that this person is the Alexander mentioned in Acts 19:33. The idol makers of Ephesus were losing business because of the influence of the church, and incited the city residents against the Christians and their most visible leader, Paul. Consequently, the Jewish community, for fear of being associated with the church, chose Alexander to speak on their behalf. There is also an Alexander mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:19,20. This man’s faith was shipwrecked and Paul delivered him over to Satan that he may be taught not to blaspheme. It is tough enough when unbelievers oppose us, but when a professing Christian does so it is most disheartening. We do not know much about Alexander or the details of his activity, but Paul said he “did me a great deal of harm … because he strongly opposed our message” (verse 14,15).

Responding to an adversarial relationship requires wisdom and prayer. Loving his enemy, and yet guarding himself against Alexander’s attacks, was a skill Paul had acquired in his walk with God. He taught us “Do not repay evil for evil. … Do not take revenge. … ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17–21, NIV). So in response to Alexander’s opposition Paul said, “The Lord will repay him for what he has done” (verse 14, NIV). He rejected a life of resentment and retribution, and gave his hurt to God. Adopting this perspective will prevent the pollution of our spirit when we are tempted to retaliate. Furthermore, Paul protected himself from unnecessary injury by Alexander. He said, “You too should be on your guard against him” (verse 15). Paul was on guard against Alexander, and he advised Timothy to do the same. Loving our enemies does not mean we allow ourselves to be unnecessarily victimized by them.

Second, there was a broken relationship—“for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” (verse 10, NIV). Demas was mentioned by Paul in his letters to Philemon and the Colossians as a fellow laborer. Demas’ action at this time was not a matter of opposition; it was a matter of failure. Demas deserted Paul in one of the most difficult moments of Paul’s life, and chose to pursue the things of the world rather than Christ. His timing could not have been worse for Paul. At this point some would throw up their hands and say, “It’s not worth it.” But Paul remained steadfast in his commitment to Christ and healthy in his attitude. The reality is there will be broken relationships resulting from the sins of others. Some times we are unable to repair the damage and are left with the heartache of a friend who chooses to persist in rebellion against God.

Samuel experienced this kind of pain in his relationship with Saul. He did everything he could to help Saul be the man and king God wanted him to be. Unfortunately, Saul repeatedly disobeyed God, and finally the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?” (1 Samuel 16:1, NIV). The Lord then sent him to the household of Jesse to anoint David as the next King of Israel. To endure in our Christian faith and service we must be willing to give to God those who have deeply disappointed us and move on.

Third, there was a reconciled relationship—“Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (verse 11). Mark had disappointed Paul on this first missionary journey. Mark was part of the team, and in Acts 13:13 it states that John (Mark) left them. This departure was early on in the journey and was regarded by Paul as a desertion. When Paul and Barnabas discussed plans for their second missionary trip (Acts 15:36–41) Barnabas suggested taking Mark again. Paul refused and they were unable to agree, so Barnabas took Mark and set out on their own missionary effort. Paul then chose Silas to accompany him on his missionary journey. No doubt it brought great joy to Barnabas and Paul when Mark proved himself to be a reliable coworker in the kingdom of God. It must have been a poignant moment when Paul and Mark reconciled. Clearly they forged a trusted friendship as the years went by, so much so that Paul wanted Mark to be present during his time of suffering.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13,14, NIV). Developing a forgiving spirit and a heart for restoration will prevent us from imposing a burden of perfection upon others that neither they nor we can fulfill.

Fourth, there was a faithful human relationship—“Only Luke is with me” (verse 11). For everyone who had let Paul down, several had not. Paul taught us to think on good things. In this text he enumerates some who had brought him heartache, but he also lists the names of others who had consistently strengthened him. In fact, he names more in this category than in the other. He mentions Crescens, Titus, Luke, Tychicus, Priscilla, Aquila, Onesiphorus and his household, Erastus, Trophimas, Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia. For each one who fails us there are many who have not. We tend to respond to the failures of a few by concluding that no one is trustworthy.

Luke stands out as one of Paul’s closest and most trusted friends. Some even speculate that Paul’s statement, “Only Luke is with me,” indicates that Luke made himself a legal slave to Paul so he could enter the prison and minister to him. This seems possible given the record of Luke’s loyal friendship with Paul.

Even the best friendship, however, is flawed by our humanity. Notice what Paul said in verse 16, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.” When Paul was taken into a Roman courtroom there was not a single Christian present to support him. Even Luke was not there. Paul felt deserted in his greatest hour of need. What will he do— how will he respond? He could have been overcome with disappointment or anger, but amazingly he was not. He concluded verse 16 by saying, “May it not be held against them.”

Even the most mature saint will sometimes disappoint others. It may not be by grievous sin, but by not meeting their expectations. Being human we sometimes grow weary and cannot do any more in a given situation, or we misjudge what our involvement should be, or the offended party misunderstands us. These human episodes teach us mercy. When we feel disappointed in someone else we should remember that others have been disappointed in us. Hopefully we can respond with the gracious prayer “May it not be held against them.” Jesus gave us the example when on the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV).

Last, there was a faithful divine relationship—“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth” (verse 17). The faithfulness of God is absolute. I think sometimes He allows circumstances to arise in which we feel disappointed in people to test our dependence on Him. Without question, He has designed the body of Christ to be a sustaining influence for every believer, but our dependence on people can reach unhealthy proportions. Jesus Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith and when we can look beyond the failures of men and remain faithful to God, we have reached an important level of maturity in Christ that contributes strength to the rest of the Body. How we relate to people should be the result of our relationship with Christ. When our relationship with Christ depends on the performance of people, our faith is in peril.

The moment when Paul felt all had deserted him was a critical moment in his walk with God. It was also a critical moment in his service to Jesus Christ. By not giving in to the disappointment, he experienced the empowering presence of Christ and was able to fully accomplish the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles in a hostile Roman courtroom. If he had given in, his heart would have been deeply wounded and an important opportunity lost.

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5,6).”

Love,
Matthew