Be with him – God of the living

Series Introduction   

This is week four of a six week series entitled “be with him.” This is the wish of Jesus for all of us and he specifically tells one of the men crucified alongside him that he will be with Jesus in paradise, that very day. What does it take to be with Jesus, particularly before the journey to paradise and leading to being with Jesus after the journey to paradise? We’ll use the weekly readings to pull out a theme that supports the overall idea that we can be with him.

It is the goal of Jesus disciples to be with Jesus. The apostles were with Jesus for three years and no doubt loved it all. Jesus is a very irresistible person, we read how crowds were always around him, following him wherever he was going. But even more than the irresistible factor Jesus is life giving. When Jesus asked the question do the disciples want to leave, “Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) When there is a chance you can be with the Holy one of God, the one who has the words of eternal life, you should make every opportunity to be with Him. This series will look at ways to be with Jesus.

Past weeks

Three weeks ago the readings challenged us to pray always. We recognized in the three readings an aspect of prayer. Moses prayed for Israel, Paul used scripture to emphasize prayer and Jesus let us see that he always goes off by himself to pray, only for us to discover he is never alone but with God. Prayer allows us to enter into God’s presence, it is the first, very important step to be with him.

Two weeks ago the readings had us consider humility. The prophet Sirach told us God has no favorites, but always answers the humble. Paul pointed to God as the one who accomplished all through Paul’s hand. Jesus told a story of two men, the humble was exalted by God, while the arrogant one still needed to be taught. Praying with humility, asking for God’s help is a sure way to be present with him.

Last week the readings informed us that Jesus came to seek and save. The Wisdom of God loves us so much and has so much compassion that our wrong doing is overlooked. The letter to the Thessalonians has the leader’s praying for the community and warning them of false messages, so they will remain close to God. The gospel message was the story of Zacchaeus who Jesus seeks and saves, it initiates a conversion of someone who is considered a traitor and hated by all to be with him.

This Week

In the readings this week we get a message of a God of the living. The first reading tells of seven brothers and their mother who are fully aware of the resurrection as they are tortured and put to death. God will bring them to life no matter what others do to them. In the community of Thessalonica we are encouraged to be alive like Christ and we are challenged to endure like Christ. Life fully alive means there is good and the bad. Finally in the gospel message we get the message that God is the God of the living, God is not concerned with the dead. We must be fully alive to become children of the living God. To be fully alive with the living God is to be with him. We must also seek out the living God no matter where we are on our journey, therefore to be alive means to love.

The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time; 2 Macabees 7:1-2, 9-14; Psalms 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38. The readings guide us to focus on having a God of the living who expects us to be alive. We are alive when we love and when we allow others to love us.

he readings guide us to focus on having a God of the living who expects us to be alive. We are alive when we love and when we allow others to love us. Click To Tweet

The first reading from Maccabees tells the story of a mother and her seven sons. They were captured and tortured by a king to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. One by one they were tortured and given an option to eat pork and each refused. After refusing the king had them put to death. Finally the mother too was tortured and put the death. None of them would choose to violate God’s law to save themselves from death. The first at the point of death said: “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying.” Each believes that they would be taken care of by the God of the living. The brothers each have good things to say about being a believer, God will reward them, God will raise them to new life, they will rise and their bodies remade, but evildoers will have no resurrection, there will be punishment for evil doers, when just people suffer it is because they are being punished for their own sins and finally death accepted by the righteous works as atonement for the whole people. This resurrection and atonement is a message developed more concretely after the writings from Jesus life, death and resurrection. But we see in this story a strong belief in the presence of a God who will restore the righteous and be present to them in new life and human death. This family had a faith that they are better off trusting in God than trying to satisfy human rulers.

In the second reading, the second letter to the Thessalonians, begins by praying for hope, perhaps continued hope and grace. The author prays for the continued spreading of the word. The reading encourages the reader from Christ that God will be faithful and strengthen them. God will instruct them and will direct their hearts for love. Finally it encourages them to endure as Christ endured. We get a sense there is suffering and that the letter is trying to remind the reader that God is present even in the suffering. Much like the first reading where the family suffered, this letter is encouraging the reader to be like Christ. Christ endures unto death on the cross out of love and trust in God. As believers the reader, including us, should love God in that same way. We should endure whatever denies us access to God and know that by doing the will of the Father we are pleasing the Father who is the God of the living. We will be alive no matter what life may do to us. We also should remember after death we will be resurrected. In life as we endure we are with him and in resurrection we are with him. Our entire life even while we endure makes us present to the living God. Having the encouragement of Christ we should live that life very much alive. There are many walking around who look alive but they are just going through the motions. We know we will struggle but we also know because Christ lives in us we are very much alive.

In life as we endure we are with him and in resurrection we are with him. Our entire life even while we endure makes us present to the living God. Click To Tweet

In the gospel from Luke, Jesus is being questioned by the Sadducees, a group of leaders, mostly formed of former high priests and members of his family and elders, wealthy members of the Jerusalem aristocracy. The Sadducee party denied the resurrection of the dead since they only accepted those doctrines clearly found in the books of Moses. They were trying to get a question answered that seems like a question that was meant to trip Jesus up. Based on the law if a husband dies and leaves his window with no descendants his brother must take the wife. So they postulated a circumstance where seven brothers married her and all die and eventually she dies, so whose wife is she at the resurrection?  Jesus said we marry in this time and place, but in the resurrection we are children of God. The reason for the law is for the woman to continue her name, but in the resurrection keeping her name is not important. Marriage here and now is also a way to reveal the image of God in us, when we love a spouse as best we can in marriage we are coming as close as humanly possible to living the love of God. When we are living in the resurrection we have the love of God fully and we are able to return love to God fully, so we don’t need a human model of love as we live and witness divine love. Marriage is no longer needed in the resurrection.

Jesus goes on to say in the coming age we can no longer die, we are God’s children and God is the God of the living, he includes examples with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, fathers of the Hebrew people. They are God’s children and the implication is they are alive in the moment that Jesus is speaking about them. God is not the God of the dead. Once dead a thing has no worth and so God does not watch over it or care for it, God only watches after the living. In fact God is the God of people who are alive. As we discussed above life in God is a life where we are fully alive, we may struggle, we may even die, but as followers of Jesus we are resurrected and living and fully alive. For God the people of this age are as alive as the people of the coming age. To God all are alive.

God wants more than just a beating heart, God wants people alive, joyful, excited, energetic, ready to do the will of God in any circumstance. Of course people have to be “alive”, we have to be happy, we have to push a message of God as happiness and that all who allow themselves to be children of God will not only be alive they will be fully alive and ready to have life in the resurrection.

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As we look at these three readings we get a clear message that God is the God of the living and not only living, but God wants people who live alive, sharing God’s message joyfully and with full energy, who let others know God is the God of the living. With the seven brothers and their mother, tortured and pushed into the fire, they were so alive they refused to break in any way, they are convinced they will be part of the resurrection. The Thessalonians are hearing they must be encouraged and endure, they are told life is not all roses, but receiving encouragement from Christ they too can be very much alive. Finally in the gospel we hear Jesus telling the leadership that life in the coming age is a life lived fully, God is a God of the living. No matter our stage of life, when we are followers of God, we become children of God and there will never be death for us, we are fully alive even in the resurrection which comes to us. Thankfully anyone alive can be with him always. God wants us alive so we can be with him.

Be with him – God of the living

God wants us to be a people alive, we are children of the God of the living and that has to mean more than just going through the motions or living life asleep. We need to be awake and fully active to be alive in the manner God wishes us to be alive. Besides being asleep many people live life in despair, we tend to look at life as though we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not popular enough. Some say most Americans have a low self-esteem. This leads to people living in isolation, trying to not be noticed and have a deep sense that we are not lovable.

This is not who God made us to be. God wants us to be free, to be open and to a discovery of common humanity, a journey from loneliness to love as Jean Vanier says in his book “Becoming Human” where many of these thoughts originated. When we look at being a part of a common humanity, to live the life God intends for us, we discover we need to be freed from self-centered compulsions and inner hurts, leading to a life of love and forgiveness.

When we look at being a part of a common humanity, to live the life God intends for us, we discover we need to be freed from self-centered compulsions and inner hurts, leading to a life of love and forgiveness. Click To Tweet

We must realize our life is a journey; we are going to ebb and flow through good and bad, order and disorder, steady times and restlessness, inner dissatisfaction, a creative energy and discovery of a new way. To move along this journey we must realize certain things about each of us. First, we must know that all humans are sacred, whatever our race, culture, religion ability or inability, strength or weakness we each have a part to play, something to bring to the overall meaning of life. Second, all our individual lives are in the process of evolving which is not easy, we want to hold onto the old but also be prepared for the new. We must let the past flow into the present, we must realize everything that permits and encourages the flow of life and growth is necessary and must be embraced. Third, maturing comes through working with others, dialogue, and a belonging; to a family or a group to some place we can be safe and be open to changes toward the new. Fourth, we need to be encouraged, to make wise choices, to be responsible to be encouraged to evolve. In other words we need to be rooted in order to produce good fruit and yet we need to feel free to take risk in order to give of ourselves. Fifth we must seek truth. We must abandon being closed up in illusion, dreams, ideologies and frightened of reality. We must accept ourselves as we are, get rid of shame, get rid of low self-esteem, accept our reality and build a future that is good for ourselves and others. We will be on this journey and must find a way to move through and discover our best selves. This is what we mean when we say we must be alive. We must understand that we must recognize the sacred, evolve, mature, encourage and be encouraged and seek the truth.

This is what we mean when we say we must be alive. We must understand that we must recognize the sacred, evolve, mature, encourage and be encouraged and seek the truth. Click To Tweet

When we journey and accept God into our lives we discover we are being transformed, these five principles give us a road map for the journey if we are able to recognize these principles exists in all of us. But to make the most out of the journey, to be the most alive we need to be transformed along the way. Transformation is the purpose of the spiritual life, it is the reason to be a disciple and follow of God. To be transformed turns our ordinary sleep walking life into a life fully alive, becoming children of the living God.

To be transformed turns our ordinary sleep walking life into a life fully alive, becoming children of the living God. Click To Tweet

Transformation depends on love. We need to be loved and to love. Love will come with pain and suffering but it will also bring joy and happiness. Anyone born who loves is born of God and knows God, because God is love. Being created in the image of God means we are love. It is the command of Jesus, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)

What is this love? What is a way we can talk about love and come to more than a “Hallmark card” understanding of love? First we must recognize that we can’t teach people love, we have to show them. People recognize love when they see it and they know when it is not present. Love can be seen in a number of qualities, we will list a few below.

Love is to reveal. When we love someone we reveal they are special, they are unique, they are beautiful, and their life has meaning. How do we reveal that “you are beautiful, you are special”? This revelation which is primary – which is not first of all revealing what is no good, revealing brokenness or judging people. No, it is a way of looking at people, of touching people, of listening to people, of being attentive to people and revealing they are special. Isn’t that how a mother loves her little child.

We reveal love through our eyes, hands and flesh. The Word became flesh, so our flesh can become the word of love. Through our flesh, through our eyes and hands, and listening and attention, we reveal to people we see them, they are noticed, they are loved. This cannot be some passing moment, this revelation is a revelation of faithfulness. It is recognizing a belonging. Somewhere we belong to each other. There is a relationship between us, a relationship of loving revelation.

Through our flesh, through our eyes and hands, and listening and attention, we reveal to people we see them, they are noticed, they are loved. Click To Tweet

Love is to understand. There are those who say that all people are either living out of guilt or living out of shame. Neither is good. Others say most Americans have low self-esteem. We are all living with some kind of pain or suffering. We see more and more acts of violence. We even recognize in ourselves a tendency to become angry or off balance by the smallest things, a bad driver, a lost item purchased, an insult or gesture. There is more offense taken by more people more often. We have come to a place where we can’t even talk to one another about politics, reality, truth. We are people who are suffering more and happy less. We must recognize the pain in other people and become understanding.

We are people who are suffering more and happy less. We must recognize the pain in other people and become understanding. Click To Tweet

There is the work of God that is needed in the center of these times of anger, pain or suffering. What is that work of God? That we may be transmitters of love. We may receive the love of Jesus and give the love of Jesus. This is the mission of all of us. It is the mission of every disciple and lover of Jesus. It is to receive the love, and to give the love. Each one of us, in some mysterious way, may manifest the presence of Jesus in our world – just by who we are and the way we are, and the way we are present to people, and particularly to people in pain.

Love is to celebrate. We must celebrate people. We must look at what people have done and we must applaud them. We must show the joy of their presence. Sure we have weakness and make mistakes but we also do good and have strengths. If we don’t tell one another how proud we are of them, how we are happy to know them, how we are grateful for them, they will never know. We are all dependent on someone to recognize us, to say I see what you did and it was good. Stop and celebrate with someone and tell them how good they are. Celebration is a sign of love. We are called to celebration, and to be celebrated. We are called to ecstasy. In our world and in our communities and in our faith, we are called to celebrate people.

Celebration is a sign of love. We are called to celebration, and to be celebrated. We are called to ecstasy. In our world and in our communities and in our faith, we are called to celebrate people. Click To Tweet

Love is to empower. To empower someone is to bring them to freedom – to the freedom that they can have. It is not to control, it is to help each person make choices. I cannot make a choice for you; you cannot make a choice for me. It is not just a question of doing things for people but helping them to do the things for themselves, to help them discover the meaning of their lives. As followers of Jesus we are called to help people to own their lives, each one according to their possibilities. Each one of us as disciples of Jesus is called to own our lives. And to choose to follow Jesus, to be loved and to love; to be men and women of the resurrection; to struggle through the powers of selfishness which engulf us so quickly. To love is to empower.

Love is forgiveness. We all need to be forgiven, there are times when we haven’t listened, or listened incorrectly. There are times when we haven’t revealed, understood, celebrated or empowered. We don’t always stop to see others, to try and discover what their life is like and how difficult their days may be or have become. We all carry within ourselves a certain brokenness, a shadow side, dark corners that we don’t want others to see. We are not always loving, attentive and nonviolent. We lose our temper, we say and do things we would not do if we had control one hundred percent of the time. One scripture scholar has said that about two thirds of the bible is about forgiveness in one way or another. We need to be forgiven and we need to be ready to forgive easily, daily, fully. God is a God of forgiveness and God even forgets. Without forgiveness all we will have is hate and mistrust. To love is to forgive and to ask for forgiveness.

To love is to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Without forgiveness all we will have is hate and mistrust. Click To Tweet

God is a God of the living and we must be fully alive to be seen as living by God. We need to depend on others and they depend on us. We need to love and we need to give love. To love we must reveal the beauty of others and let our beauty be seen. We must understand others, not judge or cut them off and we must allow ourselves to be understood. We must celebrate others, let them know we see their good and let others see our good to be celebrated. We must empower people, help them to discover the power in themselves and we must allow others to empower us. God is love and as children of the living God we too are love.

Be with him

Our God is a God of the living, we must accept the living God and be alive ourselves. We will be alive only if we are not asleep, if we are not walking through life unconscious, only if we are fully aware we are on a journey that is sacred, evolving, maturing, encouraging and truth seeking. We know these principles when we love and allow ourselves to be loved. We most imitate God of the living and become children of this living God when we love. To love is everything, but also we must allow ourselves to be loved. Many people are living but they are not alive. Be alive, be a child of the living God.

We most imitate God of the living and become children of this living God when we love. To love is everything, but also we must allow ourselves to be loved. Click To Tweet

 

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