18 June 2019
2 Corinthians 8:1-9
Now here, brothers, is the news of the grace of God which was given in the churches in Macedonia; and of how, throughout great trials by suffering, their constant cheerfulness and their intense poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity. I can swear that they gave not only as much as they could afford, but far more, and quite spontaneously, begging and begging us for the favour of sharing in this service to the saints and, what was quite unexpected, they offered their own selves first to God and, under God, to us.
Because of this, we have asked Titus, since he has already made a beginning, to bring this work of mercy to the same point of success among you. You always have the most of everything – of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection – so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too. It is not an order that I am giving you; I am just testing the genuineness of your love against the keenness of others. Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
Pray for those who persecute you
To walk the talk of Jesus — that is what my heart desires, but my feet stumble. Often. Daily. Some days it seems all I do is stumble. C.S. Lewis has given me comfort in his words, “If we only have the will to walk, then God is pleased with our stumbles.” That is a quote I read every morning in my quiet time, and I know it helps me to get up again on the days I stumble, and even more so on the days that I am skipping along just fine in my flesh and end up on the ground.
It can be difficult to be kind and do the loving thing to/for those we love, and sometimes it feels impossible to be kind to those who are unkind to us. But as followers of Christ, we are called to do more than be kind. Jesus tells us to pray for, to love those who hate us. And the simplest and most common way to NOT follow Christ’s words is to focus on ourselves only. The world tells us we ‘deserve’ to be happy, that we should only do things that bring us happiness, that we have a right to be happy, a right to do what we want, a right to do WHATEVER we want. That’s actually the mantra of the pagan, ‘do whatever you want’, and it plays out quite loudly these days. The pagan way of life actually is the opposite of love; it tempts us into running away from Christ, and without even knowing it we stumble, and stay down in the stumble so long that we don’t even know we are on the ground crawling, dying, in the mud and muck.
I am grateful for the saints and all the holy men and women in scripture who have stumbled, from Adam and Eve to Mary Magdalene, to St. Peter to St. Thomas Aquinas, to Mother Teresa. They are our role models – and knowing they stumbled, some so deep into a pit it seems they should not have been able to recover, gives me hope. They stumbled and then they stood in humility, and asked for forgiveness.
If you’re like me, asking for forgiveness in the confessional can be difficult, embarrassing and filled with shame. But it is in confession that God is most pleased with our stumbles because it is a visible sign – to our selves – that we recognize our stumbling and we are asking for His help. We recognize there that we have been crawling when He has given us the ability to walk. And there He strengthens our legs and guides us on His path.
It is human to stumble.
Stumbling gracefully comes through daily prayer.
Stumbling into grace is a gift.
(Today’s Oxygen by Gina Ulicny)
Prayer: Father God, how we praise your name for the gifts you lay before us with every step we take. For the guidance you give us on our walk. Help us in our desire to walk with you every step, and are grateful for the times you carry us.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the gift of your grace that You allow us to fall into when we stumble. Thank you for the saints in our midst who help us to keep from stumbling, and thank you for your mercy and forgiveness that allows us to stand after each stumble.