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Book of the Month: Schola Caritatis: Learning the Rhythms of God's Amazing Love

  Starting a new feature for the next several months called Book of the Month.  I will present one of my books and tell you a little of the ...

Saturday, May 27, 2023

were and will be

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’  At once they left their nets and followed him.”

They were fishermen, but they will be fishers of men.  God was calling them to leave behind what they were, in order to become who they really are.  It was a pretty abrupt departure from the life they had known and grown comfortable with.  Now they were being asked to move from proficiency to mystery.  They would have to leave behind a life and an identity they had grown accustomed to and familiar with, in order to step out into the great unknown.

But isn’t that always what life with Jesus is like?  Leaving behind the comfortable and familiar, in order to embrace a life of risky dependence.  Trading autonomy for obedience and control for surrender.  Saying goodbye to comfort and proficiency, since they cause us to stop short of the life God is beckoning toward, and saying an unreserved yes to Jesus, regardless of what that might mean. 

We might be tempted to try to convince ourselves that this calling was only for them, but it’s not.  It is for us as well.  These brave souls were willing to leave everything behind—their boats, their nets, and even their own father—in order to follow the call of Jesus.  Are we?

Friday, May 12, 2023

pure in heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)

Of all the beatitudes, this one seems the most inaccessible.  I mean, I know my own heart and how impure it really is.  Thus, purity of heart is only possible if God provides it; we can’t do it ourselves.  We are totally dependent on him.

A careful study of the word, however, might give us a hint as to how this takes place.  It’s what the saints called purgation.  The word pure, in the Greek, is katharos, which is an adjective meaning clean.  It is the word also used in John 15:3 to describe the results of pruning (kathairō), the verb associated with katharos.  Kathairō literally means to purge.  It is the process by which we are emptied, in order to be filled.  Thus, if we ever want to be filled with God’s purity, we must first allow the Spirit of God to purge us of our impurities.  In the words of a wise saint, “How can God possibly fill you if you are already full of yourself?  It’s like trying to pour into an already full cup.  You must first empty the cup.” 

So, instead of just trying to add purity to our hearts and lives, which is impossible for us to achieve on our own anyway, we should probably start (through the power of the Spirit) by emptying ourselves of all that is not God.  Then, and only then, can he fill us with himself, and his purity.  Then we will, indeed, be blessed.

In the words of Susan Annette Muto, “When we live the Beatitudes in and with the Lord, we become liberated persons in the fullest sense.  We follow the path of purgation until, with Jesus, we are filled with the peace of surrender to the Father and led by his Spirit to new depths of intimacy with the Indwelling Trinity.”


Closing Prayer: Purge me, Lord Jesus, of all that is not you, so that you can fill me with your life, your love, and your purity.

Thursday, May 11, 2023


“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Mt. 5:7)

So, if the merciful are blessed, how in the world do we become merciful?  It seems to me that it’s impossible to be merciful without first realizing how desperately we need mercy ourselves.  If we don’t think we need mercy, we probably aren’t going to be able to extend mercy.  But if we realize the depths of our own need, and are extended mercy ourselves, it makes it much more likely we will respond in kind.  I mean, how could one who has been granted mercy, withhold that mercy from others, right?  Receiving mercy changes us into merciful people.  So the way to become merciful is to bask in the mercy of God.

But we can only do that, it seems, by coming face to face with our own neediness and desperation.  As much as we would like for it not to, desperation plays a definite role in the equation.  Desperation leads to dependence, dependence leads to humility, and humility, in turn, leads to mercy.  Thus, increasing our desperation, increases our capacity to be merciful.  Once we have received mercy ourselves, it does something deep inside—it makes us merciful people. And blessed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

hungry and thirsty for righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mt. 5:6)

What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness?  The word for righteousness, in the Greek, is dikaiosynē.  It means the state of him who is as he ought to be.  Thus, to hunger and thirst for righteousness means to yearn for and long for and work for all things, people, and relationships to be as God intended them to be. 

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are agents of life and hope and change in this world.  They are the ones who are called and empowered to bring the hope and the healing and the wholeness of God into this dark and broken world.  They are the ones who are constantly working to help roll back the effects of the fall, by giving people a taste of the kingdom of God in the here and now.  They are ones who are called to live and to love as God intended.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023


“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Mt. 5:5:5)

Meek is not a word that’s used much these days.  And if it is, it is almost never used in a positive way.  Culturally speaking, being meek is seen as being a pushover, being weak, being spineless.  Which, in all honesty, is the exact opposite of what meekness is really all about. 

Meekness is about being humbly submissive, which is probably part of the problem.  Nobody wants to be submissive to anyone these days, particularly to God.  As a wise saint once said: “Meekness toward God is a disposition of spirit in which we accept his dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”  Thus, being submissive takes strength and courage and patience and wisdom and fortitude.  You have to have tons of backbone to be submissive; it is not easy.

Jesus knew that.  That’s why he said that the meek are blessed, because the meek are wise enough and strong enough and courageous enough to submit their plans and their agendas and their wills to the will of God—the one who made them.  The meek recognize the created order and the magnificence of the One who created them.  Their lives are about glorifying God, not about glorifying, or gratifying, themselves.

When we submit to God, we submit to the Spirit, instead of trying to be the Spirit.  We stop managing and controlling and hijacking and manufacturing and steering and directing, and we start listening and waiting and watching and praying and paying attention.  We stop trying to constantly grab the wheel and simply trust God instead.  We let God lead.  For the price of submitting is indeed high, but the price of non-submitting is higher still—our soul.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

blessed are

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3) 

The eyes of Jesus see what we cannot.  They see beneath the surface of things, to the very depths.  They see past the temporal, to the eternal.  They see the value in things and situations that we do not typically see as desirable.  That’s because Jesus is more concerned with our character than he is with our circumstances.

That’s why he can say that the poor in spirit are “blessed.”  In fact, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The poor in spirit are the last, the lowest, and the least.  They are the small, the hidden, and the quiet. The poor in spirit are the ones who are most open to God, because they need him so desperately.  It is the lowly and the meek and the humble and the needy and the inadequate whose hearts are most receptive to God, not the proud and the arrogant and the powerful and the self-sufficient.  It is in weakness that God’s strength comes shining through.  Poverty of spirit is the very best soil in which to grow the most beautiful things of God.

At times we are tempted to ask, “Where is God in the midst of loneliness and brokenness and marginalization?  Where is God in struggle and turmoil and weakness?  Where is God in disruption and disorientation and disturbance?”  But I think the better question is: “Where is God in success and attention and popularity?  Where is God in pride and adequacy and competence?  Which environment grows the better fruit of the Spirit within us?  Which makes us more loving and grateful and compassionate?  Which makes us more open and excited and receptive to receiving the kingdom of heaven?"

So, contrary to popular opinion, maybe the poor in spirit really are blessed after all.

Friday, May 5, 2023

reverent submission

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7)

Reverent submission involves seeing God for who he truly is and seeing ourselves for who we truly are.  It involves a deep recognition of his great power and our inherent powerlessness, of his immeasurable strength and immeasurable our weakness, of his supreme adequacy and our feeble inadequacy.  It is, in fact, an acknowledgement of our desperate dependence on him.

Reverent submission brings about a willingness to surrender our plans and our will and our way, in deference to his.  It makes us open to whatever God is doing, rather than us trying to determine what God is doing: no manufacturing, no steering, no managing, no hijacking, no controlling. 

Reverent submission is about obedience instead of autonomy.  It calls us to wait and to listen and to pray.  It asks us to watch and to wait and to pay attention.  It asks us to respond to God’s initiative, rather than always taking our own.

Help us, Lord Jesus, to be more and more like you.  Help us to always act in reverent submission, rather than in prideful arrogance.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

change me

O Lord, how I long to be different.  How I long to turn from my twisted and dysfunctional patterns and habits, in order to be more whole and holy.  I long to be set free from my own self-consumed ways of being and seeing, and to become more and more like you.  I long to be more loving instead of self-centered, I long to be more compassionate rather than competitive, and I long to care more about your will and your work than I do about my own.  

Continue, O God, to transform my heart.  Grow your grace in me and let it flow freely and effortlessly from my heart and life.  Change me from deep within. Give me more peace and less frustration.  Make me more rooted and less reactive.  Help me to be more caring and less annoyed.  

O Jesus, fill me so full of your love that there will be no room in me for anything else.