A Branch Budding

Thank You, Dear Father Almighty, for bestowing Your grace upon me in more ways than I know. You have redeemed me, paid a price to set me free. Maybe you advertised the free gift by Your prevenient grace because I did have an undefined longing in my heart, but I freely chose to “check out the burning bush that was not consumed” set before me, the miracle of Jesus Christ about which I knew only slightly. As I ventured across the rocks and stones to approach the Burning Bush I said that if I found You I would give You the rest of my life. With great joy, I did find You. And I did give You the rest of my life, consecrating it to you in a human way perhaps.

It seems that I have not fully handed the title to me over to You thus far. My hand reaches to You with all the paperwork fully executed but I have not released my grip on them yet. You are far too kind to just pull it out of my hands, but I sense that Your hand is on the paperwork with another on my shoulder.

Today, with St. Michael the Archangel, on whose feast day I was born, standing by, and with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to whom I was consecrated as an infant I’m told, looking on approvingly, I completed the transaction with You Father Son and Holy Spirit, letting the paperwork loose from my grasp, giving up all right, title, and sovereignty of my life over to You. Now, Dear Father Almighty and Glorious, please stamp my heart and mind with your imprint as a permanent receipt for this transaction. For I need something constantly in my mind to remind me Whose I am. And I accept now that I am truly a Branch of the Cross of Christ Jesus. Praise you Dear Father God!

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Death of a Friend…

A dear friend of mine passed into the arms of Our Lord yesterday afternoon. I had been at his bedside in the morning, held his warm hand as he slept, prayed for him, and prayed for family members. He had been home from the hospital less than twenty-four hours when he passed. It was a shock to my system when I got the word early last evening. The joy of being at a birthday party with my grandchildren turned to sorrow for me as my mobile phone chirped and announced  the incoming  broadcast email.

 While Scripture indicates that two people have, indeed, not suffered physical death, Enoch and Elijah, all other available evidence tells us that we can all expect to die one day. Some are quick to say that death is a natural part of life. Sometimes hearing that gets translated in our minds as, “He died; get over it; move on.” As Christians we take comfort that we will be in the arms of Jesus when our bodies fail, as my friend is, and at some future point we will have new, immortal bodies in God’s eternal Kingdom. Sometimes that can be heard as, “Death was merciful. They’re not suffering and instead in a better place. Rejoice.” This comment does not abate the sense of loss and fragility. Life continues for those left behind but it is changed. People mean well by saying these things, and the Christian perspective is more than comforting. But I still grieve for my friend. We grieve when someone we know well dies. The closer our lives are entwined with the person the more we grieve.

Grieving is a healing mechanism God has built into us to properly heal the wounds of real loss. The grieving process is to our mental and spiritual restoration as our natural repair processes are to our bodies, the healing of a wound for example. Praise God for our tears of grief because they are a testament to our interconnectedness, our true caring for one another.

 Scripture tells us that death came into the world through sin, and sin entered through the weakness and disobedience of one man who succumbed to the wiles of the serpent, Satan. Death became normative for human beings, but I believe that it is not normal in the initial plan God had for his Kingdom. God has always wanted his people to believe in him, obey him, and love him above all else. But he knows that the pull of “Idol World” is very great. Only a portion of the seed falls on fertile soil. So instead of eliminating death by the death of Jesus Christ his Son, God destroyed the taste of death for those who believe and obey. By that belief we are no longer to have a fear of death. This was certainly true of the believers in the early church. St. Ignatius of Antioch is an example. He welcomed death, which he suffered at Rome having been fed to lions, holding the hope for a far better life after this one.

Those that loved my friend feared his death would come too soon; it would leave a big hole in our hearts where his animated connection to it lived. But we know by faith that he did not taste death. As he lay still in his bed and his body passed from life to death his spirit passed from life to life, life constrained to life eternal with God, in a kingdom of unlimited grace. Thank you Dear Jesus for your life, death, resurrection, and your Spirit with us. Thank you for the life of my friend who enriched mine for a time all too short.

 

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Foundation of this Blog…

Branches of the Cross was a vision given to me by Our Lord on June 10, 2001, during a regular Sunday church service. The following image is a crude rendition of what I saw.

Branches from the Cross of Christ

Branches of the Cross of Christ

Along with this vision came the command to be a branch of the cross. While there are many references to “branches” in Scripture, there were no phrases “branches of the cross”; so, I searched writings of the Early Church Fathers. I found a match in the letter of St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, in his first century letter to the Traillians (11:1). It says:

“Shun these wildlings, then, which bear but deadly fruit, and when one tastes it, he is outright doomed to die! Surely, such persons are not the planting of the Father. For if they were THEY WOULD APPEAR AS BRANCHES OF THE CROSS, and their fruit would be imperishable — the Cross through which by His Passion He calls you to Him, being members of His body.”

Much work, study, and prayer has gone into defining what a Branch of the Cross is and how Branches may gather for common support and teaching as true disciples of Jesus Christ. Now it is time to start presenting some of the materials in the hope that my thoughts will be refined and that readers might be enriched. May the Holy Spirit guide the process.

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