Category Archives: Christianity

Sunday Devotional: Love One Another

John 13:31-33a, 34-35

When Judas had left them, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him,
God will also glorify him in himself,
and God will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

Of all of Jesus’ apostles who had witnessed so many miracles, including the raising of three individuals (Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow at Nain) from the dead, St. John was the only one who stayed with their Lord and God during His persecution and sacrificial death on the cross.

In one of St. John’s most moving passages, he recounted what may be Jesus’ most important instruction to us:

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

This August will be the third year since I lost my husband. Not a day goes by without my missing him.

This is the biggest lesson I learnt from losing him: I regret our quarrels, my sometime impatience with him, and my failure to tell him with more frequency that I love him. I would give anything to have him, with all his imperfections and foibles, back for even a day. For no matter what accomplishments — professional, financial and personal — we may achieve in this life, in the last analysis and in the end, all that really matters is love.

So cherish your husband or wife, your friend or anyone whom you love.

Cherish every moment you have with them because the day will come when they are gone.

Revelation 21:1-5a

Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth.
The former heaven and the former earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more.
I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain,
for the old order has passed away.”

May the peace and love of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~E

Sunday Devotional: Jesus, the Good Shepherd

John 10:11-16, 27-30

Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd….
My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.

Jesus always spoke plainly and clearly, sometimes using stories (parables) and analogies to convey his message.

The above passage from John 10 is an example, in which Jesus described Himself as a “good shepherd” — an analogy that would be widely and easily understood by His audience.

During biblical times, families in the Middle East relied upon sheep to provide food, wool, and sheepskin. A shepherd during the time of the Old Testament was often, but not always, the youngest boy in the family until he grew older and could do harder manual labor.

That being said, being a shepherd was an important and onerous 24-7 responsibility because sheep were so valuable. The shepherd stayed and slept with their flock, day and night, and knew each one by name (“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.“).

The shepherd’s responsibilities included:

  • In early morning, the shepherd led his flock from the fold, marching at its head to a good pasture with plenty of food and slow-moving, easily accessible water. Guiding the flock of sheep to a good location was an extremely important task because good pastures kept the sheep healthy. If fed grass of poor quality, the sheep would be malnourished; if the water moved too quickly, the sheep would be too afraid to drink from it.
  • Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed. If a sheep eluded his watch and wandered away, the shepherd would look for the lost sheep until he found and brought it back.
  • To protect his flock, a shepherd typically carried a rod, a sturdy stick with a knob at one end and nails to make it a better weapon. The shepherd used his rod to protect his sheep from wild animals or other threats. For further protection, shepherds often carried a sling, comprised of a leather pouch on a string. Placing a stone in the pouch, a skilled shepherd could fling rocky projectiles over a good distance in order to scare off or wound wild animals.
  • At night, the shepherd brought the flock home to the fold, counting them to ensure that none were missing. Nor did his labors end with sunset because he must guard the fold through the night from attacks by wild beasts or thieves. (Sources: GotQuestions; Bible Dictionaries)

Not only is Jesus a good shepherd according to the criteria in biblical times, knowing each of us by name and caring for us 24-7. Not only does Jesus the good shepherd protect His flock from harm, He went above and beyond by laying down His life for us.

He also promises us that if we follow Him, when our mortal bodies perish, we will live on and have eternal life.

All He asks is that we be good people and follow ten rules and the greatest commandment — that of loving Him with our whole heart, our whole soul and our whole mind.

Why is that so difficult for so many of us?

I am reminded of French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous “wager” argument for believing in God — that we should wager that God exists because it is the best bet. From Pascal’s Pensées (bold emphasis supplied):

“God is, or He is not.” But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up… Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose… But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is… If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~E

Sunday Devotional: We must obey God rather than men

John 21:1, 4-9, 12-14

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again
to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias….
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread….
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32, 40b-41

When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders, did we not,
to stop teaching in that name?
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the apostles said in reply,
We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles
to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.

In my post of January 23, 2022, “Sunday Devotional: Faith, Evidence and Logic,” I made the case for Christian belief not based exclusively on faith, but also on empirical evidence and logical reasoning.

The empirical evidence for Christianity includes the testimonies of percipient witnesses. A “percipient witness” is defined by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary as “A witness who testifies about things she or he actually perceived. For example, an eyewitness.” Those testimonies are critical to the determination of truth in law.

In Jesus’ time when there were no technological devices to record empirical phenomena and events, percipient witnesses were particularly important in providing testimonials about truths.

The Apostles and disciples who were percipient witnesses of Jesus the Christ –some of whom were fed a breakfast of fish cooked by the resurrected Jesus, as recounted in the above passage from John 21 — were willing to die for they had seen and heard because, as recounted in the above passage from Acts 5, “We must obey God rather than men.”

This is how the Apostles were martyred, testifying to the truth they’d witnessed until their last breath:

  • St. Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity, was stoned to death in Jerusalem, c. AD 34.
  • St. James, son of Zebedee and brother of St. John the Apostle, was the first Apostle to be martyred. King Herod had St. James beheaded in 44 AD.
  • St. James, son of Alpheus, was reported by the Jewish historian Josephus to have been stoned and then clubbed to death in 62 AD.
  • St. Jude Thaddaeus was crucified in Syria, c. 65 AD.
  • St. Simon the Zealot ministered in Persia and was sawn in half, c. 65 AD after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.
  • St. Peter and St. Paul were both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. St. Paul was beheaded. St. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, because he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
  • St. Mark, a rope around his neck, was dragged to death in Alexandria, Egypt, in AD 68.
  • St. Thomas was pierced to death in India, 72 AD, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder.
  • St. Matthias, who was chosen to replace Judas, was burned to death in Syria, c. 80 AD.
  • St. Bartholomew (identified as Nathaniel in the Gospel of John) is believed to have been skinned alive and crucified. He ministered in India with St. Thomas, in Armenia, Ethiopia and Southern Arabia.
  • St. Philip was crucified in Hierapolis, Asia Minor, 80 AD, for converting the wife of a Roman proconsul. He also ministered in North Africa.
  • St. Andrew was crucified in Patras, Greece. He also preached in Asia Minor and modern-day Turkey. Christians in the former Soviet Union say he was the first to bring the Gospel to their land.
  • St. Matthew was beheaded in Ethiopia. He had also ministered in Persia.
  • St. John was the only Apostle who died a natural death from old age, after surviving an ordeal of being thrown into boiling oil. He was the leader of the church in Ephesus and is said to have taken care of Mary the mother of Jesus in his home. In mid-90s AD, he was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the last book of the New Testament–the Revelation.

Ask yourself this:

Why would the Apostles and countless Christians who followed, willingly be tortured and killed for a lie?

And would you, in our troubled time, be prepared at whatever costs to “obey God rather than men”?

May the love and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you, and remember to tell Him that you love Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with every ounce of your strength.

~E

Sunday Devotional: Although we have not seen Him we love Him

John 20:24-29

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him,
“We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side,
I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas,
“Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him,
“My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him,
“Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

In truth, there really is nothing so terribly wrong that the apostle Thomas professed his skepticism about the resurrection, insisting that he could not believe unless and until he himself saw the resurrected Christ. After all, God made us bodily and sensory creatures who rely on our (five) senses to navigate in this world and to determine truth and falsity.

But when Thomas did see Jesus, who had died on the cross but now came into the room through solid walls, Thomas instantly understood the import of the empirical and miraculous confirmation he had sought. Falling down before the resurrected Christ, Thomas proclaimed: “My Lord and my God!”

And yet, there are those who, despite seeing and witnessing miraculous phenomena that science cannot explain, still refuse to believe.

Among them were the Israelites who, led by Moses, witnessed and experienced the following miracles:

  1. The ten plagues of Egypt:
    • Water turned to blood (Exodus 7:14-25).
    • A plague of frogs (Exodus 8:2-14).
    • A plague of lice (Exodus 8:17-18).
    • A plague of flies (God sent “grievous” swarms of flies upon all the people and houses of Egypt, covering even the ground, except in the land of Goshen where the Israelites dwelled fly-free. –Exodus 8:20-24).
    • Murrain, an infectious disease, killed all of Egypt’s cattle (Exodus 9:3-6).
    • A plague of boils with blisters (Exodus 9:8-12).
    • Thunderstorm of hail (Exodus 9:13–35).
    • A plague of locusts covering all of Egypt, so that the land was darkened with them (Exodus 10:12-15).
    • A plague of of darkness “which may be felt” so that “they saw not one another” covering all of Egypt, but not the land of Goshen (Exodus 10:21).
    • Death of all first-born in a single night, which spared Israelite first-borns (Exodus 11:1-8; 12:29-30).
  2. The burning bush that was not consumed (Exodus 3:3).
  3. The cloud resting on the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 13:21-22; 33:9-10; 40:36).
  4. God appeared in the cloud (Exodus 16:10).
  5. Aaron’s rod changed into a serpent (Exodus 7:10-12).
  6. The parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31).
  7. The parting of the Jordan river near the city of Adam (Joshua 3:14-17).
  8. Manna (bread) from the sky (Exodus 16:14-18).
  9. Drinking water provided the Israelites:
    • Sweetening of the bitter waters of Marah (Exodus 15:23-25).
    • Water from the rock at Rephidim (Exodus 17:5-7).
    • Water from a rock in the desert (Numbers 20:7-11)
  10. Complainers consumed by fire at Taberah, which stopped in response to Moses’ prayer (Numbers 11:1-3).
  11. Enemies of Isralites consumed by fire, and swallowed by the earth (Numbers 16:35-45).
  12. Aaron’s rod “brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” at Kadesh (Numbers 17:1-11).
  13. The walls of Jericho fell down at God’s command (Joshua 6:6-20).
  14. The sun and moon stayed motionless (longer day) to enable the Israelites to win a crucial battle (Joshua 10:12-14).
  15. A mega hailstorm destroyed the Amorite army (Joshua 10:12-14).

Despite having personally seen and experienced the countless miracles, not only did the Israelites constantly doubt God, with tiresome repetition they periodically rebelled from God to worship false idols, that is, demons.

But God repeatedly forgave the Israelites.

Imagine, then, how much He loves us — who believe in Him although we haven’t witnessed the Israelites’ miracles nor seen or touched His wounds like doubting St. Thomas, yet we love Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and with all our strength.

1 Peter 1:8-9

Although you have not seen him you love him;
even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,
as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

So the next time you doubt or falter or despair, take heart.

He loves you very, very, very much.

So much that God Himself did this for you.

See also “Easter Sunday: The science of the miracle of the Resurrection

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you!

~E

Easter Sunday: The science of the miracle of the Resurrection

John 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

Below is a reconstruction of what happened from the book, The Truth About the Shroud of Turin (Regnery, 2010), pp. 189-191, by my friend Robert K. Wilcox. No matter how many times I read this, it never fails to move me to tears.

The tomb, a rocky chamber carved out of a hillside, a stone rolled against the door, is dark and silent. Lying on a slab is a long, rectangular cocoon, the hills and valleys of which are clearly the contours of a human body. The body of Jesus lies there, face up, a ribbon around the head and chin to keep the mouth closed, packed on all sides with bags of spices.

At some unknown moment in the dead of night, the air in the tomb becomes electric.

At first the vibrations are minute, the sort that could be detected by sensitive twentieth-century instruments; then they dramatically increase until they shake the ground and blow the boulder from the door.

A glow, faint at first, emanating from the shroud suddenly intensifies until rays of light shoot through the threads, star-filled golden rays filling the tomb and pouring out the door.

For thirty seconds — no more — the blinding, pulsating movement continues.

The source of the activity is the corpse, the body, somehow being revitalized, dematerialized, its mass being converted into energy, pure energy, which in the material world is radiant white light.

The body rises from the slab through the cloth, hovers for a moment in midair, then disappears.

The cocoon collapses. Darkness returns. Shouts of “Earthquake! Earthquake!” diminish as the guards run for their lives. And in the air, the distinct odor of scorched linen.

When dawn comes, the women in Jesus’ life draw tentatively toward the tomb, look in the opening, and see the shroud unopened, still wrapped, but definitely deflated. The body is gone. At sunrise the disciples come. John enters the tomb, puts his hand on the cloth, and presses it to the slab. Jesus is there no longer. The disciples and the women quickly gather up the burial garments — the chin band is still in the shroud — and the spice bags and leave before the Romans can return.

At another time, in another place, when they have a chance to gather their wits, they will discover the figure of their master imprinted on the inside of the shroud. The images would be faint, probably not as dark as the passage of time and exposure to air have made them; and the images would be negative ones, a phenomenon that would also become clearer with the passage of time. Regardless, they would view these images as holy — imprints of their precious Lord. The disciples would pay more attention to the images on the shroud if they weren’t already waiting, with the greatest anticipation, for Jesus himself, who, before his death, had promised to visit them after he rose from the dead.

Reconstruction of the face of the man in the Shroud

Scientists at Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) conducted a five-year study of the Shroud of Turin and concluded that the Shroud is not a fake. Their report, in Italian, is here.

Reporting for La Stampa, Dec. 12, 2011, Marco Tosatti quotes from the ENEA report (bold emphasis supplied):

The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining which is identical in all its facets, would be impossible to obtain today in a laboratory, as discussed in numerous articles listed in the references. This inability to repeat (and therefore falsify) the image on the Shroud makes it impossible to formulate a reliable hypothesis on how the impression was made.

In fact, today Science is still not able to explain how the body image was formed on the Shroud … the body image is not painted nor printed, nor obtained by heating….

The blood is human, and there is no image beneath the bloodstains; the gradient color contains three-dimensional information of the body; colored fibers (image) are more fragile than undyed fibers; surface staining of the fibrils of the image derive from an unknown process that caused oxidation, dehydration and conjugation in the structure of the cellulose of the linen….

[T]he origin of the Shroud image is still unknown…. [R]egardless of the age of the Shroud, whether it is medieval (1260 – 1390) as shown by the controversial dating by radiocarbon, or older as indicated by other investigations…the most important question…remains the same: how did that body image appear on the Shroud?….

There is no image beneath the blood stains. This means that the traces of blood deposited before the image was. Therefore, the image was formed after the corpse was laid down…. There are no signs of putrefaction near the orifices, which usually occur around 40 hours after death. Consequently, the image is not the result of putrefaction gases….

[The results of ENEA] show that a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation can color a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin, including shades of color, the surface color of the fibrils of the outer linen fabric, and the absence of fluorescence….

[I]t should be noted that the total power of VUV radiations required to instantly color the surface of linen that corresponds to a human of average height, body surface area equal to = 2000 MW/cm2 17000 cm2 = 34 thousand billion watts makes it impractical today to reproduce the entire Shroud image using a single laser excimer, since this power cannot be produced by any VUV light source built to date (the most powerful available on the market come to several billion watts ).

Edicule encasing the Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem occupies two of the holiest sites of Christianity:

  1. Where Jesus was crucified (“Calvary” or “Golgotha”).
  2. Jesus’s empty tomb, where His Body was placed and resurrected. The tomb is enclosed by an 18th-century shrine called the Edicule.

In 1809, during a partial opening of the Edicule by the architect Nikolaos Komnenos, a “sweet aroma” emanated from the tomb, the same “scent of sanctity” that often accompanies Marian apparitions and the tombs of some saints.

Most recently, in October 2016, scientists undertaking restoration work in the Edicule also smelled a “sweet aroma” when they removed the marble slab that covers the tomb. There were also electromagnetic disturbances: some of the measuring instruments used by the scientists, when placed vertically on the stone in which Christ’s body rested, either malfunctioned or ceased to work entirely.

According to the ENEA report, the image on the Shroud was left by “a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation” — stronger than could be created by any technology currently available to man. VUV is vacuum ultra-violet, a type of electromagnetic radiation.

Imagine how powerful the radiation burst of the Resurrection must have been to leave electromagnetic traces after more than 2,000 years, which were detected by those scientists restoring the Edicule in 2016.

Colossians 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

And so, whatever our troubles, however heavy the burdens that weigh on us, be joyous this Easter Sunday, for our Lord is risen!

~E

Sunday Funnies!

~E

Sunday Devotional: Live as Children of Light

Ephesians 5:8-14

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness
and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention
the things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”

Today’s reading reminds me of a feature in many near-death experiences (NDEs), which is that often, the experience begins with the individual seeing a bright (but not blinding) light. Sometimes, the individual encounters what is described as a “being of light” of great love.

In contrast are the few reports of unpleasant near-death experiences (few because, I suspect, those with such experiences are ashamed to report them), notably that of Bill Clinton who underwent a quadruple bypass cardiac surgery in September 2004. In an interview on ABC’s “Primetime Live,” he said that during his heart operation, “I saw, like, dark masks crushing, like, death masks being crushed, in series, and then I’d see these great circles of light and then, like, Hillary’s picture or Chelsea’s face would appear on the light, and then they’d fly off into the dark.” (Free Republic)

John 3:20-21

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light, 
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, 
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

May the peace and light of Jesus Christ, Our Lord be with you,

~E

Sunday Devotional: What the temptation of Jesus tells us

Luke 4:1-13

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered him,
“It is written, One does not live on bread alone.”
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
“I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It is written
            You shall worship the Lord, your God,
                        and him alone shall you serve.
Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
            He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
 and:
            With their hands they will support you,
            lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It also says,
            You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.

The account in Luke 4 of the temptation of Jesus in the desert is nothing short of fascinating.

What the account tells us is that:

  1. The devil wasn’t sure Jesus is the Second Person of the Triune Godhead (“If you are the Son of God“), and tried to trick Jesus to affirm and reveal His divinity. This means that the devil is not all-knowing. Only God is omniscient.
  2. That being said, the devil suspected Jesus is the Son of God. Imagine the outsized ego of this creature who had the chutzpah — the audacity — to tempt God Himself. That means none of us is spared being tempted.
  3. The devil is clever, and knows what buttons to push. Three times the devil tried to provoke Jesus into affirming His divinity — by performing a miracle (turn a stone into bread); by tempting Jesus with the promise of power and glory; and by goading Jesus to prove He is the Son by flinging Himself off the mountain. This means that the devil is an opportunist who uses his every wile to tempt us by exploiting our pride and vulnerabilities.
  4. The account in Luke 4 ends with this sentence: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” The devil never gives up and is constantly on the prowl. If he failed at tempting us this time, he will return to tempt us again, and again, and again. We must be vigilant — at all times and in all places and occasions, for our enemy is relentless and stops at nothing.

May the peace of Jesus Christ, Our Lord be with you.

-E

New evidence gives credence to life review in near-death experiences

1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Brothers and sisters:
When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility
and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality,
then the word that is written shall come about:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

Near-death experiences (NDEs) — events that take place as a person is dying or, in some cases, is already clinically dead — are compelling evidence that there is life after death.

People who have NDEs are called near-death experiencers (NDErs). Medical doctors and other researchers have examined this phenomenon in depth. An excellent book is Evidence of the Afterlife, by Jeffrey Long, M.D. (with Paul Perry).

Among the near-death experiences is the phenomenon of life review, when the  life of the dying person flashes before him/her, sometimes as a three-dimensional, panoramic review of everything significant that had happened in the NDEr’s life. From Evidence of the Afterlife, p. 110:

[The NDErs] view themselves from a third-person perspective. They watch themselves interacting with the people in their lives. They see how they treated others and often step into the other person’s place so they know how that person felt when interacting with them….

A spiritual being sometimes accompanies the person who is having the life review. This being may serve as a kind of loving guide…discussing the spiritual ramifications of the events of the NDEr’s life…help[ing] the NDEr put his or her life into perspective….

[L]ife reviews are often one of the most transformative elements of the NDE.

Now, we have scientific evidence of NDE life review.

Joe Pinkstone reports for The Telegraph, Feb. 23, 2022:

Our life may very well flash before our eyes when we are on the brink of death, according to the first recording of a dying brain.

The discovery was made when a patient died while having their brain activity monitored by experts. Electrodes detected an uptick in activity linked to memory recall and dreaming.

Experts believe this backs up reports and accounts from people who have suffered near-death experiences and claim to have seen their life flash before their eyes.

This is the first empirical data from an actual death to support the theory….

The individual who died was an 87-year-old man from Estonia who had been admitted to hospital after a fall.

He was sent for various scans that found a significant brain bleed and an operation was successful. Afterwards, the patient was stable for two days in intensive care.

But he then began to suffer from epileptic seizures, undergoing at least a dozen episodes, so the clinicians organised an EEG — electroencephalography — to help track and treat the haywire brain activity caused by the trauma.

While the EEG was still ongoing, the patient suffered a cardiac arrest and died, with the data being the first and only time the activity of a dying human brain has been recorded.

This gave the doctors and their colleagues a unique opportunity to study what happens in the brain as a person passes over the threshold from life to death.

They saw that at the time of death, brain activity was very similar to what happens when a person is meditating, dreaming, or reliving past memories….

While all brain waves began to dwindle, gamma accounted for a larger than normal percentage. Previous studies have found gamma waves to be responsible for some high-functioning processes and are intrinsically linked to concentrating, dreaming, memory retrieval and conscious perception.

Dr. Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville, who had studied this case, told Frontiers Science News: “Through generating oscillations involved in memory retrieval, the brain may be playing a last recall of important life events just before we die, similar to the ones reported in near-death experiences.”

~E

Sunday Devotional: Words of Wisdom

The Bible is not solely a religious opus. It also contains many words of wisdom — of sagacity, discernment, and insight.

Below are some examples from today’s readings.

Sirah 27:4-7

When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear;
so do one’s faults when one speaks.
As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace,
so in tribulation is the test of the just.
The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;
so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.
Praise no one before he speaks,
for it is then that people are tested.

Luke 6:39, 41-45

Jesus told his disciples a parable,
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?….
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.

A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Here are some more words of wisdom from the Bible:

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” -Proverbs 4:7

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

“Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” Proverbs 13:10

“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” -Proverbs 19:20

“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Proverbs 29:11

“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.” Job 28:28

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

“…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3

“The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.” Ecclesiastes 10:2

And lastly:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” -James 1:5

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, be with you!

~E