John Angel James: Bring down heaven

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Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it. Luke 9:23-24

“The question is not merely what we can feel but what we can do for Christ; not how many tears we can shed, but how many sins we can mortify. Not what raptures we can experience, but what self-denial we can practice. Not what happy frames we can enjoy, but what holy duties we can perform. Not simply how much we can luxuriate at sermon or at sacrament, but how much we can exhibit of the mind of Jesus in our intercourse with our fellow men. Not only how far above earth we can rise to the bliss of heaven, but how much of the love and purity of heaven we can bring down to earth. In short, not how much of rapt feeling we can indulge, but how much of religious principle we can bring to bear on our whole conduct.”

John Angel James in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 126.

The idea of bringing heaven down to earth motivated by self-denial struck me. Without self-denial we cannot be followers of Jesus. And what is our mission? It is to do the will of the Father, which is to bring the love and purity of heaven to every situation on earth.

Take a moment to assess your self-denial and your social interaction? It’s humbling to admit that days like today, when I travel, I can fail to bring heaven to my social interaction. I’m focused on my work. Remember the religious leaders who by-passed the needy person in the Good Samaritan story?

When our Christian faith informs our giving, our self-denial helps us see the needs around us and shapes our whole conduct and interaction. Open our eyes to this, Father, so that we bring heaven down generously, and so we shift from “happy frames” to “holy duties.”