Father Jude-Mary talks about God’s promises and how we should always lean on them as we go through our everyday lives.
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Reflective Study Guide Questions
“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”Is. 49:15
1. Fr. Jude-Mary discusses many of the promises of Jesus that we find in Scripture. The first is the promise of Divine Omnipresence. This means that God is everywhere at all times. How can knowing that God is truly everywhere bring you comfort in times of desolation?
2. Another promise of Jesus found in Scripture is the promise of Divine Protection. In Scripture, Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd who will protect His sheep. What things do you most need protection from in your life right now?
3. Diving Strength is another promise of Jesus in the Scriptures. Though we know that God has promised to be our strength, our society often overemphasizes the importance of self-reliance. Do you ever fall into the trap of relying too much on your own strength? How can you work on relying on Divine Strength in your life?
4. Another promise of Jesus in the Scriptures is Divine Favor. Scripture illustrates for us what it truly means to be favored by God, in the lives of Jesus and Mary. They both suffered greatly on this earth, though they were favored by God. How can seeing the sufferings of Jesus and Mary in this light change the way you view your own sufferings?
Text: Resting in the Promises of Christ
Hi, my name is Reverend father, Jude-Mary Owoh O.P. I am a Dominican and the director of Dominican media. And I want to welcome you to today’s retreat. Our theme for today is the promises of Christ and I’ve identified seven of them.
God Will Never Forget You
I like to begin with a passage of scripture, Isaiah chapter 49, verse 15, it says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget. Yet I will not forget you.”
While it is extremely rare for a human mother to abandon her newborn baby. We know it is possible because it happens. I was once in a bus when a woman who came in with two children an infant and a little boy, probably four to five years old suddenly dropped with the infant and forgot the boy. She was probably having a bad day. It took my intervention for the bus driver to stop and reverse in order to unite to reunite the boy with his mother. While it is possible for an elderly parent, to forget their child, it is impossible for our Heavenly Father to forget us or to fail to fully love His children. And this is why we speak about the promises of God because God’s promise is for our good to make us better to help us achieve all that he has placed us in this world to do.
Almost everyone experiences times in life when they feel utterly alone and abandoned. I am sure you heard of incidents coming out of Nigeria where parishioners of St. Francis Xavier parish, Owo, in Ondo state were gunned down during the mass. Such situations can make fear and doubt begin to rise in our minds. Through the prophet, Isaiah, God makes a tremendous, comforting promise. You may feel completely forgotten by every human being in your life, but God will not forget you. Through the psalms, he also reassures us. “Even if my father and mother abandoned me the Lord will hold me close” Psalm 27 verse 10. It’s important that we Christians know the scriptures and write it in our hearts. In times of trouble and stress and despair, it is God’s promises that give us hope. The scriptures remind us that with our eyes fixed on Christ we can weather any storm that comes our way. Biblical stories assure us that God will never abandon us and that we will always welcome, he will always welcome us back into his loving arms.
Seven Promises by God
So here are seven more promises which God has made to us in the scriptures. They are drawn from both the both testaments of the scripture, and they show us that God’s words is the same in every generation.
The first is divine omnipresence. Omnipresence means that God is everywhere at the same time. God is distinct from the universe, but inhabits the entirety of it. Jesus says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age”, Matthew chapter 28, verse 20 in this passage the evangelist shows that God is always present. He’s with you when you are happy. He’s there when you are sad. He is close to you when you grow, when you go through difficulties and he’s is the cause of your joy. Divine omnipresence is twofold, by nature and by grace.
By nature, God is present in all things by essence, knowledge, and power. This is God’s presence in the things that share in His goodness, by His essence He’s substantially in all things including the created spiritual essences angels, demons human souls, as the immediate origin of their existence. By His knowledge, He exercises His wisdom directly in all creation down to the least detail. by His power. God operates with divine activity as the first course of everything that He creates.
By grace God is further present in the souls in whom He dwells as in a temple. The creature is joined as it were to God’s substance through the activity of mind and heart by faith cleaving to the first truth and by charity to the first good. He is therefore present by grace as the known to the knower as the known is in the knower. And the beloved is in the lover, is to the lover. This presence is more than a cause in an effect. It is the possession of God on Earth, similar to His being possessed by the angels and saints in heaven. So, God has shows us that He will never leave us. These are the words we hear in Deuteronomy chapter 31 verse six.
The second promise that God gives us is divine protection. Divine protection refers to God’s presence and spiritual provision for the welfare of human persons. This is so that no harm can come to their being spirit, soul and body. By his divine protection, God tell, takes away any obstacle to a person’s happy growth and divine fulfillment. Jesus says to us, I am the good shepherd John chapter 10 from verse 11 to 18. This means that He is always with us protecting, guiding and nourishing us with His presence and through the graces He makes available to us. How can we experience God’s presence today? Through prayer. By which we are placed face to face with God. Garrett Johnson once wrote, “Prayer then is nothing more and nothing less than placing ourself face to face with God. It offers us nothing more and nothing less than God Himself. He does indeed. Listen. He does indeed act. He does indeed transform us. He does indeed conquer this world.”
Another way to experience God is in the sacraments especially confession and the Holy Eucharist. We also encounter God and encounter His protection in the persons we are called to serve. And those we cater who cater to our needs, family, friends, colleagues, clients and so on. Saint Paul tells us that God will always protect you. Second Thessalonians chapter three, verse three The salmi says, “for He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” This is biblical proof of the presence and activities. This is biblically proven in the present and activities of our guardian angels.
One of my favorite night prayers is the prayers to Saint Michael Archangel. We can include it in our own prayers as well. And even when we go through bad times, He is there with us. He says, even though I walk, we always say with the Samist even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff. They comfort me.
The third promise that God makes to us is divine consolation. St. Paul says in second Corinthians chapter one, verse three “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord, Jesus Christ the father of mercies and the God of all consolation.” The God of all consolation in verses three to seven. Paul uses forms of the word consolation 10 times. He explains that this God of all consolation is the God who has known suffering from the inside in Jesus Christ and who does provides comfort for all who are afflicted and empowers them to console others. We are all experiencing the afflictions of COVID 19 in various ways. And we are all as situated in communities and in a world that is in deep, in deep need of consolation.
I wonder if we might, if we might follow Paul’s lead by lifting our eyes and the eyes of others away from ourselves to the God of all consolation who comes to us in our suffering and confusion the same root word that is translated as consolation in Second Corinthians chapter one is used in John’s gospel to describe the Holy Spirit. The comforter who abides in us, teaches us guides us into truth, gives us peace, and empowers us to join God in His work in the world. Jesus even goes as far as to say that it is for your advantage that I go away. For, if I do not go, the comforter will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John chapter 16, verse seven.
As Jesus finishes His work on earth, He promises to us comfort, consolation, and purpose through the Holy Spirit regardless of the adverse circumstances that may come. None of us expects to be in this situation. None of us thought we could need to be so concerned about our own health and the health of the vulnerable in our midst, no one foresaw such economic distress near and far as we have have today. None of us have answers to as to why these hardships and countless others in our current situations are occurring. However, as people of faith, we all have one thing. We know the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction.
My prayer for you today is that no matter what comes your way, you would know God’s comfort revealed in Jesus to a distressed world. You can come to Christ for a daily renewal of grace. He says, come to me all you who are burdened and weary and I will give you rest. May God strengthen you in every battle that you fight. These are the words of consolation from Isaiah chapter 40 verse 31, to which I say, Amen.
The fourth promise is divine strength. Self-reliance seems to be a virtue valued by society because we are taught that it is better to give to others than to take. But when taken too far, the negatives of this quality actually erodes our trust and relationship with other people, as well as our desire for God. In the Act of the Apostles, we learned how the members of the early church relied upon one another and became stronger because of this support. We are humbled when we rely on others and on God, but we are also brought closer together as a result.
In his famous prayer, Jabez calls out to God, asking, “Oh, that you may truly bless me and extend my boundaries. May your hand be with me and make me free of misfortune, without pain.” Jabez stands to God in prayer, showing strength and dependence on God. Dependence is synonymous with prayer. It requires humility, an acknowledgement that we need God to help us grow and become more like Him. First Peter chapter 5 verse 7 says, “Cast all your worries upon Him because He cares for you.” God wants us to ask for His blessings in prayer to strive for big goals and dreams, not to settle for mediocrity but in all we do, we are called to glorify God, the father just as Christ did on Earth.
So, beware of the schemes of the devil he tells, he looks to trap us, even in the good things we do. Jesus promises of protection as he did for St. Peter when he said, but I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail so that so when you have repented and turned to me again strengthen your brothers. There will be challenges and there will be challenging situations in your life every now and then, but be mindful of the words of St. Peter. God will give you the graces necessary to endure all sufferings. These are the words from second Corinthians, chapter 12, verse nine.
The fifth promise is divine mercy, forgiveness, divine mercy. One of the many blessings God has bestowed on us is divine mercy. All pattern of sin ultimately comes from Christ’s finished work on Calvary. But how is this pattern received by individuals? Did Christ leave us any means within the church to take away sin? The Bible says he gave us two means. The first is through the sacrament of baptism. Baptism was given to take away the sin inherited from Adam, original sin, and any sin we personally committed through bap, before baptism. For sins committed after baptism is different. A different sacrament is needed, and this is the second means of taking away sin. It has been called penance, confession, and reconciliation. Each word emphasizing one of its aspect. During his life Christ forgave sins.
As in the case of the woman caught in adultery and the woman who anointed his feet. He exercises this power in His human capacity as the Messiah, or son of man telling us, the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins, Matthew chapter nine, verse six. Which is why the gospel explains that God has given such authority to men. Since He would not always be with the church visibly, Christ gave His, this power to other men so that the church, which is the continuation of His presence throughout time, would be able to offer forgiveness to future generations. He gave his power to the apostles and it was a power that could be passed on to their successes and agents. Since the apostles, wouldn’t always be on earth either, but people would still have need for forgiveness of their sins.
God has sent Jesus to forgive sins but after his resurrection, Jesus told his disciples and his apostles as the father has sent me, even so I am sending you. And then he said this, as he said this, he breathed on them and said to them receive the Holy Spirit for whoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven. If you retain any sins, they are retained. John chapter 20 verse 21 to 23. This power was understood as coming from God. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciles us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Second Corinthians chapter five, verse 18. God is more willing to forgive you than you are to remain in your sins. Never turn away from the mercy of God. God will forgive you, even when you have seen against Him. First John chapter one verse nine.
The sixth promise is divine love. Sin is a constant human condition. It is all around us. It is inside us too. We are all sinners as the word of God tells us. Sometimes our sins are large like adultery and murder. Sometimes they are as small as a harsh word or a cutting glance, but they’re always there. We sense that things shouldn’t be this way and that there must have been a time when things were right in the world. And there was such a time. When God first made man, he made him perfect, able to live and love as he should. Free from sin and sin’s worst consequences, which is death. But our first parents turned away from God and the human race wasn’t, hasn’t been the same since. Sin is a violation of the will of the way things should be. A violation of fundamental law. That law was designed by God to make us happy. Think of how it would have been. If everyone in the world lived up to that law. Unfortunately, we all turn away from God’s law. In doing so, we turn away from Him. If we don’t come back to God, we will be separated from him forever. But we are caught in a cycle of sin. Try as we might, we can’t break free. Not on our own.
God has not abandoned us because God is love. He loves the world he made and he loves us broken though we are. God loves us so much that He sent His only son to become one of us and to save the human race. His son was born in the Virgin, of the, of the Virgin in the village of, in a village of Bethlehem. 2000 years ago. He grew up to become the most important person in history. Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Christ.
In His ministry, Jesus traveled the hills of Galilee and Judea. He taught the word of God, healed the sick gave sight to the blind, and even raise the dead. In every way, He demonstrates God’s love for us and His desire to heal us spiritually as well as physically. Jesus opens the way to us to have eternal our life. He says, a in new command I give you, love one another as I have loved you. So, you must love me and love. So, you, as I have loved you. So, you must also love one another. God will never stop loving you.
The seventh one is divine favor. If I told you of a man who enjoys the special favor of God whose life is pleasing to God, what kind of story would you expect to hear about this man? You might expect to hear a success story good health, great wealth, a loving wife, obedient children, public esteem, loyal friends, an exciting future, long life. Everything that is that the human heart longs for the scripture has a different idea of divine favor. On the day of Jesus’ baptism, a voice from heaven said you are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased. Other translations say on you my favor rest. And if we study Jesus’ life, we see that the favor of God really rests on him. And we see what it really means.
Divine favor is a privilege to share in God’s divine life to participate in the great redemptive work of God. Jesus is our prime example in this regard, He was born in a stable and died on a cross at a young age. He made a living as a carpenter, which means hard work. We can imagine his hands being calloused.
Then, when he left the carpenter’s shop, he became an itinerant preacher traveling the length and breath of Palestine on foot. Many nights, he slept outdoors. The ground was his bed and the sky was his roof. There were days when he was hungry and had nothing to eat but the grain that he could get from the heads of un unharvested wheat.
As far as we know, He owned no property. And for the last few years of His life, He had no steady income. By our modern standards, He would have been, He would’ve been considered a poor and unfortunate man. Not only was He poor, He was also misunderstood. His own people, rejected him. Some of them even thought He was out of His mind. And others caused him, accused him of conspiring with the devil. Then came the day when his Countryman cried in unison for his blood. And in that most critical hour His closes friends ran away and left Him to stand alone. You might be tempted to ask where is God’s favor in all of this?
The blessed Virgin Mary also enjoyed God’s favor. When the angel, Gabriel announced to her that she would conceive a a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. The angel said, do not be afraid, Mary for you have found favor with God. And yet we know that Mary what Mary experienced Joseph almost divorced her. She gave birth to her son in a stable. They had to escape to Egypt away from family. She became a widow and witnessed her son tortured and crucified. Once again, where is God’s favor in all of this?
Jesus and his mother, Mary are scriptural model of persons who are divinely favored. This should make us question what people hold today as models of favor. People think that if we have the right kind of faith in God then all our illnesses will be cured, all our bills will be paid, and all our relationships will be happy and harmonious. It did not work for Jesus and Mary. They trusted the father with their heart and were wholly devoted to doing God’s will but their lives were a life of hard work, poverty, social conflict, and finally cross. If we take them as an example, we can dismiss forever.
The notion that divine favor has anything to do with easy and luxurious living. Unfortunately, many people are deceived by what is called the prosperity gospel. Many people like to listen to preachers who live luxurious lives, who falsely teach prosperity theology that in essence says if a person is a Christian God’s promises to blesses to bless them, God promises to bless them with great health, wealth, and prosperity. This teaching is a great danger to those who believe it. What happens if that, what happens is that people come to God for what God can give them. The problem is God never promised us a life of riches, comfort, and abundant prosperity.
So, when people experience suffering, they feel as though God has failed them, false teachers, teach people teach what people want to hear, that will please them. So, they get more donations rather than share truths that may be hard to hear yet are needed for true freedom and salvation. The letter to the Hebrews chapter three 13 verse nine warns us do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.
When Jesus spoke of himself, He, it was always in terms of a serving and saving a mission. The great redemption, the great redemptive work of God leading people back to God. Scripture says that belief in Jesus means we receive his spirit and every spiritual blessing. Jesus says, peace I leave to you, my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid. He also says, in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world. This is why St. Paul would say, rejoice always give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
So, in all of these things that we hear, how are we supposed to appropriate the examples that Jesus gives us in order to really find God’s favor? We must learn that our life in Christ through baptism is not just a life of enjoyment. Like we, everything has been done for us. So we are passive. No, we have to daily work out this salvation in fear and trembling by serving other people. By knowing that by our lives, we touch other people. And of course, we may go through difficulties, but it is through these difficulties and challenges that we overcome.
So, my prayer for you is that we lean on this promises of God and understand just as Pope Benedict XVI would tell us, the world offers you comfort but you are not called for comfort. You’re not made for comfort; you are made for greatness. Greatness lies in relying on the promises of God.
Let us pray. Lord, you have called us to a life of union with you. You offer us protection, consolation, and strength love mercy and divine favor. May we never take these blessings for granted. Lead us to grow daily by living in you with you and for you. Amen. And may God bless you through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
About Rev. Fr. JudeMary Owoh, O.P
Rev. Fr. JudeMary Owoh, O.P celebrated his 8th priestly anniversary on the 19th of July. He is a member of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), of the province of St Joseph the Worker (Nigeria and Ghana). He is an associate parish priest and the Director of Dominican Media. He is a very active content creator for social media and television. His work for Dominican Media are curated on YouTube (“Dominican Media Presents”).