Friday, December 31, 2010

BLOG # 95 Christmas, an event to be lived

Blog # 95 Christmas, an event to be lived I have heard it said that one of the greatest dangers to a happy growing and lasting marriage relationship is for the partners to take one another for granted rather than daily discovering one another again and again ever more deeply as the years of their marriage go on. In a similar vein, years ago when I was teaching a class in marriage the class came up with this definition of fidelity in marriage : I will try to keep myself as attractive to you as when you first discovered me. This year it occurred to me to apply these insights relating to marriage to our celebration of the birth of Jesus. Trying to look back on it I imagined I first discovered Jesus as attractive about 80 years ago when I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs on a Christmas morning and found the Lionel trains were all set up on the parlor floor and presents were laid out around the room for everyone in the family. Now in 2010 for many of us the same beautiful artificial tree was taken in from the garage and set up in the parlor with the same strings of lights wrapped around it , the same decorations hung upon its limbs and the same beautiful angel presiding over it from its peak. All of this was good and made for a meaningful celebration in the family. Pictures were taken and stored with those of other years , and in a few happy weeks Christmas will be put away until next year. The decorations and parties yes, but let's not put the event of Christmas behind us. When a baby is born into a normal human family the event of the baby's birth is the beginning of an eternal relationship that is designed by God to grow and develop. So it should be with the birth of the divine Word of God on earth as Jesus, close to two thousand years ago in history and currently in our official personal liturgical celebration of Christmas in 2010. The baby Jesus will grow and live among us as God and as one of us, in our private prayers, our family prayer, and in our official public liturgical celebration of His life and love for us, again as we have known it before, and in new ways that are yet to be created this coming year. As with the case of a newly married couple, so that of another man and wife married fifty years, a power- laden and beautiful question they are entitled and called to ask of one another every day is how can I know you better and love you more. We Baptized believers are united to Jesus in a way He Himself described as branches on a vine. We share the life of that vine with the vine itself and with the other branches of the vine. Certainly we are entitled and called to ask of Jesus and one another how can I know you better and love you more. If this were to happen, the event of Christmas would not be put away in the garage.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blog #94 Advent notes

Blog #94 Advent notes Here are a few insights from my Advent notes that helped me as I read over them in these final hours of our countdown to our celebration of the birth of our Lord. 1. Faithfulness/Obedience After reflecting on how faithfulness and obedience are related I began to observe more closely how many illustrations of obedience and faithfulness were present all around me on any ordinary day of my life, how, for example in a simple cup of coffee or hot chocolate the flavor temperature color and 'willingness' to take the shape of the cup into which I poured it all presented me with an illustration of an 'experience' of perfect 'obedience' on the part of the coffee or the chocolate. It was as hot colorful and tasty as God wanted it to be. It would be similar with the example of a stone or a pebble, each perfectly marble, or granite perhaps, weighing so much, shaped in such a way, of such a color, always going down when I would drop is, bruising my toe if it were large enough and I were not careful enough, etc. These illustrations and reminders were not of course illustrations of virtues based in freedom, but they were an invitation to me, in my case where I do have freedom, to ask how I measure up in my freedom to the task I have day by day as a creature of God, and especially as a Baptized Christian to be faithful and obedient to God's plan for me. In that plan the Word of God came to earth to bring the power shared with us by faith and grace to be totally faithful and obedient. Thank You, Lord! Waiting. The liturgical year invites us to celebrate and thus to experience again the life death and Resurrection of Jesus. Like any life it is a process and comes in stages. There is a beginning and an end, a purpose, a goal. It is like tonight's desert which started as a pumpkin and now sits on the table as a pie. Or a basketball team which begins with a few tall athletic boys and this evening scores 92 points against LA. Or a choir that starts with a few people who like to sing and sings tonight in Carnegie Hall, New York City. Because the work of Jesus in us is a living process and develops in stages we are called in hope ever to grow in our likeness to Him. I find it helpful to be reminded of this so that I do not lose either hope or patience. Waiting thingss and experiences in my ordinary day remind me of growth, desire, planning, and preparation for the coming of Jesus in similar ways. Waiting things and people are already here and as the same time not yet in their completeness. My notes gave me these examples: A hose waiting to water the garden, a doorway or a gate waiting for someone to come, a "welcome Home" sign on the front porch waiting to be the first thing Joe will see when he comes home from the Army, an invitation to a birthday party, a hamburger on a grill, etc, etc, et. During Advent we are not just waiting for time to go by but for Jesus to come again, to be born among us, and begin to teach us this year how to love God as we should and love one another as He has loved us. It is an exciting time of hope and joy with a unique agenda for each of us. Lord Jesus, come and make our hearts Your Bethlehem!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

BLOG # 93 Advent 4, 2010

Blog # 93 Advent 4, 2010 If we imagine that a motion picture had been made of the universe from a beginning 5 billion years ago to today, and the film is shown in fast motion, speeded up so that the 5 billion-year-long run is crowded into two hours, the period from the time when the first aquatic vertebrates evolved to the present day would be just 9 1/2 minutes. The period roughly 500,000 years from the time of the earliest known chipped stone tools to the present would be a little more than a 1/2 second. If this 1/2 second of film were itself slowed down to run two hours, the period from the first domestication of animals and plants to the present would occupy the last 2 minutes, and the period between the time of Jesus and the present would take the last 29 seconds! From the time only God knows exactly how long ago, when God made the promise given in verse fifteen of Chapter three of the Book of Genesis to the first human creatures who were also the first to sin, all creation was waiting for the promise to be fulfilled, at first not even knowing for what they were waiting or perhaps that they were waiting at all. But in God's plan and promise ALL OF CREATION was indeed waiting for that plan and promise to be fulfilled. As the story progressed human creatures began to wonder, to be curious and to discover a need and desire within themselves of knowing the purpose and meaning of all that was going on within and around them. Profound issues such as suffering and death, joy, further sin, virtues , goodness, and love all invited them to ask questions. Gods were imagined worshipped loved praised and feared. A major breakthrough came when Abraham became the father of an IDENTIFIABLE PEOPLE who trusted and believed him as he had trusted and believed the God who revealed to him in a vision there was but ONE CREATOR OF ALL THAT EXISTS, all the time, space, beauty, power, ALL that is, was, or ever will be.

Then at the precise instant when Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary the WHOLE PICTURE changed. Jesus was born and matured as a member of this people of faith, the children of Abraham. After about thirty years of experiencing a normal human life and identified by his neighbors and friends as the son of a Jewish carpenter Jesus began to say and do things that the religious leaders around him held for God alone to say and do.

Jesus did not deny the accuracy of their observations about him. Rather he took the occasions of their complaining as an opportunity to proclaim himself to be the Promised One of Genesis, justifying his supernatural words and deeds by identifying them as his credentials to help them have faith in him as Emmanuel, not just another prophet but as God Himself come among us as one of us in the mystery of His humanity yet as ever and always in the mystery of His divinity the Eternal Word.

In his genuine identity and capacity as one of us Jesus had no awareness of the content of the first paragraph of this blog. In His divine Identity as the Eternal Word of God ,divinely united with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He was well aware of it. Looking back, the event of Christmas is rooted in the event of the Annunciation nine months ago on March 25. Looking ahead the event of Christmas will reach full maturity in the event of Good Friday April 22, 2011.

As the baby Jesus of Christmas grows in His human experiences He will learn to say "Before Abraham came to be, I AM". (jn 8: 58). And: "Philip, to see Me is to see the Father," (Jn 14: 8,9). And: "I and the Father are one." (Jn 10:30). And: "Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you." (Mt 11: 28).And : "This is how all will know you are my disciples: your love for one another." (Jn 13: 35). And : "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." ( Jn 15: 13). And, to Pilate: " You would have no power over me whatever unless it were given you from above." (Jn 19:11). And : " As the Father has sent me, so I send you." (Jn 20:21.

With these and similar texts in mind I hope to kneel before the manger again this Christmas in awe not at the authenticity of the figures in the crib but in the wonder of creation and my own life, waiting for further time color space and shapes into which God may call me in my 83rd year of life to discover and embrace the dramatic life and love of Emanuel, God-Among -us, which all and in a special way those Baptized into the life death and resurrection of Jesus as branches on a vine are invited to share and proclaim.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

BLOG # 92 Advent 3, 2010

Blog # 92 Advent 3, 2010 What would you think if you asked someone what he or she wanted Santa Claus to bring them for Christmas and the person answered "wisdom goodness and generosity"? You might feel frustrated if you had in mind to give the person some socks or a pair of gloves.

Situations like that do exist, I know, because that was my situation last Sunday morning. Then Sunday evening someone asked me if I would like to receive the gift of better hearing. I said yes, but if it were one or the other I would rather receive the gift of wisdom goodness and generosity than the gift of better hearing.

What is the background for my conviction that the gift of wisdom goodness and generosity is a better gift than the gift of better hearing? As you might expect, the conviction is rooted somewhere in the Bible.

First I looked up references to deafness in the Bible. As early as the book of Exodus (chapter four) we find Moses making excuses why God should get someone else to lead His people out of the slavery of Egypt. Moses claims he is handicapped in that he is "slow of speech and tongue". God sees no weight in Moses' excuse ( v. 10). "Who gives one man speech and makes another deaf and dumb? Or who gives sight and makes another blind? Is is not I, the Lord?" God takes full responsibility for who can see color and who can hear sound.

Sight and hearing are God's design. For those who hear and see, it is God's gift to them. This is true of all sight and of all hearing. They are gifts that are well designed. They are precious.

So precious are they, when God wanted to express the value and beauty of what God would do in sending a redeemer to bring His people back from sin, He inspired His prophets to use the image of healing the blind and the deaf to symbolize what would happen when those who believe would see and accept the will of the Lord and hear and understand His plan for creation and for eternity. (cf. Is. 29: 18 - 20; 35: 4,5).

Each day in our morning newspaper and each evening in our world news we see ample evidence of the fact there are many problems and much unhappiness and difficulties in our current world and in the lives of individuals near and far. God knows it all, better than we. "Who gives one man speech and makes another deaf and dumb?...Is it not I, the Lord?"

But physical deafness and physical blindness in the Bible are symbols of spiritual effects of sin. God has an answer for the problem of physical evil. We have to answer for sin. But even in the face and fact of sin God is present. In the very beginning when the first sin was made God promised to come to take it away. (Gen. 3: 15).

The promise was given again and again. It was clarified in various images of conquering physical evil as a sign of what would happen when sin was forgiven and freedom from it won. We have been using these promises in our Advent readings . ( Is 2: 1 - 5; 11: 1 - 10; 7, 10 - 14). Then at a certain moment of history all God's promises were fulfilled and given a personal name. Jesus was born. In Him all God's promises are fulfilled. He is the perfect YES to the Father's will, the perfect divine-human achievement of the Father's plan.

Jesus heals the blind and the deaf not so much so that people could hear sound and see color but that they would be touched by God and know God's power and love. The sounds and colors we see and hear are passing. The power and love of God are eternal. It takes wisdom to know this, goodness to accept it, and generoity to give it to others. That is why if I had the choice, I would rather receive the gift of wisdom goodness and generosity than the gift of better hearing.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this year may it be an occasion for us all to appreciate more clearly and deeply the identity of Jesus as the fulfillment of all God's promises, to each of us individually and to all of us throughout the world, promises of peace, justice,mercy, goodness, eternal happiness, and love. Only in Jesus are these promises perfectly fulfilled. United to Him they are fulfilled in us. That is the Father's plan. What tremendous wisdom, goodness, and generosity! It is the gift of Christmas! Come. Lord Jesus !

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BLOG # 91 Advent 2, 2010

Blog # 91 Advent 2, 2010 If one day this week while digging in the back yard I found a million dollars wrapped in a package, you could use some of it, right? Well, actually I found more than a million dollars, and I want to share it with you as we continue to prepare for Christmas. In the case of the million dollars I would have had to be digging, be able to recognize a dollar, and be able to count to a million in order to know what I had done and what had happened in my life. So with what I actually discovered. I needed to be looking searching working, open focused available and other possible descriptive words for the incident to happen. I would also have had to be able to recognize a value that was beyond sight sound touch taste and smell to recognize the value I had found. This is just as I would have had to recognize what money can buy to recognize what I had found if I had found a million dollars, in itself just paper but for someone who knows, a much more valuable reality than paper in the reality it represents and in what it has the power to accomplish. What I found was an egg. A gold egg? No, just an egg. I found it in a nest I had set up in a pen where I keep six chickens hatched out six months ago . I was happy to find it and took it into the house. The next morning I was preparing to have it for breakfast and I began to think about the whole incident while waiting for the egg to boil. What do you think I found when I cracked it open? Right, an egg, just like so many other eggs I had had for breakfast these many years of my life. But this egg, here in the season of preparing for the celebration of the birth of Jesus was beginning to be special. Size shape color texture and taste were very much the same as any egg. Egg white egg yolk right in the center. The same. The difference began to show IN MY RESPONSE to the egg. I began to ask what it really was, beyond what I saw, the why of it, and how it came to be. The egg was not in the nest yesterday and the mother hen was herself merely an egg six months ago. A perfect shape, the color of the yolk just right, the wonderful taste of a fresh egg. What all went into it was the question on my mind. Time, merely six months, corn earth water sunshine and grass all must have had something to do with my egg. But none of these nor all of them together could explain sufficiently the fact the egg was so much like all other eggs in size and shape color and taste. None of the chickens in that pen had ever laid eggs before this one. They could not have been the teacher. Who taught the mother hen how to make an egg? Yes, the corn and grass water and sunshine had something to do with it, but not all of it nor in themselves. To think there was not some reality beyond these would have been like receiving a package in the mail from someone who lives in Chicago and thinking it came merely from the local post office. So I let my mind be touched by God and began to imagine and praise the Designer, Gift-giver, Someone-Who-Loves-Me, Creator, Wisdom, Goodness, Presence, my God. I had discovered something far more valuable than a million dollars in that egg. Scripture texts began to come to mind. "Look to the birds of the air..." and to chickens. "The Father cares for much more you!" May you discover many 'eggs' in your life! May all that you call your own remind you of the Lord and call you to praise thanks and joy. May Jesus, God-Among-Us, the Father's Greatest Gift, be your teacher and your friend. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO HIM, in us ! Christmas, 1989.

Friday, November 26, 2010

BLOG # 90 Advent 1, 2010

Blog # 90 Advent 1 , 2010 From the very first Christmas after my ordination to the priesthood back in 1954, instead of just signing my name to a commercially printed Christmas greeting I would write a Christmas letter to my family and friends. Yesterday I began to read a few of them . I decided to read them during the four weeks of Advent to help me keep my focus on the feast of Christmas and grow in my awareness and appreciation of the meaning and power of this divine event in the history of the world presented in faith and celebrated again for us in 2010. Then I decided to share a few of them with you in hope they would be a source of blessing for you and they have been for me. 1. When was the most recent time you heard someone, including yourself, use the word 'wonderful' ? I hope it was today. But I have a feeling it might not have been even yesterday or the day before, or for ever-so-long. When was it? Can you remember? Yet here comes Christmas, and surely Christmas is wonderful. Isaiah the 'Christmas Prophet', tells us the child born to us, the Prince of Peace, shall be called wonderful. (9:6) What could this name, given the promised Messiah, mean to us unless we had experienced something wonderful in our lives so we could translate this experience into meaningfulness with regard to the name and identity of Jesus? Can you imagine a blind person receiving a red wool sweater for Christmas? For me the answer is 'yes' and 'no'. The experience might indeed be red and wool and a sweater but with no experience of color for the blind person it would not be experienced as red. In itself, yes, but for the blind person, no. For a sighted person, to open a Christmas gift of a red wool sweater in the dark would be a similar experience. This person has experienced the color red and could see the sweater as red but not so well in a darkened room and not at all in total darkness. The red sweater on a blind person would be just as beautiful in itself as it would be on a sighted person. And you could argue the red sweater would be just as red in the dark as in the light. But the sweaters would not be red and beautiful as red might be for the blind person or for the person looking at them in the dark. There is a parallel in our lives as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. Without sight there is no color for us. Without faith Christmas is at best something that happened in history two thousand years ago. And if we have never experienced something wonderful in our lives then Christmas can hardly be wonderful for us, and the name of Jesus cannot be wonderful for us. We are like the blind person over against the color red. Then too even though we have experienced something wonderful if we do not apply it personally to Christmas, Christmas can hardly be wonderful for us . We are like the person donning the red sweater in the dark. It might be warm and wool but less clearly red. Wonders never cease, thanks be to God. I wonder at the fact I came to be. I wonder at how light casts out darkness. Where does the darkness go? What happens to it when it disappears? I wonder at how a chicken produces an egg and how a cell phone works. Wonders never cease, thanks be to God's love. May you experience many wonderful persons and wonderful things every day of your life . And as we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, GOD-AMONG-US, may we share together this wonderful gift from our wonderful God, and may the experience make each of us the wonderful person God loves us to be, united with Jesus the Wonderful One as branches on a wonderful living vine the Church! (John 15: 5 ; Col 1: 24 ).

BLOG # 89 Thanksgiving Day

Blog #89 Thanksgiving Day It is the day after Thanksgiving. Dear Lord, I want to write this blog in the form of a prayer. I think, rejoicing, of the many of my fellow-Americans who gathered about bounteous tables yesterday and gave thanks to You for Your many and rich gifts to us as individuals families civic communities and as a nation. Some of course do not claim a faith in You. They would eat their festive meal in special Joy and gratitude to one another but not in Your name. I thank You for all You offered and gave to people who do not believe in You and do not have You as their Creator and their friend. For all that may have been overlooked or forgotten in the list of things and people for and for whom we who believe in You were thankful, Lord, I express thanks to You now. For the phone conversations that brought people who love one another together even though they were miles apart, I thank You. For all who held hands in the affection of family and friendship, for all who said "I love you" and for all the joy and excitement these words brought to human hearts, and, if we could use the expression, to Your Own Heart, I thank You. For all the memories of thanksgiving celebrations in the past and for those that were not remembered but which nevertheless were real,I thank You. For the number of smiles that appeared on the lips of people who live in nurseing homes throughout the nation as a result of a visit from a friend or loved one telling them by their presence and perhaps with a few cookies or a flower they are loved and there is a God, I thank You. For all the miles of American roads and for all the cars vans and trailer homes that brought families together to express enjoy and develop their love for one another, I thank You, Lord. Who but You, O Lord, could know the number of turkeys apples nuts onions string beans pies and TV programs we enjoyed here in America yesterday? And so, in the light of the fact that You are really the only one who could and does know all that You gave and all that we received, I sum it all up and include it all when I thank You, Lord, for Yourself! Amen!

Friday, November 5, 2010


Blog # 88 THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS A symbol is a tool we have devised or discovered that expresses a reality that is beyond or greater than itself, similarly to the way a sign works. For example a nation's flag expresses a nations' history, physical expanse, a people's dreams and achievements, etc. and a warm handshake or embrace expresses a welcome and friendship. There is always more to a symbol than its physical expression. Throughout our human history we have learned to make use of symbols to express various aspects of our relationship with God our Creator. Bowed head and closed eyes can be a symbol of our desire to close off distractions and give our minds more attentively to prayer. The posture of kneeling can symbolize our humility before God and our desire to be submissive to God's will. Our fundamental and all-pervasive relationship with God our Creator was expressed by Jesus in His answer to the question of the lawyer who asked Jesus what was the most important of all the Commandments. Jesus answered that we must love God above all else, totally, unconditionally. We were created and designed for this and in this love we find genuine happiness and everlasting peace. Though our love of God can be expressed or symbolized in various ways and at various times through prayer, spiritual and physical fasting, acts of love for one another, granting and receiving forgiveness etc., none of these symbols of our love express our total love totally, in themselves. The unique symbol that does precisely this, designed by God for this very purpose of expressing our total love totally in itself is SACRIFICE. We find the reason this is true in our insight into love as self-giving. The more we love the more we give. The implication is there are degrees of love. The insight of Jesus in John 15:23 comes to mind: "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for a friend." Until the very last conscious instant of our lives we have something more to give, that very conscious instant. In other words only in death can we experience the perfect love Jesus spoke of in John. That is the love that is symbolized in sacrifice, establishing the victim or whatever it is that is offered in place of the one who offers the sacrifice, as the sign of that person's total love. Next it is important to identify the multiple sacrifices legislated by Yahweh for His faithful believers as recorded in the Old Testament in the same definition of sacrifice we apply to the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary: an offering to God alone of some material thing by an official representative of the people, with the change or destruction of what is offered in recognition and response in total unconditional obedient love to God's supreme dominion and our complete dependence upon God. When we relate the experience of Jesus at the Last Supper with that of Jesus on the Cross and consequently the experience of Jesus in the Mass with that of Jesus on the Cross we find the basic definition of sacrifice verified in all of these instances. However the sacrifice of Calvary is so different from all the rest it can be put into its own category. God's eternal infinite wisdom and goodness is to be found in the whole plan of creation and in the question of authentic worship, from the design and definition of the sacrifices legislated for the people before the coming of Jesus right up to our current experience of the Eucharistic Sacrifice in our Catholic churches around the world today. The sacrifices of the Old Testament had to be repeated day by day not because the definition of sacrifice was not satisfied in them and the killing of a victim or the pouring out of wine was not a valid symbol of the total obedient love of those who participated in the offering of the sacrifices, but because of the limited nature of the human love that was offered. Of necessity, by its nature, as pleasing to God and experienced in obedience to God's will as it was, it was a human and therefore a limited love. That love was the only love the people possessed, the only love they had available to them to symbolize in their acts of sacrifice. Then when the time was ripe, beyond our wildest imagination, the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God came to be. Jesus,the Word of God, eternally one with the Father, that is with no beginning or end yet equal to us, human as we in all but sin, brought a new love to earth, a divine love in a human heart. That human-divine love was the love with which Jesus died on the Cross. Here are some considerations that will help us understand what this means and make application of it to our understanding of the true real presence and action of Jesus in the Mass: As a human being every conscious thought word or act I perform is accomplished in my body but is actually done by me personally. In other words I use my body for all I think and say and do but I personally am the thinker the speaker and the actor. Applying this to the Crucifixion, the Last Supper, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, we have Jesus as the main actor. We firmly believe the Eternal Word of God became incarnate in our human nature and was given the name Jesus. As we personally go about our lives making use of our human bodies, so Jesus, PERSONALLY IDENTIFIED AS THE ETERNAL WORD OF GOD INCARNATE made use of his humanity. Jesus is not identified as a different person from the Word Incarnate. Because of the limitations of our created personhood all of our thoughts words and acts are limited. However, and this is a key insight into our discussion, in the case of Jesus, all that he thought said and did , including His choices and therefore His love, were both human and divine in the light and truth of the Incarnation of the Word in Jesus. Jesus always did the will of the Father. When it was the will of the Father that Jesus raise the dead or cure a leper it was the Word of God that obeyed divinely. When it was the will of the Father that Jesus walked from Jerusalem to Jericho it was the Word of God that obeyed humanly. There were not two persons in Jesus, one human called Jesus and one divine called the Eternal Word. That is an important insight to keep in mind in our present discussion. The death of Jesus on the Cross seen as His total obedient love for the Father can be found or identified in the definition of sacrifice. Sacrifice is motivated by love and is an expression of love. The total love expressed on the Cross was not the love of two persons one known as the Word of God and one called Jesus, the love of Jesus and not the love of the Word or the love of the Word and not the love of Jesus. Jesus is the Word Incarnate , one divine person, one with the Father, one with the Spirit, yet one with us in his true historical humanity. The love on the Cross with which Jesus loved the Father and offered the Father in our name according to the Father's will, was divine as well as human. This sets it apart from all other sacrifices. The blood and wounds, t he sweat and the mockery of the crowd, the beatings and the physical death all go to make a symbol of the love Jesus was experiencing and offering to the Father on the Cross. This was a symbol because it was the human side of the Crucifixion and in the limits of anything human there is always more to come, something further to which it points. The divine side of the crucifixion, the love of the person of Jesus was divine, complete, unlimited, eternal,incapable of being symbolized because there is and could not be any love greater than it, the total love of God's Eternal Word on earth, total always, everywhere beyond our comprehension, divine. You cannot symbolize a ten dollar bill with a ten dollar bill, nor the moon with the moon. Each is a ten dollar bill or the moon. A symbol points to something beyond itself. A ten dollar bill and the moon point to themselves and stop there. Applying all of this, ( if you are still with me ! ) to the Last Supper and to the Sacrifice of the Mass we continue. The actual historical blood and sweat the beatings and the mocking of the crowd on Calvary as symbols of the divine love of Jesus are not repeated in the experience of the Last Supper and the Mass, but the divine love of God for God in Jesus is present in the experience of the Upper Room and in the Mass. This love is the infinite total divine love offered on Calvary. Total and infinite, it cannot be symbolized and it cannot be repeated. And so it was not only fitting but absolutely necessary for Jesus to say not this bread and this wine symbolizes my body given for you and poured out for you, but this IS my body, this IS my blood. No symbols here. Just appearances. If we believe Jesus they will not deceive us. O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, may You be adored loved and glorified every moment in all the tabernacles throughout the world. May the Love You give the Father and offer us in the Eucharistic sacrifice become a source of light and power among all people who profess a faith in you for us to be united with You in the living unity of Your Body, the Church, the unity for which You prayed the night before You died for the Father's glory and for us. Amen.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Blog 87 Total Unconditional Love Even in the response of limited praise and thanks that is due to fellow human beings who have helped and blessed us in one way or another we have learned to make use of symbols. Words of thanks and praise, greeting cards, the invitation to a meal together, and other gifts are all ways we know and make use of to express our love for those around us. These limited expressions of our love do not, however, capture the totality of our love. There is generally more in our minds and hearts than can be expressed in words or gestures. As a result they become SYMBOLS of the total depth and breadth of the love we have and wish to convey. We may read the message on several of the greeting cards that are available on the rack before we hit upon the one we feel comes closest to the particular love we have in mind and are seeking to express. Which is the best symbol of our love is the question we answer in the choice we make of a particular card. If in the case of our response to a limited love that has been given us by a fellow human being we can experience the meaning, use, and need of symbols, it should be easy for us to appreciate the need for symbols in the case of our necessarily limited response to God's divine love. From the very beginning of the story of humanity in the book of Genesis we find the act of SACRIFICE identified as the symbol uniquely fitted and worthy to express our love for God THE CREATOR OF ALL. The unique love we have for God our Creator is called worship. The official universal symbol we use to express our worship is called sacrifice. Sacrifice in its strict sense is defined as an offering to God alone of some material thing by an official representative of the people with the change or destruction of what is offered in order to recognize and respond in total unconditional obedient love to God's supreme dominion and our complete dependence upon God. It would do us well to memorize and take that definition with us when we go to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The stories of Cain and Abel, of Noah, and the tribe of Levi all relate to worship and sacrifice. Laws from God for His people gave intricate details as to how when where and by whom various ritual sacrifices were to be offered. Then the letter to the Hebrews clearly and forcefully identifies JESUS as our great high PRIEST, officially appointed and sent by the Father as THE SOLE REPRESENTATIVE of ALL PEOPLE in the work of salvation, and sees HIS DEATH on Calvary as an ACT OF SACRIFICE . Others looking on may have seen his death as a tragedy, as the death of a man being killed, but for Jesus it was an act of "laying down" His life in an act of perfect obedient love, "that the world may know I love the Father". How is it that the act of sacrifice is the most perfect symbol of our total unconditional love for God? We will consider that question in Blog # 88.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blog # 86 A Unique Part of the Whole

Blog # 86 A Unique Part of the Whole As I typed this I found myself wishing I could be with you when you would be reading it. Your comments and questions would be helpful to me I know. Thoughts and insights feelings and responses we could share would be enriching. Then I realized a wish like that could be an example of the enemy. To harbor a wish for something we know just cannot be is to spend time and energy unprofitably and give the enemy power. Such a wish for me would illustrate something that could contradict and weaken the very point I had in sharing the article with you. What I had in mind when I saw the article as something that could be useful to you, was the reminder it gave that ALL of us have been created by God INDIVIDUALLY and that we ALL are called and prvileged to co-create with God something unique that is destined to make at least some difference in the whole world. Any one of you might be tempted to think this 'something' could be yours in some other place, at some other time. But in reality, whenever we stop to think of it, wherever we are, now is the time and here is the place. So the task is not to ask when or where. That is settled for the time being. The task is rather to IDENTIFY and CHOOSE the SOMETHING that is OURS to make, co-create, sing, dance, think, say, believe, proclaim, share, write home about, celebrate, and 'stick on the refrigerator of the world'. As I know from my own experience and as you may know from yours, this isn't always easy to do. We may at times not see ourselves as important to the world. Yet we are. God did not make us by mistake. We did not get into the world by slipping through a crack. Every one of us is likely to have stuff in our backgrounds we wish did not occur. Yet none of us is big enough or strong enough to interfere with God's love and plan for us in the present and the future. In fact all of it is part of that love and that plan. Romans 8: 35 - 39 puts it this way: "Who will separate s from the love of Christ? Trial, distress, persecution...? For I am certain that neither death nor life,...nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, Our Lord." So the time and place for each of us to be creating our eternal personal unique glorious name is here and now. In other words everywhere and always. And there are no excuses we can bring out of the closets of our lives. God knows it all and desires to love us still. I find it helpful and encouraging to keep myself aware God needs nothing I might do for Him or give Him. All already belongs to God The big thing is not so much what we accomplish but our relationship with God and through that relationship our relationship with one another. (cf Mark 12: 28 - 31). We keep ourselves aware of our relationship with God and one another primarily through prayer. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a great example for us here. Small things done well. We can love God and one another with a broom in our hands! God and I did it together. Then that goes 'on the refrigerator'. It helps as well to realize somebody cares about what we are doing. God cares enough to send His Son. (cf John 2: 16). And others care too. I do. I pray for each of you each day and feel happy and privileged to know you and to know we are striving together, miles apart but one in the Holy Spirit to co- create something worthy of God's eternal love. ......................................................................................................................................................................... What you just read is a copy of a letter I sent several years ago to inmates I knew in the Georgia State Prison for women at Davisboro. In reading it over I found it useful to myself still. I hope you will find it so. . In any case please take a moment and make a prayer for the ladies who first received it. Some of them are still in prison. Thanks!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

BLOG # 85 Five Words - Our Life

Blog #85 Five Words - Our Life Several years ago it occurred to me that we could sum up our Christian experience in just five significant words. They are: 1. FORMED. 2 INFORMED. 3. DEFORMED, 4. REFORMED, and 5.TRANSFORMED. I don't know who the oldest person on earth is right now, but we can be sure there was a time in the really not too distant past when none of us existed. We came to be. By God's desire and design we were formed. At the time of our birth we knew very little. As the years went on we grew in knowledge. We had to learn many things we now know very well and take for granted, how to walk, talk, run. play, and work. Some people received the gift of faith, which is a special kind of knowledge. We who believe in Jesus received a special kind of faith which tells us many things about the world ourselves and God. We are informed by our faith in Jesus. He is our teacher, teaching us about important questions like where the world came from, the meaning and goal of our lives, and how we are to live in order to please God, be a blessing to those around us, and be happy. Sometimes we live out our faith and do and say what we know is right. Sometimes we don't. That is when the design and plan and love God desires to have for us is sort of bruised or broken. The beautiful person God wants us to be in deformed. But God is so much in love with us that his love does not stop there. God never goes looking for someone else in place of us. When we realize this we come back to Him. God forgives, We are reformed. But even that is not the end of it. Jesus brought a gift from Heaven that no one else before Him ever even dreamed of. It is the gift of God's own life, shared with us in our own unique human way, through (Jn 14:6; 1 Tim 2: 5), with (Mt 28:20), and in ( Jn 15: 4 - 7) Jesus. Talking to Nicodemus Jesus identified this gift in terms of being "born from above", or "again" as some versions of the text have it. (Jn 3: 11). Other texts throw light on this one: 1 Jn 3: 1 "See what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God! Yet that is what we are". And 2 Cor 5: 17: "If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation!" In Christ, through faith and Baptism we are transformed. These thoughts and texts deserve more space and time than we are giving them here, but I thought it would be good to focus them with you and hope that will incline you to discover more of their richness power and possible impact on your life. Images come to mind for the key words. ALL of creation is FORMED by God. The image of God as the DESIGNER and OWNER OF ALL comes to mind. Following a process through which we pass from being informed by faith, deformed by sin, and reformed through forgiveness, we Christians are transformed. We are not merely made into better men and women. Rather, we are "born from above" as children of God in a definite and real way though, with, and in Jesus. Through Jesus our BRIDGE, with Jesus our FRIEND, COMPANION AND HELPER. and in Jesus our LIFE. Wow! What a story that is. And it is offered free to all who believe.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blog # 84 JESUS NOW

BLOG # 84 JESUS NOW Long ago and far away. Those words seem rather innocent, and yet in religion they are some of the most dangerous. "Long ago and far away" are words of joy when spoken of the measles back in Brooklyn seventy six years ago. Long ago and far away. Thanks be to God! Jesus. Jerusalem. Long ago and far away. There is the danger! The RISEN Jesus is the timeless man, and Jerusalem is the world. We do not know Him if we do not know Him PERSONALLY here and now. For Christian people, wherever there is praise and thanksgiving to the Father, wherever there is forgiveness , wherever there is true fellowship and brotherhood, wherever there is hope for eternal life, there is the presence of Jesus living among us by His Spirit, blessing us with joy and giving us strength. By faith Jesus steps out of history and lives with us today. He calls us to the newness and development of tomorrow. Faith is knowledge. But the knowledge of faith must be received, handed down, given. " comes by hearing..." ( Rom 10: 17). We need a witness, someone who speaks to us and reveals to us something that otherwise we would not know. Jesus in the prime witness to the Father's life and love. Jesus knew the Father by experience and He became a witness to the Father by His life and words. Jesus testified that the Father loves all people and wants all to be happy forever. Christians down through the ages have gone to all corners of the world sharng the knowledge they had by faith of the message of Jesus. Jesus Himself was in California when Junipero Serra limped through desert heat telling the people of the Father's love and they were brothers and sisters in Jesus. "I am with you always..." One night many years ago, while I was driving home from visiting a very poor family in rural Georgia the thought occurred to me: "you say God loves all people and wants us to be happy. What does that mean to those four small children whose father is too sick to hold down a job and whose mother is retarded?" The trip home was 38 miles, several of them over dirt roads. I had an hour to stuggle with the answer to that question. Before I parked the car in front of the church I was well aware of the danger and betrayal in regarding Jesus as a person who lived in the "long ago and far away". It is His will that we be for one another His living presence, His energy,consolation, and love. When I went back and forth to encourage and help that family grow lettuce and vegetables for a balanced diet, brought them food and clothing, helped return a used TV they had bought for a house that did not have electricity, and assisted in finding a job for the father, it was really Jesus doing all of his in the here and now. May your heart and mine be ever faithful kind and generous enough to make Jesus present in our everyday experience of life.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Blog # 82 PRAY ALWAYS "... never cease praying..., ; such is God' s will for you in Christ Jesus." Those words come from St. Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 5 verse 17. The words "never cease praying" could just as well have been given as "pray always". What could Paul have intended to say when he told the Thessalonians to pray always? Every day? No, that is not always. Almost always? No. The only thing always means if you take it literally is always. Taken in this sense it would seem that Paul is suggesting something that would clearly be impossible even to hope for let alone accomplish. In this sense I cannot imagine a monk or a cloistered nun praying always. What could it mean for a neurosurgeon in the midst of a delicate brain operation that requires every bit of concentration he can muster on the surgery in which he is engaged? It would be an immoral act for a person to be driving along a crowded highway at sixty-five miles an hour with one hand on the wheel and the other holding an open prayer book. Without changing the literal meaning of the word always, the solution comes in the meaning we have for the words to pray. The classic definition of prayer is a lifting up of our mind and heart to God to praise Him, to thank Him, to express repentance for our sins, and to ask His blessing on our life. For many people this lifting up of our minds and hearts is primarily if not exclusively expressed in words. Even to think in terms of words takes time and it would indeed be impossible to pray always if prayer were available only in terms of words or thoughts. An alternative concept of prayer could be formulated by understanding it as living in the Presence of God. Since God is our Creator always and everywhere, this notion of prayer can be realized at all times and wherever we may be. So, however, only if we will it. Logically therefore the best time to guarantee that we will be personally by choice living in the Presence of God all day long is to begin the day by choosing to do so. In the practical order this will mean before the first cup of coffee or the first of any other act but the act of making this choice. Years ago in order to put all of this into practice I formed the habit of imitating Jesus in the way I learned from the letter to the Hebrews ( 10: 5,7) which says: "...on coming into the world Jesus said: "...I have come to do your will O God." By habit now but with new meaning that prayer is the first thought of every day. Then throughout the day reminders come to keep me aware of what I have chosen when coming back to life after the 'death' of sleep. "...Thy will be done..." in the Lord's prayer." When I sit down at the computer to try to figure out what to say in the next blog...Lord, what's next?" When I gather up and recycle scraps of paper left by people on the parking lot of the church and other such simple yet prayerful experiences if done by the will of God by His Presence in me. Then by the end of the day the 17th verse of chapter 10 of the letter to the Thessalonians comes into focus: "Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks; such is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." "Thank You, Lord" is a fitting prayer to end the day rejoicing in God's will.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Blog # 81 UNITY IN TRUTH Jesus is with the Apostles in the final hours He would spend with them before His agony in Gethsemane and his loving and obedient death on the cross. (Jn 17 : 20 ff). We hear him praying: "I pray...for those who will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me , that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and You in me, may they be so completely one that the world may realize it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as You have loved me." I cannot see how anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus could take these words of Jesus lightly. Yet we tolerate divisions of the Church almost as if they were in agreement with His prayer and desire. Part of the problem seems to be that none of us wants to be wrong or deficient in our faith, which is perfectly natural. In order to give ourselves the security we need to live in the conviction that we are right, it turns out that others who differ with us must logically be wrong. Then we try to discover and hand down among ourselves our assessment of the error we are judging. With various levels of success and generally with little or no personal contact and discussion with members of the actual group of people we are judging, we place personal salvation at the top of our concerns and relegate the prayer of Jesus to a back burner. On the other hand, as I see it, none of us is completely right until all of us are one. Isn't that what Jesus prayed for the night before He died? Suppose you were a teacher and you had eighteen students in your class. Suppose you taught them all to spell cat C-A-T. In learning it, all eighteen students would agree with you. But then, when they related to one another, if they really learned what you taught, it would necessarily follow they would also agree with one another. If not, , something would be wrong. This is similar to the way I think it is with the churches. Jesus is the teacher of all. We wish to learn and believe, to follow and live what Jesus taught. We want to agree with Him, to be one with Him. Others feel this same way about Him. The fact we are not one indicates that something is wrong. It is this problem I am inviting you to pray about. "...that all be one...that the world may believe it was you who sent me." Our divisions stand in the way of the success we hope for in our missionary endeavors in fulfilling the GREAT COMMAND to bring the Gospel message to all the world. (Mat.28: 16 - 20). Lord Jesus, have mercy on us. Send your Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see the tragedy of your Church divided. Help us to see the evil of our divisions as infinitely worse than the evil of terrorism which can kill the body but not the soul. Help us to see how we are betrayed by the evil of personal sin and led astray in our quest for happiness by the secularization of our current American culture. Father, may the desire of Jesus that all who believe in Him be one be our desire. In His Holy Name I pray.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Blog # 80 SALVATION NOW Think for a moment of the fate of the millions of notices that are sent through the mail announcing a particular contest or drawing. Many of them are never opened by the people to whom they are addressed and are thrown into the wastebasket at the Post Office or at home. Some are opened and read, an intention made to send it back and enter the drawing but time passes and it is forgotten or put aside. The deadline for the drawing passes and the opportunity to win the prize is gone. Other entries are completed and returned. Another mailing comes telling us the good news that a valuable prize is ours. It is somewhat like this with the Good News of salvation, but also very much different. Some people receive the invitation to believe and never open it. Either they are too busy or too interested in other pursuits to give the Gospel a chance to influence their lives. They never seriously consider whether not not Jesus is God, whether or not He could have a personal relationship with them, whether or not His Good News of faith and salvation is addressed to them personally and could be theirs today if they so desired. As far as they are concerned there might as well not have been a lucky drawing. For them it is not real. The life death and resurrection of Jesus can be unreal, a nonentity, for someone who does not give it a thought. Some other people hear the Good News of His love and intend to do something about it but they keep getting distracted, putting it off, waiting until tomorrow, until all their tomorrows have turned to yesterdays and the time for believing is over, and the time of judgment, the time to reveal the score of the game of our lives has come. Wouldn't it be sad if someone died yesterday who intended to believe in Jesus today?

Blog # 79 ALL

Blog # 79 ALL This is a transcript of an essay I wrote years ago when I was Pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in Idabel, OK. It seems like only last week! As I sit here in the office, the new First Baptist Church is being constructed directly across the street. Two men on the roof are hammering nails. A third man is climbing up the scaffold to join them. It is a beautiful sunny day. It occurred to me to think of this same church building ten years from now. It is a typical Sunday evening service. The church is full. The music is beautiful. The message is clear and consoling. People are happy and thankful for the opportunity of expressing their faith, praise, and thanks. Then my thoughts came back to today, as the church building is being constructed. Many nails are being hammered into the roof. Each nail is a part of the church, though small in itself and not doing the work of other parts of the church or of other nails. Ten years from now there may be hundreds of people at the service I envisioned a few moments ago. Yet I think none of them will be thinking of the nails being used today in the church's construction. It is not that anyone would deny the existence of the nails or say they are not useful or important to the building. They are merely not remembered, unthought of, and as a result to some extent unreal. A similar experience as this is common in other areas of our lives. Unless we take time to reflect, unless we train ourselves to be observant, unless we are ready to see and appreciate all there is around us, the danger is we will see only part of it, observe a small portion of it, see and appreciate too little of it to be as happy and appreciative as God and the world around us call us to be. I look again across the street. So much more is going on than the construction of a building. I think of the person who invented the hammer and appreciate the great gift this has been to all who work with wood and nails. The buttons on each shirt, the shoes on each foot, the hats, jackets, and jeans are there before me. The tailors, the shoemakers, all are real. All of them are part of me if I permit them to be so. I think of several people who are possibly reading these reflections. I pray for you to the Lord, that you may rejoice in all God is doing in your life, that you may know and love the Lord more perfectly every day, that you might be happy in your faith, that the Lord will bless you with a deep appreciation of creation, the things and people around you whom God has given us as a reminder and expression of His presence among us and of God's infinite love for us all. Thanks be to God for every nail in the roof of my home, for every pane of glass in the windows, for every inch of the path that leads to the street, and every person I will ever meet, and above and in them all thanks be to Thee, O Lord, for Your love and Your salvation. Amen!

BLOG # 83 Worship

Blog # 83 Worship Love is a personal response to a particular relationship. We have many relationships in our everyday experience of human life. We meet a burgler on a dark street. We view the Grand Canyon from the south rim. We win the lottery. We stand in a long line at the checkout counter of the grocery store. Our response to these experiences might be expressed by fear wonder joy patience, etc. Our relationship to God is somewhat similar to our relationships with fellow human creatures and with all of creation. Our relationship to God and others on particular occasions may be expressed by praise thanks petition and in the case of disobedience or sin on our part, by reparation. I praise a neighbor for the paint job he has done on his house. I thank another neighbor for the gift of tomatoes from his garden. I ask him what type of fertilizer he used to produce such wonderful tomatoes. I express my sorrow and ask forgiveness for having stolen some of his tomatoes. Similar patterns are played out in our reponse to our relationship with God. The praise and thanks we give, the breadth of our petitions, and the depth of our reparation to God is greater than that given to others, but yet is similar. With love,however, we have an essential difference. Our love for God is not merely a more fervent or higher degree of the same type of love we give our neighbor. Our love for God stands alone in its unique category, essentially different from all other love we may experience. As the CREATOR of ALL that EXISTS, ALL gifts are gifts from God, and God is worthy of ALL praise and thanks. We can seek ALL we need and legitimately desire from God, and EVERY evil is an offence against God. The love we have for God in response to our relationship to God as our creator is total, which means unconditional. Only God deserves and is worthy of such love. The name of our unique love for God is WORSHIP.