Friday, July 30, 2010
Blog 32 - a / FIELD / TREASURE / PEARL Matthew 13 : 44 - 46 presents two parables given us by Jesus. In the first parable a man finds a treasure buried in a field. He hides the treasure and buys the field with all that he possesses. In the second parable a man is searching for a fine pearl. He finds one and sells all that he possesses to obtain it. Thee is a significant richness in these parables that is available to us if we pay attention to some of the important details given in the text. In the first parable the image that comes to my mind is that of a box or a treasure chest hidden in the field. In the chest are various items of great value that are examined by the man who finds it. I imagine this as an ongoing process over a period of time. I imagine the man being greatly surprised at some of the items in the chest, and rejoicing at all the chest contains. But the chest and the treasures within and the field itself are not his own until he buys them. He must find out to whom the field belongs before he rightfully takes possession of the treasure. Then once the field is his own I imagine the man digging up the treasure again, and taking it home. Some of the treasure he keeps. Some of it he gives away to family and friends. Some he sells and trades in commerce to obtain what he needs to support himself. After Jesus gave the parable of the Sower the Apostles asked Jesus to explain it. You may want to say to me: Fr. Charlie, what do you mean by your response to the parable of the treasure in the field? The field is all that is created. God claims to be the singular unique source and owner of all that exists, from the beginning to the end of the story. (Gen:1). God is love. (1 Jn 4: 8). And since there can be no divisions, parts, or limitations in the infinite mystery of God, we can say all of creation is in some real but limited and created sense love. Since God is love all of creation is love. Yet it does not cease to be itself. It is something like a ring in the jeweler's shop. Though it does not cease being a ring, on the occasion of becoming a wedding ring it shares in the love of husband and wife and it becomes a new reality in its share in their love. The treasure is my life,your life, life in general, all life. Life comes from nothing to where it is by the will of God. God handed it over to us to care for it and to use it according to its built-in purpose and design. (Gen 1: 28 - 31). The prophet Micah put it this way: You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do what is right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6; 8). Three of the most valuable realities I have discovered in that portion of creation's treasure chest called life are: the presence of God, the meaning of love, and the ability to pray. These three alone are so valuable we could give all that we have to receive them and we would have received a bargain! They are designed to exist forever, to be eternal treasures! The second parable we are considering presents a man searching for a particular treasure, a pearl of great price. We can easily conclude the pearl is sought for its own sake, not to be used in barter or for some other purpose than itself. I identify the pearl of great price as death. Every sincere gift is love, love offered or love received. Death offered and received is the greatest gift of all,the greatest possible love, because to love means to give (Jn 15: 13 ), and in death we give everything we have and experience for the first time in our life our eternal name, the answer to the question Who am I? All love this side of death is partial. Death and only death among all our possible love is total. There is nothing left to give. Evey hair on our head, and every penny in our pocket are left behind. It is the treasure all of us are seeking. Only God has such love to give. Only God deserves such love.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Blog # 33 The Golden Plover - missions, people sent The golden plover is a small bird that migrates each year from northern Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to the Low Archipelago, beyond Hawaii, far out in the Pacific Ocean. The trip involves a nonstop flight of more than 2,400 miles! The migratng instinct is a fascinating one. God wills that the plover spends its summers in northern Alaska and its winters far out in the Pacific. It happens. But the birds are not shipped in cages. They have the instinct to fly, which is like an invitation, and wings. Do you remember the suggestion Jesus made that we "behold the birds of the air"? (Mat 6: 26). He told us the birds do not worry, like so many of us, about tomorrow, and stockpiles, and wealth. They fatten themselves and do prepare for the flight. They do build nests and gather straw. Then they have confidence in their instinct and their wings and fly the Father's will. What of us, the Christian people, the people who know the Father's love and the billions of people in the world who do not as yet know or believe in Jesus? "Go...make disciples of all the nations. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you." ( Mat 28: 19f). Isn't that at least an invitation? To wait for more would be like the golden plover waiting in the Fall in northern Alaska for God to come to ship him in a cage to Hawaii. Not all can go physically to far away places to preach the Gospel, but each of us can bring the Gospel message into our own heart and each of us can pray for the unityof the C hurch and for God's blessing upon our missionary efforts around the world. Thanks!
BLOG # 75 JESUS IS RISEN ! Jesus is risen ! Our sins are forgiven ! Peace and joy be yours! What joyand peace should be ours that God sent His Son to live among us and then to die and rise as a sign of God's power and plan of love for all who believe. But just as when the sun rises in the morning the darkness of the night must go, so the light of the risen Savior will come into our hearts and into our lives when we cast out the darkness which is sin. We mus cast out sin if we wish to have the peace and light that Jesus came to bring. There have always been different reactions and responses on the part of different men and women to the message of Jesus. This has been true whether He be preaching that message through the meekness and humility of the Christmas stable or through the eternal wisdom of the sermon on the mount. Whether Jesus be telling us of the power and goodness of God through His healing of he sick and the multiplication of the loaves and fish, whether He be telling us of the strength of God's love for us from the Cross or of the unlimited faithfulness of the Father through the resurrection, there have always been different responses to His message. When Jesus preached voluntary poverty to the rich young man, as told in the nineteenth chapter of St. Matthew, the young man walked away sad. When Jesus preached forgiveness of sin to Peter and Judas Peter went out and wept but Judas hung himself on a tree. When Jesus hung on the Cross, one thief cursed Him and the other became a saint. So it is with Jesus today. He is the same, yesterday today and forever. ( Heb 13: 8). If we are faithful to His message of love and goodness we can be sure that one day we will share with Jesus His glory and total victory over sin and death. Jesus desired this for all of us. We can tell Him yes. We can tell Him no. May our yes be manifest day by day in our love for God above all and our love for one another as Jesus loves us! That will be our proof to ourselves and to the world around us that Jesus is risen!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Blog # 64 OUR FATHER Regularly when I pray I find myself thinking about the fatherhood of God in new ways. I ask such questions as what did Jesus mean when He spoke of God as our Father? How can I discover more deeply and meaningfully the truth contained in the statement of Jesus that God is our Father? What does it mean to me personally to imagine God as my Father rather than as my King, my Lord, my Judge, my Salvation? Would I be ready, willing, and happy to walk through the door of death at this moment, to live in the presence of God my Father forever? What did Jesus mean when He said that not everyone who says Lord, Lord, but he who does the will of my Father will be saved? Important questions! Even years ago, when I worked in the small garden in back of our church I reflected upon these and similar questions. In my relationship to the earth and to the plants I saw myself in a similar situation as to how I saw God relating to all creation. I thought within myself how my attitude toward the plants would serve as a way of understanding a little better the attitude of God toward myself and others. I was there. present, working with the plants and caring for them. We believe this of the attitude of God toward us. He is with us, caring for us. One night when in a particularly dry period of time I found myself out in the garden watering the vegetables between eleven thirty and midnight. T his reminded me of God's constant vigil over us, His desire to be present to our needs, His generous giving of gifts, night and day. As I watered the tomato plants one by one, almost calling each by name, I thought of the meaning and beauty of the Bible texts that reveal to us that God calls each of us by name, that He loves every one of us individually, and cares for each of us as if there were no other. I thought how I really didn't need the tomato plants, nor the tomatoes they would produce, but nonetheless I wanted them. I had plenty to eat available to me in the local stores, friends who would bring me tomatoes, and money to buy what I needed. Yet I wanted the tomatoes growing in the garden. I planted them just where they were. My desire was for them to grow the best they could, to be the best they could be, for their sake, as it were, rather than my own. So, I thought within myself, it is with God, our Father. How wonderful His love for us and how marvelous His name in all the earth. Our Father...hallowed by Thy name... Thy will be done... Amen!
Blog # 63 GOOD FRUIT Remember the time Jesus spoke about the fruit trees? ( Mat 7: 16 - 18, 20). He reminded us that a good tree brings forth good fruit and a bad tree brings forth bad fruit. By its fruit a tree is known. Jesus is teaching us here that our faith in Him should bear fruit, and that by the fruit of our lives, our good or bad deeds, our lives will be known and judged. At this point St Paul helps us when in his letter to the Galatians ( 5: 22) he tells us that the fruit of the Spirit, the effect of the Holy Spirit in us, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, moderation, and self-control. When we look to the difference that faith should make in our lives we look here, to see it we are joyful patient, kind and peaceful. When we are grumpy, stubborn, proud, and lazy we are not men and women of faith, and the works of the Spirit are not manifest in us. It is not that men and women of faith are not tempted, nor that they do not at times fall into sin, but that we think of our faith and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and strength. Then the spiritual peron in us wakes up and we are reminded of what we can and should be and do by faith. That is why it is so important that we stop and think from time to time as to what our faith means to us and what it should be doing for us. Only when we think of Jesus can He bless us personally and while we think of Him He can remind us of what He calls us to do and say. A man and woman of faith knows that God is real and is personally present to us. A man or woman of faith speaks to God in prayer. In the morning when we rise from bed our first thought is of God, to dedicate our lives to God and to ask God's help in our work each day. When we eat our meals we thank God for God's gifts of food and fellowship and ask that we be strengthened and nourished to do God's will. When the day is over we ask God's forgiveness for our faults and share with God again the joys we have known throughout the day, asking that He bless people in need and those we love, that He continue to keep us faithful and good, and that He accept out thanks for all of His gifts that we have known. That is being a good tree.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Blog # 53 PREACH THE GOSPEL Years ago while visiting some friends in Texas I took some time off and walked from Mount Vernon to Mount Pleasant, a distance of eighteen miles. What a different perspective you get from the one you absorb when driving along at fifty-five miles an hour! That day as I walked I thought of the words of Jesus, "Preach the Gospel". The bulk of Jesus' travels were on foot. In His day, it took a long time and great effort to go from Jerusalem to Jericho and back to Capernaum. Jesus knew the world from the perspective of a pedestrian. To cover eighteen miles on foot takes a long time, and you might meet only twenty-six people for a short "Hello!" along the way. The words of Jesus to preach the Gospel to all the world took on a new dimension that day in Texas. It was easy to realize what determination must have been His, the depth of His desire, and the seriousness of His love and His command. It seems that with so much a our disposal, such ease and speed that is ours for getting from place to place around the world we should be able to tell all people of the Father's love in a short period of time if we so desire. I think that if we really caught the meaning and value of Jesus' command to preach to the entire world we would have already been to all those places where Jesus is still unknown many times over, preaching by our word and by our lives that God is our Father, that God loves us all, and that we are brothers and sisters, called to be one Body, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet Christians are still a minority of the world's population and we remain divided in our interpetations of Jesus' message .
Blog # 51 THE POTTER - THE CLAY The eighteenth chapter of the book of Jeremiah contains that beautiful and well-known passage in which the prophet describes God as a potter and His people as the clay to be formed into a vessel of beauty and usefulness. We are given the image of God shaping His people according to a plan in His mind for them. Though the passage directly concerns nations and kingdoms before the Lord, it can also be applied to individuals. Each of us has been created by God because God loves us. Recently I heard a preacher tell a group of people that none of them was wanted by their parents. It sounded false and shocking at first, but he insisted upon the truth of his statement and explained it very well. He pointed out that parents did not know us and therefore could not really want us either as their child or their friend. They may have wanted a baby very much, and we happened to be that baby. When we came they began to know us and loved us, now by the very name they would give us as their son or daughter and as their friend. But with God it is different. From all eternity God knew us 'by name'. God called us into our mother's womb and from her womb. (Jer 1:4) Every moment of our lives each of us is known and loved by God. He is the potter of our lives and we are His clay. What a difference the insight I am considering would make if we would make ourselves aware of it and be conscious of it in our daily experience of life. Nothing and no person would enter or leave our life without God being present and even being in control. Yes, God does guarantee our freedom and this freedom of ours is a mystery we ourselves cannot understand, but even in our freedom God is the potter and we are the clay. Each of us has has been created by God because God loves us. We are not alone, ever. God is with us, molding us, shaping us, forming us according to the pattern God has determined for us from all eternity. What joy it is to know this, and to walk hand in hand as it were with our God, each step of the way!
Friday, July 9, 2010
Blog # 40 DESIRE 4:00 a. m. is early in the morning, right? Ordinarily a boy fifteen is still in bed. But one morning years ago in Arkansas where I lived at the time a boy I knew was up and on a bus at 4:oo a.m. on one particular Saturday morning. The bus was heading west to a town about a hundred and twenty miles from home. This was his deal: he had come in first in a regional competition in trumpet playing and was heading to a State competition. I was with him at his home the evening before. He was eager to go. There were no complaints about four o'clock being too early, no down beats for the whole experience. Why so? I think the answer lies in awareness and motivation. He knows trumpet and he wants it. Similar psychological dynamics are present and play a part in other areas of our life as well. We seek and affirm what we know as valuable and good. If I can't play the trumpet it is no fun. If I can it is a joy. So it is with God and the Church. To know God is to love God, and to love Him is to give ourselves to Him, freely and joyfully. Though some find it easier than others, no one plays the trumpet without training and practice. So it is with discovering God, in Himself, in creation, and in one another. Unless we know God and His presence and goodness is real and attractive to us, whatever we might do, by force of commands, through fear custom or social pressure, will be dry and dead, superficial and a burden. It is like the experience of a child who practices the trumpet by force of a parent's command and desire rather than his or her own. Knowing God as lovable, whatever we do for God is a joy. Four o'clock in the morning isn't that early if you really want to play the trumpet in Arkadelphia by nine! Living by the commandments is not that difficult if we know God and want to live in such a way that our lives are pleasing to God and worthy of His love.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Blog # 37 A HIDDEN TREASURE "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field." ( Mat 13: 44). As Jesus says, the treasure is a hidden one. It is not out in the open, where everyone must see it whether he or she cares to or not. If so, there would be no reward or the joy of finding it. If I told you water is wet and then asked you to believe me there is no room for faith on your part for you already know by yourself that what I said is true. If I could not help but see that all of the things Jesus taught us are good and true there would be no room for faith and freedom on our part, and so no room for genuine love, which must be free. Unless we make an effort to learn to play the saxophone, to paint a picture, to build a home, or play football, we will never do these things. It is similar with faith and holiness. That is what Jesus is telling us when He says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. The field is our life. God is there. He is creating us and without God we would not exist, nor would the food we eat the sun that warms us nor the ground beneath our feet. It is up to us, with His ever-present grace, to find Him. If we have made no effort to find God in our life then we cannot expect to find Him, nor that faith will be very important to us, nor,of course, there will be any reward for us for having tried. If a man does not plant peanuts he cannot expect a harvest. So too if a man does not make an effort to find the treasure of God's presence in his life he cannot expect to have the happiness that comes from having found it. On the other hand if we make a sincere effort to know love and obey God no matter how low or miserable we might be at the start He will help us in our search. We will grow and develop. We will see more and more of the beauty of our faith. With God's help we will be prepared to sacrifice all rather than this great treasure. We will no longer be tied down with the chains of sin and a bad conscience but will be free and happy with a happiness that is a foretaste of eternal joy. "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field."
Blog # 36 GIFTS To love means to give. In the light of this fact how beautiful and full of meaning are the words of St. John in his first epistle ( 1 Jn 4: 16) :We have come to know and believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him. Everything that is is from God. All creation is a gift. The moon, the sun, the stars wind and rain ice and snow gardens hillsides oceans deserts and desserts trees and flowers fruit and cattle light and warmth wisdom goodness sound and silence birds and butterflies, all that is is a gift from God, Who is love, ever giving, giving all. What a difference it makes to realize this! How easy it is to pray when we realize everything is from God. Yesterday today and tomorrow, all is from God. How urgent, yet easy it is to say thank You, Lord, for loving me. Green is the color of God's love. How much love have you seen today? Blue is the color of God's love. How much love have you seen today? Red orange yellow are all the color of God's love. How much love have you seen today? Even though we do not understand or remember, all creation is a gift. God is in it always. God keeps giving even though we fail to recognize it as a gift and think it is our own in every way, even though we abuse it and treat it selfishly and wastefully. God keeps giving. the sun keeps shining even on homes darkened by quarrels and selfishness. The sky is blue and the grass is green even for a thief and a murderer. Like the wind in a tornado God's love is not overcome by obstacles. And we are to love one another as Jesus loved us! ( Jn 13 12ff). "If I washed your feet...then you must wash each other's feet. What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done so you must do. (Jn13: 34). "Such as my love has been for you so must your love be for one another." (Eph 5: 2f). Follow the way of love even as Christ has loved you. He gave Himself for us as an offering to God, a gift of pleasing fragrance. (1Jn 4:11) Beloved, if God has loved us so, we must have the same love for one another. What a world it would be...!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Blog # 35 GOD THE CREATOR - now! To say we believe in the Creator of all is not to say something about the past but about the present as well, and if there will be a future, about the future as well as the past. As long as creation exists, our faith in God will mean God is creating all that is. If God were not actually and currently responsible for the existence of all that exists,in past, present, or future time, then we would have to account for that existence by identifying another power that is responsible. Creation does not nor can not create itself from nothing, nor, in other words, create itself right down to its very existence, which is the meaning of the word to create in its strict sense. With that definition in mind there is no logical way we can identify two Creators of all that exists, two Gods. A second God is a contradiction in terms. Day by day, instant by instant, in all that is real about us and within us God is creating our unique eternal destiny, the name by which He will call us in judgment. But since we have the inviolable gift of freedom we are in a real sense privileged to be co-creators with God. Together, God sharing His wisdom power and goodness and we through obedience to our conscience are co-creators of our eternal destiny. Is this your insight into our faith in God the Creator? Can you see the profound difference it would make in the lives of all who share it? Several most significant questions are answered through an awareness on our part of the meaning of this insight. For example: Who is God? Where is God? What is prayer? How am I related to God and God to me? If God merely created things once and for all, "in the beginning...", then we have to go back to that point to contact God as Creator of the world and as our Creator, whether to praise God, to thank God, or to appreciate God as Creator. But if we see God as currently continuing His work of creative love then all that we see feel taste hear smell or imagine brings us into immediate contact with our Creator. Then all creation at every moment calls forth our praise and thanks to God almost as if it all had never been done before, as if God were creating it all just for us here and now because of His great love for us. Then, too, to say that God is everywhere has its full meaning and the legitimacy of prayer as conversation with God is assured. I can pray at any time in any place I may be, when and where God inspires me to do so. God is indeed the Creator of the world, and my Creator. All praise and thanks to Thee, my Creator-God, now and forever!
Walking with God Often throughout the centuries of our Christian history holy men and women have described their experience of faith as living in the presence of God. Their writings indicate that for them through faith God was near to them, and they were near to God. Genesis, chapter six, says of Noah: "he walked with God". To walk with God or to live in the presence of God, either for Noah or for the many other holy men and women who have had this experience did not require extraordinary manifestations of God's presence such as miracles and supernatural visions. Rather I would think the typical world around Noah looked the same for him as it did for the many around him, living in the same world, who did not walk with God, who were not good and blameless as Noah was. In the days of Francis of Assisi the sky was blue and clouds were grey through his eyes just as they were to the many ordinary and sinful persons living around him. His world was the normal world we all know, and yet in the midst of his human experience of living in the ordinary world he discovered God and knew God was with him. And he 'walked with God'. Not by miracles or supernatural visions but by simple faith both Noah and Francis and so many other holy men and women throughout the ages discovered God in their everyday world. They knew God as the source of all that is. They lived in the presence of God the Creator while touchng the natural created world around them For a moment imagine yourself in the morning of a beautiful day. The sky is blue and several white clouds are floating overhead. Do you think the sky is blue without the Lord? Do you think the clouds are white without the Lord? Certainly not. God is present in the blue, willing it to be blue. God is present in the clouds, willing them to clouds, and to be white. And through this experience of sky and clouds God is present to us personally as Creator and Father, our powerful beautiful God. God loves us in the sky and the clouds, extending through the world around us an invitation to walk with Him today. As our friends might make use of paper and pen to invite us to their homes for the celebration of a birthday, so God can use the sky, the earth, trees,our friends, shapes, color, sounds, and all that surrounds us to invite us into His home, to share His love and goodness, His power and generosity. When we see by faith the presence of God in the world around us and are willing to be good and generous, then, as Noah and Francis, we too can walk with God. It is by God's design and promise an everlasting joy!
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Blog # 30 God the Connector This blog is a transcript of what I wrote in Idabel, Oklahoma years ago when I was a Pastor there. Last night I drove into Idabel from Cincinnati. Over eight hundred miles. Seventeen hours. Cincinnati is far from Idabel. Yet the two are Connected. Between Cincinnati and Idabel there are roads making a connection between the two cities. Roads connect. There were three of us in the car. We were going to the same place from the same place, Cincinnati, Idabel. That was a connection. But we were not three strangers to one another on a bus going to the same place. We were further connected by our friendship. But we were not just traveling from here to there and there to here on vacation, connected by our friendship. Rather we had gone to attend the funeral of another priest and friend, a Pastor in Daingerfield, Texas, who had died suddenly as he sat at his kitchen table one evening last week. Our friendship with him and the event of his funeral in Cincinnati was another connection that brought us together. We were connected in a single purpose. Miles and hours later I began to see more and more of the connections in our everyday experience that we sometimes overlook. I had walked out one night in Cincinnati and saw the same star formation there as we have here in Idabel. A connection. The language people spoke there is the same as it is here. Another connection. The sky is the same shade of blue and the temperature of the air was calibrated the same as it is here so many miles away. Another connection. More miles, more hours, more thoughts. Our breathing, our eating, our tiredness, our knowledge of one another, and our friendships are all connections, much like our roads, our sky, and the stars that connect us and tend to make us one. Through connections people places thoughts and love are drawn together and made one. After getting back to Idabel safely last night I knelt before the altar in our church and thanked the Lord. The question of connections came back. Is there one connection that ties all things and all places and all people together? Yes was the answer. GOD OUR SINGLE CREATOR IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ALL THAT EXISTS ! In all things, everywhere, in everyone, may God be known loved and served now and forever! Amen!
Blog # 29 WORDS IN ACTION If ever you have dropped a heavy wrench on your toe or had the experience of someone close a car door on your finger you know how a simple action that occurs in a brief moment can have an effect that lasts for a long while. Two weeks later our toe is still sore and our finger is still colorful. Something similar is true not only of wrenches that fall on toes or doors that close on fingers but of anything we do or say that affects the relationship we have with one another. For example, isn't it easy to recall something that someone said to us perhaps last week, just a few kind words, that had an effect upon our whole day? Conversely, we could perhaps recall an unkind word the someone spoke to us in the morning that caused the remainder of our day to be difficult and sad. The words and actions of those around us and our thoughts words and actions have an effect upon our world and ourselves that lasts beyond the duration of the thought word or deed itself. You write a poem for someone you love and he/she saves it for the rest of his/her life. You express a few words of anger toward a person and it may take a week to heal the injury you have done. The words of the Bible can have a similar effect upon us. If we are in the habit of reading the Bible faithfully each morning, even for a few minutes, throughout the day it tends to have an influence upon us. This influence certainly seems to be part of the intention God had in giving us the bible. In giving us the words of the prophets and the story of the life of Jesus God did not intend merely to point out to us the wisdom of the prophets or aquaint us with the historical details of the life of Jesus. Rather it would seem God wanted us to sharethe wisdom of the prophets, to understand and reproduce in our lives the experience of Jesus as God's Son. In other words, what Jesus said and did in His life here on earth was to have a lasting effect upon our lives today. This is the way holy men and women throughout the hitory of the Church have always related to the Bible, making it come alive in their everyday experience of the life of Jesus in them. (Gal 2: 20). Here it is in the prayer of Jesus to the Father the night before He died for us: "...that they may be one , as we are one,I living in them, you living in me...so that your love may live in them and I may live in them."(Jn 17:23,26).
Blog # 28 Where is God? This blog is a transcript of a note I wrote back in 1982 when I was Pastor of a church in Idabel, Oklahoma. A reminder of a blessing I received years ago, it was a blessing again as I read it today. May it bring a blessing to you! One day a week or so ago in early evening, I was driving west on highway seventy just outside of Idabel and I saw God shouting His love to the world. Then last evening about the same time, I was sitting at my desk typing some notes and I happened to look out the window to the west and I saw the same thing, God, shouting His love to the world in the brilliant colors of the warm setting sun against the blue of the sky and the fluffy clouds. As the colors were shifting and their tones were being softened and finally turned to darkness by the sun going down behind my neighbor's chimney, I was left alone with just the memory of God's work there before me out the window. I lit the lamp on my desk and thought how much pleasure there had been in those two sunsets. Then I thought further. I could not remember just when I enjoyed a sunset last. With the exception of these two recent experiences I knew it was not in the past two weeks or even in the past month. I resolvled to pay more attention to the setting sun each day and to the wind and rain, to growing bushes and grass, and to the 'wild' birds. In all of thece cratures God is shouting to me and to all the world that He is with us,He loves us and He is waiting for us to shout back the echo of His love for us in our love for Him and one another. The beautiful creatures God places in our world are the same for all of us. But the amount of happiness and enjoyment each of us receives from His beautiful world is different. Some of the reason we all do not enjoy God's gifts more is the fact we do not even recognize them as such. Many people go down their lives for months without paying attention to the sunrise or its setting, let alone recognizing it as a gift from God. God is all around us in the world. But we have to recognize Him to love Him there. When we do form a habit of recognizing God in the wonders of nature we will soon find the joy there is in echoing back His love for us by making our lives a reflection of His goodness and love for us all. "...love one another as I have loved you."
Monday, July 5, 2010
Blog # 27 Our Father With the image of God as Father before us, how much easier it is to trust God, to feel at home before Him as we try to do our best, to lie down at the end of a day thankful rather than anxious. And how much easier it is to accept confidently God's forgiveness for our faults, and to realize how in all we do our emphasis is not so much to be upon our works as upon our relationship to God, our growth in love for Him, and our joy in knowing Him as our Father. Then motivated in all things by this relationship, our quest is faithfully to carry out His will in our everyday experience of life. Years ago as I was standing in my garden out in Crossett,Arkansas I noticed, as is the case with most gardens, some insects were eatilng the plants. The insects were obviously enemies of the plants. They were as real as I was in the garden. I thought it is not worth it to have a garden. The insects come and destroy your garden. It might be better to do something else and buy your vegetables in the store. Then it occurred to me to wonder if we could not appreciate God's mercy and love more perfectly if we applied this thought to God's relationship with us when we sin. Sin is our enemy and tends to destroy us the same as insects are the enemy of a garden and tend to destoy it. In taking measures to destroy the insects in my garden I saw myself somwhat like God in His attitude toward our sins. He wants to rid us of them because He loves us. He comes to our aid in overcoming our sins much the same as I came to the aid of the vegetables in ridding them of insects. I always went after the insects rather than the plants. And God never says I will abandon my garden to the insects, the garden is not worth my efort to rid it of its enemies. Rather God send His son, the Lord Jesus, to win for us through His love and suffering the power to overcome our sins, to conquer the enemies of our soul, and to live in holiness and peace. I was happy as I walked in from my garden, having learned from it to understand and appreciate more perfectly the meaning and beauty of the revelation of Jesus that God is our Father and the joy it was to know that through faith and Baptism we are actually priviledged to share personally and officially the love of Jesus for our Father. Father, help us to see Your love in all that happens in our lives, to trust You as our Father, and to come to You lovingly thankful and unfraid,through Jesus Your Son whom You sent to be our Brother and to teach us of Your goodnes and your love. Amen!
Blog #25 Holiness - Like God My definition of holiness comes from Isaiah 6: 3. Holy Holy Holy is the God of Hosts. God alone is holy in the truest sense of the word. For me the word holy sums up and contains within itself all that God is. In our limited minds we speak of God's power wisdom goodness and all the other qualities we see in God. But the word holy contains them all. Like your name, Fred or Mary,contains all there is to say about you, your age, hobbies, size and weight, so the word holy says for us of God all there is to say of God. In this sense God alone is holy since here is only one God. In a secondary sense we speak of other perons and things as holy, as for example a church which is dedicated to God and symblizes for those who believe God's presence. A book is holy like the Bible which speaks of God and comes from God. What is the meaning of holiness when applied to persons? For me, when applied to persons, to be holy means first of all the be like God. And in this sense, to grow in holiness means to become more and more like God. I haven't heard many people talking like this and I sometimes wonder just how many of us are actually trying to grow in holiness, trying to be more and more like God. When was the last time you can recall doing something or doing something in a particular way precisely and explicitly so that you would grow in holiness, become more like God? Perhaps it was the time you mopped the kitchen or cut the lawn. I have done those things just to grow in holiness, to be more like God, and found them quite effective for the purpose. God teaches us very clerly in the very first book of the Bible that He made the entire universe, and all of cretion is good. In our care for it we are indeed holy or like to God. We could miss so many opportunities for growing in holiness if we saw the opportunities as limited to prayer and Bible study or going to church. Yet it seems many people do just that, almost living two lives in the process, the life of church, Bible study and prayer, and the life of the world, business, indusry, recreation. Since we believe that God is eveywhere we must believe that God can be found everywhere, praised everywhere, and imitated everywhere. It is the will of God that we grow in holiness. (1 Thes 4: 3) May the Lord bless our desires and efforts to do so with success, for His glory, the good of those around us, and for our own sanctification!
Blog # 25 THE MEASURE I remember one time being with a group of high school boys for a discussion on religion in our lives. Up at the front of the room, where I was standing, there was an ordinary table. After we offered a prayer, all of us sat down. I pointed out the table to the boys and asked if anyone had an idea as to how tall the table was. There were fifteen of us in the room. The table was there when we came in and would be there when we left. The truth as to the height of the table was already fixed. The designer and creator of the table determined that. It was up to us to discover it. We all agreed the table was a certain height, no matter how we might feel about it. Putlife in place of table in our experience and it will become evident we were in a religious discussion rather than one that might occur in a shop class at school. Several boys came up and looked the table over. As opinions were given I wrote them on the chelk board. We ended up with seven different opinions as to how tall the table was. Some of the boys did not give an opinion. All who did were definitely sincere. We had a clear-cut problem on our hands - one table, fifteen boys, and seven different opinions as to how tall the table was. What could be done? I reached into my pocket and brought out a measuring rule. Now we could solve the problem. We had a measure for the table. It was thirty and three quarter inches tall. All agreed. Some had to add to their opinion to bring it up to the truth. Some had to subtract from their opinion to make it true. Then we applied all of this to our life. All of us were alive, obviously. But what is the meaning of life? What is life for? Does life have a single purpose? What is its purpose? What is true happiness? Will we live forever, or die the same as a cat? All of these questions about life are important. Different philosophers and theologians have looked at life and have answered our quesions differently. Some have said that life is for pleasure, for money, for popularity, or a combination of these. Some have said we will live beyond the grave. Some have said no. In order to arrive at the truth we need a measure. God the Designer and Creator of life has revealed the measure of our life in the life death and resurection of Jesus. But just as we have to ACCEPT AND APPLY a rule in order to measure a table, so we have to accept and apply the life of Jesus as the measure of our life. There is a certain element of risk in this. The answewr to all of our questions is love and love has to be free in order to be love. We do not know on our own all the answers to the question we ask about ourselves and our lives. That is why we need Jesus. He claimed to bethetruth, theway, and thelife. May He always and eveywhere be ourtruth, ourway,and ourlife.
Blog #22 GOOD / BAD "And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God." (Rom 8: 28). Those words from Romans took on a special significance for me years ago out in Idabel, Oklahoma where I was Pastor at the time. One day the water system in the City broke down. It was something real. Was it good or bad? Both. In itself to be without water was bad. But the Bible had taught and reminded me that everything could be turned into good for someone who loved God. So I began to think how this truth about all things, and God, and myself could be discovered and verified in my lack of water. For one thing, it was easier to appreciate the gift of water when I came back from offering Mass and visiting people in our mission in Broken Bow late that Sunday afternoon thirsty, and there was no water. Now that it was no longer available I thought how easy it is for us to take it for granted. And so with time and health and friends and opportunities to grow and to pray and to do good for others. It was good to be reminded of this truth. I reflected upon how wonderful and commonplace the gift of water is. We need and use it to wash ourselves our dishes and our clothing, to nourish our plants and garden, to float our boats for fishing, to quench our thirst and make it easier for sick people to swallow their medicine, to create a scene of beauty beyond a placid lake, to receive and express our faith in God through Jesus in Baptism, to cook our food, to fill a water pistol for children to play, and for swimming. All of that is good. Sunday evening I called some friends to discover the lack of water was not just in my own house but was general in the city. This reminded me of how we all share the same community life, and this was good. Then a neighbor brought me a jar of water she said she could spare, and that was good. Men were working generously to repair the problem and this was good. I prayed to God in thanksgiving for them and again for the gift of water and that was good. The problem was solved and the water came back and that was good. The letter to the Romans was true not only in Rome but in Idabel, Oklahoma, not only almost two thousand years ago but just a few years ago, and it is true in our reflection upon it right now as we share this story of a rather insignificant event on a particular Sunday afternoon in Idabel, Oklahoma, far away from Augusta, Georgia.. Thank You, Lord!
BLOG # 21 A SLEEPING GENIUS What happens when a genius falls asleep? I imagine certain scientists have already tackled that question and if we were to investigate their research there would be a theory or two as to what the answer might be. But for the ordinary person like myself, when the genius falls asleep he or she is very much like the rest of us. A similar question might be asked about other people than a genius. What happens to a brother sister daughter son or friend when asleep or otherwise are not conscious or thinking about their identity as brother sister daughter son or friend? In some ways they would be the same as someone else who is not related in this or that definite particular way. In a sense we are what we think we are. Applying this kind of reasoning to our identity as a Christian believer we are led to conclude the we are really and most fully a Christian believer when we are actually thinking about ourselves in that capacity, when we are actually conscious of our Christian identity. It isn't that our faith is taken away or destroyed during those times when we are not consciously aware of it no more than the quality of being a genius is destoyed when the genius is asleep, but it is not active and personal to me until I am aware of it. These thoughts came to me when I was readng the letter to the Romans, the thirteenth chapter, particularly verse eleven. "It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith." To "wake up" as a Christian would seem to mean we are to claim our identity in Jesus in a conscious and personal way. As a sleeper we are still numbered among the billions of men and women alive humanly in the world around us. As awake in Christ we are different, called yet free to claim God as our Father, to give sublime meaning and value to any and all suffering, to transform death itself into an expression of the deepest trust and most perfect love.(Jn 15:13). The joys of faith are real and many for those who are "awake"!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Blog # 24 COME, LORD JESUS! "Come, Lord Jesus!" are the words John uses to conclude the book of Revelation and the entire Bible. It is a beautiful prayer. Perhaps it would be good for us to reflect a little upon the possible meaning of John's words for each and all of us, what they actually mean or could mean in our everyday experience of life and death. Come, Lord Jesus! Just think what it might mean to us individually and as a community if Jesus were to appear in our neighborhood as He used to come and go in Jerusalem, Jericho, Ceparnaum and Bethany. If Jesus were to come into your home this evening what would this mean to you? What preparations would you like to make if you knew He was coming? What would you expect Him to say, and what would you say to Him? Yet in a very real sense Jesus IS already there! Wherever two or three are gathered in my name I am in the midst of them. Jesus is in our town. I was hungry, and you gave me to eat, sick and you visited me, homeless and you gave me shelter. As you did it to one of these the least of my brethren you did it to me. I am with you always even to the end of the world. Knowing the existence and to some extent thmeaning of the texts Iust gave we still tend to forget their meaning and practical application in our everyday experience. Come, Lord Jesus! If we really mean this prayer it would seem we would find ourselves aware of the Lord in a current personal way rather than in our memory wherever He could be found, in prayer, in Bible study, in the poor and the needy. Now I think we are dealing with the full meaning and application of John's concluding words in handing the Bible over to us. By failth we live not only in the presence of Jesus but united with Him. "Live on in me as I do in you....I am the vine, you are the branches". (Jn 15; 4,f). It is the plan of God and the desire of Jesus no only to have gone on before us, to live around us, but within the hearts of all who believe! Come, Lord Jesus! Be with us and within or minds and hearts. Instruct us in Your ways. May our desires be Your desires. May we share Your everlastng joy. Help us in Your presence and Your lovecarry out the Father's plan for us each day. Thank You, Lord Jesus! Amen!
Blog # 23 CLOSE TO GOD Recognizing God's presence in all of creation seems to have been one of the main causes of greatness on the part of holy men and women throughout the history of God's dealings with mankind. Holy men and women have always recognized God around them in created things, in the love and goodness of friends, in the forgiveness of injury and sin, and in all of the natural processes we know and experience. For holy men and women a beautiful sky was not just a beautiful sky but an expression and an example of the beauty of God. For holy men and women,the gifts and love of friends were not just this human token of friendship and love but the expression of God's love and friendship too. Surely St. Paul was saying something of this when he wrote to the Colossians (3: 17): "Whatever you do, in word or in work do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him". And Jesus was reminding us of this when He told us to love God above all things with our whole minds and our whole hearts,and with all of our strength. To see God in all things,in all persons and in all events and to love God there is the secret of great holiness. It seems more difficult for people these days to see God in their lives this way. It used to be we knew God's love for us in the harvest, in the sunshine, and in the rain, in health and in sickness, both because of our immediate experience of depending upon God , and consequentially in our prayers. People in the centuries before us were far less independent than we are today. When someone got sick or infection set in there was no knowledge of penicillin or other such medicines to help the cure. People would naturally turn to God. Before the days of artificial insemination and commercial fertilizers electricity and machines, the farmer knew full well his dependence on nature and on God. Now we know so much and can do so much about nature and its processes that if something goes wrong or we have some need we tend to go to science, to a machine, or to our fellowman for help and advice rather than to God. We are in danger,then, of forming habits of forgetting that nothing exists or is possible without God, that the light of the moon always comes from the sun. It is not at all that faithful people today are called to live back some hundred and fifty years in history and cast aside the improvements and advances modern science has made possible for us. Not at all! Rather we should make an effort to realize, as always, nothing exists without God. If today we have so much and such a wonderful world, we are called upon for greater thanksgiving and response to God's presence and God's eternal love.
Blog #20 MORE I remember reading nore than twenty years ago in a small book of Christian reflections the author's response to seeing a field of corn growing. As she drove along down a rural highway in western Missouri then into Kansas, on either side of the road were vast fields of grain growing. All of a sudden it struck her to reflelct upon what she saw, the complete reality of it, the earth the sun the roots the stalk, the grain. All of it was there before her, so close and clear she could see it from the car, so real she could stop the car and walk over to touch it. As she drove along and refleclted further her experience became more than merely earth water sun root stalk and grain. It was God growing food for His people! Creation, the world around and within us, the world we touch see hear taste amell and live can very well be considered as a message or a letter from God. As a friend might speak to us through a letter in the mail, so God speaks to us through sights and sounds, through every experience whether in joy or sorrow, through creation, through ourselves. Through life and death, through good fortune and bad, and even through our sins God is sending us messages, telling us someting, something of Himself and ourselves, someting of the world, of our friends, of the rich and of the poor. In all of creation God is present, communicating with us, speaking with us, writing us letters as it were. But there is a second step. As with a letter from a friend, the letter itself, folded and sealed in the envelope is very real in that the paper is real and the words are really written, but until we open the letter and read it it is not really a letter to us. Creation is a message from God, but we must read it! The complete experience of receiving a letter implies a response, that we send a lelter in return. So it is with the experience of walking with God in creation. The first step is to open our eyes and minds to the complete reality of what surrounds us and is present within us, more than merely our thoughts,our desires,to drive by the corn fields and see more than earth sky and water, more than roots and stalks and grain. God can be 'seen' there growing food for His peoplle, 'heard' in our inmost being calling us to discover Him, to know Him and to love Him. Some people do not get that far. Their letters remain unopened. The next step in walking wilth God is to respond to the message He sends in creation and within us, to tell God we are happy among His gifts, to thank Him for His love, to tell Him of our sorrow when He points out where we have been in sin, to accept His invitation to come to His home in the world around us and within us, to pray. Noah "walked with God" ( Gen 6: 10). Noah knew God in the world around him. He responded in thanksgiving and love. Noah was a man of prayer, a holy man. We live under the came sun that rose each morning for Noah.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Blog # 20 WHY? WHY NOT? I know one large church on Long Island where nearly eight thousand people come to church each Sunday. I would like to have the opportunity of asking each of those people why they were coming week after week. I wonder if anyone has ever asked them. I wonder if they know. I imagine many people go to church by force of habit. It is a good habit we know that, so we want to keep it. But like other habits, once we get the habit we don't need much of a reason or motive to keep the action going other than the habit itself. Unless someone asks us "Why?", we may go on for years without a need or occasion for expressing or even being conscious of a reason for what we do by force of habit. Chances are, if the dominant reason we go to church on Sunday is a habit,our neighbor's reason for not going may be that he or she doesn't have that habit. His or her reason for not going sounds about as good as our reason for going. He or she doesn't bother us, and we don't bother him or her. Life goes on, and we all die in our turn. I think some people go to church because they feel they 'owe it to God'. After all, God gives us so much and He asks for just this little in return. It would be small on our part not to give it to Him, so we go. The only real valid reason as I see it for going to church would combine something of the reason a young man goes to see his sweetheart, the reason a person joins with others to play a game of ball, the reason a person sits by the ocean to watch the sun go down, and the reason a person plants a garden or goes to work. Going to church should have all the desire, joy, wisdom, and enthusiasm of all the rest of our lives put together in the one valid reason for going to church. In our identity as Catholics, united as branches on a vine with Jesus through faith and Baptism, theoretically if not in the conscious awareness of each one present at Mass on Sunday, we go to church to worship God by participating as a community of faith in an act of sacrifice, 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 God's supreme dominion and our complete dependence upon God. This reason could not be fulfilled by ourselves alone or with our family at home, while strolling in the woods or contemplating God under the stars, or resting in the shade of a tree on the bank of a beautiful river. Find out why this is true from the definition of sacrifice given above. Then try to understand what Jesus was doing as He died on Calvary and why He was sent by the Father to do that. Then remember, if you are old enough, or discover, if you are young, why the Mass used to be most commonly referred to as "the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass".Finally try to work out in your mind why sacrifice is, and has been so designated by God as the best way to worship God.(cf Cain and Abel, Noah, Moses, Abraham). It is simply because to love means to give, and the more we love the more we give. Consequently, as Jesus put it: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend." (Jn 15: 13). Death is the only opportunity we have to love perfectly, to give to God alone, Who alone deserves out total love, all that we are and all that we have. That is worship; that is Calvary. At Mass we go there and we share and affirm within ourselves that perfect unconditional love. Why do you go to Mass? Why not ?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, U S A ! A Prayer for Our Nation's Birthday - 2010 God, our Creator, You are present throughout the world by Your power and Your love. By your gift of faith we have received Jesus Your Son into our lives as Your messenger. He has taught us that You are our Father. Father. we acknowledge Your presence among us as we celebrate our nation's birthday, and we worship You. On this occasion we rededicate ourselves to You and ask that You make this for each of us a meaningful and memorable experience. Make us appreciative and thankful for all that You have done for us to bring us to this moment in history as a nation and in our lives as individuals, for our health, for our life here in America, for those who have gone before us and have worked to make our nation rich in freedom and opportunity. You have blessed our homeland with surpassing riches. Let not its soul suffer ruin. In Your goodness and mercy forgive our weaknesses and sin. Bless our efforts to live in peace with one another, supporting one another in goodness, and living in such a way that our lives will in truth be a reflection of the life of Jesus, described by Himelf as one annointed by Thee, and sent to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and sight to the blind. Keep us loyal and faithful to You in the years ahead. Grant us the gift of generosity which brings joy, the gift of sympathy which brings forgiveness, and the gift of true love which brings peace. Accept this prayer, together with our deepest praise and thanks through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord Friend and Savior. Amen!
Friday, July 2, 2010
Blog #19 THE TEACHER St Mark begins the fourth chapter of his Gospel by giving the setting in which Jesus gave the parable of the sower. It is by the sea, most likely up around the city of Cepernaum, on the lake of Gallilee. The lake is around fourteen miles long and nine miles wide. Jesus is on the shore. Peter is there with his fishing boat and several of the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord. Jesus is teaching! As more and more people come out from the town to listen to Jesus, He gets into one of the boats and sits down. The crowd gathers around the boat and sits on the shore facing the sea. There is the picture, the crowd sitting on the shore, Jesus in a boat , teaching . Men women and children are in the crowd. There are fishermen carpenters business people. There are old wrinkled men. There are youths full of life and vigor. There are babies sleeping in their mothers' arms. People just like you and me, but almost two thousand years ahead of us in the story of creation and human life. Jesus is teaching them all, the rich the poor the blind the lame the young and the old. And well can He teach, for He is the Word of whom St. John speaks at the beginning of his Gospel saying : In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Then St. John goes on to say that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And this is Jesus, here before us, God Himself, yet one of us. God, all good, knowing all things, powerful enough to create by willing it the heat of the sun,the beauty of the flowers and the stars, and the goodness of mercy and forgiveness, Lord and Master, now become our brother, Jesus the Savior of the World is here before us teaching, teaching all who would come to listen and to learn, then as well as now, the crowds on the shore of the lake, people living all over the world today, you, and me. May we cherish the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. May we spend time with Him there, listening and learning. May our minds be open to His message and our hearts be open to His love!