Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Blog #56 SINGING IN HARMONY WITH GOD Recently I was reflecting upon how we can relate to God. But at the beginning instead of seeing God as the object of my imagination I used Abraham Lincoln. The name of Abraham Lincoln is still known around the world, almost like that of God. I can imagine myself related to Abraham Lincoln as hired to cut his lawn. His lawn is a very real part of his life. Even though he could be adept at law and government whether his lawn is cared for or not, people will think more or less of him, even as a statesman, depending upon the condition of his lawn. So it is with God. Some of us seem to see ourselves primarily in a capacity of 'caring for God's lawn', taking care of His creation, helping the poor, etc., without Him present in it for the time being, except indirectly. If the world does not produce enough food for all the people, if the poor are neglected, etc., it reflects upon God. Lincoln is a better President when his lawn is cut. God is a better God, as it were, when we take care of things for Him. After all, He told us to do this when He said we should love one another. Then I can imagine myself relating to Abraham Lincoln much the same as to the electronic computerized 'living' statue of Abraham Lincoln that was in the Illinois building at the New York World's Fair in 1964. It looked just like Lincoln, and was dressed like him. It was programmed to speak several of his speeches just like he would have done. Listening to the statue from the audience, if you had the same dispositions in 1964 as you might have had a century before when the real Lincoln said the same words you would be ready to act now as you would have acted then. Some people seem to see themselves relating to God in a similar way. He gives us words to say, things to do. And people around us, hearing these words of God and seeing these acts of God are affected by them just as if God Himself were here. The poor are clothed and comforted, the sorrowful rejoice,etc. But there is another way of relating to Lincoln that seems to come closer to illustrating the best way we can see ourselves as relating to God. Suppose Lincoln decides to sing a song. He doesn't have to sing in order to be a good President but he WANTS to sing. Not only this, but he wants to sing in HARMONY. He cannot do that alone. It seems this is something like what God has done with us. God created us because He wanted us. He teaches us the words of His song and its melody in various ways, such as through His word in the Bible, in the life death,and Resurrection of Jesus, through creation around us, people, the Church, and our individual conscience. Then He invites us to sing along with Him, helping, serving, celebrating. Our free response in faith adds harmony to what God is doing. In all of our life it is God working in us and we responding to Him that co-creates the beauty joy and harmony of our Christian experiences. We are not just cutting God's lawn or merely imitating Him or merely serving Him, but rather we are singing along with God in the harmony of our song of love. Neither God nor we could do it this way alone. Harmony of its nature takes different notes and blends them together in a single sound. God planned it that way. God's love for us as individual believers is a share in God's eternal everlasting love for all creation. Every note counts ! Thank You, Lord!
Monday, August 30, 2010
Blog # 56 -a HUMILITY ` From the Book of Sirach 3:17, 18. My child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. Think of the most recent time you used the word humility or heard that word spoken in your presence... I would not even think of asking when it might have been since you read the word in a daily newspaper or heard it on TV. Chances are the word humility is not a frequent or significant part of your daily conversation. If this so, it is likely to be true that you are not aware of any special value in it for you and that you are not growing in it. What comes immediately and spontaneously to you mind when you hear or read the word humility? I seems many people would think of sinfulness, lowliness, or powerlessness. There is a connection between all of these with one another and with humility, but these words do not capture all there is to humility, nor its most valuable meaning. We are to be humble in sight of our sins, yes, but there is also a positive and more significant aspect to the virtue. Jesus was absolutely without sin, yet was the most humble of us all. Even in the lowliness, if you want to put it that way, or simplicity and poverty of His birth in a stable, and His lying in a manger, Jesus was God, divine, lofty beyond our imagination. Though we find Jesus walking from Jerusalem to Jericho, and though He wept over the death of His friend Lazarus, Jesus had the power to walk on water, to calm a storm. Though He was hung on the cross as a criminal He had the power to tell Pontius Pilate that Pilate would have had no power over Him whatsoever if it had not been given Pilate "from above". Humility can be experienced in lowliness, powerlessness, and in our response to our sins. But it also can be experienced , and perhaps more perfectly, when we are holy, at the peak of our power, and at the moment of our greatest success. Humility is a natural virtue and can be experienced by a person who does not believe in God. For such a person the ingredients of humility are truth and honesty, seeing or experiencing life as it is rather than as we might like it to be (truth), and accepting this truth rather than denying it or distorting it. Such a person is naturally humble and naturally happy. But humility has often been labeled as a characteristically Christian virtue. The basics of Christian humility include what it takes to make the natural experience of humility, truth and honesty (the acceptance of the truth), but adds the dimension of God and our union with Jesus in response to God. To the natural virtue of humility the Christian virtue of humility adds faith and obedience. By faith we accept as fact that God is the Creator of all and that we depend upon God for all that we have and all that we are. When we respond to that faith in obedience and accept all that we are and all that is real as an expression of the will of God we have supernatural humility. We do not look to ourselves for our purpose or meaning but to God. Health or sickness, wealth or hard times are not what determines for us whether we are humble or not. Rather our humility is determined by our personal and free response to all things in the light of our relationship with God in Jesus. I am humiliated by my sins. I am humble when I accept forgiveness. In my sin I turn from God or deny who I am. In forgiveness I am once more the person God desires me to be. I am humble in a garden as I stand before the plan of God in the power of a single seed to grow and produce a string bean or a watermelon, shared with me in the here and now of the garden. I am humble before the wonders of my body, with so much going on within it, shared with me totally, yet all belonging to God. I am humble before the sun as it rises and goes down. The sun belongs to God. Yet its beauty and meaning is shared with me. I am humble before friends and before love. God has commanded everyone to love me and me to love everyone. I am humble before this command and rejoice in it. The seed grows and the sun comes up and goes down for the unbeliever as well as for me. But it is God's gift only for the humble, the honest, the responder,one who believes. Taking 'we' as the six billion or more human creatures scattered around the earth today, we might be compared to one or the other of the various electric appliances in your home. Each appliance must be connected to an electric source in order to be what it was designed to be. In order to be what we are designed to be we must be personalliy and consciously related to God the Creator of all. An electric appliance is real even though unplugged. But it is not all it was designed to be. So we. We are real even though we are not consciously related to God, but we are not all we were designed to be. If we do not have Christian humility we are missing a wonderful experience ! This is a significant part of the message Jesus told us to share with all the world.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Blog # 55 Increasing Our Love For just a moment let's consider what might go into a decision to love someone whether it be God or someone else. First of all we must know someone if we are to love him or her. We cannot love someone we do not know. This implies in our decision to love that we be open to discover one another, using knowledge as it were as a key to our hearts. This is true of our love for God as well as for other loves. If we really want to love God we must want to know God. If we do nothing to know God better we can hardly say we have decided to love God or to love God better. Also, part of a decision to love someone is to draw close to that person, share, praise, receive gifts and give gifts, to rejoice in the love, to protect it and strengthen it and deliberately to grow. Such decisions are not made by accident nor can they be taken for granted. Again, whether we are speaking of our love for wife husband children friends enemies or God, this is true. Questions for husbands and wives who wish to grow in their love for one another come to mind. What have we done today to increase our knowledge of one another? How do you feel? What do you think? Have we praised one another? What have we shared? What have we given? What have we received? With God too, for all who wish to love God and grow in their love for God there are similar questions. What have I done today to increase my knowledge of God? How have I praised God? Did I rejoice in God's love? Have I made any special effort to protect my love for God? What have we shared? What have I given to God and what have I received from God today as a sign and an expression of our love? In real life, of course, these questions are to be addressed dirctly and personally to God present to us rather than in some hypothetical way with God looking on or listening from the outside. The book of Psalms is rich with examples of an attempt on the part of the psalmist to increase his knowledge and love of God through praise, rejoicing, dedication, sharing, receiving, and asking questions. May the psalms ever be among our daily prayers. Grant it, Father, in the name of Jesus, Your Beloved Son. Amen!
Monday, August 23, 2010
Blog # 50 CREATION Did you ever go into someone's home and notice on the mantle or on an end table a stone or a dried flower? You might have asked about it and found that it is very meaningful and precious to the person who lives in the house. The stone was the one the husband sent home from Europe during the Second World War, when it was not at all certain he would safely return. The flower is the one he and she picked together on the occasion when they walked in the woods and he asked if she would marry him. The flower is not the most beautiful, perhaps, nor the stone of precious material, but both the stone and the flower are very meaningful, not in themselves alone, but in the message they still bring, in the relationship they express, and in the love they nourish and recall. For those who know the story the stone and the flower are indeed precious. If you do not know their story the stone and the flower are real but not special . We have a situation that is parallel to this in the response and interpretation various people give to the reality of creation all around us. For a plumber who comes to the house to fix the kitchen sink the stone and the flower may not even be noticed. You could be in their presence as you passed through the living room on your way to the kitchen, but not even see them or only see them momentarily as they flashed through your sight on your way to accomplish the purpose or goal you had in mind for yourself. Some people live for long periods of time in the world as all of us know it and never see God's Hand or hear God's Voice. They treat the world in a very practical sort of way, use it to make a living, enjoy its pleasures, avoid its dangers, and appreciate its great beauty, but never see hear or touch more than the eye the ear or the skin can tell them. Other people live in the same world as the first group, with the same beauty and power, the same possibilities for pleasure or for pain, with the same colors shapes and sounds, the same sun and moon and stars, but they see and hear more, and differently. They know the story behind it all. They know God !
Sunday, August 22, 2010
BLOG # 49 BIBLE TRUTH - today Did you ever have the experience of reading the list of those on a local school's honor roll, and halfway down the list discover the name of your niece or your neighbor your grandson or the daughter of a fellow choir member? The list was true before it was published in the newspaper. It was also true as it was published. But it is true in still another sense when you read it, recognize someone you know and share in its truth personally through the joy it brings to your heart to know that someone you know and love has accomplished something good. Our experience of reading the bible is similar. What the Bible tells us of God and creation, of the people of God and of Jesus was true even before it was written in the Bible. It is true also as it was written. But it is true in still another sense when we read it, believe it or make it our own, and discover there someone we know and love, our neighbors, and our very selves. When we understand and continually remember the Bible was written for us it has great power in our lives. "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" The answer becomes "Yes". It is possible to forget the Bible was written for us, here and now, at the very moment we are reading it. We hear Jesus telling the crowds of Palestine to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He send laborers into the harvest field. Do we realize these words of Jesus were addressed to us? When was the most recent time you prayed on your own that holy and zealous ministers of the Gospel be raised up here in America, where the harvest is waiting? We hear the words of Jesus telling us "Blessed are the merciful..." yet it is so easy to be lacking in mercy when we are offended, only to see the need for mercy in others, seldom praying to the Holy spirit for the gift of a merciful generous and patient heart for ourselves. We hear Jesus telling us not to worry about what we are going to eat or drink, or what we are going to wear. "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His goodness and all these thing will be given you besides." How easy it is to read this passage to someone else, and how easy it is to forget it was spoken to us. Many of us these days are rightfully concerned about smog and air pollution in our cities, the pollution of our seas and rivers, and the pile-up of solid waste across the country. Even here we tend to discover what others can do, where they have caused the problem, and we find it easy to overlook the fact each one of us is part of the whole human family on earth and that we are called by God to assume our fair share of the responsibility for the present condition of the globe and of the initiative and action that will improve our world in the future. The Bible told me that. ( Genesis 2 : 15 - 17 )
Blog #47 GOD IS EVERYWHERE All of us have gifts and talents and pleasures in our life. We are thankful to many people, relatives friends and loved ones who have given us things and love to make our lives happier and more meaningful. We show our appreciation for gifts by saying "Thank you!". We recognise the perfection of the ballplayer by cheering and applause. We praise the work of an artist. We purchase tapes of songs by men and women who sing well. But did you ever think that by merely cheering a ball player for hitting a home run or by merely praising an artist for a beautiful painting or by thanking a neighbor for a batch of beans if we stop there we are stopping short of the complete truth and joy that could be ours? The gifts and love of all around us are real, and we should appreciate them. But without God behind and within them there would be no gifts nor love nor neighbors nor reality at all other than that of God. It is not that we should not praise and appreciate all of our friends, their gifts and their love. Rather it is that we should appreciate God too, from Whom all of them come and by Whose choice and desire it is that all of them exist. As without the sun the moon would have no light so without God our friends would have no gifts to give and we would have no friends. All that comes to us, all that we know and possess is from God. The Bible tells us this. Consider the beautiful story of creation at the very beginning of Genesis. God creates heaven and earth. The earth is void and empty. God creates light, the sun the stars and the moon. God creates plants and animals mountains and seas. Finally God creates human beings and places them in charge of all that God has created. From the beginning God is shown in the Bible as one on whom everything depends, the giver of all good gifts the Father of creation. That is one of the reasons we know our prayers make sense - God is present in all of reality and nothing exists not even our thoughts without God. So when we go to God in prayer we know God is with us, knowing what we think and what we desire, blessing our awareness of His presence and receivng our thanks for everything and everyone we know and love. Appreciation of a home run is right and good but appreciation of a home run plus God is better !
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Blog # 46 GROWTH
See the lilies of the field, Jesus said, how they grow.
Certainly if God creates the grass of a field with potential for growth how much more confidence we should have in the process of our personal spiritual growth. With reasonable care our bodies grow. How much more confident we should be that with reasonable care our spirits our faith and our generosity our prayer will also grow.
I once read of a woman who visited the seashore on a particular occasion She was feeling blue. There was little evidence of meaning in her life. Things seamed to be going around in circles monotonously with little being achieved. Her life seemed like the vast expanse of sand before her, flat, the same throughout, with little variation or growth.
Then she discovered on the beach a particular shell that intrigued her. She picked it up and began to study it in detail The lines, the color, all were beautiful when you studied them.
The shell became for her the work of an artist. She went from the shell to the sand to the ocean to the sky to God and back to herself. She came away from the beach with a new and impressive insight into the fact God was with her as He was in the shell, designing her life with no less care nor wisdom than that with which He designed the shell. She merely had to reflect upon it. She was encouraged. She grew in wisdom.
We can be sure God is with us extending His invitation to us to grow in wisdom before Him, to grow in our friendship for him, to grow in our awareness of His power and love in our lives. These items constitute the basis for our growth in prayer.
We remind ourselves that growth is not always manifested nor exhausted in an increase in numbers or in volume, such as you might say of a pile of stones which 'grows' by adding to its numbers, or our prayer life might increase by adding to the length or number of our prayers. Growth is not just increase but development.
To grow in prayer we might and must grow in the times we pray but also more importantly grow in the quality of our prayer. You might greet the mail carrier fifty times a year and your son once as he comes back from service in the Army in a far-away place. The difference in the greeting is a difference in quality as well as in number. All the fifty greetings of the mail carrier do not add up to the greeting of your son. So it is with God and our life of prayer.
Father, may our love for You deepen as the days of our lives go on. May we grow in goodness before You and may we not be distracted by the things that should remind us of You. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Blog # 45 WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM ? If you were born this side of 1946 you cannot experience World War II, right? Yes and no. If you stop to think about it, there are several ways you can experience the war, even though you were born after it was over. It is true that you cannot sit in congress on the day in history when President Roosevelt declared war on Japan. But you can read the text of his speech on that occasion and you can listen to it as it has been recorded on tape, and you can reflect upon its meaning and upon its effect upon our nation and our world. I think it is something like this with the life of Jesus. It is true that if you were born less than nineteen hundred years ago you are too young to see Him walk from Jerusalem to Jericho, to share His fish supper as the Apostles did on the shore of the Sea of Galilee , or hide yourself in fear as most of the Apostles did when He died on the cross. But you can know these events occurred. You can read of them in the Bible. You can reflect upon their meaning purpose and effect upon the world and upon your own life. In a very real sense, to listen to the words of President Roosevelt on a tape is much the same as listening to him speak those same words in Congress on December 8, 1941. There is a parallel in the life death and resurrection of Jesus experienced by the world over nineteen hundred years ago and our experience of that same life death and resurrection today in the Bible narrative of these events, in our reflection upon their meaning and purpose, and in the their effect upon our ways of thinking and upon our behavior. This would be true of the events of World War II as recorded in a history book and in the events of the life of Jesus as recorded in the Bible. There is also a large and essential difference. The events of history are human experiences and can be recalled by human memory. The events of the life of Jesus also have this human dimension and can be recalled by human memory, recorded in the Bible and passed on through the years. But the events of the life death and resurrection of Jesus are also the actions of Emmanuel, God-Among-Us, divine. This dimension of the life death and resurrection of Jesus can only be recalled by faith. "I am with you always..." has a very special meaning and power for those who believe. Though Jesus stood in their midst in the flesh, their ears heard Him speak, and their eyes saw Him walk among them, it was still up to Peter James and John in faith and freedom to declare this was God's Son, the Eternal Word of God, their Savior, the Messiah. And so it is with us.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Blog # 44 UNLESS
Recently it occurred to me to look in the Bible to trace the use of the word "unless". Unless is a strong word, a word that puts definite fences around actions thoughts and plans. Unless places us inside or outside. It is a word of power. I will give you a few of the references in the New Testament in which the word occurs.
Matthew 5: 20. Jesus is speaking. "I tell you, unless your holiness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the Kingdom of God." Matthew 18: 3. Jesus called a little child over and stood the child in their midst, and said: I assure you, unless you change and become like little children you will not enter the Kingdom of God. Matthew 18: 35 After telling a story of a man who did not treat his neighbor mercifully, Jesus says : My Father will treat you in exactly the same way , unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.
John 3: 2. Jesus teaches Nicodemus in these words: I solemnly assure you, no one Can see the reign of God unless he is born from above. John 4 48. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. John 12: 24. Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a grain of wheat. But if it dies it produces much fruit. John 19: 11 Jesus is speaking to Pilate at the time of the trial of Jesus: "You would have no power over me whatsoever unless it were given you from above.
Unless we be holy, unless we change and become like little children, unless we forgive our brothers and sisters from our hearts, unless we reform our lives, unless we are born from above, unless the Father draw us, then we cannot please God and attain His Kingdom.
This is the message Jesus brought to Jerusalem and Jericho. It is the message He brings to us today. We must be holy, like children, forgive one another, believe. Jesus did all of this before us and invites us to follow Him to the Kingdom. May our lives be a great "Amen!" to His desire!
Monday, August 16, 2010
Blog # 43 PRAYER I remember talking to the father of a small boy playing in a little league. The father was saying that if a boy is going to be a good ball player, somewhere along the line it is necessary for him to learn to be aggressive. Somehow he said, you just do not have the need or the heart to win unless you get the spirit of aggression, the competitive spirit, the difference between someone who is merely "on the team" and someone who "plays the game ". I think it is something like this with the experience of faith and church too. There is some hard-to-describe reality certain people attain that makes the difference between belonging to a church and living as a believer. There are ways we can tell a boy or a girl has reached the point of really playing ball rather than just belonging to a ball team by his or her attendance and enthusiasm for practice, interest in big league ball, and his or her batting average on the field. It would seem there are also similar ways we can tell a person has attained a mature and living faith over against a bloodless uninteresting weak habit of merely belonging to a church. It seems that one of the first indicators a person has attained a sincere maturity of faith is the person's experience of prayer. Certain questions are important, such as do we pray, that is do we really talk to God, convinced of His presence to us, and knowing by faith He is our friend and cares for us personally? When do we pray? Alone or with others? Does our prayer consist only or for the most part of requests from God for things we want and need for ourselves, or do we praise and adore God in our prayer, thank God for all God is and does, tell God of our delight and joy in discovering His wisdom and goodness in creation around us, tell God of our love for Him and of the difficulties we experience in fulfilling that love and helping it to grow? The quality of a person's prayer is certainly an indicator of that person's relationship with God. The questions I have referred to are just a few of the questions we might ask ourselves with regard to our prayer experience to find out how well or little our prayer life has developed and what we might do to improve it. In what league are we praying, a little league or the majors?
Friday, August 13, 2010
BLOG # 42 TO SEE GOD Some spiritual writers have made the comment that it is perhaps more difficult for people in our day and age to be aware of God and to see God in His ongoing work of creation than it was in the past. Many of us spend most of our time these days indoors. As a result we are less in contact with the earth itself, the sky, and nature. We live in such a mechanized world that we come into far less direct contact with natural forces and realities as compared to the experience of people long ago. They grew their food from the soil. We buy it already packaged and ready to cook if not ready to eat. As a result of our modern experience we tend to be further removed from nature as such and less inclined to be aware of God in what we experience. Yet God is present in all of creation today as well as "in the beginning". Years ago I planted a vine outside the church of which I was Pastor to remind us of the words of Jesus that He is a vine and we are its branches. As the vine grew it did remind us of our faith and our relationship with one another. Then almost as though they were created just for this hundreds of caterpillars appeared on the vine. Was the same God speaking to us in the caterpillars as in the vine? If so it would seem He was working against Himself. I noticed as I picked off the caterpillars they all knew enough to hide themselves on the underside of the leaves, a reflection to me of the wisdom of an all-wise God. God was in the caterpillars as well as in the vine! I continued to ask what could God be saying to us in the caterpillars eating the vine which we planted in His honor to grow in our knowledge and love for Him. I heard Him telling me He wanted me to have freedom to make judgments with regard to Him. In freedom my love would be a genuine choice. God would not be like the electric switch. Flip it on and the light lights! Praise God and my tomatoes grow! Pray and the caterpillars do not come! That kind of relationship would almost seem to try to capture my relationship with God in justice rather than in the wild freedom of trust that begets true love. No, God, the good God, is present even in the caterpillars, and wishes me to discover Him there. But He will not force Himself upon me, proving the truth at the price of my freedom. Then I heard God inviting me to see in the caterpillars an image of sin. As the caterpillars were an enemy of the vine sin is an enemy of the Church and of every person in the world. I am to work against sin as I am to work against the caterpillars. Victory can be ours. But if I do not conquer the caterpillars they will ruin the vine. Psalm one touches upon the joy of seeing God in all creation. May each of us see and love God everywhere and praise Him for His goodness every day, wherever we may be ! God is always there!! ...and always in love with us!!!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Blog # 41 - a LAMB OF GOD Years ago back in the seminary before I was ordained we seminarians created a dark room in the basement of our residence for developing photos. It was very important to have the room completely light proof, full of darkness with no white light whatsoever. I was always intrigued by the fact the darkness was very real, I knew that, but so dark and unreal to my senses that I couldn't feel it taste it hear it or smell it. It was an interesting question for me to ask could I see the darkness. I could not see anything in the room at all until I lit a special red light that would permit a limited vision of the equipment we needed to use in the process of developing our photos but would not prevent the process as white light would do. How that came about was a mystery to me, but an even greater mystery was the question what happened to the darkness when we turned on the white light without opening the locked door of the dark room and the darkness would be gone. What happened to it? Where did it go? I am still intrigued by that question particularly since I see it in reference to a prayer we use each day in the Mass which addresses Jesus as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. We could have used the word 'forgive' the sins of the world in that prayer but we did not. Take away is stronger than forgive. We are dealing with a spiritual reality so there is no need or room to identify or imagine a 'place' where the sins have 'gone'. The important thing is to realize Jesus is our redeemer and as the Lamb of God He takes away our sins. They are gone which implies in this case they do not exist any more just as the darkness does not exist any more when the light appears. It is still a mystery, beyond our limited capacity to understand fully but clear enough for us to realize the power wisdom and goodness of Jesus in becoming our redeemer on Calvary and in being genuinely grateful for that identity of His in relation to our sins and those of the whole world. Most people would stop here ,thankful and happy that our sins are taken away in the obedient love of Jesus. That is indeed a great gift to us. But the best part and most awesome part of it for me is not that sins are taken away but the offense to God that sin entails is atoned for and taken away in the suffering and death of Jesus. Jesus had the power and the right to win this gift for us. For this to be real Jesus would have to be divine. Sin as an offense against a fellow human being can be forgiven by the human being offended. But sin in its identity as an offense against God, which all sin is, can only be destroyed or 'taken away' by someone who is identified on the level of God, someone who is divine. From the time John pointed Jesus out as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world at the beginning of His public ministry at the River Jordan (Jn 1: 29), to the time Jesus laid down His life on the Cross in obedience to the Father' love for Jesus and for us, we have one of the stongest arguments or proofs of the divinity of Jesus. We have an opportunity of proclaiming it for Him every time we offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, grant us peace.
Blog # 41 ASK GOD What a difference it would make in America if each of us really loved God above all! John 14: 15 says "If you love me, keep my commandments". It follows like the night the day that if we really love God we will keep His commandments. But when we really know and love God our attitude toward His commandments changes too. God's laws are not a burden for those who love God. The people who are troubled by the law in our country that we cannot steal are the thieves and robbers. So too, the time we find the law of God a burden is the time we do not know and love God properly. The time the commands of God are not attractive is when we sin against them. Whenever we buy a new stove or an electric mixer the manufacturer sends along a little leaflet with all the operating instructions on it. The manufacturer knows his product. If we follow his instructions our stove or mixer will give good results. So it is with God and us. God made us and He sends along a set of operating instructions. God's commandments are merely our operating instructions. If we follow them we will find the happiness for which we were made. If not we will seek our happiness someplace else apart from God's will where the happiness we seek is not to be found. I once heard of a little two and a half year old boy who was saving his money for a birthday gift for his Dad. One day his uncle came to visit and when he heard of the plan he offered the boy a choice of two coins. One of them was a bright shining nickel and the other was a dull well-worn dime. The little boy did not know a great deal about money yet but he did realize some coins were better than others. It looked to him that the big shining nickle was better than the small dull dime. But in order to make sure, he ran over to his mother and asked her to make the choice. This is similar to the way it is with us and God. Sometimes it might seem like we would be happier getting two hours more of sleep on Sunday mornings instead of going to church, or it might seem like we would be happier through getting revenge for an injury but we will not. God made us. God knows what we are made of and what we are made for. We may be wise, but God is Wisdom. Our wisdom is like a picture of a rose. God's wisdom is the rose. And so, whenever we have to make a moral decision, when we come to a fork in the road, when it is a question of doing God's will or not we should pray. Ask God for the answer. Trusting God we will love God more. Loving God more we will rejoice to follow Him more closely. What difference it would make in America and the world if each of us really loved God!
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Blog # 39 PRAY (Lk 11: 1). His disciples asked Jesus : "Lord, teach us to pray". (Mat 26: 36). " Stay here while I go over there and pray". (Acts 10: 9). " Peter went up to the roof terrace to pray". To pray. What does this mean? We could look in a dictionary and discover the few words that officially define for us the experience of prayer, but the question what does it mean to pray can be asked on a different level than a mere definition in words. What does it mean , personally, to pray? Is there some way I can remind myself to pray when I tend to forget? How often can or should I pray? If we look to the Bible for references to prayer we find many. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments many explicit references are made to prayer. Kings judges patriarchs and common people are all given to prayer. Paul certainly was a man of prayer. Jesus invited His disciples to come away from their ordinary work routine to spend time in prayer. The Gospels tell us Jesus frequently prayed, especially when making important decisions such as calling the Apostles or when He needed special strength as on the night before He died when He knelt in the garden to prepare Himself to suffer. We are told Jesus spent whole nights in prayer. Holy men and women throughout the history of the Church have always been outstanding models for those who wish to pray. There is frequently a common pattern. Those who have accomplished most in the world for God and for people seem to be those who were most interested in and devoted to prayer. Through their prayers they were joined to Heaven but also accomplished great things for people on earth. Mother Terese of Calcutta is a prime example of such holy people. What would you say right now if someone were to ask you what does it mean to pray? What image, what words would come to your mind if someone asked you what it means to pray? For some people it would seem the experience of prayer is predominantly the experience of asking God for something. For others it is more. A definition of prayer we learned as children went like this: To pray is to raise our minds and hearts to God, to adore Him, to thank Him, to express our sorrow for our sins, and to ask Him for what we need and His blessing upon our lives. That makes a good prayer. Then years ago I asked an old priest how he would define prayer. He said prayer is a personal willful response to the presence of God Who is love. Since God is love, and God is always and everywhere present, that definition is open to receive within itself actions as well as thoughts and words. As we can express our response to a friend's birthday with a cake, a hug, a poem or a song, a written note or in spoken words, so we can express our response to God present to us in more than one way. And since God is present always and everywhere there is no time or place where prayer in one form or another cannot be ours. Thoughts such as these throw light on the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5: 17, 18: ...never cease praying,...such is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. The classic prayer referred to as "The Morning Offering" says it this way: O Jesus through the immaculate heart of the Virgin Mary, I offer thee my prayers works joys and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of Thy sacred heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins and for the geneal intentions of the Holy Father. Amen! Yes, Lord, always and everywhere, Thy will be done!
Blog # 38 ON OUR WAY HOME In the sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel, Jesus tells us not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth where thieves break in and steal and rust and moths destroy but to lay up for ourselves treasures in Heaven, for where our treasure is there our hearts will be. Here on earth God has given us many good things. But He wants us to know that of all the gifts He has given us none of them is everlasting but ourselves. Clothes wear out, health will fail, riches can be stolen and money will be left behind. The Savior wants us to know very definitely that our plans for life should never stop with this world alone. At death which is the end of this life our real life is just beginning. We do not think about Heaven enough. For example, when is the most recent time you sat down and did some thinking about Heaven? Isn't most of our thinking done about this world, our business our homes our neighbors our families? We are dealing with these realities all day long but how seldom we think of them in a direct relationship to Heaven. If any one of us were asked "Do you want to 'go' to Heaven?", I imagine all of us would say yes. But how many of us are actually doing something significant about it? Whenever we are going somewhere important we spend time getting ready. For an examination in school we prepare. For a business meeting we look our best. And for the greatest thing that any of us could ever look forward to, namely eternal life in Heaven, few seem to be making precisely identified preparations. Whenever we find people traveling to California, New York, or any other place in the world we find them on the way all the time from the time they leave one place until they reach the other. And it anyone stops them along the way and asks where they are going they do not have to hesitate about an answer but come right out with "I'm going to California!", or "I'm going to New York." It should be no different with the trip all of us are taking from the time we knew right from wrong until the time we die. God is calling us to Heaven. He made us for this. We do not have a lasting city here. All God's gifts are intended to draw us to Himself and to prepare us for an eternal home in His love. We call that Heaven. Now is the time to get ready. Here is a little thing you might try to help you remember and experience in the three dimensions of reality what I have been trying to share with you in words. I am imagining you are sitting at a computer in a room of your house or office. Choose the nearest door out of the room. Then get up and walk out the door. One single step will take you out of the room, but every step you take on the way out counts. The final step is based upon them all. A wrong step will take you in a wrong direction. That is the way it is with life, Heaven, and the way to 'get' there. The instant of our death is the final step into eternal life. For a sincere knowlegeable Chistian believer, all the way to Heaven is Heaven on earth. but the final step, death, is the most significant and the best. As with the story of the first miracle Jesus publicly performed at the wedding feast of Cana, in the miracle of our death He has saved the 'best wine until now'. Jesus told us this clearly enough when He said there is no greater love a person can have than to lay down one's life for a friend. All of our life we should be doing this, for God and for one another. (Mark 12: 28 - 31 ) Every day counts. Every day is a step toward the door. Our conscience should be our call to holiness. Our life day by day should be an echo to that call. We are indeed going somewhere. Let's make sure we are going in the right direction. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, be our guide , always! Help us to listen to You, to learn from You and to follow You. Amen! In our daily experience of faith,hope and love for God we are in a sense already there! Thank You, Lord.