Friday, December 31, 2010

BLOG # 95 Christmas, an event to be lived

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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blog #94 Advent notes

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

BLOG # 93 Advent 4, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

BLOG # 92 Advent 3, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BLOG # 91 Advent 2, 2010

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