Thursday, September 30, 2010
IMMORTALITY - Eternal life. At some time, perhaps close to the beginning of time, the first man and the first woman came to be. Since that time billions and billions of men and women came to be. All of them with the exception of between six and seven billion of us living on earth today are gone. We speak of them as 'dead'. Yet there are those who have lived among us and who live among us today, and I am among them, who claim every man and woman who ever came to be is yet 'alive'! It is not that I foolishly deny the death of the body. It is for the human person I claim eternal life. Is this claim of ours a mere guess, an opinion based upon perhaps a deep-seated hope in our hearts, a desire that brings comfort in our response to the loss in death of someone we love? How can we hold such a conviction in the face of overwhelming physical evidence contradicting it? Does anybody know for sure? What is the basis of our conviction? St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest Catholic philosophers and theologians of all time, wrote in the thirteenth Century in favor of the immortality of the human person. As a philosopher he gave five 'arguments' that pointed to immortality but he admitted they were not in a line of definitive proofs. In 1947 as part of the requirement for a BA degree with a philosophy major I wrote a dissertation on eternal life. I had to come up with what St.Tomas concluded seven hundred years before. As philosophers, the only way we could definitively prove we live forever is to live forever. As theologians, however, both St. Thomas and I were absolutely convinced of the immortality of the human soul. How could that be? By faith. We believe it. In its strict sense to believe is to take something as true on the word of another. The conditions for faith, applied to eternal life, were fulfilled, and out conclusion is as secure as mathematical certitude. 2 + 2 = 4. I believe in eternal life, and the resurrection of the body. What that means to me, until I 'die', only God knows. But God does know. And Jesus is God. For faith to occur we have to have as the object of our faith a truth that is not available to us at the time. A revealer or witness to the truth is then required. Trust in the revealer follows this, and the experience of faith is ours when we actually accept the truth revealed as our own. In the case at hand the Resurrected Jesus is the sole revealer, the only one who claims and has the right to claim from personal experience the reality of eternal life. He, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is responsible for all of creation, for all that has and will come to be, for the design and production of our life on earth and our eternal life in the life to come. When we trust the authenticity of His credentials and believe His claim, the truth about eternal life is, by faith, for us as true as if we had already experienced it.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
BLOG # 73 GROWING IN FAITH In all of nature it is easy to see growth, the grass in need of mowing, leaves growing on the trees in Springtime, puppies, gardens, children. What about our own spiritual growth, growth in faith and generosity, growth in our love for God and one another? Is it recognizable? Is it real? The first Bible text that comes to mind when I begin to think of growth before God is 1 Cor. 13: 11. St. Paul says: "When I was a child I used to talk like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a man I put childish things aside". The full implication of the text is that Paul was changing, growing, perfecting himself as the years of his life moved on. Other texts remind us of our need to grow continually in our faith, in our goodness, in our freedom. Col 1: 6 speaks of the Gospel continuing to grow among the people of Colossae. Then in verse nine through eleven of the same chapter the author says that he is praying for the people that they may grow in their knowledge of God Himself. Lk 2: 32 tells us Jesus Himself as a boy grew steadily in wisdom and grace before God and man. In Mathew 6: 28 Jesus tells us to look at the lilies of he fields, how they grow. In Ephesians 4: 14 we read : " Let us then be children no longer, tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine that originates in human trickery and skill in proposing error. Rather let us profess the truth in love, and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through Him the whole body grows and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament builds itself up in love. These and other similar texts in the Bible readily indicate that faith was not experienced by the early Christians as a static thing, much the same as. you might say, of a precious jewel which you have or do not have in its fullness, which you appreciate , perhaps, more or less, from time to time, but in itself remains the same. Rather faith was organic, living, capable of growth, much the same as friendship, increasing or decreasing through the years, different in its different stages, never intended to be the same ten years from now as it was ten years ago. The Apostles fittingly said to the Lord: increase our faith. (Luke 17 : 5).
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Blog # 72 CHALK Years ago, while visiting a Catholic School in Chicago, a boy asked me this question: What does it feel like for you to be a Christian? I had been trying to live as a Christian for years, but nobody that I could remember had ever asked me what it felt like before. So I thought for half a moment and then reached back to the blackboard in the room and picked up a piece of chalk. I held up the piece of chalk and said: "To be a Christian feels something like being a piece of chalk." You should have seen the boy's face. Up until then he was smiling but when I said it felt like being a piece of chalk it looked as if he had decided right then and there the Christian life was not for him. So I put down the chalk and tried to make what I said less of an obstacle. "I didn't mean it is a bad sort of a feeling to be a Christian, a chalky sort of feeling or something like that. I'll show you what I mean. Watch". I drew a big 'X' on the board with my hand. Then I picked up the chalk again, and now, with the chalk in hand I drew an 'X' on the same spot where I had made the motion with my arm before. Now you could see the 'X' clearly, whereas in the first instance it could not be seen. I asked the boy "Who did that?" He said; "You did". "How about the chalk?" "The chalk did it too." "Right! And that is what I meant when I said that it sort of feels like being a piece of chalk to be a Christian. I had the message for you - 'X'. The chalk made it visible. It could be seen and read by all once I wrote it on the board in chalk. That's the way it is with God. God has a message for the world. The message is that God loves us. A Christian studies the message and makes it his or her own. Then he or she lives in such a way that the message is visible." You can see and hear and feel the message of God's love when Christians visit the sick and aged, when they help the poor, console the sorrowful, when they rejoice in what is good, sacrifice themselves for what is right, and when they pray. This is what I meant when I said to be a Christian feels something like being a piece of chalk. It is not a bad feeling at all. The message of God is always the same - " I love you". We who are Christian know this and we are called upon to make the message of God's love our very own and proclaim it by our life.. When we fail to make it personal to ourselves and fail to reflect it in our lives, then we just don't know what it feels like to be a Christian, someone who is sent with a message, a piece of chalk in the hand of God. May each of us who are made one with Jesus by faith and Baptism proclaim the message well all the days of our lives, until all of our chalk is used up and we are safe in Heaven, where the message began and where it lives unchallenged, undistorted by sin, forever.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
BLOG #71 THE MORE WE LOVE THE MORE WE GIVE From the ordinary person who lives next door or across the road , to the wisest professor of human psychology at Harvard or Columbia Universities, all of us know something about love, in love experienced, or in sin betrayed. And throughout the Bible we see the importance of love in all of our life. Love is shown as lessening the weight of the human burdens we have to bear. When Jacob served seven years to obtain Rachel as his wife the book of Genesis tells us that the seven years seemed like a few days because of the greatness of his love. The Hebrew prophets Amos Micah and Zachariah tell us to love what is good, to love mercy, to love truth, and to love peace. We are constantly taught and encouraged to love God and to love one another. Paul said that of the three virtues of faith hope and love, love is the greatest. The Apostle John says that God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him. All the words of the prophets, the law, and the commandments are summed up in the simple command to love God above all and our neighbor as we love ourselves. Perhaps the closest to a direct definition of love in the Bible is from Jesus: No greater love than this can a man have than that he lay down his life for a friend. In our every quest for a definition of love, from a reflection upon our own experience, from consultation with married couples, from study of books on human psychology, from a survey of the Bible, it seems we could come up with no more perfect a definition of love than to say to love means to give, and the more we love the more we give. For this reason Jesus could say there is no greater love possible for a person than to give one's life, for in giving our life we have no more to give. Whether the love we speak of is the love of a friend for a friend, a wife for a husband, parents for children, a man for his country, brothers and sisters for one another, believers for their God, or God for His people, the definition is the same, to love means to give, the more we love the more we give. Kindness, patience, time, forgiveness, affection,rings and roses, hugs and kisses, prayer, are all gifts that lovers give to one another to establish their love and to deepen it. Nothing is as important in all our lives as love. "There is no greater love than this, than that someone would lay down one's life for a friend". Then Jesus lay down His life for us in obedience to the Father's love as a sign and an expression of the Father's love for us and for all creation. Father, help us understand, appreciate, and experience Your love ever more perfectly and generously as the days of our life on earth go on until that instant when we give it all in the total unconditional everlasting gift of death.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Blog # 70 DISCIPLE A true disciple of Jesus looks not for what he can get from Jesus or for what Jesus can do for him but rather looks for what he can do in Jesus and what Jesus can go with him. A disciple of Jesus sees himself first of all as a creature of God. He sees himself as a child of Adam and Eve. He sees that when our first parents committed the first sin the effects of that sin were felt not only by themselves but by all of those who were to follow. The disciple of Jesus sees that in this very truth lies the need of the Savior of all, Jesus the Lord. He sees in the sacrifice of the life of Jesus on the Cross the salvation of the world and his own salvation. He is thankful to God for all of this. The disciple of Jesus sees still more. He sees Jesus not only on the Cross, not only on Judgment Day, and not only on Sunday, The true disciple sees the Savior always and everywhere, working with him, in praising and adoring God, saving his own individual soul, and bringing Christian truth and joy into the world where there can be no complete and everlasting joy other than that which comes through Jesus. The disciple of Jesus sees the Savior walk over to a tax collector's booth and lean over the counter to a man named Levi. He hears the Master say: "Come, follow me". He sees the beginning of what was going to be a change in that man's life from that of a tax collector to that of St. Mathew the Apostle-Martyr. Then the disciple applies what he sees and hears to himself, over and over again, in his own life. "Come, follow me". For someone who is really close to Jesus, "Come follow me" is heard in colors shapes and sounds, in sickness and in health, in relationships with people and especially when we might be tempted to go another way, throughout our life. And of course when God comes to take that life from the trials of earth the disciple hears those words in tones that will be sweeter than ever before: "Come, follow me, to the home I have prepared for you in my Father's eternal love".
Friday, September 24, 2010
BLOG # 69 HEARING GOD'S MESSAGES Why is the moon,beautiful as it might be, a light in the sky for one person, and a message from God about Himself and us to another? Why does one person driving a truck from one city to another see only corn or cotton growing and this same person's companion, sitting on the same front seat in the same truck see God growing food and clothing for His people in the cotton and the corn? The reason does not seem to be that one is more intelligent than the other, no more than you and I do not speak Russian, not because we are lacking the intelligence of a ten year old Russian boy who does speak the language, but rather that we have not had the backgound he has had, the experience of learning the Russian language. Somewhere along the line some people who now see God and hear God's message in the world around them have had an experience similar to that of the young man and woman on the beach who know perhaps for the first time and in a significant way their love for one another. To commemorate the occasion, to make it endure, to symbolize it, she takes home a small shell. That is the shell that is now on the mantel in the living room. With the same physical dimensions but with the added background of the knowledge and experience of husband and wife it means much more to them today than the day she picked it from the sand. Once we have discovered God in creation, from then on it is possible for all of creation to speak to us of God. It is a beautiful experience. I would not know how many people we meet each day have had it, but I believe it is offered to all. What I am writing about is not a superstitious view of the world around us, seeing in creation or in certain aspects of it some magical presence, but rather in a gifted and faith centered way, yet naturally, God present to us in His world, speaking to is in the things He has made, calling us, testing us, challenging us, developing us, rewarding us, punishing us, loving us in our everyday world and in our everyday experiences. Romans 1 : 20 has the same thought. "Since the creation of the world, invisible realities, God's eternal power and divinity, have become visible, recognized through the things he has made." May this truth be ours! Thank You, Lord for all You do , colors, shapes, sounds, every day, everywhere we go!
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Blog #67 GIFT What a joy it would be for a poor man to win a fortune in a lucky drawing through no more effort on his part than to enter the contest, fill in the blank and send in his name. If we reflect upon this experience of the poor man who became a grand prize winner we can see somewhat of a parallel between each of us and the Good News of Salvation in Jesus. The Bible tells us we cannot by our own merits or good works earn the gift of eternal life. The good news of salvation is a gift from God. Grace is free, an expression of love rather than a reward. Even when we were in sin God loved us and called us to Himself in Christ Jesus. So indeed we are like a poor person winning a rich prize offered freely by God because He loves us in Jesus. In order to win there is one thing necessary on the part of the poor person. He or she must enter the drawing or contest. He must submit his name. So we, even though salvation is a free gift and cannot be earned by the greatest among us, from the least to the greatest we must believe in order to be saved. We must accept the gift of salvation, make it our own, join with Jesus as members of His body, branches on the vine. Think again of the poor man who won a million dollars. What a difference this would make in his life ! Can you imagine him living the same as he had been living when he was poor? If so,it might as well have been that he didn't win the prize at all. So it is with our prize of salvation. Without the gift of salvation we are indeed poor, each of us growing older by the hour, with death, our greatest enemy after sin, approaching ever closer, looming large against all else we may have accomplished or accumulated in the short span of our human life, telling us for sure the bad news there is no hope beyond the grave. But the Good News comes that Jesus lives. He has conquered death , in our name as well as His. The Father loves us with the same love with which He loves Jesus. ( cf Jn 17: 23 ). We share by faith the victory of Jesus over sin and death. We are given the good news of eternal life ! As the poor man who won the fortune, so we who received the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus find our whole lives changed by this fact. We are now united with Jesus in our prayers and praise of God our loving Father. In Jesus we do the works of the Lord. We are enriched with the riches of His goodness. As we recall and reflect upon what Jesus does for us in the here and now of our everyday lives, may we be filled with the joy great Saints have known. Jesus has won for us the prize of salvation. Our lives are different because of Him. Because of the strength and wisdom He shares we pray in His name. God is our Father in Jesus ! We can promise to be kind to one another, strengthened by His love which we share. We can be brothers and sisters to all people throughout the world in the vision Jesus taught. Thank You, Lord !
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Blog # 66 SPREADING THE GOOD NEWS GOD. What did you think of that first paragraph? God. It almost looks like a typographical error, just three letters sitting there all alone. Yet what you and I think of God is the key to what we will think of the meaning and value value of the life of Jesus, and of the Church, of ourselves, and the world around us. That first paragraph turns out to be a large one! The task of the Christian today as always is to reveal the name of God so clearly that others might discover its meaning, to do the work of God so well that others might have hope, and to love God so thoroughly that others might approach God as a friend. But today that task is somewhat different from what it was even a relatively short time ago. When I was a boy I was told by those whom I trusted and loved, my parents and teachers, that God was more lovable, more precious, more valuable than anyone or anything else. But all He had to compete with at that time was what I could find within walking distance of Eighty Seventh Avenue in New York City. Years ago in Chicago I was talking to a youth of sixteen and he told me he could go up to two hundred miles on his Honda for an investment of two dollars and a half. God for him, had to come out on top of a whole lot more than He did for me when I was a boy! In the light of this, we who represent God as believing Christians can take two different stances. We could threaten and warn our youth to get off their Hondas for fear they will discover something better than the image of God we have given them, or, we could ask them questions like: "What have you discovered of value and worth up to two hundred miles away?" Then we take their testimony as to what they have found and measure it against our notion and experience of God to discover whether we ourelves have experientially identified God as more valuable. Only then we can go to the modern world with the confidence we have witnessed in Jesus and only then will the Scripture text which speaks of the beauty of the feet of those who bring the Good News be fulfilled in us. ( Isaiah 52 : 7).
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Blog # 65 GOD'S LOVE How sad it would be if we did not experience God's love for us every day! Or if it were ours only on Sunday. Or not at all. Yet that seems to be the experience of many good people. Just as the eye, which is made for seeing needs light in order to see, so the human heart, which is made to discover and to love God and be loved by God, needs faith for this to occur. Faith is a gift rather than an accomplishment. We 'receive' it rather than 'do' it. An object is visible whether we see it or not. Light and objects to be seen are all around us, and yet we have to open our eyes in order to see. In a similar mysterious way God's presence and love are real in all of creation, but we must open our minds and hearts to experience it that way. Then faith can come and make the difference only faith can make. It seems to me that if we did not believe in God and experience God's presence and love in all creation we would be missing one of the essential differences between ourselves as human creatures and the lower animals and other forms of creation around us. Though an apple tree does not nor can not know this, its leaves are green. So God's love is real even for someone who does not believe in it. A great difference, however, lies in the fact an apple tree was not made to see whereas the human heart was made to love God, and until we do we are incomplete. And in this limitation we might as well have been a lower animal, seeing colors and shapes but not their meaning as signs of God's love. With eyes closed we might as well be blind. God loves us enough to give us beautiful sunsets,the wonders involved in a growing plant, the mystery of the wind, a cool evening on a hot summer's day, the amazing tools that help a bee make honey and wax from flowers, and the beauty of the stars at night. But He gives these you might say to all the world, to the lower animals as well as to us. To us, His human creatures, God g ives more of His love, and therefore more of the gifts of His love. Certainly a well fed cow is happy as cows can be happy as she lies in a field in the evening of a long summer's day, chewing her cud and watching the sun go down. There is God before her, creating it all. Even her. All the colors are there, the blue and the reds, the orange, the clouds slowly slipping off to the east, the breeze brushing against the corn. Betsy,the cow, is lying in the grass, watching it all. Certainly the cow in such a picture is content. But she cannot enjoy the beauty of the sun going down in the same way or as much as we who are human creatures, though we see the same colors and feel the same breeze. The beautiful things God has placed in the world are for all, His chickens,horses, trees, His men and His women. But the amount and kind of happiness and enjoyment each of God' creatures receives from His beautiful world is different. God made men and women in His own image, for a more perfect and complete share in His own goodness and beauty. ( Rom 1: 19,20; Wisdom 13: 4,5). We not only see what is around us, not only know its size shape sound and color, but also its meaning, why it is around us. How sad it would be if our home were in New Jersey and we were heading south from Savannah on our way home! It is far more sad than that if our daily experience is without God's love. So, God Who loves us all sent Jesus to command us to tell the Good News of His love that we have received to all the world! Thanks and praise to Him!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Blog # 62 SHARING THE FIRE OF JESUS' LOVE "Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus." (Col 3: 17). Yesterday morning when I was reflecting upon this particular verse of the Bible it occurred to me to imagine something of the meaning of what the author was saying to me by way of comparing his thought with the identity of fire. A characteristic of fire is that it is hot, and whatever touches fire shares the heat of the fire, becoming hot like the fire itself. Then whatever has been heated by the fire shares its heat in turn with whatever it will touch. When whatever has been warmed by the fire begins to cool it can be warmed again by contact with the fire. Isn't it something like this with regard to our identity as Christian believers and out contact with Jesus ? Jesus is the 'original' Christian as fire is the source of heat. Our identity as christian believers is that we have been touched through God's grace with the love of God in Jesus. In this experience we are not merely made to be like Jesus as a picture of fire might indeed resemble fire in its color and physical appearance. Rather we are like Jesus by way of actually sharing the mind, attitude, and Spirit of Jesus, as an object touching fire actually makes some of the heat of the fire its very own. And as an object warmed by fire is capable of warming other objects placed in contact with it, though in itself it is not fire, so we who have been 'born from above' (Jn 3: 3) and have become a 'new creation' in Christ (2 Cor 5: 17), are called and qualified through the love God shares with us to share God's love with those around us. And this is to be true in whatever we do, "in speech or in action" (Col 3: 17, above). I wonder how many people realize this truth in the sense of understanding it and then secondly realizing it in the sense of permitting it to have a practical effect in their lives , in what they say, and in what they do. God's love was lived out perfectly in Jesus. We who are His disciples have become a new creation, born from above, transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit as branches sharing the life of a living vine, the Church. United with Jesus thrugh faith and Baptism each one of us is called and empowered not merely to imitate the love of Jesus, but to share it as our own in Him. ( cf Jn 17: 20 - 23,24; Mt 10 : 40; Jn 15 : 1 - 5; Gal 2 : 20; Rom 6 : 4; 2 Cor 5 : 17). Our Father, Father of Jesus, and in Him my Father,...hallowed be Thy Name... Thy will be done...!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Blog # 61 A WORK OF ART, by God's design. Think for a moment of a great artist in a paint store. Moving among the colors spread out on the shelves, the artist selects several of them and brings them into his studio. The artist has a commission to paint a picture of a beautiful sunset. The colors chosen at the store are to be used in the painting. In order to play their part in the creation of the painting the various colors must give themselves, some of them spread on the canvas just as they are, others to be blended with darker shades of the same color or lightened with white. Each of the colors is poured out and recreated in the skill of the artist to share with the other colors in the final masterpiece. We have a parallel with the artist his colors and his masterpiece in God's dealings with us who believe in God. As there were other colors on the shelf in the store not chosen for this particular picture, so it would seem there are some persons in the world who have not yet come to know the Lord personally, perhaps through no fault of their own. But we who do believe in God and love God know we have been chosen by God to share in a very definite way in creating with God a certain reality which can very well be called a masterpiece, a vine, a body, a church. We know God wants all men and women throughout the world to share in the destiny of Jesus, but for the time being many do not know it, many do not believe. We who do believe are like the colors selected by the artist. But in order to share actually in the plan of God for us we must believe, be born from above, change, be holy, become like little children, forgive our brothers and sisters from our hearts, reform our lives. As Jesus put it on another occasion, unless we take up our cross daily and come after Him we cannot be His disciples, we cannot share His destiny, we cannot die, rise, and be glorified through, with, and in Him. We remain merely colors rather than an integral part of a beautiful masterpiece.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Blog # 59 SUFFERING - GOD'S LOVE Let's reflect a little on the question of suffering in order to discover, if we can, a value in suffering the superficial eye cannot see, a meaning that is worthy of deep appreciation, and a gift that is truly a sign of God's love. The questions many people seem to ask with regard to suffering are not so much what does it mean for me in God's plan, what possible value can it have for me, or what is God saying to me in suffering, but rather how can I rid myself of suffering, how can I avoid it, what is the most effective pain relief. Nevertheless suffering comes. What should be our response? Is God telling us He loves us more or less than when our health was good and our strength was at its peak? The answer to such a question is given not so much in the terms 'more or less' but 'differently' in the different circumstances of our life. I believe that in suffering, as well as in health, God shows His love for us. And in suffering there are opportunities for growth and holiness that are not found elsewhere. As a result of this conviction, when I pray for the sick and suffering my prayer is often not so much for their health and recovery. I trust God for this and thank Him for my confidence in His love. Rather my prayer for those who are sick or suffering, including myself, is that we might have courage in our suffering, our generosity might grow in this present test of it, and we might really know in this experience a living trust in God, we might grow in faith, God would bless us with the generosity we need to give ourselves to Him and the patience to endure whatever inconveniences and discomfort suffering brings. There is a difference between a football player who is sitting beside a swimming pool in summer talking about a pass or a tackle and the same player on the field in the fall throwing the ball and flinging himself against a two hundred forty pound runner. So the person and the Christian in good health and prosperous circumstances might very well talk 0f faith, trust in God, patience generosity and endurance, but this is so much different from living these realities when the sun goes down and sickness comes, when things we planned no longer fall into place, we fall victim to weakness suffering and failure. Then, in the real order of things, God calls us to grow, to trust, to believe, to give, to endure and to be loved in a special way. If the only question we have with regard to suffering is how to relieve it, it seems we would be in danger of wasting it. It is rich for making us holy. We should thank God for it. It can be special among His many gifts to us May God grant all who suffer compassionate friends to help make the weight of their suffering less, for this too is God's love. And may God grant to all who suffer the light to see it in a positive way, patience to endure, faith in God's mercy, courage and generosity in spending themselves according to God's will, in imitation of and in union with Jesus His Son. Col. 1: 24 gives an ideal response to suffering on the part of a Christian believer : "I find my joy in the suffering I endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the church.
Monday, September 6, 2010
BLOG # 58 OUR ABILITY AND CALL TO FREEDOM AND TO LOVE God is always proclaiming His truth and His love to the world. In the sky, in our garden, in the beautiful grain in the wood of our closet door, in the grass, in a flowing river, in the love of friends and family, in all we think or say or do God is there proclaiming His truth and His love . God proclaims His love not only to His human creatures but to all the world. With the good He has placed in a grain of corn God proclaims His love to pigs and horses, to chickens, and to us. With the twisted branches of a tree God proclaimss His love to the birds so they have a place to set their nests. With the strength of the earth God proclaims His love to the trees, supporting their roots and feeding them The trees echo back the proclamation of God's love by growing green and by just being a tree. The birds echo back the love of God by song and by just being a bird. But God loves us His human creatures much more and in a more perfect way than He does His other creatures. The father of a family may want all there is in his home, the kittens the toys the rugs the windows and his children. He wants and appreciates all the rest, but he loves each of the children individually with a personal unique love. This is similar to the way we think of God's love for all the world. "God looked at everything that He had made, and He found it very good." ( Gen 2; 31). Just as sure as you shout a sound to the mountains that same sound will come back in its echo, so in the world when God proclaims His love to horses dogs cows grass trees sky and the sun it always comes back to Him. A piece of wood serves God and echoes back His love by just being a piece of wood, by having a grain that runs a certain way, by burning when put into the fire, and by turning to ashes when it is over. A bird serves God and echoes back His love by singing and flying about, by building a nest and by dying. The sun serves God and echoes back His love by giving heat and light and painting beautiful evening skies. All God's creatures below His human creatures must serve God and echo back His love. They are not free to do otherwise. But God loves human creatures more, and differently. We have received not just more of the same and better quality of the same gifts that God has given to the rest of creation, as for example we probably see much better than a moose, run faster than a snail, and see things in color rather than in shades of black white and grey as does a dog. We have received the gift of freedom to say yes or no to others and even to God. In this we have received the ability and call to love . Because God loves us so much and He is so good and powerful He has given us our gift of freedom. It is not true for us that we must echo back God's love in all things whether we care to or not. We are not like the sun the earth the birds and the cattle in this. We are free. If we echo back God's love it is because we want to do so. Love is the meaning and goal of our lives, and freedom is the foundation of our love. What a gift it is to be free, what a privilege, what a joy!
Sunday, September 5, 2010
BLOG # 60 IS NEW DIFFERENT? Just think for a moment what a difference it would have made in your life us you had been born in Germany or in Japan or here in the United States? Just think of what a difference it would have made if you had been born in a family of two children or into one of twelve. Think of the difference it would have made in your life if you had been born poor instead of rich or rich instead of poor. Think of how different it would be for you if you were at this moment, sick instead of healthy, or healthy instead of sick. The language you would speak, the songs you would sing, the food you would eat would all be different if you were born in some other part of the world. Your friends would be different, your education would be diffferent, your house, your clothing would be different if you were born either rich or poor. Your ability to do and enjoy things, your energy and your feelings all would be different if you were healthy or sick at this moment. Now, with faith - in what ways and to what extent does our faith in God and Jesus make a difference in our lives? Take this past week as an example. How and to what extent did faith make a difference in your life this past week? At home. At work. in school. When we were alone. With others. When things were right. When things went wrong. Do the differences you think of, or lack of differences surprise you? Are you happy and satisfied with them? What could you or should you change in order to make the picture more clear and satisfying? Good questions for growing in faith! Unless a Japanese or a German knows about some other language and customs he or she would hardly be aware of the fact he or she is different as a Japanese or a German. So I think it is with faith. Unless we stop from time to time and think of what differences out faith makes to us it might happen that it doesn't make much difference at all. And if we do not think of , know ,and desire the difference that faith can and should make in our lives we will hardly turn out to be, as Paul describes people who live by faith in Jesus, a NEW CREATION, a DIFFERENT person.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
BLOG # 57 CHANGED BY FAITH We hear so much about faith in God and Jesus, how we need to have faith, and so on. I sometimes think we do not always hear very much about what faith does for us NOW. We hear that faith brings us to Heaven, and saves us from Hell, but that seems to be realized in the future. I think it is useful from time to time to think what faith does for us in the present, right now, here on earth, in our kitchen, our living room, our work place, in our everyday lives and in our relationships with those who live around us and are members of our families. One of the first things we notice when we begin to study the idea of faith in the Bible is that faith makes a difference in a person's life. St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians ( 2 Cor. 5 : 7), says that if anyone is joined to Christ by faith and Baptism, he or she is a new creation. Certainly to say of something that it is a new creation is to say that it is different than before! So, for a person to believe in Jesus is to expect to be different. And St. Paul's words do not imply the future life of Heaven. Rather he is speaking of the present time, here and now, and the difference faith makes. In the eighteenth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, verse three, Jesus tells His followers that "unless you change and become as little children you will not enter the Kingdom of God". It is true that here someone might say Jesus is speaking of Heaven and the future, but surely not in the first part of the sentence when He says unless you change. That is the present. Unless you are different now Jesus is saying, it is not going to be that you will be different later on in Heaven. Besides that, Jesus came to announce the Kingdom of God had arrived on earth ,in Himself, in the present tense. Very clearly in Matthew 5: 20 Jesus says that unless your goodness is greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will not enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus is saying that when we have faith more is expected of us. A person who through no fault of his or her own does not have faith is judged by his or her conscience as it has been formed without faith, but a person who has faith is judged by a conscience informed by faith. Clearly throughout the Bible it is shown that God expects something different from those who have faith. Do you have faith? What difference does it make in your life day by day? May our faith cause us to think and speak and act like Jesus. What a difference! The task is not an easy one. Rather it is easy to fall short and get mixed up in the details of our secular human life to such an extent that almost without realizing it our faith experience becomes a part-time Sunday affair. It seems essential to set aside time to be with the Lord, to strengthen our faith, deepen our hope, and purify our love. Daily Bible reading, prayer, and reflection have always been found not only useful but necessary for those who wish to follow Jesus closely and to taste the full joy of being saved by Him through faith.