Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blog # 217 Optical Illusions

Blog # 217 Optical Illusions
This is an experiment. I am hoping to use some more graphics in
my blogs and am testing out this illustration of a few optical illusions to see if they continue to come out as illusions when published in a blog as
they do as hard copy on paper. For example, of the two squares , the blue one is supposed to seem larger than the pink one. They are identical in size. Switch them to prove it.
If you print the illustrations , you will see that the two t's are made up of strips of paper that are identical in length. If you switch their positions, making the horizontal one the vertical one and the vertical one the horizontal one the vertical one is supposed to seem longer than it was in each case, appearing now as longer than its partner.
If you cut out the illustration with the faces of various men on it and then cut it along the dotted lines to make three pieces of it, and if you assemble it again with piece A on the left and count the faces then switch the two pieces putting A where B was and B where A was and count the faces you get a surprise! I was thinking of sending this to an automobile dealer with the suggestion he rearrange the positions of the cars on his lot to see if he could get an extra one free!
When I used this illustration in one of the bulletins I sent to some people in prison to whom I was writing each week I added this spiritual application to it: A wonderful design can be discovered in all of creation. The sun moon water fire earth wind stars flowers fruit friendship loyalty peace and joy are all designed by God. In human creatures there is even more wonder to be discovered.
Made to the image and likeness of God, we can receive the gift of faith, enabling us to know God personally and to pray.
We are made wonderfully and well. The eye is designed to see. The mind is designed to know truth. The heart is designed to choose what is good and to love God and neighbor. But we are not God. We have our limits. The eye can be deceived as the illustrations show and can transmit to the brain a mistaken view of what is presented for it to see. So with the mind and truth and the heart with goodness and love.
Sin and enmity can enter in. We can misinterpret the Bible. We can lose our faith. We can sin against love. But we need not. The answer and the victory of the goodness our Creating Father invites us to possess comes through prayer. Faith empowers us to live always in the presence of God , always listening for His wisdom, choosing what is good in the 'eyes' of God, and following the path that Jesus has laid out for us to follow. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blog # 216 Emmanuel

Blog # 216 Emmanuel "Keep Christ in Christmas!". "Jesus is the reason for the season!" I never remember hearing slogans like these when I was a boy. There was no doubt in any one's mind that Christmas was anything else than the birthday of Jesus. Slogans like that would have been like telling us Babe Ruth was a great baseball player. No one in our gang had any doubt about that. So it was with Jesus and Christmas. To say or think anything else would have been for me something like thinking we could have a cherry pie without cherries. Then through the years our American culture gradually moved away from an explicit awareness, appreciation, and public expression of religious values. Greeting cards offered for sale and sent in the mail in time for December 25th eliminated the word Christmas and expressed a desire for happy 'Holidays' instead. I saw the absence of Jesus in the public celebration of 'the Holidays' not only as an affront to Jesus but as a loss to us. I knew Jesus could not be absent from a real Christmas. I was concerned about the danger we would not be there. Beauty, music, and festive dance could produce real human joy. But nothing nor anyone could produce a real Christmas without the real Jesus. The Feast of Christmas was not celebrated in the first three centuries of the Church's history. Yet it was in these centuries when men and women joyfully laid down their lives after terrible torture rather than betray their love for Jesus. Of the four Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus only two, Matthew and Luke, give details of Jesus' birth in the stable with angels shepherds and the star. All four give the story of His death, What made Jesus so attractive to the early martyrs? I did not remember Jesus ever having said the hearts of all will be drawn to me if I lie in a manger, but rather "if I am lifted up I will draw all to myself." (Jn 12:32). John immediately adds: " (This statement indicated the sort of death He had to die)". Earlier in John (3: 14f), we have Jesus saying: "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that all who believe may have eternal life in Him. And in John's Gospel the 'Christmas story' is given this way: In the beginning was the Word, the Word was in God's presence, and the Word was God...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (Jn :1) Emmanuel. God Among Us. That is the story of Christmas. But the story does not end there. All that Jesus said and did is connected, just as all we do and say is connected. He was on His way from the day He was born to the day He died. We are the same. Is the most meaningful part of our journey the beginning or the end? The beginning is essential in order to have the end, certainly. But the end gives meaning to the beginning. Every part of the journey has its own meaning and is connected to the rest. Yet the end gives the full meaning to it all. Some familiar sayings of Jesus take on special value here. Jesus said very clearly there was nothing people could do that was more valuable than to love God above all and love one another as they love themselves. He would show us how this is to be done by perfect obedience to the Father's plan all throughout His life. (cf Jn.4:34; 5:30; 6:38). To be conceived and born was the Father's will for Jesus. To grow up in the home of Mary and Joseph, to teach and heal, and preach, to be hungry thirsty tired, to go fishing with Peter, to pray and to sleep were all the Father's will for Jesus. From all of this we could tell how He loved the Father. Jesus discovered and lived out in His daily experience what love really is. Then one day, reflecting on it all He said you cannot love anyone more than to lay down your life for someone. In death, and only in death, can we give it all. The Eternal Word of God exists from 'before' the beginning of all else. At Christmas the Eternal Word is born among us. "He will be called Jesus". God's love, God's 'giving' is unimaginably different than ours. Now, in Jesus, God's love is human as well as divine. In Jesus we can begin to understand God's love for us and our love for God. His whole life was to be an expression of His love. Though His obedience entailed self-denial, it was not about self-denial but about love. Each day He had more to give, the sunshine the stars friendships hunger joy and sleep. Gifts kept coming to Jesus from the Father, Each day the Father loved Jesus more, and He loved the Father more. Then Calvary came and He gave it all. "Father, into your hands...". That was His greatest love. 'You cannot love anybody more...". Then St. Paul, later on, would say to us: "Don't you know that we who were Baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into His death?" The challenge of Christmas is to believe "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" to show us how to love, and to invite us to join Him in loving God all our life, with all we have, all the way to the end.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Blog # 215 Math / God

Blog # 215 Math / God I'll be going over to Savannah in a little while for the annual St. Stephan's Day dinner with the Bishop and I did not want to skip another day without a blog so I decided to try to get this one to you before I leave for Savannah. Numbers and math are a great experiences of the presence of God. If you have not seen this material before I think you will enjoy it. If you have seen it before may it be a valuable reminder of the wonder of God's Presence in all of creation and in a real way in numbers. Numbers are a part of the whole of creation. God owns them ! Thank You, Lord! God is 'present' in numbers as much as God is 'present' in the sun. God 'thought it all up' we might say , in human words, none of which can ever speak all here IS of God, but do speak some limited truth and in this speak something analogously of God's infinity, infinite presence, goodness and love. Thank You Father for sending us your Eternal Word, Jesus. He taught us in His human life death and Resurrection Who You Are and how much You love us all in so many wonderful ways, from numbers, to the sun, to the personal love of Jesus and our sharing through Him and the Holy Spirit in Your eternal love, in our limited human way, now by faith, and if we are worthy eternally with You,and the Holy Spirit in the joy and perfect love of Heaven.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blog # 212 Advent - b

Blog # 212 - Advent - b In our Christian faith we claim for God our Creator the power that wills the earth to spin at a rate of more than a thousand miles an hour and to move in its orbit at a rate of 1,500,000 miles each day as it travels around the sun . In Advent we prepare to celebrate and respond to another power of God even more wonderful and mysterious than the physical power that moves the earth and stars. It is the power that enables us to discover and to love God as our Creator, the power to pray, to receive forgiveness for our sins, to be kind even to our enemies, to believe in life eternal and to hope to be worthy of everlasting peace and joy beyond the grave. We generally take the power that rules the movements of the earth and stars for granted. Yet we can do nothing but marvel at it when we stop to reflect upon it. So it is we tend to take for granted the power that comes to us in Jesus. Advent presents an invitation for us to step back and reflect upon it again. It is a time to grow in our knowledge and love for God through growing in our knowledge and appreciation of ourselves.. We grow intellectually as we increase our treasury of information. It works like this. First we want to be able to recognize letters of the alphabet. Then we want to be able to make words by combining the letters we have learned. Then we want to be able to read the comic strip in the daily paper, then the editorial, then the text book in our science class. Then we want to be able to combine our words in such a way they become a message from our inmost heart, telling someone we love how much this is so. Then perhaps prose is not enough and we want to write a poem. All of it is connected and based upon the very first questions we asked about the letters of the alphabet . This is just an illustration and reminder of something that is true of growth in other fields as well as grammar and language. It is true of math medicine and theology. The more questions we have the more information will be ours, and the more opportunity we will have to grow. Here is how it applies. We are driving north on I-95. We stop and eat at Shoney's. We have spaghetti and meat balls and a salad. It costs $ 4,25, the price for seniors. It is one PM. We finish our meal and are on our way. That is the physical part of it. It could be the same for someone other than ourself. Now for the question of the value of what is going on. We are very tired. We had a short night's rest and a long drive to arrive at Shoney's. We are still a long way from New Jersey. No one else in the restaurant knows what it is costing me to make this trip but I am very willing and happy to be paying that price because of the value I have placed on the goal of the trip. I am going to spend Christmas with Grandma. She is 91 now and that has something to do with the value of my heading north on I-95. Some of the people in Shoney's will not even notice me. I will be visible but not seen by all. They will not ask me if I am tired or happy. They will never know. I will not make any difference to them. Our relationship to one another will not grow beyond the physical one of being in the same restaurant at a particular time of a particular day. Now look at it another way. Suppose I never ask such questions of myself ? As a result I would not know who I really am. We, the inner person present in each of us, would never make much difference to the body that is mine. My relationship to my daily human experiences will not grow beyond the physical awareness of being hungry tired hot cold comfortable existing in some particular place at some particular time, changing by way of growing in age, but not in meaning purpose wisdom and goodness. How sad that would be! Unfortunately, most of the influence upon our daily lives at the present moment in history here in the US seems to encourage just such a situation. How many ads on TV encourage us to grow beyond the physical possibilities that are open to us? How much emphasis do you think would be placed upon Christmas if it were not a money-maker? Who cares whether the tremendous number of men and women in prisons around the country right now are happy as long as they are kept from causing trouble on our streets? Who is bothered by the fact and the consequences of the fact the average chief executive officer of a large American Company made forty times the wage of an average worker in the Company two decades ago and now he or she sometimes makes a hundred ninety times a worker's salary ? Advent is a time of questions, a time of growth. Who am I? Who are we" What are we doing, physically, intellectually spiritually? Is there any change going on in our lives? In what direction are we going? Jesus comes to help us with the answers. Let's not let the opportunity slip by. Thanks!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Blog # 3 - L Life in Jesus

Blog # 3 - L Life in Jesus During Advent two great Prophets have our attention, Isaiah, and John the Baptist. Both of them spoke of someone coming after them who would be the fulfillment of God's promise given in the Garden of Eden to send a savior who would overcome the evil wrought by sin. After John came Jesus. The difference between John and Jesus might be compared to the difference between a five dollar bill and a picture of a five dollar bill. The picture might resemble the five dollar bill in several ways, being the same color, shape, size, etc. But you cannot spend the picture. The picture is not money, though there is a relationship between them. Without the five dollar bill the picture would not be possible. So it is with God, Prophets, goodness, virtue, Jesus, ourselves, life, death, and love. All of these are connected. All are designed and created. All are because God IS. As the Messiah, Jesus did not come merely to win for us the forgiveness of sins, give good example support and encouragement to those seeking the plan of God for creation, or even to announce the fulfillment of that plan in Himself. He came to bring all of this and more. With unimaginable power and love Jesus claims a personal share in the life of God for those who believe. Here is the awesome difference between His ministry and that of John. To be an authentic Prophet is to be like an authentic picture of a five dollar bill. He/she tells of God's plan and speaks a message from God. The claim of Jesus is not to be a picture of the money but the money itself. Jesus claims to be GOD living among us on earth as one of us in all things but sin! The divine Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, brings to earth God's love in such a way that it can be shared with us as our very own. By faith and Baptism we actually share the very life of God Jesus brought to earth. Here is the basis and foundation of His command that we love one another as He has loved us. Jesus is not speaking here merely of a greater degree of natural human love, a better moral life and love, but a new life and a new love, in addition to our natural life and love. He refers to it as given us in the 'second birth' of faith and Baptism. ( Jn 3: 1 - 5 ). This gift which we refer to as the gift of Sanctifying Grace is to identify and shape our entire Christian experience . "See what love the Father has given us that we are to be called children of God, yet that is what we are!. (1 Jn 3:1). The gift of Christmas for the shepherds, Mary and Joseph on the night when Jesus was born in Bethlehem was the gift of the Historical Jesus . For almost two thousand years now Christians around the world have shared by faith and Baptism the life of the glorified Resurrected Jesus. A person with perfect sight might as well be blind as far as the experience of color goes when he/she closes his or her eyes. In the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God we have a similar situation. The identity of the Eternal Word of God and the identity of Jesus is the identity of a single Divine person, sent by the Father among us as one of us in all but sin for a time. In the incarnation the Word assumed the limitations of our human experience. Jesus experienced hunger and thirst, fatigue, joy, sadness, and even temptation in obedience to the Father's will much the same as we experience these human realities. It was something like the sighted person shutting his or her eyes and thus eliminating the experience of color . Only when the Father manifested to Jesus the time had come now and then did Jesus 'open His eyes' in obedience to the Father's will and act and speak as God. Here are a few texts that might be helpful in identifying and growing in our appreciation of the great gift of Sancifying Grace as we celebrate the Feast of the Birth of Jesus and enter more deeply into the experience of the life and love of Jesus unfolding for us Sunday after Sunday in 2012. Jn 3:1 ff; 10:10, 28; 20: 30; 6: 33, 35; 6: 47ff (note present tense here ), 1:11-13; Rom 8:14-17; Jn 15: 1 - 5; Rom 6: 4; 2 Cor 5: 17; Col 2: 13; 3: 10.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Blog #2 - L 99.9%

Blog #2 - L 99.9% I have heard it said, sort of an excuse, on an occasion when someone makes a mistake or is late for a meeting:" Nobody is perfect." Well, then, is 99.9% good enough? Here is something to consider: If everyone in the United States worked on the 99.9% principle, things like this is what would happen: +22,000 checks would be deducted from the wrong bank accounts in the next hour. +1,314 phone calls would be misdirected in the next minute. +2.5 million books would have the wrong cover this year. +28,322 pieces of mail would be mishandled in the next hour. +20,000 prescription medicines would be written incorrectly this year. +315 entries in Webster's New International Dictionary would be misspelled. No wonder Jesus taught us to love God with our whole heart, which means with unconditional trust and total love. There is only ONE TRUE GOD, the single Creator of all that exists. There is no other. That truth is the basis for our unconditional trust and total love. The eternal Word of God, equal to the Father and the Holy spirit from all eternity, came among us as one of us in all but sin. Incarnate on earth, the Word of God was given the name Jesus, Savior. In union with Jesus through faith and Baptism we can honestly hope to love God alone, with our whole heart, and through this love bring justice and peace to the unique share of creation we identify as our own, and all along the way carve out by our obedience to the Father's will for us our unique eternal identity in Heaven Each year at Christmas we begin again to celebrate the story of Jesus in our particular moment of history, in the way it relates to us in our individual unique talents relationships opportunities challenges and temptation. We are not alone. The eternal God, Father Word and Holy Spirit, is around us and within us in answer to the promise and the prayer of Jesus. (John 17: 23,26; 7: 38,39; 14: 15 - 18,20,23). This love is not in competition with a genuine love for relatives and friends no more than the human love of Jesus for the Father was in competition with His love for His mother, the disciples, and His friends. In a similar way our health is not in competition with our joy. Our love for others is made holy and fulfilled in our total love for God. If our love for God is not total our love for others is diminished and incomplete.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blog # 209 Gift of Salvation

Blog # 209 Gift of Salvation 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 drawing, fill in the blank, and send in his name. If we reflect upon this experience of the poor man who becomes a grand prize winner we can see a parallel between ourselves and the good news of salvation. The Bible tells us we cannot by our own merits or good works earn the gift of salvation. The good news of salvation is a gift from God. Grace is free, an expression of love, which by definition is free, rather than a reward which is rooted in an obligation rather than freedom on the part of the one responsible for giving the reward. Even when we were in sin God loved us and called us to Himself in Christ Jesus. So indeed we are in a position similar to that of a poor person winning a valuable gift. Salvation is 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. So we, even though salvation is a free gift and cannot be earned by the greatest among us, from the least to the greates 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 a poor man who won three hundred thousand dollars. What a difference this would make in his life! Can you imagine him living the same way as 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 gift of salvation. Without the gift of salvation we are indeed poor, growing older by the hour with death our greatest enemy approaching ever closer, looming large against all else we may have accomplished in the short span of our human life on earth, telling us for sure the bad news that with no hope beyond the grave there is no lasting hope. But the good news comes that Jesus lives. He has conquered death, in our name as well as in His. The Father loves us with the same love with which He loves Jesus. We share by faith the victory of Jesus over death. We are given, a gift of the Father's love, the gift of eternal salvation. As the poor man who won the fortune, so we who have received the gift of eternal salvation 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 live in obediance to the Father's will. In this we are enriched with the riches of His wisdom and 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 that comes with faith in the good news of Jesus. Our lives are different because of Him. Because of the strength and wisdom He shares we can pray, talking to God our Father. We can promise with confidence to be kind to one another, strengthened by His love which we share. We can live as brothers and sisters in the vision Jesus taught and have peace. Thank You, Lord!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blog # 207 John Chapter 6 -9

Blog # 207 John Chapter 6 -9 One of the tasks of a study of theology is to discover and interpret connections between history, (with a specific focus upon the origin of particular religious traditions and practice), etymology,( the background and origin of words), and the content, meaning,and authorization of claims made for the possession of a particular revelation by a particular authority. I see the fulfillment of this task as most important when we come to a study of our theology of the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus. With regard to the history of our faith in the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus, I think our references in previous blogs gives clear evidence of its authentic Biblical roots. ( John Chapter Six ; Luke 22: 19,20). A further strong supportive reference occurs in the explicit testimony of St. Paul in 1 Cor 11: 23 - 27. With regard to the legitimacy of recognizing the theological identity of the Last Supper and Calvary I have found Jeremiah 31:31 and Hebrews 8; 8-12 supportive. Jeremiah speaks of a "new covenant" God promises to make with His Chosen People. The author of the letter to the Hebrews quotes Jeremiah , having identified Jesus in his previous Chapter ( 7: 20 -25).as priest of the new covenant. "Unlike the old covenant there were many priests because they were prevented by death from remaining in office; but Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood which does not pass away". The priesthood and sacrifices of the former covenant have all passed away. But the priesthood of Jesus is given as remaining until the end of time. The history of the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus is still going on, primarily in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered daily in our churches around the world. It is current in your and my response to it today and tomorrow. Another significant factor in identifying the Last Supper with Calvary is the fact Jesus and His disciples were officially celebrating the annual Feast of Passover or the liberation 0f God's Chosen People from the slavery of Egypt. The miraculous physical liberation from the slavery of Egypt had always been recognized, officially celebrated, and relived in the annual celebration of the Passover Supper. From the beginning Jesus was seen as the new Moses and His death on Calvary was seen as liberation from sin in the unconditional obedience and the total infinite divine love of the Perfect Everlasting Sacrifice we have come to refer to as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. By definition sacrifice is identified in our Catholic theology with worship, which is the name given to our unique total love and consequently unconditional trust offered and owed to God alone. In the light of this definition and recognizing the Last Supper experience and that of Calvary as a single act of sacrifice offered to the Father and in obedience to the Father's will , we see the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as an active presence. continuing the perfect act of Calvary every time it is offered Sacramentally on our altars. Our worship of Jesus in our tabernacles is a current participation and sharing in the total love Jesus offered the Father at the Last Supper and on Calvary, His body given, His blood poured out. In union with Jesus by faith , Baptism , and the living gift of Sanctifying Grace as branches on a living vine, we are entitled and invited to share His perfect love as it was expressed at the Last Supper and on Calvary and is presented to us day by day in the Mass. Calvary was the greatest love Jesus knew. It was His glory in history and continues as the glory of the Resurrected Jesus for all eternity. We begin to see more clearly the wisdom and privilege involved in our continuing to share and grow in this love until it is at its greatest in and at the instant of our death, unique to ourselves among the more than seven billion human creatures now living on earth.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blog # 208 John Chapter 6 -8

Blog # 208 John Chapter 6 -8 We customarily refer to the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle as His 'Real Presence'. This should not indicate or imply that His Presence in the tabernacle is any more real than His divine Presence as the Person of the Word , that is, anywhere, everywhere and however God is present. The personal identity of the Word and the personal identity of Jesus is the same. In other words, we believe the Person referred to as the Word, and Jesus , the Word Incarnate , born of Mary and having shared our humanity in every way but sin in a certain moment of history two thousand years ago. and now glorified through the Resurrection, is the same person. The term 'real presence' was useful, subsequent to the Reformation , in combating a false understanding on the part of some of the theology of the Real Presence which identified the presence of Jesus in the Mass and in the tabernacle as merely symbolic rather than real. A term I use that avoids the danger of weakening or of losing our awareness of the origin nature and reality of the presence of Jesus in the Mass and in the tabernacle is Eucharistic Presence. The term Eucharistic Presence correctly identifies and emphasizes the unique supernatural active presence of Jesus :1 in the LAST SUPPER, and: 2 DOWN THROUGH THE CENTURIES through the theological connection of the Last Supper with the act of sacrificial worship experienced and offered by Jesus to the Father on Calvary and in the Mass, NOW available by faith in tabernacles throughout the world. The love for the Father and for us that Jesus experienced and offered the Father and us on Calvary is the same love Jesus offers the Father and us in Holy Communion and in our tabernacles around the world! That paragraph may well be taken as the high point in the various blogs I have been presenting which were initiated by my response to the Sixth Chapter of the Gospel of John. You might want to read it over a few times to make sure you understand what I have been saying and to help you determine whether you agree with it. It deals with a central issue in the message Jesus came from Heaven to reveal. It is also of utmost importance in the content of our Catholic faith and in any discussions we might have with regard to comparisons and points of similarity and difference between our Catholic faith and that of the various and multiple Christian bodies not in full communion with the Catholic Church. In the practical order it serves in giving me a solid basis and clear background primarily for my understanding and appreciation of the Mass as an act of sacrifice and as such of worship which is the theological name we give to our unique total love for God the Creator of all that exists, and secondarily for my understanding and appreciation of the supernatural presence of the Resurrected Glorified Jesus in the Sacrament of Holy Communion and in our tabernacles around the world.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Blog # 206 John Chapter 6 - 7

Blog # 206 John Chapter 6 - 7 "I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world." At this the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can he give us his flesh to eat?" ( John 6: 51). St. Paul helps us answer that question in his first letter to the Corinthians: 1Cor. 11:23-27. "I received from the Lord what I handed on to you, namely that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after the supper, he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood"....Every time, then , you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord." In all of the texts w e have been considering from Chapter 6 of St. John and here again in the text from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians dated around the middle of the 1st Century, we have a clear Biblical claim for a real personal presence of Jesus in the bread and wine of the Last Supper almost two thousand years ago in Jerusalem and in our current moment of history daily in Catholic Churches throughout the world in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. We must ever keep in mind that in our Catholic theology anything we might think, say or even imagine in relation to God must be understood analogously rather than in equivocal terms such as yes or no with no further interpretation or explanation necessary. For example we can ask of the picture of our State Senator on the information sheet he sends to us in the mail each week "Who is that?" and someone can answer correctly with the person's name though the Senator is a living person and for the time being the picture is merely ink on paper. That is a significant difference! The statment is true and not true at the same time, in different ways. Someone could say with confidence and correctly "yes" or "no" if I were to ask : "Is that George Washington?. The difference between our limited thoughts words and imagination is infinitely different from the actual truth in God though it can be enough akin to that truth that our thoughts words and imagination can express and understand divine truth in a partial analogous way. I have found it useful to have those insights in mind in my effort to understand and appreciate the reality of the presence of Jesus in what my limited yet valid natural experience identifies as bread and wine. It was also helpful to realize there are several ways one person can be present to another. This can be illustrated in the following scenario. A small town has erected a monument to the local men and women who have laid down their lives in a recent war.One of the State Senators who was born and raised in that town was scheduled to speak at the dedication ceremony. On the day before the dedication was scheduled the Senator's mother and sister were killed in an auto accident. He had a choice to make. Asking to be excused was one of them. Being present for the speech in spite of his sorrow was another. There were further options. He could have given a copy of his speech to a friend and have his friend read it for us. The Senator would have been present in a limited yet real way . He could have recorded the message and have it played on a loud speaker for all of us to hear. With our eyes closed his presence would have been heard by us in a way identical to how it would have been heard had he been physically present. We would have actually listened to the Senator's voice, but it would have come to us from yesterday when he recorded it. Another way would have been for him to phone the message to us and have it amplified for all to hear. That method of being present would have made it possible for the Senator to be with us really and currently. We would have been listening to his actual words being spoken far away but present to us as close as our ears. With an I Phone or a Skype situation hooked up we could have had a 'living' picture of him speaking. All of these ways of being present are naturally available to us. We could make use of them whether we believe in God or not. What of the bread and wine we are considering and the presence of Jesus? It is not just another natural way for someone to be present but an absolutely supernatural presence. It is a supernatural mystery infinitely beyond though not in contradiction to the limited capacity for being detected by our our limited natural thoughts words and imagination . In the light of this insight our faith in what we have come to refer to as "the Real Presence" of Jesus in the Eucharist will never grow old or be superseded by whatever progress in human knowledge and accomplishment lie ahead of us as human creatures in the world to come, even though that be billions of light years from now. There are a few other insights that have been useful to me in growing in my understanding and appreciation of the Real Presence that I would like to share with you but this blog is already about the right length so I will try to get another one out either later on this evening or tomorrow . May the Lord be with you as I have been with you in my love for you and my desire to grow together with you in our knowledge and love for Jesus and one another in his name.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blog # 205 John Chapter 6 - 6

Blog # 205 John Chapter 6 - 6 In our recent blogs in response to Chapter Six of John's Gospel, we have reflected upon several stages in John's presentation. In the overall picture of the entire Gospel of John and with a well-planned effort in Chapter Six, a clear and forceful claim is made for the divinity of Jesus. The person born of Mary and given the name Jesus is the Word, truly God come among us as one of us yet remaining and continuing as God, 'present' wherever whenever and however God IS, yet at times thirsty, physically tired, experiencing all the limitations we are given to experience as human creatures of the same God Jesus was given to discover and love in the sights sounds shapes and people around Him . The historical Jesus is given as one of us yet one with the Father and the Spirit in the person of the Word., divine as well as human in the mystery of the Incarnation. I started this blog a few days ago then got involved in something else. It remained unfinished. Now today I have another one finished and ready to go. I decided to send this one out first even though it is incomplete. Our Catholic faith in the simultaneous divinity and humanity of Jesus is an essential basis for understanding our faith in the presence of the Risen Jesus in the Eucharist . I hope this blog even in its brevity and incompleteness will help us identify Jesus as one of us and also identify Him as one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Blog # 204 John Chapter 6 - 5

Blog # 204 John Chapter 6 - 5 If you wanted to know something of what it felt like to land in France as an American soldier on D-Day back in 1944, would you rather ask someone who was actually there or use a commentary on the original statement that is in contradiction to the original ? The answer to that question comes rather easily for me. In something far more important and consequential it would seem we would want to act in the same way. To find out what Jesus actually said and intended in the incidences of Chapter Six of John, an eye witness, it would seem we would go back as far as we could to John himself and to those to whom he wrote and those who lived at that time and gave their lives in witness to their faith the Gospel message of God's love. They had the same faith as we Catholics profess today in the Special Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Only later, by some fifteen hundred years, did someone come up with a different plan to make Flesh and Blood a mere symbol, a memory, bread and grape juice. "This is My Body , given for you...This is My Blood, poured out for you...Do THIS..." is what Jesus said. Recall John's stated purpose in writing his Gospel: "...that through faith you may have life in His name." ( Jn 20:31)."I myself am the living bread come down from Heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." Some nineteen hundred years later we Catholics are in danger of taking these words of Jesus for granted as applying to the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion and in the tabernacle. To the extent this is true, our taking the words for granted, we are not challenged, confused, shaken up or significantly changed by these words of Jesus given in the sixth Chapter of John. But if we transport ourselves back to the time they were first spoken by Jesus and first recorded by John, and place ourselves among the people who were hearing them for the first time, the picture changes. We ask ourselves what could these words of Jesus possibly mean, what they have to do with my relationship to God and Jesus and to the world and the people around me. We begin to get the feel of what it was to wonder what Jesus was saying to us, to know it was something important to Him and to us, but yet not to feel comfortable with the words or confident that we heard and understood them correctly. These were the same feelings of the people and even possibly of John when Jesus spoke them for the first time. As a result they were challenged by them. Some argue with Jesus and question His authority to speak them in the name of God. The discussion continues. Jesus does not back away from the point He has tried to make and the truth He has tried to share. He presses it again and again. "The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. There is something God wants to say to us today, through John, that God wanted to say to the people for whom John wrote in the beginning. In Chapter Six we are dealing with an important incident in the life of Jesus and in the retelling of that life by John. It is a crisis for Jesus and His disciples. At the Chapter's end large numbers of the people will desert Jesus precisely because of this incident. In our next blog in this series we will consider something of what we mean when we say we believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blog # 203 John Chapter 6 - 4

blog # 203 John chapter 6 - 4 "Bread from Heaven". "Food for a life that will last forever". That sounded attractive to the people and they ask how to get it. Jesus tells them it is by FAITH they will receive such food. They do not like His answer and ask Him to prove Himself for them. In asking that faith be proven they are asking that it be destroyed. The argument continues. "Do for us something like Moses did for our ancestors in the desert, giving them bread from Heaven to eat". "It was not Moses who gave them the bread you speak of, but my Father. The story of your ancestors in the desert is continuing now, in us. As for Moses in the desert, the bread he gave was from God and a SIGN of God's presence among them, His protection over them, and God's love for them, so the bread I gave you yesterday is a similar SIGN for you, of God's presence, protection, and love for you, through me. Jesus was the Father's bread for their eternal life. That was what they would have to believe if they were to receive more than the passing gifts of ordinary 'bread', the good things of their temporary natural life on earth. That was God's design. Jesus had come to tell them this, and then to live it out in Himself. The price He would pay for this bread was His greatest act of love, the giving of His life in their name into the Father's will on the wood of the Cross. Surely if Jesus did not want any of the food that came from His miracle with the fish and the bread to be wasted, He would not want His love for the Father, or Their love for us to be wasted. From this we can easily appreciate how sad Jesus must have been when many of those listening to Him did not believe what He said and walked away. He witnessed His love for them being wasted. At this point, in my imagination I see Jesus standing before the people something like a General of an army who has presented a plan of battle to his soldiers. They do not understand the nature and purpose of faith and do not want the faith-based plan Jesus proposed. He has a choice to make. Should he change the plan of battle, or see a good number of his soldiers desert him? If Jesus would perhaps change His plan from Flesh and Blood to bread and grape juice that would be all that would be required. But He did not do that. Like the General watching his soldiers go, Jesus turns to the Apostles, the officers in His army,as it were, and asks the question: "Do you also want to go away?" The Father sent Jesus to proclaim and achieve a certain plan. It was not to be changed. The Father's love and power is that strong. Flesh and Blood remains. The question comes again two thousand years later: Do you also want to go away? And the answer comes by faith in the divinity of Jesus and trust in His infinite love. "...My Body given for your"; ...My blood poured out for you" "There is no greater love than this , to lay down one's life for a friend." "O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blog # 202 John Chapter 6 -3

Blog # 202 John Chapter 6 -3 Chapter five of John's Gospel gives the story of Jesus curing a sick man on a sabbath. John tells us the reason some of the people were determined to kill Jesus was that "he was not only breaking the sabbath but, worse still, was speaking of God as his own father, thereby making himself God's equal." Then John gives a lengthy account of how Jesus tried to convince those who were arguing with him that He was authentic and worthy of their trust. That is important as an introduction to the content of Chapter 6. Verses 1 to 15 gives the story of a hungry crowd listening to Jesus preach and his miraculous multiplication of fish and bread to feed them. This miracle is given by John not just as one more miracle of Jesus, but as a sign and evidence of His compassion for the hungry people. As one of us Jesus knew and had experienced their human need and hunger for food. Here John wants us to see as well the compassion of God in Jesus. A significant detail of the story is given in John telling us Jesus had His disciples gather up fragments that were left after the people had been fed "so that nothing will go to waste". In response to the multiplication of the bread and fish the people want to make Jesus their king, a great political figure like some of their kings of old, now in their current moment of history to lead them in battle against their Roman conquerors. Jesus, however, did not come nor want to be their king, to rule them and lead them in war. He came and desired to be their God , to give them MORE than a human king could give, to give them Eternal Love. Verses 16 -21 has Jesus fleeing to the mountain to avoid being acclaimed as King. The disciples leave by boat for Capernaum. When they were about three or four miles out on the water Jesus came to them, walking on the water. Jesus assures them it is He, they need not be afraid. And suddenly "they came aground on the shore they were approaching." Here again, John is not relating this action of Jesus as just one more miracle among others, but in the context of his sixth Chapter as a sign and evidence that the power of GOD , even over nature is in Jesus! That is a very important point in John's narration of this episode. The divine power Jesus exercised in walking on the water is the same divine power He exercised and exercises when He said and says over bread at the Last Supper and over the bread we offer in the Eucharist "This is my body..." It takes divine power to make that statement true. In having Jesus walk on the water John is claiming that divine power over nature for Jesus as an introduction to the remainder of the Chapter. The following day the people find Jesus on the opposite shore of the lake. In verses 22 - 59 Jesus talks of BREAD FROM HEAVEN and identifies Himself as this bread. The people argue with Him and He tries to convince them that what He has said is true. He expresses disappointment in knowing they want from Him less than He has to give, less than He was sent to give. They want more bread for the body, gifts that are temporary. He wants to give them more, bread for their souls, "bread that remains unto life eternal".

Monday, October 31, 2011

Blog # 201 John Chapter 6- 2

John Chapter 6 - 2 I am thoroughly convinced of the absolute importance of our faith in the divinity of Jesus in general as the foundation of our unconditional trust in Jesus and our total love for Him. I see its absolute importance also in particular in order to have a proper and complete understanding of Chapter 6 and its application in our use of that Chapter for our own personal growth in holiness and in possible discussions we might have with fellow Christians who are separated from us in serious matters of faith. Let's review some of the indicators we can discover in John's Gospel that can help us realize how John invites us always to keep the notion of the divinity of Jesus in clear focus. Matthew begins his Gospel with a family record of Jesus beginning with Abraham and continues through a long list of fathers and sons down to Joseph the husband of Mary, it being "of her that Jesus who is called the Messiah was born". "Here begins the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Mark begins his Gospel that way and proceeds immediately into the story of John the Baptist in the desert and the fully grown Jesus coming to John to be baptized. Luke begins his Gospel telling his friend Theophilus his purpose in writing his Gospel was to show Theophilus how reliable was the instruction that Theophilus received. This brief introduction is followed by the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and the conception of John the Baptist. John begins his gospel in the same way and words the Bible itself begins, with God, "In the beginning...". Genesis goes on to give us the story of creation with God as the sole Creator of all that exists. John has this: "In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God's presence, and the Word was God.Through him all things came into being, and apart from him nothing came to be...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." On the occasion of the Baptism of Jesus by John, John identifies Jesus as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". With a little reflection we can see this identification as a proclamation of the divinity of Jesus since only God can take away sin. Thirty times in John's Gospel Jesus confidently identifies himself as being "sent by the Father". Jesus made some clear and strong statements in favor of His divinity in discussions and arguments with the Pharisees. 'if you knew me, you would know the Father too." ( Jn 8:19, and 14:7). "I and the Father are one." (Jn 10:30). "I did indeed come from the Father; I came into the world". )Jn 16:18). "Whatever the Father does, the son does likewise." (Jn 5:19). The story of the raising of Lazarus clearly presents Jesus as divine. (Jn 11:1-27). On one occasion in His prayer Jesus identifies Himself in union with the Father before the world began. "Do you now, Father give me glory at your side, a glory I had with you before the world began.? (17:5). "Philip...Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (14:9). Finally we have it this way: " I solemnly declare it: before Abraham came to be,I AM". (Jn 8:37) Here Jesus uses in reference to Himself the same expression God used with Moses when Moses asked Him how should the one who sent him to Pharaoh be identified. Having identified some of the claims of Jesus for His divinity in the Gospel of John we can now go on to apply our faith in that divinity to Chapter 6 . I hope you are still with me!

Blog # 200 John Chapter 6 - 1

Blog # 200 John Chapter 6 - 1 It will take more than one blog to respond to Chapter six of St.John's Gospel. First of all it is very important to place the entire Gospel of John in its historical context. Matthew Mark and Luke gave us their stories of the life death and resurrection of Jesus, where Jesus came from, what He did and said in the short number of the years of His life on earth, what happened to Him in the end.
Before writing his Gospel John, in his old age, had the advantage of several decades of the early history of the Church. Peter, James, and Paul, along with the other Apostles and many heroic lay members of the Church had suffered cruel deaths as the price of believing in Jesus and remaining faithful to Him. It was a high price to pay. But there was no other way for them to love God as Jesus taught them and as He had done, with unconditional trust and total self-giving. They had given all they had to give and they knew full well by faith the reward of martyrdom was well worth its price.
As several decades of history came and went after Jesus ascended into Heaven, the baton of faith had been handed down by those who were eye witnesses to His life on earth to the next two generations. The challenge of persecution and death a Christian would be called upon to face in order to remain faithful to Jesus did not come to an end. Some would find the challenge too difficult to overcome and traded their faith for a place of honor in the pagan government or simply for the experience of remaining alive. John would no doubt have been aware of this situation. He would have had in mind those who did not have the advantage he did in knowing Jesus personally and face to face, witnessing His miracles, and being guided by His wisdom and goodness, sharing His prayer experience and now in his old age living by faith day by day with faith in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, with the personal guidance and support of the Holy Spirit promised and won for all who would retain their faith in Jesus now glorified in His Resurrection and Ascension.
Consequently, in support of those living around him whose faith in Jesus might be seriously threatened, John wrote his Gospel with a focus upon the the most authentic, fundamental, and logical basis of our unconditional faith in Jesus, HIS DIVINITY. Throughout the writing of his Gospel John goes out of his way to establish the identity of Jesus as divine. "The reason why the Jews were more determined to kill Jesus was that he was speaking of God as his Father, and thereby making himself God's equal." (Jn 5: 18). John would have Jesus say: "If you knew me you would know the Father too." ( Jn 8: 19, 14: 7) . "The Father and I are one." ( Jn 10: 30). "I solemnly declare it: before Abraham came to be, I AM". (Jn 8: 58). John's Gospel begins with the identical words with which the entire Bible begins in Genesis, verse one Chapter One : "In the beginning..." The Gospel of John identifies 1) the Word of God with God, and 2) Jesus with the Word of God. Come among us in the Incarnation , Emmanuel, the Word is given the name Jesus.
The process of identifying Jesus as personally identified with The Word, and therefore the process of identifying Jesus as DIVINE, is essential for a proper understanding of the events and meaning of Chapter Six of John's Gospel and indeed of his entire Gospel.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blog # 199 - a Teach us to pray...

Blog # 199 - a Teach us to pray... In evaluating or measuring our prayer experience we might ask how do we pray and what we do we pray about. To measure our prayer another way we ask what is the quality of our prayer. Like asking the question of a painting, is it beautiful, we ask of our payer is it valuable to us, do we enjoy our prayer, do we pray by way of speaking to God spontaneously throughout the day, or at various intervals in our life such as at Sunday worship, to fulfill a rule, keep a tradition going, or pay a debt? The answer to these and similar questions identify our prayer as either like a report a person who works for a bakery might make to the President of the bakery: " we need a hundred sacks of wheat flour, forty pounds of lard, ten pounds of salt, five pounds of cocoa , Amen !" , or like a love letter a man might write to his wife: :I love you very much. Thanks for the green socks you bought for me, and don;t worry about getting the lawn mowed, I'll be home to do it early Friday afternoon. " I don't imagine people who have to issue reports enjoy it very much. At least I don't. On the other hand to write a friendly letter is always a joy. It is that way with prayer also. If you enjoy your prayer it is a good sign. There is something humanly fulfilling about it. There is special joy to live in the presence of God and to speak to God as our Father. The next question we ask to measure our payer is like the question asked of a painting: how much is it worth? Of our prayer we ask what does it do. Like a painting that is made up of each stroke of the brush that went before the last, so our prayer today is built upon our prayer of yesterday, each day adding to the whole of our relationship with God new experiences for which we are thankful, new insights that cause our words of praise to be more meaningful. What does our prayer do? Does our prayer really give us the sense of having praised the Lord? It should. Does our prayer influence our lives? It should. Does our prayer deepen or faith, bring us consolation and encouragement, challenge us ,bring us joy? It should. The disciples asked Jesus: " Lord, teach us to pray...

Blog # 198 God Our Father

Blog # 198 God Our Father
Regularly when I pray I find myself thinking about the fatherhood of God. I ask such questions as what did Jesus mean when He spoke of our Father, how can I discover more deeply and meaningfully the truth contained in the statement of Jesus that God is our Father. What does it mean to me personally to imagine God as my Father rather than as my King, my Lord, my Judge? Do I really know and love God as a Father? Would I be ready, willing, and happy to walk through the door of death at this moment to live in the presence of God my Father forever? What did Jesus mean when He said not every one who says Lord, Lord, but he who does the will of my Father will know the Kingdom of God? Important questions!
Even years ago when I worked in the small garden in back of our church, I reflected upon these and similar questions. In my relationship to the earth and to the plants I saw myself in a similar situation as to how God relates to all creation. I thought within myself how my attitude toward the plants could serve as a way of understanding a little better the attitude of God toward myself and others.
I was there working with the plants and caring for them. We believe this of the attitude of God towards us. He is with us caring for us. One night when our weather had been particularly dry I found myself out in the garden watering the vegetables between eleven thirty and midnight. This reminded me of God's constant vigil over us, His willingness to be present to our needs, His generous giving of gifts, night and day.
As I watered the tomato plants one by one, calling each by the name of a Saint, I thought of the meaning and beauty of the Bible texts that reveal to us that calls each of us by name, that He loves every one of us individually, and cares for each of us as if there were no other.
I thought of how I really didn't need the tomato plants nor the tomatoes they would produce, but nonetheless I wanted them. I had plenty to eat available to me in the local stores, friends who would bring me tomatoes, and money to buy what I needed. Yet I wanted the tomatoes growing in the garden. I planted them just where they were growing, my desire for them was for them to grow the best they could, to be the best they could be, for their sake as it were. rather than my own.
I thought within myself, so it is with God our Father, how wonderful His love for us, and how marvelous His Name in all the earth!
Now, years later, that is my prayer each morning as I go out the back door and attempt to get down the back steps without falling, on my way over to the church: O Lord, our Father, how admirable is Your Name in all the earth! Our Father... If we only stopped to realize it, over six billion people living in the world today are included in that prayer. Each of them is created known and loved to some degree by the Father Creator of all. I cannot go to them physically to comfort thank them or share my faith with them face to face, but I can bring them into my prayer. Our Father...lead us not into temptation ...deliver us from evil. Amen! Lord, Father and Creator, how admirable is Thy Name in all the earth!