Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blog # 139 Living Faith

Blog # 139 Living Faith This morning I was reflecting upon what it means for us to be holy. In my concordance I found hundreds of references using the word holy. I did not have time to read them all . One in particular from the Hebrew Bible attracted my attention. It was Leviticus 11:44 : " I, the Lord, am your God and you shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy." My reflection had begun with a desire on my part to further clarify for myself the meaning in our Catholic faith of what we know in theology as the gift of Sanctifying Grace, the gift that makes us holy. The immediate reference in Leviticus is to the command of God for His people not to be contaminated by eating food that would be designated by God as "unclean". Through their obedience they would be uniting themselves with God's desire, an experience that fits very easily into the definition of love. In Luke 6:36 Jesus tells His disciples they are to "be merciful just as your Father is merciful." Then we have Jesus praying in John's Gospel (17: 20 - 23,26) to the Father : "I pray...that all may be one, as we are one---I living in them, you living in me---that their unity may be complete. So shall the world know that you loved them as you loved me...To them I have revealed your that your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them. And in John 14:23 Jesus says: " Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwellng place with him." In our Catholic theology these and similar texts apply to the gift of Sanctifying Grace, a share in God's divine life in a limited human way, making us holy and given by God in the Sacrament of Baptism, lost or distorted by the betrayal of sin. At the entrance of all our Catholic churches is a font of blessed water. It is intended to be a reminder to all of us coming into church of our Baptism. Dipping our hand into the water and making the sign of the Cross is an invitation to renew our faith in the meaning and effect of our Baptism. Born into a deeply faithful Catholic family, my Baptism occurred when I was just three weeks old. Two of my cousins, one on my mother's side of the family and the other on my father's side came with their families from the Bronx and from Brooklyn to be my Godparents. As in the experience of my natural birth three weeks before so now in the experience of my second birth 'from above' I had nothing to do with it but to be there. I could not buy it. It could not earned. It was a gift, by nature something that can only be received. I was to receive the gift of new life, born from above, God's love within me, a gift that only God could offer. All I had to do was grow up and believe in it, to make God's love my own, to be holy, compassionate, merciful, loved as the Father loves Jesus, called to do God's will in union with Jesus for the rest of my life and into eternity! WOW ! Though the sounds of it meant nothing to me that first day of my new-born life in Jesus , the priest said in Latin as he poured the water over my head: "Charles Matthew, I Baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." If he did it correctly he did not say "Amen" , as we usually do whenever the three Divine Persons come together in prayer. I have always interpreted this omission of the Amen in the Baptismal rite as a deliberate choice on the part of the Church to offer the person being Baptized an invitation and opportunity of living out the new identity he or she receives through our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism as a member of the Church, a branch on the Vine, vivified and made holy with the presence of our living God within us. Amen means Yes. At my present age, and starting at the age of five, if I had been made aware of it in my religious education experiences and had accepted the invitation to fill the gap left by the omission of the Amen at the time I was Baptized I would have willfully and freely, joyfully and hopefully done that with my own personal Amen all through the years of my life at least twice a day in the mornings and at bedtime a minimum of well over fifty five thousand times! Praying the Amen! of our Baptism could be compared to signing a contract with a Company or a pro ball team, making a commitment to do a certain thing for the Company or team, to keep myself up on the development of the buiness or to keep myself in the physical shape that will permit me to play the game the best I can. In response to my commitment, the Company and the team grant me identified benefits. The Baptismal Yes prayer has power. In times of temptation, Yes, Lord, Amen! In times of joy, Thank You, Lord, Amen! In sorrow, Be with me, Lord. Amen! In the morning: Amen! At the end of the day: Amen! At the instant of death: I come to do Your will, O lord. Amen!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blog # 138 FATHER 3

Blog # 138 FATHER 3 In Blog # 136 I tried to show our Catholic theology and practice leaves no doubt about the fact we recognize and worship one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Only God the single Creator of all other realities deserves our total unconditional love. Blog # 136 was to be a proclamation of the truth about how we as Catholics acknowledge and relate to God the unique Creator of all that exists. In Blog # 137 , in the light of Matthew 23:9 in which Jesus tells us not to call any man on earth father I wanted to recognize and respond to the problem our practice of referring to a priest as Father creates for many of our fellow Christians outside the Catholic Church. Blog # 136 was to show the practice if interpreted correctly and with good will is not in contradiction to our genuine total constant unconditional love of God. Blog # 137 goes further than merely justifying the practice with reason and common sense. Making reference to a man as father was done by holy men in the Bible, as in Romans 4: 11,12 the author refers to Abraham as the father of the uncircumcised as well as the circumcised, and as James in 2:21 asks "Was not our father Abraham justified by his works...? Though these references were made to someone living in the time before Jesus they were made in the references I have given by authors living in our time after Jesus and I think we can presume as authors of the written word of God in the Bible they were aware of what Jesus said about calling anyone on earth our father. Blog # 138 intends to take the Catholic practice further than its mere justification, in other words as merely something that is not sinful or not contrary to God's will. I want to identify the Catholic practice when properly understood as something with positive value, something that helps us rather than hinders us in our quest to discover and live out the Gospel message Jesus brought to earth for all people. The key to understanding and accomplishing this task is the fact we believe the supernatural gift of new birth spoken of by Jesus in His conversation with Nicodemus in Chapter 3 of John's Gospel is given to us individually in the Sacrament of Baptism. Secondly we believe that in a way similar to the way our natural biological fathers can be seen as instruments fulfilling God's plan for bringing natural life so the minister of the Sacrament of Baptism can be seen as an instrument fulfilling God's plan for bringing supernatural life. Thirdly an ordained priest is the ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Baptism. With these three considerations in mind and in the light of Paul's identifying himself as begetting those who came to believe in Jesus by faith through his preaching, we can imagine a custom growing up of referring to the ordinary minister of Baptism as father. I do not know of this practice ever being the object of a law in the Church as for example our laws on fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays. In the practical order in a way a wedding ring can serve as a reminder of a person's permanent love and commitment to husband or wife so the practice of continuing to refer to all priests as fathers can serve to remind us of our faith and Baptismal sharing in the gift of new life in Jesus, certainly a blessing and a very valuable experience.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blog # 137 FATHER 2

Blog # 137 FATHER 2 Our Catholic theology does not accept or believe in any competitor for God's glory. Our long standing custom of referring to an ordained priest as Father does not in the least put the priest in competition with the absolute worship we give to the Father in Heaven alone. Yet we do have to take Matthew 23: 9 into account. The King James version has it this way: "And call no man your father on earth; for one is your Father which is in heaven." On face value these words are certainly clear. On face value it would seem clear there is no need or even room for a question as to whether Catholics disobey the Bible in continuing our practice of referring to a priest as "Father" However in the context of the statement in Matthew, we would hardly be fair to ourselves and honest in our pursuit of the truth in the matter if we did not take note of the fact the text we are considering is immediately followed by the additional injunction of Jesus not to call anyone teacher. This seems to be commonly done without a qualm or the batting of an eye even by those who object to our practice . What is the difference? It seems to lie in the objection to our practice rather then in concern for literally carrying out the entire mandate of the Bible. Further, if what we do is wrong, the Bible itself is guilty of the same, and this cannot be true. In the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) there are more than seven hundred references to the word father. Only ten of these are in reference to Yahweh ( God). In the New Testament there are more than three hundred and fifty references to the word father. Of these only two hundred and twenty-nine are in relation to God. The rest refer to men. Samples; Rom 4: 18; Acts 7: 2; 2: 29; 4: 25; Jame 2: 21. In the early ages of the Church, before and during the time the New Testament was being composed there was no problem. Nor was there a problem as the Church moved through the centuries until on the American scene fundamentalist preachers developed it into a major issue. It is not a Biblical problem among Scripture scholars, nor is it a problem in 0ther parts of the world where the American influence has not prevailed. Certainly the Catholic Church knows the words of the Gospel with regard to Jesus' statement. We know, however, as well, the meaning of the statement. Taken out of context we would no more have taken up the custom of calling the priest Father, let alone tolerate it for centuries than we would have taken up or tolerated a custom of stealing, telling lies, murder, abortion, or gay marriages. The true meaning and value of our custom begins to show in the light of 1 Cor 4: 14 - 17. "I am writing to you in this way not to shame you but to admonish you as my beloved children. Granted you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you have only one father. It was I who begot you in Christ Jesus through my preaching of the Gospel...This is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful son in the Lord. For St. Paul, who explicitly in the Bible refers to himself as a father of believers, the use of the term father in reference to himself was a blessing rather than a wedge between himself and God.This is because for him and the first Christians it was a definite reminder and proclamation of the fact a Christian believer through faith and Baptism receives through Jesus a second birth into a new life, becoming children of God and heirs with Christ of eternal life. Our use of the term for the ordinary minister of Baptism is the same. Lack of knowledge, both of the meaning of Scripture in this instance, and in the meaning of our tradition and of the reasons we retain the tradition are the root of any problem a sincere Bible-reading person might have with it. It would apparently be easy to solve the problem by doing away with the custom. But this would seem to be similar to the 'problem' some of the people at the foot of the Cross brought to Jesus when they did not realize or understand the meaning of His suffering and said: "Come down from the Cross and we will believe!" He stayed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blog # 136 FATHER 1

BLOG # 136 FATHER 1 The response of Jesus to the Father on earth and the response of the Eternal Word of God in the Blessed Trinity from all eternity to the Father can be identified as love. Jesus, the Word Incarnate, was like us in all but sin. Though divine and from all eternity united by divine love with the Father in the life of the Trinity, on earth Jesus , like us, was called to discover and respond to the Father's Presence here with us in the physical world, in people, and in the human experience of prayer. It was this response to which Jesus was referring when on the night before He died in obedience to the Father's plan Jesus said His obedience was evidence to all that He loved the Father. "...that all may know that I love the Father and do all the Father has commanded me to do. Let us be on our way." And He went to Gethsemani. His invitation was to all to join Him in His love. Not all would understand. Not all would be willing. So in the course of Jesus' life as given in the Gospels we find Him so perfectly obedient to the Father's will that all who heard Him speak and saw Him act should have known His love for the Father was the supreme value in His life. This was true because He knew, as God, and believed as one of us, there is but One God. There is no other. His response to the Father, and ours, could only be total love. Nothing and no-one could take the Father's place as Creator of all. No-one could assume the Father's authority or His Name. "Do not call anyone on earth your Father. Only One is your Father, the One in Heaven". (Mt 23: 9). What then of the practice in the Catholic Church of referring to a priest as Father? Is this idolatry, arrogance, disobedience, stupidity, or what? It is certainly a long and well established tradition. Particularly here in the southern part of the United States it has been and cotinues to be a problem of such proportions as to preclude on the part of many any serious possibility of investigating and discovering the richness of our Catholic faith, history, and tradition. It should be quite evident the theme of the passage of Scripture from which the above quote from Matthew is taken is not the phrase about using the word Father for anyone other than God. Rather Jesus is speaking against the false pride, arrogance and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees to whom He addressed His words. However, since the practice of referring to a priest as Father is such an obstacle for many believing fellow-Christians around us, it might be well for us to take this occasion to address the problem. With little effort I think we can find basic agreement. Our apparent disagreement would seem to stem from lack of information rather than actual differences in theology or disobedience to the word of God in the Bible. All that we ask of anyone who would want to enter into discussion with us with regard to any justification of the practice on our part is an open mind, a willingness to accept our word as sincere, and a prayer for the light of truth. First of all it should be very clear we as Catholics profess a faith in One God , Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is no other God. Statues are not God. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is not God. Angels and Saints are not God. The Pope, priests, nuns, rituals are not God. Not being God they nether deserve nor are offered the praise thanks adoration and worship we offer to God alone. We do not accept or believe in any competitor for God's glory. We do not even come close to being tempted way from our conviction or practice here. The official texts of the Mass illustrate and give clear evidence of our consciousness of the Father's place in our life, our love, and our devotedness to Him. Here are some samples from the texts of the prayers of the Mass. "Father, it is our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give You thanks..." "Father, it is right we should give You thanks and glory; You are the One God, living and true." "We come to You, Father with praise and thanksgiving through Jesus Christ Your Son." "Father, You are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives You praise." "Our Father...hallowed be Thy Name...Thy will be done..." And the final words of the most solemn part of the Mass: "Through Him (Jesus), with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever. Amen!" We are in direct personal relationship with the Father through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. We recognize in the Father a worthiness of our entire love. This Jesus has taught us. In His Name we believe and respond to Our Father in awe. Yet we do have to take Matthew 23: 9 into account. I will try to do that in Blog 137 tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blog # 135 GOD

Blog # 135 GOD


There is a fundamental truth about words we use in speaking about God. That truth is this: we cannot speak or think of God the way we speak or think of any other reality or experience. God is Altogether Other, One. Alone, Unique. No words or thoughts that apply to any other experience, imaginative or real, apply in the same way to the experience of identifying thinking or speaking about our relationship with God. No thoughts or words of ours, in their essential human limitation, are capable of defining describing or expressing the infinity of God. I see the application of the thoughts I have just shared with you not only as important but essential for an intelligent justification of genuine prayer, religious practice, and in particular a proper understanding and appreciation of the Christian faith and experience.

There are three general categories of words. univocal words are spelled differently pronounced differently and have different meanings - yes, no. equivocal words are spelled the same pronounced the same but have different meanings - bear, the animal; bear with my ignorance; bear a child. analogous words are spelled the same and pronounced the same but have more than one meaning related to one another but not expressing the same exact meaning of one another - George Washington on a dollar bill. It 'is' he and none other but at the same time it 'is not' he. When it comes to 'knowing God', the more we learn the less we know compared to the whole. Some questions: Is someone who does not believe in God necessarily by that fact a sinner? Is it possible to discover God on our own? What does it mean to be 'on our own'? Can we write a definition of God? Can we prove that God exists before we believe that God exists? Why or why not? I could not intelligently pray without answers to these and similar questions. The Bible seems to take the reality and presence of God for granted. Two passages are by way of exception. Wisdom 13: 1 - 5; Romans 1: 20. In the first passage a key element is the phrase "by analogy". In the second passage, the key is our understanding of God's "eternal power and divinity" becoming visible in creation. That is not to claim that God's life, God's self is made known. A pie-maker reveals something of him/herself in the pie that is made, but the whole person of the pie-maker , his or her motive in making the pie , his or her claim to ownership of the pie etc. is more than what is revealed in the pie. That is similar to what the passage in Romans is claiming for God in creation. Power Wisdom and Goodness are revealed in creation. But the question remains is this the work of a single source? Is there a single Power Wisdom and Goodness responsible for it all? What about the question of evil in the world? Is the same Power Wisdom and Goodness responsible in some way for this too? Consider the statement many of us learned in our early years as a child: "God is everywhere." Consider our dependence upon God - when and how, completely, without exception , personally, uniquely. What assurance do we have that our prayers always 'reach' God? If you are searching for a deeper knowledge and love of God find time and peace in the presence of the God you know to reflect on the questions you have about God. Open your mind and heart to receive the gift of a greater understanding and appreciation of God's presence and respond to it. When it comes to the existence of God we either believe it or we do not believe it. We can prove there is power wisdom and goodness, etc. But to say this is God is not ours to say on our own. It is mine to be open to a message claiming :"I AM" , the Powerful One, the Wise, the Good, Love. I am free to ignore the message, believe it, or reject it. I am not free to determine the message. How unwise it is to look to natural science for complete answers to our questions about God. Science deals with measurements colors shapes sounds physical things and human limited experiences. God is here,yes, analogously, like Geeorge Washington is on every American dollar yet he is not paper and he is also somewhere else in a real and different way. That is the way it was this morning when I saw a picture of President Obama in the morning paper. It was really he and none other in a real analogous way but he was also in Washington DC in a real and different way. We, united with Jesus through faith and Baptism as branches on a vine, call God our Father in our prayer.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Blog # 134 The Sacramental Life of Matrimony

Blog # 134 The Sacramental Life of Matrimony We believe that Matrimony is one of the seven Sacraments given to the Church by Jesus. The sacramental system adds a whole new dimension to our human life, like the poetry of words, or the art of color. The Sacraments in general bear out and manifest St. Paul's statement : "I live, no, not I, but Christ lives in me". Each of the Sacraments is a sign and realization of some particular aspect of our salvation in Jesus. Ideally, the sacramental dimension of our lives as Christians should be known and valued much the same as all of the other facets of our personal identification such as our name, family ties job talents hopes, etc. The trouble is that for many Christians such knowledge is almost entirely foreign and the various contacts with Sacraments they experience are, commensurate with their individual degree of knowledge , so close to being meaningless and without personal value that they almost become like a child in a choir who is taught to sing the sounds of a French song but who does not, because of his or her inability through ignorance of the language, personally sing the French! All of this applies very well. of course, to marriage. But in order to make such an application the individual must it would seem understand its application across the board to all of the Sacraments. Each Sacramental experience calls from those who participate for a personal understanding and response, a living out in us of God's love. Take Baptism as an example. Paul's Baptismal theology identifies and emphasizes in Baptism a death and rising, a re-creation as well as an experience of purification from Original Sin. In contrast, if we emphasize Original Sin and its forgiveness through Baptism we end up with greater focus on a state of innocense rather than new life. The gift of new life in Baptism is a transformation in the person. A person in union with Jesus in Baptism is not simply innocent; he or she is redeeemed and reborn. And his new life reveals itself in new activity. We are one in Jesus, as branches on a vine. In all we do as Christians Christ is present and acting. The Christian by sharing in the fullness of Jesus now becomes the revelation of God in the world. His action becomes identified with the action of God! In Paul's theology this is the source of Sacramental efficacy. Man's action has become immersed in the life of God. (Ephesians 4: 4 - 6). As part of the practical consequences of all of this we should attempt to understand how God is operating in and through us and should make efforts to become more conscious of our presence within the life of the Trinity. We should attempt to make ourselves more aware of God's actions in the Sacraments and through our experience of the Sacraments in us. In our experience of the Sacraments our knowlege and love of God is not simply ours, but rather it is that God knows and loves in us. Our knowledge and love must somehow be His. Particularly with regard to the Sacrament of Matrimony these considerations drive home more clearly what St. Paul was saying when writing to the Ephesians he compared the love of husband and wife to that of Christ for the People of God. (Eph. 5 25). Sacramental marriage is a revelation-faith relationship just as other Sacramental experiences. A man and woman manifest through their love for one another the love of Christ for us, which in turn manifests the love of God our Father for all creation. But just as not all wheat and not all wine find their destiny in the Eucharist and not all water and all oil find their destiny in Baptism and the Sacraments of anointing, so it is that not all men and women who are indeed humanly married find their destiny in a faith relationship with God and one another in the Sacrament of Matrimony. Surely we must possess this knowledge and faith before we can share our treasure with others. "Do you take __________________________________- here present as your wife/husband?" " I do". What do these words say? Are they natural words, philosophical words, or are they spiritual words, words of faith, Sacramental words? ***** ***** ****** Some pertinent Scripture texts: Genesis 1: 27 ; 2: 24-25; Mark 10: 2-12; Eph 5: 25, 28-33; Mat 22: 23-30; 1 Tim 5; 14. On love: 1 John 4: 19, 20; Jude 21; Gen 29: 20; Proverbs 27 5; John 13: 34,35; John 15: 13; Rom 8: 35; 13: 8; 1 John 3: 18; 1 Cor 2: 9; Eph 5: 25.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blog # 133 The Sacrament of Matrimony

Blog # 133 The Sacrament of Matrimony This blog could have been labeled the CHRISTIAN DIMENSION OF MARRIED LOVE. Much of what is contained in marriage manuals, even though the name Christian appears in the title is the product of good common sense, good psychological theory, good philosophy and logic, good human qualitites that could and should be ours even though we were not precisely Christian. Analysis of ideal sex-role identities, techniques of love making, house keeping, home finance, child care, living together in old age, etc. are all part of the concern Christian couples have when they enter marriage. But these elements are also the cares and concerne of all couples, no matter what their personal religious identification might be. We ask ourselves, therefore, are there elements in the practical and ideal marriage relationship and experience that are essentially Christian? Are there essential differences between what might be called a Christian marriage and a non-Christian marriage? Is it legitimate to use the term 'Christian' in reference to marriage? One response to such a series of questions would imply there is little significant difference between a Charistian marriage and a non-Christian marriage. The differences are pointed out as non-essential and superficial. Using happiness, sexual harmony, mutual satisfaction and social success as a guage it is shown that all the necessary elements of successfull marriage are found in varying degrees across the board, in all marriages throughout the world and do not prcisely depend upon an element of marriage that might be singled out in any series of marriage relationships as 'Christian". It is implied that to do so is arrogant and erroneous. Another response to the query as to whether the term Christian might have deep and singular significnce when applied to individual marriages, justifies the use of the term but with a strong and distinctive emphasis upon the moral pattern that is detemined and identified by definite 'Charistian' ways of acting with regard to artificial contraception, divorce, education of youth, worship, etc. In other words Christian morality as such is placed as the dividing line between Christian marriage and non-Christian marriage. Seeking to recognize and convinced there is an essential difference between what might be called Christian marriage and any other marriage experience, and yet knowing at the same time the apparently widespread ignorance and lack of significant experience of any such difference, perhaps we could investigate and evaluate together those elements we might refer to as 'Christian' in marriage. What does it mean to say marriage is a Sacrament? What does it mean to use the term'Christian' in relation to marriage? What does the Bible say about marriage? What is goodness for the Christian? What is sin? Is there any such thing as 'Christian holiness'? What is the Church? These questions lead us into some beautiful and important insights into the theology of Christian marriage which we introduce on Blog # 134 tomorrow. >

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blog # 132 Marriage

Blog # 132 Marriage Until recently the following thoughts were used as an introduction to the Roman Catholic marriage rite. Currently they are optional. I have always found some good and useful thought in them for me even considering I am a life-long dedicated celibate person. I hope that will be true for all who read them here. "My dear friends, you are about to enter into a union which is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred because it is established by God Himself; most serious because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate that it will profoundly influence your whole future. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know these elements are mingled in every life, and are to be expected in your own. And so, not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death, Truly, then, these words are most serious. It is a beautiful tribute to your undoubted faith in each other that recognizing their full import you are nevertheless so willing and ready to pronounce them. And because these words involve such solemn obligations it is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. And so you begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and wider life which you are to have in common. Henceforth you will belong entirely to each other; you will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy; and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect the sacrifice is complete. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, and the Son so loved us that He gave Himself for our salvation. "Greater love than this no man has than that he lay down his life for his friends." No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. May, then, this love with which you join your hands and hearts today never fail, but grow deeper and stronger as the years go on. And if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action you may expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears. The rest is in the hands of God. Nor will God be wanting to your needs; He will pledge you the life-long support of His gracees in the Holy Sacrament which you are now going to receive..."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blog #131 Creation /Presence

Blog # 131 Creation /Presence This is about the EXISTENCE of God and God's PRESENCE. We do not seek ever to PROVE that God EXISTS . If someone thought they did such a thing I would think the object of his or her proof, under any name, would not be GOD. And I would imagine if we could prove God exists that among intelligent people there would be few atheists, and among the less intelligent there would be few who discovered God. But that is not the case. If you or I could prove that God exists, I would think He is not God. To prove God exists would be in a real sense to be greater than God, to contain in your mind the god of your proof, to control that god, to be God's God. Can or need you prove that red is red, or that five pounds is five pounds? That is something like the way it would be to try to prove that God exists. The big question is not whether or not God exists, but whether or not God is benign or gracious, whether God is our Friend and our Father..."Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name... To prove that God exists is one thing. To discover God around and within us is another. THAT WE CAN DO ! Once we arrive at the notion of God's 'footprints', as it were, in nature, (Wisdom 13; Romans 1: 19 ), then it helps to investigate the nature of things around us and within us in response to God's claim to be the Creator of them all. We know something of who a person is by what that person does. We know something of God through our knowledge of God's 'work' in creation. In all of creation we discover something of the Creator's power wisdom and goodness. Unless we want to say that all of it is just the product of chance, or that altogether it is its own god, then we begin to see here something of a 'shadow' of God, God's power, wisdom, and goodness. Blessed be He forever! Modern telescopes have discovered billions of stars. Our sun, with its retinue of earth and other planets is located some 26,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way (so large that light, speeding 186,000miles a second needs a hundred thousand years to cross it!). Enormous as it is, the Milky Way is a quite ordinary example of galaxies so numerous as to be beyond our count. We inhale about 108,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (21 ciphers after the 8 !) molecule of air in each normal breath. If we could arrange to let those molecules escape at the rate of 10.000,000 each second, it would take a million years to blow out one breath. The molecule in an air space the size of a golf ball, if placed end to end, 4,250,000 per inch, would circle the earth 10,000 times at the equator, or reach to the moon and back 52 times! There is still the choice that anyone can make: there is no God. Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw mud. One saw stars. Some people look out and see only what they see. Others the work of a Workman, and begin to know God. What is color in the dark, or sound unheard? Is it perhaps something like Goodness unappreciated, or perhaps like a person's life without faith?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blog # 130 Creation evaluated

Blog # 130 Creation Evaluated 1 ........./........./........./........./........./........./......../ 2 ........./........./........./......../........./........./......../ 3 Seventy dots on a line 4 ........./........./........./........./........./........./......../ 5 Sixty-five lines on a page 6 ........./........./........./........./........./........./........./ 7 70 X 65 = 4,500 dots on a page 8 ........./........./........./........./......../........./........./ 9 220 pages of dots per million 10 ........./......../......../........./......../........./........./ 11 93 million miles to the sun 12 ........./........./........./........./........./......../......../ 13 220 pages (one million) X 93 = 20,460 pages 14 of dots to represent the distance from earth 15 to the sun, with each dot representing a mile 16 ........./......../........./........./........./......../........./ 17 This would be 41 reams of paper 18 ........./........./......../......../......../........./......../ 19 At two inches a ream the stack of paper 20 would be 82 inches high, over six feet 21 ........./........./........./........./........./......../......../ 22 If you were to count these sheets at the rate 23 of one a day it would take you 56 years 24 ........./........./........./........./........./........./........./ 25 The sun 'comes up' each day of our lives 26 and we tend to take it for granted. 27 ........./........./........./........./........./........./........./ 28 "Sun and moon, praise the Lord! Ye stars 29 of heaven praise the Lord!" 30 ........./........./........./........./........./........./........./ 31 ........./........./........./........./........./........./........./ 32 ........./......../........./........./........./........./........./ continue down the page 50 then: 51 In terms of dollars this translates as follows: 52 At the rate of one penny a mile per hour of 53 sunshine the daily bill would be $22,320,000.00. 54 Per year it would be $8,146,800,000.00. That is 55 eight billion, one hundred forty-six million, 56 eight hundred thousand dollars! During the fifty-six 57 years it would take you to count those papers a bill 58 of $529,542,000,000,.00 would register. If each 59 of us now living on earth in the light of the sun had 60 to pay for it that number would be multiplied by 61 six billion! 62 ........./........./........./........./........./........./........./ 63 Have you ever wondered what God is doing? 64 ........./........./........./........./........./........./........./ 65 ........./........./........./........./........./........./........./

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Blog # 129 The Bowling Game 2

Blog # 129 The Bowling Game 2 Recognizing perfect love as the perfect score in the 'game' of life, we ask the question: What is perfect love? and Can it be achieved ? Is it with love as it is with football and baseball where you can have your perfect game, the best you can do, but not the perfect game? If the answer to that question is YES, life would still be a wonderful gift and worth living. But the answer is NO. By faith we identify life as different from football and baseball where you do your best. Life is like bowling where you reach for an absolute value named perfect love. What is the meaning of perfect love? becomes the fundamental question. "...with your whole heart, and mind, and with all your strength" becomes the key to our answer. We keep on living day by day with this wonderful dream and desire of our Creator within us and at the same time we are aware of falling short. But just think for a moment of the case of Jesus and Mary His mother. We believe both of them were totally without sin for their entire lives. Yet the Bible indicates for us that Jesus was tempted, and if that were the case we can easily imagine Mary was tempted too, though like Jesus without sin, an accomplishment achieved by free personal choices on her part. Applying once more the parable of the bowling game, there were standing pins on their alleys, incidences in their lives as in ours that might tempt us to sin that had to be cast out by choices in order for us to love perfectly. That they did. That we keep trying to do. The perfect game of bowling is certified as it were by the last pin to go down. In the 'game' of life the last pin to go down is death. And that is true for everyone. It was true for Jesus and Mary. Death it is that could tempt us to think God is unfair cruel uncaring waiting in Heaven to judge us. Seen that way it is a difficult pin to knock down, a temptation to let it overshadow all the good things that have made up our lives, including the forgiveness of our sins rather than an opportunity of transforming the total of our life into our absolutely greatest act of love. The last pin to go down is the greatest threat to a perfect game. It is also the pin that declares the winner. Jesus names that pin the greatest love. "There is no greater love than to lay down your life..." To love means to give and the more we love the more we give. The only way to love perfectly is to give it all. Only our unique Creator is worthy of our total love. It is possible only in death. Until the very instant of death there is more to give, even if it is only that very instant. We believe that in the Church, the Body of Christ, we are joined to Jesus through faith and Baptism as branches are joined to a vine, sharing the same divine life Jesus brought from Heaven and shared with us in a limited human way, (c John 15: 4,5 ; 17: 21,23,26). As branches are joined to a vine a vine is joined to the branches. In the bowling game of Christian life we are bowlers, and JESUS is the ball! , in our hands, in our minds and hearts and strength, in the free choices we make to knock down all the 'pins' that prevent us from loving God with a perfect love. Understand that and we understand the deepest meaning and value of the event of Christmas. Emmanuel, God Among Us, for us, with us, and within us! May your love be total joyful faithful to the end! Happy Christmas every day of your life!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Blog # 128 The Bowling Game 1

Blog # 128 The Bowling Game 1 At the time one of my nieces achieved a perfect score in a bowling game it occurred to me to view the Christian life /experience like a bowling game. Jesus used to do something like this using wheat fields fishing nets seed being sown in a field and other experiences that were familiar to those to whom He was speaking. A bowling game became my field and fishing net. I hope it will be for you an ongoing invitation to grow in holiness and faithfully persevere until the end of your 'game'. Here is the way the parable goes. The Kingdom of Heaven, the Christian life and experience, where God is present by faith, sought by hope , and discovered by love, , is like a bowling game. First you have a bowling alley. It is intelligently designed and structured precisely for the game of bowling. There is an open space or gutter at both sides of the alley. Next you have ten pins set in a particular order to form a triangle as one end of the alley. Then you have a large ball with holes drilled into it fitted to your particular fingers to permit you to hold it comfortably and accurately. The object of the game is to knock down the pins. The rules of the game call for ten sections or 'frames' in which each player has two chances to knock down the pins. A perfect game is indicated by a perfect score of 300. Often when Jesus was giving one of His parables His disciples or someone in the crown around Him asked Him to clarify the meaning of the parable for them. They knew He was not talking about wheat talents or fish, though He was talking about wheat talents or fish. There was more to what He was saying than the sounds of it. The words would have to be enriched and applied to their individual unique everyday experienceof life. So it is with the parable of the bowling game. And so... The alley can be taken at one time as creation itself, the whole if it, or at other times on a smaller scale our individual personal unique lives. Both are intelligently designed and structured for a specific purpose. All creation, from the largest star to you and me was intelligently designed and structured by a single Creator. Therefore the meaning and purpose of all that EXISTS is found in God. And since God is Love, ( 1 Jn 4: 8, 16) the meaning of the whole of creation can be found in love. LOVE is the object of the GAME OF LIFE, just as knocking down the pins is the object of the game of bowling. Created as we are, uniquely and personally in the image of God, we are capable of understanding and realizing this in a unique personal way. Jesus told us this when someone asked Him what is the first of all the Commandments. It is to love God with our whole heart mind and strength. A similar question can be asked of bowling. What can stop us from a perfect game? The ten pins. The very same realities that in response to our skill create a victory, in response to a lesser skill create a failure! A champion bowler knows each of the pins by name, from one to ten. And he or she has learned by observation and talking to other bowlers, by practice and even through error perhaps that if he or she perseveres in his or her desire all the pins can be knocked down together with a single roll of the ball. A perfect game can be achieved! In this, bowling is different from other games we play such as football baseball and soccor. There is no such thing as a perfect game of football. YOUR perfect game, yes, but not a perfect game of football. You can lose a game of football with a score of 46 and can win a game of football with a score of 7. There is no absolute standard for determining a perfect football game. In bowling this is not the case. Knock down all the pins and you have a perfect game of bowling. And only then. The same question that came with bowling comes with the 'game' of life. What can stop or hinder us from achieving a 'score' of perfect love in our 'game' of life? As with the ten pins in a bowling game, we can name the obstacles in our personal lives that prevent or diminish our ability to experience perfect love. Our sins, moral weaknesses, procrastination, excuses, temptation or lack of awareness are among the 'pins' that can be identified as standing in the way of achieving perfect love. (cf. Romans 8: 35, 39). Blog # 129, The Bowling Game 2 comes with a few more insights tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blog # 127 Transformed 3

Blog # 127 Transformed 3 The notion of being identified in a 'second birth' or being 'born from above' is fundamental to all other specifically Christian elements in our relationship with God, others, and the world around us. Since this is so, I thought it would be helpful to arrange some of the texts from the Bible that guide us to a better understanding of the nature of this gift, to a greater appreciation of it, and a more effective use of it. The term Sanctifying Grace is a theological term used with reference to the notion of 'life" in St. John's Gospel. In John 3:3 Jesus tells Nicodemus "I solemnly assure you, no one can see the reign of God unless he is begotten from above." 'See' in this case refers to the notion of know or experience. In John 10:10 Jesus the Good Shepherd declares I came that my sheep may have life. John 20:30 gives the purpose John had in writing his Gospel as helping his readers believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, so that through this faith they may have life in His name. In Jn 6:35 Jesus identified Himself as "the bread of life". The following quote has special force for me in that the first man I Baptized after my ordination back in 1954 was preparing to die in the electric chair of the Georgia State Prison. It is from John 6: 47 ff. "...he who believes in me has eternal life... if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." At the time I was sharing this text with that man he had not yet been Baptized nor had he received his first and only Holy Communion. According to that text from John 6 the man standing before me should have been dead, " have no life in him". yet he was about six foot two , much stronger and very much as alive as I was. The life to which Jesus was referring had to be a life other than our normal natural human life. A prime effect of the gift of Sanctifying Grace is to have God personally dwelling within us. The gift itself is sometimes referred to as the Divine Indwelling."You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within - the Spirit you have received from God."(1 Cor 6: 19). "Live on in me as I do in you." (John 15:4). Another prime effect of our reception of new life through faith and Baptism is that we become children of God, and are united with Jesus as branches on a vine, sharing the life of the vine. 1 John: 3: 1: See what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God! Yet that is what we are. The Spirit himself gives witness to our spirit that we are children of God." Also John 1:11f. " I am the vine, you are the branches. he who lives in me and I in him will produce abundantly." (John 15:5). Sacraments play a distinctive essential role in our Catholic experience of being transformed by salvation. By definition a Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. As outward signs they are physical realities and can be seen heard touched or tasted. As signs, that to which they point or signify are spiritual realities which can be received only by faith and therefore in freedom. Colors shapes tastes sounds and atheists are blessed by God's love by the fact they exist but they cannot receive the gift of Sacramental Grace simply because, lacking and unaware as they are of a personal relationship with God they are not capable of sharing God's personal love. Fittingly by the design of God the supernatural life of Sanctifying Grace is experienced through Sacraments almost as a mirror image of the various significant stages and events of our natural human life, the beginning, Baptism, maturity, Confirmation, nourishment, the Eucharist, forgiveness, reconciliation, worship, priesthood, family, matrimony, and death, the Sacrament of the Sick. In these three short blogs we have touched briefly on what might be considered a key element of our Catholic insight into the nature and and definition of the gift of salvation Jesus brought from Heaven. It is very sad for me to realize in this age of instant communication throughout the world more people than not have still to embrace it as a way of life for the glory of God and peace and happiness on earth.