Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Blog # 160 Notebook entries Here are a few entries in one of my notebooks that you might enjoy... One ship sails east, another west With the self-same winds that blow; It's the set of the sails And not the gales Which decide the way to go. Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate; As we voyage on through life. It's the will of the soul That decides its goal, And not the calm or the strife. **** **** **** **** THE HAND THAT MADE US IS DIVINE! We expect a pro ball player to get a hit, run fast, tackle well, get the ball into the basket. We expect the work of a professional artist to be beautiful. We feel confident in the hands of a highly recommended surgeon. We follow the roads mapped out for us by AAA or Map Quest. THE HAND THAT MADE US IS DIVINE. What do we expect from God? How well do we trust Him? ## ## ## I knew there would be a sunrise, but the patterns and color of the actual sunrise today was available only as it was happening. God was alive and present for me in the here and now!... ++ ++ ++ ++ By simply living we are constantly receiving God's gifts. By faith we receive GOD! ^^^ ^^^ The Great Conversation about things that matter most has been going on from the beginning of the creation of free human beings. And now it is our turn!
Monday, June 27, 2011
Blog # 159 Jesus' Eucharistic Presence Valuable Biblical references here are: 1 Cor 11:23 - 26, Paul's testimony on the Last Supper event; the entire Sixth Chapter of John's Gospel; Chapter Five ends with Jesus faulting and disputing with those who refused to trust and believe in Him ; Mat 26: 26 - 28; Mark 14: 22 - 24; Luke 22: 19 - 20; Having considered in Blog 158 how one person can be present to another in several different modes we come to an effort to understand and respond to the Church's teaching that Jesus is really presentin the Sacrifice of the Mass and in Holy communion. Three questions I have found useful when applied to the 'Real Presence' of Jesus in the Eucharist are :What?, How?, and Why? What is God doing here? How is He doing it? And Why? What God has done in the Eucharist is laid out quite clearly in the Biblical references to the Last Supper given above and proclaimed down through the ages in the infallible teaching and constant practice of the Church. We believe and respond to a Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. How God transforms the nature of our bread and wine offered to Him through Jesus as a sign of our unconditional trust in Him and our total love for Him in the Sacrifice of the Mass is amystery to us. The transformation is unique and supernatural. It is accomplished through the infinite power of God the Creator which places it in a category by itself absolutely beyond our limited human comprehension. It is available to us by FAITH ALONE. I see a parallel with my experience of a cell phone. I have no idea as to how it works but I can trust that it does and I can use it. The answer to the question Why we have the Real Presence is simply because God desires to love us this way. To help us understand, appreciate, experience, and respond more perfectly to the presence of Jesus both in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass and in Holy Communion it is important to be aware of its rich roots in history dating all the way back to Adam and Eve and God's promise to send a Savior to conquer and eliminate sin. Moses was seen in connection with that promise when he miraculously led God's people away from their slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. To help His people remember their passover from slavery to freedom and to keep the promise of Genesis alive for them they were given a command by God to celebrate that occasion annually in a programmed meal. On the occasion of the Last Supper Jesus and His Apostles were celebrating that Passover meal. Tomorrow the promise of Genesis would be fulfilled in His blood on the Cross of Calvary. Now on that first Holy Thursday the same unconditional total obedient love that would be given to the Father in the Sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross would be given the Apostles in a different unbloody mode! Over what otherwise would be bread: "This is my body which will be given up for you. And over what otherwise would be wine: "This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. DO THIS in memory of me.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Blog # 158 Presence There is a radical difference in the content of our Catholic faith in what has been referred to as the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Sacrament of Holy Communion and what most of our Protestant friends would claim as the content of their faith regarding the bread and wine given to the disciples at the Last Supper as symbols of Christ's presence rather than accept our Catholic term Real Presence. I hope by presenting a few ideas on the notion of presence in general and then as we apply the term presence to Holy Communion and to Jesus in the Sacrifice of the Mass it will help clarify for our Protestant friends and for some Catholics who will not remember it presented in this way for them before what we Catholics actually believe. Here is a scenario I will use as an introduction. A small town had erected a memorial in the center of town in honor and memory of its War Dead. A State Representative was invited to come and give a talk on the occasion of the dedication of the memorial. On the day before the scheduled dedication his mother was killed in an automobile accident. He could have called the Mayor of the town and ask to be excused from being present at the dedication. All of us would have understood his decision. But that was not his only option. He could have faxed the text of his talk to the Mayor and have the Mayor read it for him. His presence among us would have been limited, but real. We would have been given the same thoughts he would have shared with us had his mother not died and he was physically standing before us, but they would have been actually communicated to us at the time of the dedication by someone else than he. Another option would be to tape the talk and send that down to the Mayor by bus in time for us actually to hear him sharing his thoughts with us. This option would have limited his presence merely in the fact the sounds we heard, though actually those of the Representative, would have been spoken by him yesterday rather than at the time of the dedication. Still another option would have been for the Representative to have arranged a telephone hookup with loud-speaking equipment making his actual voice and thoughts really present in the sense of actually being spoken and heard at the dedication ceremony. I imagine he might have gone even a step further and used a picture phone hook-up enabling us both to see and hear HIM actually speaking and sharing his thoughts at the very time we had gathered to listen to him. Though none of these ways actually identify or explain what we believe with regard to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist,they do call our attention to the fact we can recognize in our everyday experience the possibility of more than one meaning and application of the term presence. And in this we are better prepared to receive and respond to the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as one more possible mode of presence. From this we go on to understand and experience in the Eucharistic Presence some relationship to the other modes of presence we have considered but yet because we are considering the presence of Jesus Who is GOD in the Eucharist this presence for us must be mysterious, supernatural, humanly incomprehensible, known by FAITH, and unique. Now let's consider some of the reference points we can discover in both the scenario of the dedication of the war memorial and the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus. First of all the State Representative wanted to be present to the gathering. The desire to be close to someone we love is a God-given trait of love. Right down to our very existence God loves us. Because God loves us God desired us to be, and in God's love for us God desires to be close to us. Secondly the State Representative considered the options he had with regard to relating to the gathering at the memorial. God loves us and is close to us in ways we tend to take for granted and rarely if ever on the part of some relate to our understanding and response to the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Our creation by God is our fundamental relationship with God. God is certainly close to us there. God is close to us in the Bible when we recognize it as the word of God, when we pray, obey the Commandments, experience a second birth entailing a genuine limited sharing in God's divine life, our union with one another as branches on the Vine which is Jesus, in the Church, and other such ways. A most important feature of what we are considering is the fact ALL OF THESE RELATIONSHIPS AND EXPERIENCES ARE MADE REAL ONLY BY THE POWER OF THE GIFT OF FAITH WITHIN US. This is the feature we sometimes are in danger of taking for granted or of overlooking and in that process we lose contact with the essence of the relationship. Since this blog is getting so long and has much to consider I will stop here and continue in Blog # 159. Thank you for being here.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Blog # 157 United in Jesus Our union with one another through our union with Jesus in faith and our rebirth in Baptism is identified as more than a mere union of fellowship whereby we give one another support by way of good example, advice, and our prayer for one another as good neighbors or as members of a fraternity or sorority in college might do. As members of the Church we are called and should relate to one another in these ways. But our union with Jesus through faith and Baptism entails more. In Him our union and care for one another is better illustrated by the Biblical image of body and vine. Our care for one another is to be the care of one member of the body for another. A few years ago I saw a TV program that showed how the various immune systems of the body work, how the brain influences so many functions in the body for fighting disease, healing a wound, etc. The program made a deep impression on me. It helped clarify my understanding of the power and implications of the Biblical image of the Body of Christ and Jesus as a living Vine. In the command to love my neighbor as myself I see not a reference to a degree of love, but a love that is uniquely defined by my union with Jesus through faith and Baptism. As the hand cannot say to the foot I have no need of you, so I cannot say to others I have no need of you. My concern for the poor and the sick is to be as the concern of the blood of my body for an infection or wound in my body, no matter where in the body it occurs. And this applies not only to the physically poor and sick but to those spiritually and emotionally poor and sick. And it applies as well to my rejoicing and worshiping our Father with other members of the Body. To share Christ's love then is not an option for Christians. It is part and parcel of our very identity as 'born from above' through faith and Baptism. To love one another" as I have loved you", again, is not referring only to a degreeof our human love in imitation of Jesus' great human love, but with the love of the Resurrected Jesus shared with us in faith. (Jn 15:5; 13:34). This kind of thinking throws new light on our quest for personal salvation and the identity of our holiness. Personal salvation remains a goal of our existence but it is seen as a shared goal. In more than thirty references in John's Gospel Jesus indicates a personal awareness of being sent by the Father. Then in that very powerful text we hear Him say to His disciples:"As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Jesus shares His life and ministry with us! What He was sent to do we are sent to do. And what is this? To love. What is the first commandment? To love. What is the second? To love. "By this will all know you are my disciples, by your love. It follows, our quest for holiness is a quest for the glory of Jesus. For us He died, with us we struggle to conquer evil, in Him we live. Our love is our salvation. Our salvation is His glory.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Blog # 156 Life "in Christ". What did Jesus come to do for,with,in us who are Baptized? Jesus came that we may have life,life here on earth and life to come. Other prophets and teachers were raised up and sent by God to tell us how to live happily here on earth as good and happy men and women. Jesus was not just another of these. Jesus stands alone as God's own Son, divine as well as one of us, a bridge between Heaven and earth, telling and showing us in His own experience of the two lives rather than one to which we are called. The first life, our natural life, is experienced by all people who ever live. The second, our supernatural life,is given to those who believe. No matter where we start in the process, we can grow in our awareness,appreciation, understanding and enrichment of our experience of the truth of the 'reason' Jesus had in coming. In the second birth of Baptism we become children of God, sharing in Jesus His very own divine experience, rooted in earth, discovered on earth, and fulfilled in Heaven. Our second birth is built upon our first natural human birth. There is a connection between the two. It is similar to the connection between the twofold identity of a person who is officially identified with an MD degree. We bring with us to medical school our genetic code, our talent bank, our particular personality. As Jesus reminded us: good fruit comes from good trees. Better fruit comes from better trees. It follows that the more perfect we are as persons here and now, in our natural lives, the more perfect we can be as children of God, here and hereafter. In conjunction with God's will for us, in developing our natural human talents, in safeguarding and promoting our human good health, and in reaching out for new growth in experience and learning we are not in competition with God's desire that we grow in holiness. Rather in the complete picture we can be preparng the soil for Jesus to find in us a more effective tool, witness,and messenger of His personal love for us and through us His love for those around us and for that very small portion of creation we may have been accustomed to call our own.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Blog #155 The Holy Trinity This is a copy of another bulletin from St.William's, Sandersville,June 11, 1995. At the present moment we do not have any Chinese members at St. Wiliam's. So I would feel safe in saying that few or none of us know how to speak or read Chinese. We do not sing our songs in Chinese. We do not enjoy reading Chinese poems. We do not read Chinese newspapers. Yet all these experiences would be possible for us through education and practice. The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity each year gives us an opportunity to realize or remind ourselves it is not this way with God. Possess the most brilliant human mind that ever was created, study for years and years, associate with the holiest people on earth, pray with the deepest faith and the most generous love we can imagine, and we still do not know or possess God as someone might know and possess Chinese. Though the Chinese language is a very difficult one for us Westerners to master, and the poetry and music of the Chinese people is very rich and beautiful, yet it is limited. God is not. There is the difference. God is infinite, without beginning, without end, without limits, without bounds. Since we and all of our experience is finite and limited we cannot even imagine what it means to say God is infinite. Though I would run out of time before ever I would do it, I can imagine myself singing every Chinese song that ever was written. That is a lot of music, almost unimaginable! God is beyond that, totally unimginable! All of our human experience, great as it is, is limited. I drink a glass of milk, not all the milk there is. I see the moon, but not always. I read a newspaper, but not every newspaper. My dictionary contains more than 142,000 words. I can use only a fraction of them. Even if I knew them all, new words are being put into use each year as we discover and express new things in our limited world. My limited experience of a limited world is yet open-ended. It can grow and increase so that I get closer and closer to drinking all the milk there is, seeng the moon always, etc. even though I never arrive at this point. But with God it is totally different. All along I am actually drinking milk, seing the moon, but "No one has ever seen God." (Jn 1:18; 1 Jn 4: 12). All of our experience, always limited, is of something or of someone. Adjectives, verbs, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, and prepositions express it all. John is strong. Mary is wise and beautiful. Fred is a lawyer. He is Mary's husband. God simply IS. Our mind, our capacity, our experience stops infinitely short of this. We do not know what "No one has ever seen God." means. Yet we pray, which means we stand in the presence of God to speak to God in praise adoration thanksgiving and petition. If there is such an infinite gap between ourselves and God as I have been speaking of, then how can it be that we confidently talk to God in prayer Is it real? Yes, it is real. But even in prayer it is more God contacing us rather than we making contact with God. In other words, even prayer is a gift. God loves us, and love seeks to be close to the one who is loved. God's infinite love was not to be frustrated by the gap between us. God came among us as one of us, g enuinely like us in all but sin. He taught us of theFather, and the Spirit, and Himself, as divine. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. The danger is not that we fail to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity, but to think that we do understand. Or the other extreme to think and act and respond to an image of God we ourselves create as though God were just a better one of us, almost as seei ngGod created to our image rather than the other way around. To pray should be an awesome experience, a most preciouos gift. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be!
Blog 154 Pentecost a Week Late This blog is a copy of an article in the church bulletin when I was responsible for St. William's in Sandersville. It is dated Pentecost June 4, 1995. In reading it over I was blessed by it and thought it might make a fitting blog for Pentecost,2011,even a week late. One day this week I decided the 'life' of my jogging shoes had ended. It was a decision the seemed a bit important to me and was colored with a bit of sadness. The shoes had served well, giving comfort and protection since 1991. I estimated we had covered more than five thousand miles together. The shoes and I had gone on vacation together to far away places like Oregon, California, and New York . Recently we had been walking together almost every morning before dawn either over to the local hospital or around the track at the high school. It is almost a mile from here to the high school track. On the way over the shoes and I were going someplace,to the track. On the way back we were going home. In between we were just walking. Most days it was a distance of five miles. We covered every inch of it together. I was following the pattern of daily exercise recommended for good health. But in addition to that and more importantly for me, the habit of walking all these miles the first thing each mornng was sort of a guarantee I wanted for having a special and extended time each day for prayer meditation and reflection. Most of the thoughts in our bulletins and in my Sunday morning homilies came to me while walking in the mornings. But my shoes did not and could not know any of this. They were with me and were part of it, but did not know what they were doing. I was maintaining good health and growing in my relationship with the Lord. The shoes were wearing thin. What has this to do with the celebration of Pentecost '95? Here is how I see it. Almost totally before Vatican II, and still in many areas of our Catholic experience, priests and Sisters were identified as those who were especially holy or close to God and Jesus in the Church. No banquet graduation or wedding reception was begun without a prayer of the priest if he were in the room. He knew the Bible. He answered all religious questions without hesitation and with authority. This was the expectation of the 'faithful', the word commonly used for lay members of the Church. The priest was trained for this through a minimum of four years of post graduate work in theology and the experience of a specially focused daily regimen of prayer, mediation and discipline. There were leaders. There were followers. It was what you would naturally expect, and the Church was at peace. Then a new era of history began to appear. Change was everywhere. Textbooks that seemed to be up to date before World War II were now just the story of what used to be. This was true of medicine physics chemistry social sciences and theology, all the way up and down the line. It is important to know where we have come from in all of these fields in order to know more fully where we are at the present. But there is a difference between being a teacher of the history of medicine and being a current neurosurgeon. So there is a difference between knowing the Beatitudes and being blessed by them personally today. And between knowing that Pentecost happened for Peter James and John and between letting it happen for us today. What itwas for the Apostles, yes. But also what it is for us today. We like to think of Pentecost as the 'birthday' of the Church. As members of the Church we do have different functions in a way similar to the different functions of hands and feet head and heart in the life of our body. But as the Church we are one Body. We are not related to one another as shoes on the feet of a walker, going along the same path but not sharing a common life, a common chosen goal. We belong to one another. We grow or diminish, are healthy or sick, together. We can injure or help one another. We are called to this in the love of Jesus we are given to share in the one life we receive in Baptism. But because it is love, it must be done in freedom. In other words the first question is not do you understand?,but rather do you desire? Come, Holy Spirit, is our prayer.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Blog # 153 Any questions? After the recent gap I am hoping to be back again on a regular schedule of blogs. In the celebration and experience of the life of Jesus in the Liturgical Year, the time between the Ascension of Our Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost last Sunday, we were 'on our own', as it were, but not forsaken. We had the promise of Jesus that he would send the Holy Spirit as God's special presence in the Church until the end of time. This time of waiting is an especially appropriate time to review and reflect upon the life and work of Jesus, to identify Him again as divine and yet as one of us, to build up a great confidence in Him and a deep love for Him. It is because of Him and through our trust in Jesus that we await the coming of the Holy Spirit. With humble yet condfident hope we prepare our questions for the Spirit. Who, when, and where is God? What does it mean to pray? What is the desire of God for us as individuals and as a community of faith? What is the best way for us to grow in holiness?. What is the meaning and purpose of it all? Questions such as these would seem simple or complex, superficial or profound, depending you how you read them. It seems they are not frequent or regular questions on the life agenda of many people, even Christian believers. As a result the coming of the Holy Spirit and our celebration of Pentecost is of less consequence. Such questions can only be answered by God. Only and in so far as God reveals the answers to us will we know the truth about them. Without such revelation we would only be guessing or in error. There is no problem with regard to our conviction that God desires to share with us the answers. For this Jesus came, to teach and live the answers to all such profound and urgent questions. For this Jesus promised to send the Holy spirit, to be with us for all time, to help us discover and live the answers in our moment of history as Jesus was called to do in His. The problem is, do we have the questions? That is the first question. Without the questions that take us beyond our human limitations and experiences, we can solve whatever problems and questions we have this side of God through medicine, science, psychology, sociology, proper diet and exercise, money, human goodness, and friends. God is present in all of these for sure, but unless we ask the questions of God, God is not present for us Through our confidence in the Holy Spirit won for us through the love of Jesus it is fitting that we spend time and energy formulating the questions we have for God. But let's make doubly sure our questions are sincere, that we really want to know, that our questions express a need on our part. Otherwise we might end up with a bit of religion and religious information, but not faith. Religious information gives us knowledge, and religion can help shape and give direction to our moral behavior, but faith puts us in direct and personal contact with God. Faith that lives is an expression of a relationship between the revealer and the one who believes. It is founded upon and nourished by a living trust and is unafraid to ask questions. Faith gives the power to pass beyond the confines of our human limits to the meaning and purpose of it all. Our raw humanity sees Jesus suffer and die. Our faith sees Him love. Our humanity tells us Jesus is gone. Our faith tell us He at once is present and has gone to prepare an eternal home for us. Or humanity tells us to be honest kind and good in order to be happy here on earth. Our faith invites us in Jesus to share the love and care of God for all creation and there is more beyond the grave. What a difference! And faith is a gift of the Spirit. Our freedom and our desire are the door through which the Spirit 'comes'. May our doors we open wide!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Blog 152 After the Ascension... Both the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed express our faith in the Ascension of Our Lord in these words: "He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father". Both Creeds then add He will come again to judge the living and the dead. The references to judgment would almost seem to imply that now in Heaven Jesus is waiting as it were for Judgment Day for His next assignment in the Father's will. A reference to Jesus "seated at the right hand of the Father' is the use of a figure of speech to indicate the supreme honor the Resurrected Jesus enjoys in the Father's presence rather than describe a physical reality as in our experience on earth would be of a 'seat and a 'right hand'. In the light of what I have been trying to emphasize in recent blogs with regard to our infallible faith in the identity of the Word of God, (the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity) and Jesus the son of Mary as one person, and several other references in Scripture and our Catholic theology, the glorified Jesus 'comes' many times in the life of Catholic people. Here at the very beginning it is important to point out that God does not come and go as we use these terms for anyone other than God and consequently whenever they are used in reference to God they are used analogously. A second point to remember is that since God does come so regularly in the lives of faithful Catholics we may at times be in danger of taking His coming for granted rather than being awe struck by it. The Resurrected Jesus, now free of the limitation of the flesh assumed in the Incarnation, and identified with the Word of God as one person, is present wherever and whenever God is present,or,in other words, always and everywhere. He could justifiably then promise His disciples that He would not leave them orphans and would be with even two or three who would be gathered in His Name. He comes and is present in each of us when we are Baptized into His death and Resurrection and rise with him in the Sacramental reality of a second birth in the glory of membership in His Body the Church ,or as He put it as branches on the vine. He comes and is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in His Eucharistic presence in tabernacles around the world. He is present when we pray. All of this is possible because Jesus is God. From all of this we might ask the question: What is the function then of our celebration of the Feast of the Ascension? As our celebration of the entire Liturgical Year is a re-living and a celebration of the entire life of Jesus, and the Feast of the Ascension is a conclusion of the final stage of that life in history, so our celebration of the Feast of the Ascension is a reminder to us of the final stage of our life on earth and of our hope that we at the instant of our death would be worthy of being taken up with Him to the glory of our eternal life in Heaven. The entrance prayer at Mass for the Feast of the Ascension puts it this way: God our Father, make us joyful in the Ascension of your Son, Jesus Christ. May we follow Him into the new creation, for his ascension is our glory and our hope. We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen!
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Blog # 151 Amazing Power of Faith ! In the light of some of the thoughts I was hoping to share in a couple of my most recent blogs in reference to the Ascension, I found several places in the official texts of the Eucharistic Canons that were enriched for me. First I tried to keep myself more consciously aware of our Cathoic faith in the identity of the Eternal Word of God and the historical Jesus as a single 'person'.I reviewed some early Church history and refreshed my mind as to the difficulty over a long period of time our Catholic forebears in the faith experienced in grasping the content and implications of this revealed doctrine. Some participants in the early disputes overemphasized the humanity of Jesus. Others overemphasized his divinity. Further problems and even heresies evolved. The definitive solution came when the Church infallibly proclaimed the Word of God Incarnate and the historical Jesus as one 'person' in two 'natures', one human, one divine. From this faith conviction we could conclude that,in Jesus, God actually died for us in an act of love Jesus identified as the greatest possible, laying down His life for us. In Jesus God could rejoice with us as we do among ourselves. He could taste hunger and solitude, rejection and praise,as we do. Jesus could experience being tempted away from His mission and taste the victory of obedience to the Father as we can do. At the Incarnation the Word did not cease to be God ever equal to the Father and one with the Father. At the Ascension of Jesus, now resurrected from the dead,into Heaven, Jesus did not cease to be the Person of Jesus who walked from Jerusalem to Jericho, wept at the death of His friend Lazarus and then raised Lazarus from death to life when all of that was the Father's will for him. With these divinely revealed truths in mind, and reflecting further upon the fact that the Word of God was sent to earth as Jesus for our salvation as well as for the glory of God I came to a deeper and joyful confidence both in the effectiveness of the ministry of Jesus and in the confidence in ourselves which we are called to have in the matter of working out our personal and communitarian salvation in obedience to the love of God in us. The essential element of trust, in Jesus and in ourselves clearly emerged as a single gift of blessing upon our faith. (These blogs stemming from our celebration of the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord have become long and somewhat requiring close attention, so I am going to conclude this one here and hopefully come up with the final one in the series with thoughts that came to me this morniing at 3 AM when I woke up briefly with them on my mind. I'll try to get them into a blog by this afternoon. If you are still there, thanks for your patience and trust in me! )
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Blog # 150 …Ascended into Heaven… Within the past few weeks I have had the honor to Baptize a baby girl two months of age, respond to the news of the death of a friend, celebrate the fifty seventh anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, the final weeks of Lent, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, and now the Ascension of Our Lord. One of the things I like about our Catholic theology is the fact it all “hangs together”; it is all connected in its twofold claim to possess the truth available to us through reason and revelation. By the very nature of truth truth will not contradict itself. Truth, Faith, and authentic human experience, reason, and common sense are not enemies but friends. There is room for mystery in either category of truth because of the limitations of our human nature and the richness and depth of the truths available to us by way of revelation. Apparent contradictions between what we have perceived as truth either by reason or revelation may come, but this is really only evidence we need further study, more experience, and in some cases a willingness to accept the fact we are not God and some truth lies beyond our limited comprehension. All of creation and therefore all created truth is connected and unified in the will of the single Creator of all that exists. There is nothing in all of creation that is unaccounted for. Sent by the Father for the salvation of,all people,from the first of us on the list to the last,all the historical Jesus said and did and thought was done in obedience to the Father and can be identified as contributing to our salvation. From the Cross in His final moments Jesus could well say of the mission on earth the Father had given Him; “It is finished.” However, and this is the part that impressed me very much this year, the identity of the Word in Jesus, now glorified by His victory over sin and death by His infinite divine love and His total unconditional obedient human love on the Cross lives on. The limited boundaries placed upon the human love of the historical Jesus by the will of the Father that He be like us in all but sin, are now removed. Yet the need for the message and grace of His mission on earth continues in every sin that is being committed today and tomorrow, in every prayer that is offered in faith, in every Eucharistic celebration and every Sacrament that is conferred. I do believe the Resurrected Jesus did ascend into Heaven as the story of it goes in the Gospel passage. However I wonder if this experience of Jesus was not similar to His forty days upon earth after the Resurrection, identified as a gift from the Father that we could more easily believe it was a real experience of Jesus, and an opportunity for us to grasp more clearly the reality of the Resurrected Jesus’ freedom from the constraints of our human experience. My bottom line invites me to reflect further upon the promise of Jesus not to leave us orphans and to be with us always until the end of time. I see enough already to fulfill that promise in the identity of the Church as the Mystical Body of Jesus and in the holiness Jesus inspires in so many of those who believe and in the Sacrifice of the Mass and the administration of the Sacraments: I,I,I. There is a real presence of Jesus in all of these experiences. We are not left as orphans. Jesus is with us always. But in the light of the eternal personal identity of Jesus and the Word, after the Ascension we may be able to see and respond to one more way God is present to us and the promises of Jesus are fulfilled. It might help in understanding what I am trying to say to realize we cannot even imagine what God has prepared for those who love Him. We tend to imagine it anyway, and think and speak of “going to Heaven” and Jesus “sitting at the right hand of God” in the same way we might speak of “going to New Jersey” or “sitting in the first seat in a bus”. It might be better not to imagine Heaven as a place but a state of being and “God’s right hand” as a special honor This has been long and perhaps complicated. If you can have patience with me, tomorrow I'll try to conclude it with some practical applications I originally intended to present in a blog on the Feast of the Ascension.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Blog # 149 Two Lives Taking them at face value I imagine someone who did not know the entire story of Jesus' life might think some of His statements given as quotations in the Gospels were evidence of self aggrandizement pride or boasting on the part of Jesus. Here are a few samples. Jn 10: 9. I am the gate. Whoever does not enter the sheepfold through me is a thief and a marauder. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be safe. Jn 15:5. I am the vine. You are the branches. He who lives in me and I in him will produce abundantly; for apart from me you can do nothing. The story of the ten lepers is given in Luke 17: 12ff. Of ten lepers cleansed one came back praising God and Jesus. "Jesus took this occasion to say: Were not the ten made clean? Where are the other nine?" Was Jesus expressng disappointment at not having received praise from the lepers or was He saying something different from what could be implied in His words as given by Luke? And Jn 14 6. I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me. If you really knew me, you would know the Father also. In our awareness of the complete life of Jesus as given in the Bible we know for sure He was not boasting or seeking glory in the statements we have been considering. The human glory of Jesus was His total love for the Father as expressed throughout His life among us and finally in the perfect obedience of His unconditional love on Calvary. What then was it to which Jesus was referring as absolutely necessary for us in God's plan for us and so clearly identified as available in Him alone? A clue can be found in Chapter 3 verse 3 and 5 of John's Gospel . Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus about salvation expressed as entering God's kingdom. "I solemnly assure you no one can enter God's kingdom without being begotten of water and Spirit." Then, as an old man, after vigorously proclaiming the divinity of Jesus throughout his Gospel, John sums up his story in Chapter 20, verses 30 and 31: Jesus performed many other signs as well-signs not recorded here-in the presence of His disciples. But these have been recorded to help you believe that Jesus IS the Messiah, the Son of God, so that through this faith you may have life in his name. Now we see more clearly and completely what Jesus was claiming for Himself in His identity as the sheep gate. Contrasting Himself with others who may come and identifying them as thieves and marauders, He says of Himself :"I came that they may have life . It is clear Jesus is not speaking here about sharing His human life . That all of us already have, created as we are as human beings. He is speaking about a new second life , a genuine sharing in God's infinite love in our own human capacity as created images of God. In our Catholic theology we are familiar with this gift under the title Sanctifying Grace, translated as the gift that makes us holy through our sharing and living by faith in God's love. An important word in the quotation from the conclusion of John's gospel is the word identifying Jesus for his readers in the present tense : Jesus is the Messiah. John is writing here to people living perhaps fifty or more years after Jesus ascended into Heaven. In other words people like ourselves today in our relationship through faith with Jesus. I think these reminders of insights into the dual life we are entitled to live, one completely human, a gift from God through the instrumentality of our parents, and the second a supernatural gift identified as a genuine sharing of God's life through the instrumentality of faith and Baptism help us understand and appreciate the content of the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus today. I'll try to get out Blog # 150 on The Ascension later on in this afternoon or tomorow.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Blog # 147 SHALOM ! PEACE ! Shalom! Peace! This is the greeting of the Risen Lord to His disciples. We have heard it many times , Easter after Easter. It is very familiar. Perhaps so familiar we tend to take it for granted as part of the Easter celebration, with little power or effect in our lives. Sometimes we seem to appreciate a thing or a person more after they are gone or absent. I can remember back during World War II we prayed and worked and longed for peace to come. Then in the peaceful years we tend to take it for granted. Certainly our current moment of history is a time again when we experience so much violence enmity hatred and fear that we find ourselves tired of the way things are going and in deep need for peace. Peace is God's desire for us. 'Peace is my farewell to you. Peace my gift to you." (Jn 14:27). But like other gifts God wishes to give us personally, that they be our very own, peace comes in the form of a do-it-yourself kit. God will be with us, guiding, challenging,calling, supporting, but to be at peace we must create peace within ourselves. For this we must identify the component parts of peace, what it means to be at peace, what it entails for us. Like all God's gifts that come to us through Jesus peace comes to us as an expression of God's love, is based upon love, and leads to love. In the years I used to visit the ladies' prison over in Davisboro each week I was always impressed and inspired by how much the famous prayer of St. Francis for peace was helpful to the women in their quest for peace. It seems to be an especially appropriate response to the desire of Jesus for us as His disciples. Lord,make us instruments of Your peace. Where there is hatred let us sow love, where there is injury pardon, where there is doubt faith, where there is despair hope, where there is sadness joy. O Divine Master, Let us not so much desire to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Try finding applications for this prayer in your living room kitchen and dining room, in your classroom and work place, in your relationships with others, in your own mind and heart, and see how much and how great a sense of peace it brings. Shalom!