Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blog # 184 The Good Shepherd

Blog # 184 The Good Shepherd Of the various images we have used to identify the Person of Jesus and His life and work among us, such as Savior, Teacher, Son of God, Prophet, and Truth, the image of Shepherd stood out in a special way in the minds of the early Christians. In the very first Christian cemeteries and worship places we find crude but definite artistic expressions of the depth and meaning this particular image had for Christians in the very first century of the Church's history. Images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd appear on the walls of the earliest churches and often as decorations on the tombs of Christian martyrs. Jesus Himself used the image of Shepherd to identify Himself and His mission on earth given Him by the Father. "I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD." I can easily imagine how the image of Jesus as their Shepherd was for the early Christian communities a source of inspiration encouragement spiritual strength and challenge. I think that with a little thought and reflection upon it that image would be a source of a similar gift to us. Jesus came to reveal to us the truth about God, that God is love, totally loving and totally lovable. He did this all throughout His life, but most emphatically and clearly when He lay down His life in total unconditional obedient love of the Father on the hill of Calvary. To love means to give. The more we love the more we give. You cannot love anyone more than to lay down your life for that person. You will have given all that you have. Jesus lay down His life on Calvary for love of God, and in that love for love of us. God was worth that much to Him and in God's love we were worth that much to Him. You might find the following Gospel readings useful as a starting point in your effort to appreciate more fully what it means to have Jesus as your Good Shepherd. No one ever did, or will, or can love us more than He, God, in Jesus, giving all that He had on earth to give. What does this mean? What is our response? Mat. 9:36; 12:11,12; Mark 6:24; Luke 15: 4,6; Jn 10:2,11,14.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blog # 183 Salvation Now

Blog # 183 Salvation Now We find many promises made by God in the Bible. By faith we know the absolute trustworthiness of God and that every promise made by God will be fulfilled. God's promise to send a redeemer, a Savior of all the world, has already been fulfilled in Jesus. Yet since Jesus was, is, and will be the Savior of all, the promise of God to send Him was made to all and will be fulfilled for all. In other words it is not something past alone, but is now, and will be as long as history continues. It is something already fulfilled and yet not fulfilled completely. In each of us who believe, the promise of Salvation in Jesus has been fulfilled. Yet if we are still on earth this afternoon and tomorrow that promise will continue to be fulfilled this afternoon and tomorrow. We are constantly being invited and called by God to be more aware of, to understand more fully, and to appreciate more deeply the promise of salvation personally. A problem is we may not be in the habit of reflecting this way, and religious questions are not a large part of our everyday agenda. The experience of faith if it is an experience at all for some, might produce prayers of petition in time of need. In the lives of others the primary work of faith is the work of building the earth rather than building our personal relationship with God, and through this relationship building God's work of justice and peace on earth. God certainly can and should indeed be found in the work of establishing justice and peace on earth and in all of creation. Yet to leave our discovery and response to God for a single hour each week on Sunday would seem to be for me to dream an impossible dream, to fight a losing battle in the secular culture in which we live today. So if we are serious about personally receiving and fulfilling God's promise of salvation in Jesus we should be looking for and discovering additional reminders of that promise and insights into its meaning for us personally. I will share with you here a few examples of such opportunities I have found for this in my everyday experience of life. Perhaps they will be useful for you in discovering your own. A mail box has as its purpose or identity to receive the mail. It is waiting until the mail comes to be its complete self. Some of the water coming from the local reservoir will cook my potatoes. It is waiting for me to open the faucet and let it out. A door is waiting to be opened. A taxi, a birthday cake, an expectant mother, a parking meter, a pencil, a saw hanging in the garage, all are waiting to be what they were made to be. Our world is in need of someone to teach us how to live in peace and joy. Jesus, with divine wisdom and goodness, was sent for this. God has promised it. His promise will be fulfilled when and whenever we discover it and believe in it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blog # 182 Christian Experience of Marriage

Blog # 182 Christian Experience of Marriage 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 psycological theory, good philosophy and logic, and good human qualities 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 concerns of all couples, no matter what their religious identification might be. We believe that marriage is one of the seven Sacraments given to the Church by Jesus. The Sacramental system adds a whole new dimension to life, like poetry adds to words or art to color. The Sacraments in general bear out and manifest St. Paul's statement that "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. In writing to the Ephesians ( Eph 5: 25) St. Paul compared the love of husband and wife to that of Christ for the People of God, the Church. 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. Based upon this truth, the eternal love of God in Jesus for the Church, rather than on any other reason or value, we continue to uphold the stability of marriage and promote and protect the trust and generosity it takes to make such a love possible betwen husbnd and wife. Until recently the following thoughts were used as an introduction to the Roman Catholic Marriage Rite. 'My dear friends, you are about to enter into a union which is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred because it was established by God Himself, and most serious because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and intimate that it will profoundly influence your entire future. And so you begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrended of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and wider life you are to have in common...whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve that 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." ------------- -------------- ----------- Here is a 'home-made' definition of fidelity in marriage the students came up with in a course I was teaching years ago: "I will try to keep myself as attractive to you as when you first discovered me". Wonderful!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blog 181 Obedience

Blog 181 Obedience Obedience. Can you recall the most recent time you read or heard or used that word? It seems we tend to think of it in terms of childhood. Children should be obedient to their parents, we say. Back in our seminary training, years ago, the subject of obedience was a definite part of our concern. The Spiritual Director in his weekly spiritual conferences would regularly speak of the importance and meaning of obedience. Obedience to the seminary rules, (being present and on time for class, chapel exercises, etc. ) was a large part of the criterion for determinng a seminarian's qualification for ordination.Looking back on it, it seems to me, ordination and then "being a good priest" were the goals of obedience. Yes, it made us more like Jesus and that too was important, but along side of rather than as the total purpose of it all, even of obedience itself. And so it happened that obedience, like the virtues of poverty and chastity, meditation and extended times of prayer were thought of as the experience and work of priests and left for priests to possess. But that is not the way it should be. Through faith and Baptism we are all called and empowered to become a 'new creation' in Jesus. (IICor 5:17). His life and work is to be ours for the sanctification of the world. The holiness of Jesus is to be shared with us all. Just suppose for a moment that fire alone is the source of heat. Other reaities could be heated by fire, but fire alone is the ultimate source of their warmth. It is something like this with God. God alone is holy. Others can and are called to share the holiness of God, but all holines is from God. Since all true obedience unites us or makes us one with the will of God, the source of all holiness, it is not merely for children or for priests, but for all. The person of Jesus is divine, God Himself. Yet the humanity of Jesus is our humanity. Jesus came to live a human experience that was in perfect union with the will of God so that through our union with Jesus our human experience might also be in union with the same divine will. In the case of Jesus and in our own case that union is achieved personally though obedience. The sun and the moon and the stars, the grass and the soil all accomplish the will of God for them. But it is not a free personal accomplishment. There is no risk, no freedom, no love. With us it is essentially different. Though we have our given nature, our unique genetic structure, our inherited characteristics and personal DNA, we have as well the gift of freedom and the opportunity to love. In creating us God did not use a cookie cutter to make us all the same. Jesus comes to invite us all once again, in 2011, to unite ourselves with Him in faith, to listen, to discover, and to accomplish the will of Our Father in all we think and say and do. This is called obedience. Some Scripture texts that might be helpful: Psalm 89, with particular notice of verses 1,12,25,27,37, and 38. The moon is given as a 'faithful witness' in the sky, a witness to the sun, as our obedience is to be a witness to God's wisdom and love in us. Ps 20:7-9, and Paul's reference to this psalm as appplying to Jesus in Heb 10:5-7. Heb 5:7,8; Rom 5:19, and Jn 8:29.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blog # 179 A Child / Mark 9: 30-37; Lk 18: 17

Blog # 179 A Child/Mark 9:30-37; Lk 18:17 More than two dozen times in John's Gospel Jesus identifies Himself as always doing the Father's will and being sent by the Father to accomplish a mission on earth in a certain moment of history in a definite time and place among an identifiable group of people to be encountered around Him. As it was for Jesus, God's agenda is available to us in our everyday life. Jesus knew this in His experience. In Him we are to discover and fulfill it in our experience. Identified with the Resurrected Jesus through faith and Baptism we are called and qualified to live out our lives not merely in imitation of Jesus but in union with Him as branches live in union with a vine. God is love. Jesus is God. Therefore Jesus is love, but as one of us and among us, always. "I am with you always", in many ways. Jesus had to be an infant because that was love. Jesus had to be obedlient to Mary and Joseph because that was love. Jesus had to be a carpenter, a rabbi, and live in a particular moment in history, say this or that, cure this or that person, sleep, eat, comfort people, calm the storm at sea, walk on the water, and all that He did because all of it was love. Jesus had to suffer and die because that was love. His whole agenda was to receive in His human experence ( a limited experience, like ours, because it was truly human) the reality of God's eternal love. For this to happen he would have to discover in and around Him the agenda of God, make that agenda His own in the context and circumstances of His everyday ordinary life, and to make His response to all events and to all people the response of the Father's love dwelling in Him. It would mean discovering truth about God, creation, self,and others. It would mean patience, forgiveness, preference for the needs of others over those of self, Calvary, and the victory of love in the glory of the Resurrection. This is what Jesus was trying to teach the disciples in the Scripture passages above. Mark tells us the disciples did not understand what Jesus had said. Perhaps to help us understand some of the reasons the disciples did not understand what Jesus was teaching them, Mark has them talking to one another and arguing on their way home about who was the most important among them. Then to clarify the issue from another perspective Jesus invites the disciples to discover Him and the Father in a child. Each of us has a 'child' within us.We are to identify that child,to choose it for ourselves, and to discover in that identity the identity of Jesus and the Father. There was a time when in our individual lives before we commited the first sin, before we were ever afraid of God, before we ever told a lie, before we ever refused to share our toys. That is the time we were a 'child'. Find that child and we find Jesus and the Father. Welcome home! "What were you talking about on the way home?"...

Blog # 180 Ecumenism

Blog # 180 Ecumenism. Assembled in Rome on the occasion of Vatican Council II, the world Bishops issued a document in 1964 on ecumenism. When the document was issued I would say not many Catholics were familiar with the word let alone any responsibility they might have toward what the Council would outline as the responsibility of us all. Along this line, sadly, it would seem, not much on Main Street has changed. It is now 47 years later. Christian ecumenism has been defined as an effort, activity, or movement among believers in Jesus to work through mutual understanding, prayer, and dialogue toward the achievement of unity. Ecumenism is less a call for a particular kind of activity than a quality infused into all Christian thinking and activity. The council makes it very clear the essential thing is a change of heart, a willingness to follow the Spirit's lead in guiding us toward the fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus that all would be one in Him, our common unique divine Savior.(Jn 17:11). The first paragraph of the decree reads as follows: "Promoting the restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the chief concerns of the Second Vatican Council. The Church established by Christ the Lord is indeed one and unique. Yet many Christian denominations present themselves as the true heritage of Jesus Christ. To be sure, all proclaim themselves to be disciples of the Lord, but their convictions clash and their paths diverge, as though Christ Himself were divided (cf. 1 Cor, 1:13). Without doubt this discord openly contradicts the will of Jesus, provides a stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the most holy cause of proclaiming the Good News to every creature." (Jn 17: 20 - 26). (Emphasis mine). Three characteristics of paramount importance for contemporary ecumenism are these: REFLECTION, REFORM, AND DIALOGUE. Reflection: We must look about us at the vast proliferation of church bodies currently existing, wonder at it, and respond in our minds to this division among Christian believers. Then we must examine ourselves to discover if there is anything in our way of thinking and acting that makes it more difficult or practically impossible for someone in another Christian community to see in us the will and plan of God for salvation and holiness in and through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. What is defective we must correct. What is missing we must supply. Then we talk with our Christian neighbors about our situation and theirs. That is the hope and the dream and the work of ecumenism. May it be our hope and our dream and our work. I hope you will join me and at least place the intention of ecumenism on your daily prayer list. I am confident the Father is pleased with such a prayer. It was the prayer of Jesus. Thank you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Blog # 178 The Body of Christ

Blog # 178 The Body of Christ Today Almost totally before Vatican II, and still in some 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 under Catholic auspices,, graduation, or wedding reception was begun without the prayer of the priest if he were in the room. In many instances we would wait for him to come to lead us in prayer. He knew the Bible. He aswered all religious questions without hesitation and with authority. That was the expectation of the 'faithful', the word we commonly used for lay members of the Church. The priest was trained for this through a minimum of four years of post graduate study in theology and in the experience of a specially focused daily regimen of prayer meditation and discipline. There were leaders. There were followers. It was what you would naturally expect. The Church was at peace. Then a new era of history began to appear. Change was everywhere. Old 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 differendce 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 today. And between knowing that Pentecost happened for Peter James and John and between letting it happen for us today. What was it for them, yes. Bus also what is it for us today. As members of the Church we do have different functions in a way similar to the different functions of hands feet and head in the life of our bodies. But we, the Church, 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 and love, a common desired 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 daily prayer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blog # 177 More Shoes

Blog # 177 More Shoes Recently I published a blog relating how my shoes were an inspiration to me as a role model for perfect obdience. This morning I was looking over some notes from back in 1995 and the shoes I was wearing then were also an inspiration to me. I decided to write another blog on shoes. Here it is. One day last week I decided the 'life' of my jogging shoes had ended. It was a decision that 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 in far away places like Oregon, California, and New York. Recently we had been walking together over at the local hospital or around the track at the local high school. It is almost a mile from here to the high school track. On the way over we were going someplace, to the track. On the way back we were going home. In between we were just walking. Most times it was twenty-one times around the track for 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 morning was a sort of guarantee I wanted for having a special and extended time each day for prayer meditation and reflection. Many of the thoughts in my Sunday homilies came to me when I was 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 out. What has all of this to do with what I might share with you in a blog? Here is how I see it. In an analogous way I saw in my walking down the Steet each morning on my way to the high school track as God continuously creating the world and all of us living on earth today. None of us is here by acccident, none of us is unknown to God, none of us creates his or herself anew each morning or starts our heart beating as I wind up my watch to keep it going for another day. In my analogy I imagine my shoes being like someone who does not know or love God. They are obedient to God in all they do just as my shoes are obedient to me and the sun as it shines, the rain is wet, and as a stone falls to the ground when I let it go obeys God naturally as a simple creature of God. If I had a companion walking with me it would be very different. We would go together down the street,with a right turn on Third Street and a left on Elm all the way to the track which is our goal. I know my companion and my companion knows me. we share our lives as we travel. That is the way I see it wth God and those who know God and travel along with God to the place He and I want to go, call it Heaven if you will, or happiness and peace or all the nanmes we give to the fruits and gifts of the Spirit, or then, finally, death, which I see in my analogy as the front door of my house with my companion and I going through that door together in the greatest joy and love I could ever imagine called Eternal Life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blog # 176 God's Life In Us

Blog # 176 God's Life in Us In view of the infinity of God and our limited human capacities we recognize that all we think and say may express truth about God but only by way of analogy. In the light of this I have found it helpful to make use of analogies in my effort to know and clarify what has been revealed to us in human terms by God. Here is an analogy that helped me understand and appreciate the reality of the indwelling of the Risen Jesus in those who believe: suppose I were a Philly fan. I share the joy of my team when I rejoice in their winning games. I don't actually bat a two-bgger with them or catch a sizzling line drive. But on such occasions in sharing their joy I share their life. I am united with them and thay are in union with me Here are some Scripture texts that I have also found helpful in thinking about the reality of Sanctifying Grace. Its nature: Jn 3: 1 ff. - rebirth, new life Jn 10:19 Jesus tells us " I came that they may have life, and have it to the full". Jn 6: 35. " I myself am the bread of life." Jn 6: 47 ff. he who believes has eternal life." Its effects: makes us children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. Jn 1: 11f: To his own he came, yet his own did not accept him. Any who did accept him he empowers to become children of God. These are they who believe in his name, who were begotten not by blood (war), nor by carnal desire (marriage) nor by man's willing it (assocoatopns, clubs, political parties etc such as K of C, American Legion) , but by God. Rom 8: 14 ff: All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God...The Spirit himself gives witness to our spirit that we are children of God. 1 Jn 3: 1 : See what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting ut be called children God!, Yet that is what we are. Divine indwelling: Jn 143: 23. Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him. Jn 15: 1-5. Live on in me as I do in you. No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Gal 2:20 ...and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. Col 2:13 God gave you new life in company with Christ. Cor 5: 17 If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Then John expresses his purpose in writing his Gospel: Jn 20:30f : Jesus performed many other signs (miracles) as well - signs not recorded here. 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.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blog # 175 New Life in Jesus

Blog # 175 New Life In Jesus Someone asked me recently what I liked most in the experience of visiting the Holy Land back in 1958. I find it difficult to answer a question like that. It is something like the question which of my ten toes I appreciate the most. Recently I asked myself a question similar to these but found it less difficult to come up with an answer. I asked myself what did I consider as the most important among all the gifts God has given me. My answer was the gift of FAITH. By faith I know that God is real, and in that fundamental truth I know the rich treasure of truth that stems from that foundation. By faith I know the truth of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God Who is God, Emmanuel, God-Among-Us, given the name Jesus. By faith Jesus reveals Himself to us not only as a bearer of truth such as other teachers and prophets had been in history before Him, but TRUTH ITSElF yet living among us as we are living among one another, like us in every way but sin. An implication of this truth that startled me two days ago when I considered it in relation to this blog was the fact that Jesus, as one of us, had to have the gift of faith to know that God was real on earth, that God loved Him and God was with Him night and day as His Creator. That is how real the truth of the Incarnation is! We must never forget or overlook however the flip side of the truth about the humanity of Jesus, namely His divinity. Applying this truth in our three previous blogs we first see Jesus as alone. That was His normal human experience, as it is ours. Then in John's Gospel He speaks of Himself as not alone. "The Father is ever with me." He knew this by faith. We do the same. From all four Gospels we know that from time to time it was the Father's will for Jesus that He rise above the limitations of His humanity and AS the Word of God on earth perform miracles that only God had the power to perform, such as raising Lazarus and the widow's son from death to life, healing lepers and casting out demons. Then John,on the occasion of the celebration of the Passover the night before Jesus died and before leaving the upper room on His way to Gethsemani, has Jesus pray these words: "Father...I pray for those who will believe in me that all may be one as you, Father, in me and I in you...I have given them the glory you gave me that they may be one, as we are one- I LIVING IN THEM, YOU LIVING IN ME...So shall the world know that you sent me, and that you loved them as you loved me...To them I have revealed your name, and I will continue to reveal it so that your love for me may live in them and I may live in them. The Biblical pattern in the sequence we follow to come to a proper understanding and appreciation of the gift we have come to call Sanctifying Grace is as follows. First Jesus is given as being alone in places and circumstances that would be the same for any of us who would go up a mountain or to a deserted place to pray. To see us, anyone would have said we were alone. Then Jesus says of Himself he is not alone. He clarifies that statement by saying the Father stands beside Him and never leaves Him alone. As one of us Jesus would have had to know that by faith. Then,speaking as the Word Among Us Jesus carries us another step further in His claim for a still closer presence of the Father to Him when He says to Philip if you see me you see the Father, and in speaking to the crowds one day in the Temple "I and the Father are one". The union of the Father and the Word in the Holy Trinity is to be the union of the Father with the Son in His humanity ! The final step comes in the prayer we have given above in which Jesus prays that the Father would be as close to those who believe in Him as the Father was to Jesus with "you living in me and I living in them. THAT is the gift of Sanctifying Grace ! The reality of Sanctifying Grace is the reality of the Resurrected Jesus living in us, so the world would know the Father loved us as He loved Jesus. That awesome answer to the prayer of Jesus is found in our understanding of it, believing in it, keeping ourselves aware of it and living it by melding it with our obedience to the Father's will. In blog # 176 I will give a few further thoughts and Scriptural references relating to the gift of Sanctifying Grace to go along with what we have been considering in our recent blogs. May the Lord be glorified in our efforts to know Him better and to love Him more!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blog # 174 United in Love

Blog # 174 United in Love Any and all of you who are reading this blog are related to me in one way or another. You may know someone who has the name Hughes, and even the the combination of names Charlie Hughes. You may be a person who relates to me by living across the Street and down the block from me here on McDowell Street. You may have gone to school with me when we were children. You may have been ordained a priest with me in Cincinnati back in 1954. You may be one of my nephews or a grand-niece who live in Rockford, Illinois. You may know me and love me as a friend, though you were not thinking of me or your love for me at the precise moment when I brought our relationship to your attention. You and many others (currently 6 billion of us!)are related to me and every other person living on earth today in one way or another of a variety of ways. We relate to the WHOLE of creation in a most significant way just by being created. These ways of relating to one another are actual and real. Yet not one of them is as strong and meaningful as another relationship I have with those of you who have been Baptized, and as the relationshipALL of you who have been Baptized have with me and one another. I know this by faith. Our unity as creatures was revealed to Abraham by Yahweh. Our unity in Jesus is through faith and Baptism and revealed to us by Jesus. It is built upon our unity as human creatures but far surpasses that unity in its perfection and completeness. Jesus compared it to the unity of branches on a vine, sharing one single life together (Jn 15: 5). St. Paul speaks of it as the unity of the members of a single living human body with its head, again sharing a single life together ( 1 Cor 12: 27, also the entire Chapter 12of 1 Cor). What I want to do now is try to begin to tie this together with the two previous blogs, nos. 172 and 173. There we found Jesus more than once 'alone', praying, on a mountain, in the desert, "at a distance" from His disciples in the garden of Gethsemani. Then in John's Gospel we heard Jesus make the claim:...I am not alone: I have at my side the one who sent me [the Father]. Jesus related Himself to the Father as being sent by the Father at least thirty times in the Gospel of John . An even more clear and powerful claim and identification of the presence of the Father with Jesus came in the response of Jesus to the request of Philip that Jesus show him the Father. What prompted Philip's request was the statement Jesus had made: "If you really knew me you would know my Father also." Jesus responded: "Philip, after I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say,"Show us the Father?" Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? On another occasion given by John, Jesus is walking in the temple and a crowd gathers around him. They confront Him with the challenge: "If you are the Messiah tell us in plain words," Jesus responds: I did tell you, but you do not believe." Jesus then refers to His miracles done in His Father's name as evidence of His authenticity. The miracles were done by Jesus as sent by the Father, obedient to the Father, in union with the Father's will. "put faith in these works, so as to realize what it means that the Father is in me and I in him".(Jn 10: 38). Speaking to the same group of people in a few verses previous to this one in John's Gospel, Jesus had said: "The Father and I are ONE."( Jn 10: 30). In response to this some of the people reached for rocks to stone Jesus. "It is not for some 'good deed' that we are stoning you but for blaspheming. You who are only a man are making yourself God." EXACTLY!!! As He stood before the people gathered around Him in the Temple two thousand years ago the claim Jesus had made for Himself was that He the son of Mary was also the Son Beloved of the Father, equal to the Father, the Word of God come among us on earth, capable of identifying Himself in the same way the Eternal Single God of all creation identified Himself to Abraham and Moses: "I AM!" The first part of that claim was well known by the people who were accusng Him of blasphemy. Jesus was indeed the son of Mary,of a certain number of years of age, with all the characteristics of an ordinary carpenter's son from Nazareth. The second part of the claim was that Jesus was not only a prophet sent by God with a message of salvation for the people but GOD HIMSELF come among them. Jesus was the only one on earth who could bear authentic witness to this claim. Others could receive it as true in the freedom that is faith. Jesus appealed to His audience for this fundamental act of faith. Some of them in the very name of God reached for their stones to kill him for what they thought was blasphemy. (Jn:16,1-3). They knew neither Jesus nor the Father.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blog # 173 "...I am not alone..."

Blog # 173 "...I am not alone..." Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in writing their Gospels primarily emphasize the story of the life death and resurrection of Jesus. Their Gospels were written toward the middle of the First Century. John wrote his Gospel toward the end of the First Century. In the decades since the death and resurrection of Jesus, John was made aware of the heroic martyrdom of Peter and Paul and of all but John himself among the Apostles chosen personally and individually by Jesus, and of many others who beleived in Jesus so strongly and loved Him so much they were able and willing to give up their lives rather than betray their faith or their love. John was also aware there were others who had not remained faithful to Jesus in face of the fearsome option placed before them of saving their lives or losing their trust in Him. It would not be an easy decision to make. John knew this, so in writing his Gospel he wanted to help his fellow believers not only to know the story of the life of Jesus but to experience the support and power offered to all who keep faith in Jesus even in the face of torture and death. To accomplish this goal John set out to establish and emphasize the divinity of Jesus. His Gospel begins in the identical way the Bible itself begins. "In the beginning..." Next in Genesis comes God. Next in John comes the Word. Genesis continues with the story of creation with God as the Creator of all that exists. John continues: " the Word was in God's presence, and the Word was God...Through him all things came into being...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Skipping over the narratives of the infancy and early years of the life of Jesus, John quickly gets into the episode of Jesus as a fully grown man coming to John in the desert to be baptized. The Baptist points Jesus out as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". John continues to present Jesus as characterized by the same human traits as those around him experienced. Yet Jesus also acts and speaks in a way that only God should be able to do. He heals the sick and raises the dead to life,calms a storm at sea. When the Pharisees challenged Jesus on the statement he made that he knew Abraham, Jesus retorted with the same claim for himself that God gave to Abraham when God identified Himself as : I AM."I solemnly declare it: before Abraham came to be, I AM".(Jn 8: 58). This statement in itself would seem to be clear and strong enough to accomplish John's purpose. Jesus is God, worthy of unconditional trust and total love. There is no sin evil enough, no temptation strong enough to conquer that love. In Blog # 172 we noted how Jesus was given as regularly going to a deserted place or up a mountain where he was described as being "alone". John gives instances when Jesus is given as being alone.(Jn 6:15; 8:9). Also,however, He has Jesus say: ",...I am not alone I have at my side the One who sent me [the Father] And also: "The One who sent me is with me. He has not deserted me since I always do what pleases him". These statements of Jesus affirming and denying his being alone can find application in our theology of God's presence to us in the gift we have come to call Sanctifying Grace. That will be the subject of Blog # 174.