Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blog # 217 Optical Illusions

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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blog # 216 Emmanuel

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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Blog # 215 Math / God

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blog # 212 Advent - b

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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Blog # 3 - L Life in Jesus

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

Friday, December 16, 2011

Blog #2 - L 99.9%

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