Friday, May 25, 2012

Blog # 250 Faith

Blog #   250       Faith

 To have faith is a very valuable and rich experience.  It is always a gift.  It is one of two ways we have of arriving at truth.  The other is experience.  Experience is an achievement rather than a gift. We are under the control of our experience. In our faith we are free.    Faith reaches out to a truth that lies beyond  our grasp, beyond our experience. It is arriving at a truth that belongs to another by experience and is shared with us as a gift  through some form of revelation.  I used to illustrate this years ago with the help of my printer.  My printer, as printers generally went in those days,  was not capable of producing  images in color but only black and white.  What it produced however  could receive color when by hand I used colored ink to fill in the black and white images it  had produced. Faith offers to do something like this with our human experience.

Applying the term faith in this way, to have faith would mean to take something as true on the word of another.  Applying the term in another way, to have faith would emphasize  trusting in another person as being reliable or trustworthy.   The first application, taking something as true on the word of another, is based upon our confidence and conviction the person revealing the truth is reliable or trustworthy. In other words they work together  hand in hand.
Jesus applied  the term faith  in both ways, appealing to people to have trust in Him,(Jn 5: 24;Jn 6:,  praising those who had confidence  in Him and trusted Him (Mat 8:10; Lk 7: 9),  and also in reference to truth itself in His command to the Apostles  to go throughout the world and make disciples of all the nations, teaching the good news they had received from Him as  true (Mat. 28: 19,20). 

Here are a few rerminders of the function and value, meaning and richness of the gift of faith.  This past week we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus from Jerusalem to Heaven. Throughout the Liturgical Year we celebrate and experience by faith the entire life death resurrection and  ascension of Jesus two thousand years ago and currently in our liturgies.   Without going to  Bethlehem  Bethany Jericho or Jerusalem  physically, we go there in faith so that Jesus can come to us in love.

Without faith Jesus would not be real for us. We would not know what Jesus said and did. Without knowing what He said and did we would not know that He loved us and how much He loved us long ago and now.

Without faith we would not know that He claimed to be and is God. Without faith He could not forgive our sins and lead us to the eternal happiness He promised to those who do the Father's will.

Father, Thank You for the gift of faith, won for me by Jesus and offered to me in the love of the Holy Spirit. Help me to realize how precious this gift is by realizing that without it I could no more hope to know and love You as You wanted to be known and loved than I could hope to cast a shadow on the earth in the dark.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blog # 248 Where is God?

Blog # 248  Where is God?    

Back when Franklin D. Roosevelt was in his first term of office as President of the United States, Sister Christine Marie, O.P. was teaching the first grade at St. Thomas the Apostle school back home in New York City.   Along with spelling penmanship and hygiene each school day we had catechism class. 

Somehow through the ages I have retained the memory of one of those classes very clearly.  The question in the catechism was: Where is God?  The answer was: God is everywhere.  I am still trying to find out what that means.  I don't think it was a problem for the 57 of us back in the first grade. And it isn't a problem for me now.  It is just that through the years, with hours of philosophy classes, prayer, and the experience of life in general I have become aware of the richness of both the question and the answer as well as of so much we do not know of either. 

People have told me how they have found God while walking in the woods, skiing down a mountain, or holding a newborn baby.  I can understand this. I have been there. Someone also told me that if I were looking for God, one of the last places I would look would be in church.  That one made me think.  In the end I could also understand something of what the person was saying, and it made me sad.

Why would someone expect and experience God's presence in the woods, in the snow, and in a baby, and not in church?

Words like beauty truth goodness power strength generosity wisdom joy relationship meaning and love all come to mind as part of what all of us seek and need in order to be happy.  The realities expressed by such words are to be sought and  found both within ourselves  and around us.  They are not found all at once, as when we might buy a golf club and we get the whole club all at once, even though the club will grow in value and meaning for us as we use it to play the game, enjoy it, and let it tell us our game is improving or going down hill.

This is because a golf club is entirely physical,  material.  We, with our human capacity for this, add the other dimensions to the club, hope, joy, remembrance, etc.

The realities I mentioned as the object of the need and quest of each of us are spiritual realities.  They manifest themselves and can be found in our behavior and experience in varying degrees.  They are not locked into physical dimensions such as color and shape as the golf club is.  Our share of wisdom hope love and goodness is limited but open ended.  No matter how much love we have, we never have it all.

A golf club is always the same size and shape  We want it for what it is,  We protect it from being stolen bent or broken. Love, as a spiritual reality, open ended, can grow.  We want it not only for what it is, but for what it can be.  We protect what we have of it but we are always seeking more. We do not always need or want another golf club, but we always need more love. 

One of the problems is we do not always realize this.  It seems we sometimes  assess having more things and physical pleasures as though in them happiness would automatically be ours. This would be like a person seeking to play a better game of golf who would buy more clubs rather than work on his or her golf swing or correct his vision.  Though a club is part of a good game of  golf it is not the game.  A good game of golf is not in the club but in our use of it. 

Now back to God.  Where is God?  God is everywhere.  That statement has been, is, and always will be true, the same changeless ever-changing God is present always and everywhere at different times, in different places, and in different relationships with people.   That is one way of saying we do not know exactly what we are saying when we speak of God.   But we understand something of the truth in that profound statement by  seeing something of a reflection of it in a golf club.

The club is the same all week as it sits in the trunk of our car as it is out on the course on Saturday mornings.   Yet it is very much different in the two instances.  We can say that God, in a somewhat similar way  is the same yet different always and everywhere.  Our golf club is always ours,  wherever it might be, but it is especially our  club when we are using it  to play golf.   So God is God always and everywhere.  But God is especially our God.  when we pray.   And only when we pray.  So if we can pray when walking in the woods, skiing down a mountain, or holding a newborn baby, our God is there. If we can pray in church, our God is there. 

If we do not pray in the snow we do not find God there.  If we do not pray in church we do not find God there.  Some people have golf  clubs they never use. 

And when we pray in the snow it is not just the white of the snow we experience but the cold as well.  When we pray in Church it is not just the walls that surround us but people and the relationships that call us to forgiveness patience trust hope generosity joy love and God.

Let's not just be there.  Let us pray.  And may God be present to us everywhere we go!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Blog # 249 Ascension

Blog # 249  Ascension

It seems to me if we are to understand what  a person is doing we have to understand why he or she is doing it.  The goal of our actions shares in their meaning.

So it is with Jesus.  Christmas is connected to His teaching kindness and miracles.  These are connected to Calvary and Calvary is connected to Easter.   Easter is connected to the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven and the Ascension is connected to Pentecost. 

Since Christmas we have been celebrating the life death and resurrection of Jesus, among us by faith, in our current moment of history.   Forty days after Easter we celebrated His going back to the Father's glory, the meaning and goal of all of it for Him and for us.

He had come to do the Father's will. He was to be on earth for a certin time, like us in all things but sin. Now that time was over and He was ascending back to Heaven.  For this to be , all the rest had to be.   It was all  the Father's will, all connected.

Jesus did not cease to be divine in coming among us.  Yet in order to be really one of us He had  to be limited, as we are, by space time and all the human limitations that are ours. Jesus had to learn how, in His own time and place, in His own limited individual human way, to express His infinite eternal divine love for the Father and for all creaetion.  He had to be satisfied for the time being to experience develop and express this divine love in human limited words thoughts and actions. 

He had to pray.  In His llimited short-lived human experience Jesus had to praise and thank the Father for a very small part of all that  He knew God had done.  Maybe it was something like our experience of thanking God for the stars we see, knowing all the while there are far more stars we do not see.

We believe that all Jesus was sent to do was done not only for the Father's glory but for us.  We need to deepen our understanding of this faith of ours.  For example we often tend to view and experience the life of Jesus as an atempt on His part to set a pace, as it were, to put down some footprints for us to follow.  Abraham, Moses, and St. Paul, Mary Magdalene, Francis of Assisi and our patron Saints were sent for this,  Jesus was sent for this too, but also for more.

Jesus 'came' from Heaven and lived among us as one of us so that we might  'go' to Heaven living in Him !  The gift of rebirth and new life in Jesus is what we have called  Sanctifying  Grace.  It is a gift that makes us holy or like to God through our likeness to Jesus.  This is what Jesus was trying to  tell Nicodemus when  He spoke to him about being " born from above", and how necessary this was for anyone to "see", which in this context, means to understand the Kingdom of God.

Down through the ages, back to the very beginning of our story, the Church has taken these words of Jesus at face value.  As with St. Paul we are a "new creation"  in Jesus through faith and Baptism.  Jesus did not just go before us in a previous moment of history but He lives in us today. He did not merely live for us as a role model, but shares with us by faith His very life.  ":...and the life I live now is not my own alone; Christ is living in me."  (Col 2: 20; John 14: 23; 15: 1 - 5).

Our faith is not like a house in which we live or clothing we put on, but  nore like medicine which heals us from within, and food that gives us life.  God's divine love is to be shared with us as it was lived in Jesus.  He has gone to prepare a place for those who believe, so that where He is we might be in the Father's eternal love.  ( John 14: 2 - 3).  Thank You Jesus!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blog # 247 Jesus, Our Savior

Blog # 247  Jesus, Our Savior
My concern in Blog # 246 was about how much we retain and cultivate an awareness of our Baptismal identification in our everyday experience of life.  Without an explicit conscious awareness of our Baptism and the effects it is designed by God to produce in our lives  we are not in a position to appreciate and produce those effects.

In one of my previous blogs I said I thought the most serious sin we are in danger of experiencing these days here in our secularized American culture is a neglect or betrayal of our Baptismal commitment to die to sin and rise to new life in Jesus. I am taking the term sin here in a broad sense as meaning separation from God. This is in contrast to its strict application to actual sins such as  stealing and murder.  

Put into the context of virtue rather than sin , the most authentic and greatest holiness we can experience is the holiness of God in Jesus, shared with those who believe, through Baptism and the other Sacraments.  If our primary or sole desire, effort,and experience is to obey the commandments, we may end up perfectly honest and chaste, etc, but identified as good or holy human creatures rather than as fulfilling the complete plan of God that we be re-created and made holy through a  supernatural UNION with Jesus whereby we are actually adopted children of  the Father and members of the Body of  Jesus the Church.  In other words, in the plan of God our most authentic and greatest holiness is brought about by the holiness of Jesus IN US.  What else but this could Jesus have intended to tell us when He said:  "apart from  me you can do nothing." (Jn 15: 5), and  " I am the one comes to the Father but through me."  (Jn 14 5).  Jesus was not sent merely to set a pace for us to follow, to follow His example from two thousand years away, but to share currently with us in a living  gift within us His very life,  His divine holiness lived in our unique individual human capacity.

This kind of thinking, since it deals with truth that is above and beyond our natural human capacity to achieve requires faith.  The natural virtues such as honesty chastity and justice make good common sense if we are to live on earth in harmony, happy and at peace with one another.  Faith is helpful rather than  required for us to know this.

From what I have been sharing with you in recent blogs I think you can understand my sadness at the continuing division among Christian believers  with regard to the content of what we proclaim as the  message Jesus taught  concerning the nature and need of Baptism, the meaning and  purpose of Sacraments,  the nature and appreciation of worship as identified in the death of Jesus on Calvary,  the nature of the Church as the Body of  Jesus and other  such related topics.

Each day I keep the prayer of Jesus to the Father given in the Gospel of John (17: 20 -26) on my mind and in my heart: Father...I pray for all those who will believe in me through their word, that all  may be one as you Father, are in me, and I am in  you; I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me...I  have given them the glory you gave to me that they may be one, as we are one - I living in them, you living in me - that their unity may be complete. So shall the world know that you 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."

Jesus, my Savior, so live in me that all I do be done by Thee, that all I think and all I say be Thy thoughts and words today.  Amen !  


Monday, May 14, 2012

Blog # 246 Baptism LIVED

Blog # 246    Baptism LIVED

Here in Georgia May is the season for graduations, from pre-school through high school, College and graduate studies in the Universitiess.  For the person walking off the stage with a degree in chemical engineering it is presumed he or she will be seeking a career in chemical engineering.  We presume a person achieving an MD degree will be working in medicine.  The whole life of  these people is affected by their training and the endorsement of a degree.    Our Catholic theology of Baptism presumes a similar experience for someone on the occasion of his or her Baptism.  Following the lead of  the Bible we see in Baptism a  'second birth' (Jn 3:3 f), the identity of a 'new creation' (2 Cor 5: 17) identified as a'Temple' of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:13), a member in the Body of Christ, the Church (1 Cor 12:  27, a dwelling place of the Father and Jesus  (Jn 14: 23).

By faith we see in Baptism an experience parallel to that of the reception of a scholastic degree  Isn't it fitting that we should expect significant differences in the life of a person before and after Baptism?  Would you feel comfortable coming up with an answer if someone asked you what these differances might be?

A wedding ring in the jewelry store window and on the finger of a newly married bride is the same physical reality, with the same amount and quality of gold, the same stone, the same size  before and after the wedding.  But after the wedding  it is a 'new creation' with a new identity and value as a  reminder and expression of the love of a husband and wife.   It is similar with Baptism and the effects of Baptism.   An Irishman is still and Irishman, a baby  Baptized exactly three weeks old is exactly three weeks and a day the day following his or her Baptism.  But in every case  there are permanent practical comprehensive  invisible spiritual supernatural differences, priviledges rights and responsibilities that  have been identified in our Catholic theology of Baptism.  If we do not know them and keep ourselves aware of them in our daily experience of life they stand to be wasted.    

Fourteen years ago when I was assigned to St. William Church in Sandersville, GA I had no idea that I would ever be here in Augusta writing blogs.   Yet  a week ago when I was looking over some notes and parish bulletins from St. William in preparing a homily for Good Shepherd Sunday the idea came to me to use some of the text that was printed in one of the
parish bulletins.  We had the Baptism of a baby during our Sunday liturgy that day.  I thought that was a good occasion to check up on how much awareness we had of our Catholic theology of Baptism and how much effect this was having in our daily experience of life.   Something like asking whether we were  merely wearing a 'nice ring' or a 'wedding ring'.

As usual, adults grow in knowledge and keep themselves aware of things in response to our having questions.  So, do we have any questions about  Baptism? Here are a few suggestions.    How often and what do we think of in regard to the fact we are Baptized?  Does the fact  we  are Baptized have any real  conscious effect  our daily experience of ourelves, our  family, and our life in general?  Do we ever pray in  thanksgiving for our own Baptism?  Are there any reminders in our life that call to mind the fact  we are Baptized?  Can we remember the most recent time we had a conversation with someone about Baptism?  And how that conversation went? Do we sense any desire and urgency within ourselves that all people be Baptized?  Why do we think this is so, no not so?

These are perhaps strange and difficult questions.  But if we address them sincerely and courageously we will surely be blessed. There are even more!  Do we see any connection between the questrion so often asked by our Baptist friends: "Are you saved?", and Baptism?  Could we give an explanation that satisfies ourselves with regard to the justfiication of our Catholic practice of  Baptizing  infants?  Did you ever think of celebrating the anniversary of your Baptism in addition to or instead of the date of your natural birth?

Interesting questions! The answers are interesting too.   I am plannng to spend some time with them this next week in preparation for the Feast of  Pentecost.  Could that be a good idea for you?  May the Lord bless us!  


Blog 245 Transformed

Blog 245  Transformed

In composing this blog  my  presumption is
those who are reading it are fellow believers with me in the teachings of the Bible and the Catholic Church, but anyone else who might wish to join us is welcome aboard . My intention  in writing is to share some insights with regard to the nature of  'salvation' in our Roman Catholic  theology.  I regard the content and focus of the blog as supremely important in our relationship with God through Jesus.  My concern is that  many
'good Catholics' who attend Mass  regularly and lead good moral lives may not be consciously aware of it as it is designed to be,  on a practical level that relates to their day by day experience of life,  at home, work, school, or wherever they may be, in sin and in avoiding sin,  morning  noon or night. It relates to the answer we Catholics should be prepared to give when some of our Baptist friends might sincerely ask us "Are you saved?"  It defines our permanent identity as Baptized Christians. 

To help me appreciate more fully the rich meaning and effects of being 'saved', I went back to the very first book of the Bible to find God identified as the Creator of all that exists.  All that God created reflected in some way the power wisdom and goodness of God.  God saw that all of creation was good, not taken here as moral goodness but rather goodness in the sense of value or perfection.   Men and women were created with a special goodness,  in the 'image' and 'likeness' of the Creator, capable of knowing God and responding to God in a personal relationship of love.

I used to wonder what would be the background and full meaning of the statement of Jesus  that told us if we loved Him we would keep His commandments just as He loved the Father and kept the Father's  commandments.  With God identified with love I knew that whatever we said of God was associated in some way with love and whatever we knew of genuine love  could in some way be related to God.  In reflecting upon the nature of love I found certain characteristics or qualities  that are present in all true love.  Love desires us to be close to the one we love.  We send letters and photos and email to one another because in this way we remain close to one another even from a distance.  We desire one another to be happy and well,  We pray for one another.  We share recipes and gifts with one another because love desires to be close to the one we love.  All the ways we know of being close to one another as expressed in the gift of time, interest, physical gifs and prayer are all ways of sharing ourselves.

God, in giving us commandments, is giving us a share in His wisdom and in this way is giving us what is good for us, what will make us happy and lovable not only to ourselves but to those around  us.  Honesty, chastity,  respect, violence all come into play in our observance of the commandments and in the process of  God's love for us.  To see and receive God's love for us in the gift of water, the sun, and the physical world around  us is to be aware of God's love for us in these gifts.  But these are also gifts to other forms of life lower than ours.  To receive God's love in our conscious and free sharing in God's wisdom through obedience to the commandments is a special gift to us as men and women.  God comes close to us in the gift of sunshine and water but close in a deeper way through obedience to the commandments  experienced as a personal  reception of  the gift of God's divine wisdom.

The whole picture of creation and ourselves if it is viewed  raw, as it were, without faith, changes  when we view it, taught by faith in the light of God's love.  When sin enters the picture the plan of God is denied or distorted.   God is placed at a distance.  Though present, God is no longer as close  to those who deny or disobey Him as love desires.   God's response to sin was not to abandon creation, destroy it and build another one but rather to come to earth so closely He would be one of us to take away sin by destroying it in his own divine eternal love in Jesus.  It would be like light and darkness.  Where does the darkness go when the light comes on?  I do not know. It is a mystery. All I know is that it is taken away.  The darkness of sin cannot exist in the light that is God's love for us in Jesus.

If God merely wanted us to have a sign from Him that all I have written here so far was real, namely God's  love given, God's love  rejected, and God's love restored in forgiveness,  it would have been likely we would have been given an experience similar to what we have now in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a sign that God's love for the sinner is real and effective in taking away our sin.  We would have been back in God's friendship.  But " where sin abounded love abounded more", and God went further in His love.  God came closer to us than ever he was to Adam and Eve or  to anyone living today who can be correctly identified as a good man or woman, in love with God, but not transformed by the grace of Baptism into a new creation, beyond mere human sinlessness,  united with Jesus  as Jesus is united with the Father so closely that  through positive evidence God loves us and sees in us what He loves and sees in Jesus.  In Jesus through  faith and Baptism we indeed have been born from above and given a new life  lived in the same physical body that was merely that of a man and a woman but is now  transformed into a branch on the vine Jesus, and a member of the Body of Jesus,  the Church.

Here are a few Bible texts that authorize what I have been trying to share with you regarding our rebirth through Baptism and the reality of our new life in Christ. For  some other similar texts, you might want to  refer to blog # 240 The Whole Story - a matter of  Life and death.   Rom 6: 4  Through Baptism  into His death we have been buried with Him so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so too we might have a new life  Gal 2: 20   ...and the life I live now is not my own;  Christ is living in me.   Jn 3: 3  I solemnly assure you, no one can see the reign of
God unless he is begotten from above.  Jn 1: 11f  Any who did accept Him  He empowerred to become children of God.  These are they who believe in His name, who were God.  Jn 15: 23  Live on in me as I do in yoiu.

What about the frog and the tadpoles?  I wanted to use them as an illustration of one of  the wonderful transformations God  performs  in nature,  so that, impressed by it we might never doubt His desire and power to transform us into our identity as sharers of God's life and members of the Body of Christ,   loved by the Father as His children in Jesus .  There are many such wonders and mysteries in nature that tell those who believe in God of His wonderful power on earth and His eternal love for those transformed into Jesus .  This is some of what it means for us in our Catholic theology when we speak of salvation.  Accepting Jesus as our personal Savior is a beginning but it does not stop there nor even begin there for the individual Baptized person.  It begins with the plan of creation itself , then continues on through the life death and resurrection of Jesus,  to us and in us to the eternal life we share now by faith and  by experience in Heaven. .


Friday, May 11, 2012

Blog # 244 The Good Shepherd - 2

Blog # 244  The Good Shepherd   -  2

Blog # 243 was rooted in an insight that came to me as I was preparing a homily for 'Good Shepherd Sunday' last week.  "In the Incarnation of the Word, God came among us to learn how to be God on earth so that we might learn, in Him , how to be divine."  Independently of the Incarnation I could not imagine what it would entail for God to learn anything but could see clearly enough that would be required of Him in the mystery of the Incarnation, when the Word came among us, remaining one with the Father and the Holy Spirit  in the divinity of the Trinity, yet now, in time,  one with us and  like us in all but sin, sharing all  the limitations and  characteristics that identify us as  human.

Think of what this means.  Jesus would have to learn to pray, to live by the Commandments, marvel in a human way at the wisdom goodness and generosity of the Creator in the colors shapes and sounds around Him day by day, designed as they were to speak to Him by faith of the single Creator of it all.  He would have to learn to  forgive  offences against Him,  bear the brunt of rejection in response to His preaching the truth, grow tired and hungry, rejoice with His disciples, love and receive the love of those who loved Him as a friend and human companion on the voyage of life together.   God though He was, He would have to learn how to  walk from Jerusalem to  Jericho, and  finally  to die.

The Holy Trinity of Father, Word, and Spirit could not 'experience' any of these human realities. This is true because in their human identity they all entail limitations of time power and space etc. while  God is revealed as totally without limits.   Jesus however experienced them all.  And one with  us in His humanity He had to learn how to do it.   In  a  logical conclusion  we can rightly  say God in Jesus learned how to walk, and IN JESUS God learned how to die.   And having learned by His experience He  can be  our best teacher.  ( This insight throws new light for me on two  familiar Bible quotations:  Jn 15: 13.  There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends, and :  Heb 5: 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and when perfected he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him).

In some of my reflections on the Good Shepherd this past week I wondered why it took so long for me to be aware of and so deeply impressed with the thoughts that came to me as the content of this blog.  I don't remember it often being mentioned and focused upon as a key element in our Catholic theology of salvation, nor as a most important part of our quest to understand and live out our distinctive unique identity as Catholic Christian believers. I thought perhaps this was the case because, influenced by other Christian churches and religious bodies believing in God but not in the divinity of Jesus,  we became accustomed to place greater emphasis upon morality, with disobedience to the
Commandments  rather than a betrayal of  our BAPTISMAL COVENANT as  our most serious sin and all other sin as after effects or by products of  neglect or betrayal of our Baptism.

And so, after addressing the first part of the insight that fascinated me in preparation for the celebration of  Good Shepherd Sunday, in our next blog we will consider the second part of the insight, which went on to say:  SO THAT we might learn to live and to die in a new identity that comes to us through faith and Baptism.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Blog # 243 - The Good Shepherd.

Blog # 243 - The Good Shepherd.

In each of the major seasons of the Church's liturgical year, one Sunday has as its theme the identity of Jesus as the Good shepherd. This past Sunday was that Sunday in the Season of Easter, 2012.

Toward the end of this month I will be celebrating my 58th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. In all of those years I celebrated 'Good Shepherd Sunday' with various congregations in several Glenmary Mission parishes and teaching assignments here in Georgia (at the very beginning of my ministry in 1954), out in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Indiana, St. Louis MO, Cincinnati, OH, Chicago, North Carolina, and now in retirement back in Georgia .

In all of those years, following the lead of the liturgical readings we used for Good Shepherd Sunday, in response to Jesus identifying Himself as The Good Shepherd, I would invite the people who were celebrating the Feast with me to refresh and renew our understanding and appreciation of the goodness and generosity of Jesus in the pattern of His entire life among us, and then in His unconditional total love for the Father signified and expressed throughout His life on earth, but particularly on Calvary. "There is no greater love than this", He had said, and we knew He was correct. He taught us God's love was worth this much to Him and invited us to follow Him and try to discover what God's love might be worth to us.

As the Good Shepherd Jesus was not motivated by self-interest, working 'for pay', but for love. He did not abandon us like a hired hand would do and run away from our 'enemy' which we labeled as sin, but rather He became the sacrificial Lamb of God who would take away every sin of all who would repent and trust in the infinite power won for us in His total love for the Father on Calvary, then in His Resurrection from the dead proving there could be no sin that had the power to conquer His love. In making our response to Jesus the Good Shepherd we listened once again each Good Shepherd Sunday and heard Him say "Do not be afraid. It is I". With joy praise and love we thanked the Father for sending Jesus, and Jesus for all that it meant to us to have Him by faith as our Good Shepherd.

In preparing a homily for last Sunday I read over , as I usually do, and reviewed past homilies and notes from years ago, some now getting to be from 28, 30, and 35 years ago. There was plenty of material for another homily and I was happy. But then an insight began to develop that almost seemed quite new to me this year. It had two parts to it, one having primarily to do with Jesus and one having primarily to do with me and all who are united to Jesus as members of the Church like branches on a living vine through faith and Baptism.

Here is the way the insight came to me: In the Incarnation of the Eternal Word , Jesus had to learn how to be God on earth SO THAT we in Him might learn to live forever and be divine.

In our efforts to grow in our understanding and appreciation of that insight it helps to recall that the Incarnation of the Word took place about two thousand years ago. Neither were people around Him nor was Jesus in the habit like we are of offering Mass each week and proclaiming, in the Nicene Creed, our faith in the humanity and divinity of the singular unique person referred to at times as the Word or at other times as Jesus. Our experience of human life here on earth and that of Jesus was infinitely different and yet exactly the same! Depending upon whether or not you understand what it actually means, that statement can be seen as a contradiction of the truth or as a wonderful and potentially fruitful insight into the truth involved in the identification of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

If physical scientists are correct in their calculation of the age of creation as extending back from the present to billions of light years ago, the Eternal Word, with the Father and the Spirit was there. We know this by force of our faith in the revelation of the equality of Father. Word, and Spirit in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. The Word was given the name Jesus when the Word became incarnate in the womb of Mary.

From faith again we know Jesus was not a different person from the Word, but a single person, as Jesus and as the Word Incarnate. So truly was Jesus like us, human, in all things but sin, Jesus had to believe on the testimony of a witness He could trust, that Mary was His mother just as I have to believe Mary Hughes is my mother and you have to believe the person you know as your mother is actually so. Then later on as the carpenter's son if someone stole his hammer he did not snap his fingers to have a new one drop down from Heaven. He had to buy another as you and I would have to do.

So it was for Jesus when it came to sweeping the kitchen floor or playing a game of marbles with the other boys in his neighborhood, reading Aramaic, obeying the Commandments, prayer, and the experience of death.
How can we identify the relationship between this humanity of Jesus and His divinity as the Word?

Think of the case of a sighted person who desired to share the experience of those who are blind in order to understand their experience, and win their confidence in order to help them more effectively. He does not do anything to cause himself to be blind but he closes his eyes so that he cannot see and in that respect he might as well be blind. With the Word of God and Jesus, the Word did not cease to be the Word at the instant of the Incarnation but in the Father's design put aside His divine characteristics for a time and only in obedience to the Father's will 'open his eyes' or speak and act as God in performing miracles and testifying to His divinity by way of teaching and speaking not only in the name of God as other prophets had done but in speaking as God peresonally as for example when He identified Himself as equal to the Father, and united to the Father as one.

For about thirty years Jesus the Word was to live 'with His eyes closed' recognized as the carpenter's son, one of us, tired, hungry, kind and generous, trustworthy and prayerful, always doing the will of Him Who sent Him as we are called to do. Then even in the brief few years of His public ministry Jesus continued to live in such a way as we could recognize ourselves in Him.

All of creation is God's gift, an expression of God's love. In God's creation, God's love is majestic and awesome. In Jesus it is human as well. In Jesus our Shepherd it is warm and close. In it we are safe from all harm. 

In the Incarnation of the Eternal Word , Jesus learned how to be God on earth SO THAT... Hopefully we will take that up as we continue to reflect upon Jesus the Good Sheplherd,