Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blog # 255 Last Supper / Crucifixion

Blog  # 255 Last Supper / Crucifixion

It cost me ten dollars to preach the homily at our celebration of the Feast of Corpus
Christi this year.  And I thought it was well worth it. I wanted an opportunity to
focus upon and clarify the primary theological connection or relationship between
the Last Supper,the Crucifixion of Jesus the following day, and our celebration of
the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

I began the homily by calling up two people sitting in a front pew and giving one
of them a five dollar bill and the other a check for five dollars with no name as
the payee.  Once I gave my five dollar bill to the first person I could not do
that again. If I had another five dollar bill I could have given that one to the
same or a different person, but the first dollar bill was no longer mine and I could
not give it away.  The person who received the five dollar check received the
same amount of money, but in a different mode.

There is a very significant detail in the story of the Last Supper in the Gospel
of John.  Before Jesus and the Apostles leave the upper room at the
conclusion of the Last Supper John has Jesus say : That the world will know
love the Father, let us be on our way. And they went directly to
Gethsemani. Previously Jesus had said there is no greater love anyone can
 have than to lay down one's life for a friend. 

 God AS GOD cannot die, cannot 'lay down' His life.   In Jesus, the
 Eternal Word of God, identified with Jesus as a single person, can die. That
was the experience of Calvary.  But in order to guarantee and proclaim the
authenticity of the death of Jesus, and therefore its human identity with the
death of any and every other human death, we have to admit that Jesus
could die only once. We die only once.  Death takes all we have.  We
have no more to give.  On Calvary Jesus really died.  Death took all He
possessed in the humanity He shared with us. ( Heb 9 25,27

This was the way it was with the five dollar bill I gave away. It was gone,
no longer mine to give. If I had other five dollar bills  I could have
given them away, but not the one I had given.  So with Jesus.  The Father
could have chosen the Word to have become incarnate time after time
and lay down His human life as an act of perfect love in obedience to the
Father's will. But this was not the case.

Jesus is the sole Redeemer of all who have been or will be redeemed.
 "There is no other name..."  In my analogy of the bill and the check several
other elements begin to surface.  My gift was not about paper, though paper
was a required element of my gift.  My gift was money.  The check was worth
the same amount as the five dollar bill.  It was in a different mode.  The
death of Jesus was not all about suffering no more than my gift was all about
two pieces of paper.  As my gift was about money the gift Jesus made
on Calvary was about love. 

The same amount of money was offered in the check as was offered in
the bill.  The five dollars could have been given in the form of five ones.  I
chose it to be given in one five.  The father could have chosen Jesus to
have suffered a tooth ache,  a scourging, or merely to say in a response
of obedient love  "I love You, Father" and any of the responses Jesus,
made united as a single person to the Word, would have been an infinite act
of love, enough to be without measure, enough for unimaginable billions
and billions of people in union with Jesus by faith and Baptism to have
what would be their unique share of the worship of Jesus on Calvary
and our Father's response to Jesus and in Jesus to us in the
Resurrection and eternal love of Heaven.

The same love Jesus offered the Father on Calvary is the same love He
offers in the Sacrifice of the Mass.   Like the check and the five dollar bill
it is the same money in my analogy, and in Calvary and the Mass it is the
same love.  An infinite difference lies in the fact I would soon run out of
five dollar bills and money in the bank to justify writing checks, whereas
the love of God is infinite, without measure.  Jesus, as one of us, had to
believe this. He shares His same human confident faith with us who are
one with Him through faith and Baptism. 

Go out to the whole world and tell the good news.  Do not be afraid of
ever running out of love.  There is a check waiting for anyone and
everyone with a unique space for a unique amount of love the Father
desires to bestow on each person who comes to Him in Jesus.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Blog # 254 Hot dogs and holiness

Blog # 254 Hot Dogs and Holiness

Most likely many or at least some of you reading this blog have heard of Coney Island. Some of you may have been there. If  you ever lived in New York City as a kid I would feel fairly sure you also heard of Rockaway Beach. Each year the Pastor of our parish back home treated the whole squad of altar boys to an all-day outing at Coney Island. That was just once a year. But we went often as a family to Rockaway Beach. In addition to swimming in the ocean and building castles in the sand we always enjoyed the hot dogs at either place.
Just for a moment think of what comes to your mind when you read that first
paragraph. There are no tough words in it and I don't think there are any tough
thoughts to grasp. Yet there are special words, names of places, and the
designation of a famous American food, the hot dog.

I thought of how different my writing and reading of that paragraph must be, from someone who never heard of Coney Island or Rockaway Beach, or might have heard of these places but never went there, and also for someone who never had a hot dog at all and most especially not at Coney Island or Rockaway Beach.

Coney Island and Rockaway Beach are the primary places where I learned the power of the sun. I had not yet heard as a ten-year-old boy the distance to the sun was ninety three million miles, but I knew from experience it was hot enough to put
blisters on my back and sun burned skin really hurt almost all night and itched
like crazy when it began to heal the week after we went swimming. And I knew
there were no hot dogs like the hot dogs we had at the beach.  Hot, freshly
grilled, and covered with Coney Island relish and mustard, they had no equal
for flavor. If I tried to describe them in words, I don't think you could
understand what I would say unless you had been there at the beach, tired
yourself out with hours of bucking the waves of the ocean and building your
castles in the sand as a preparation for the wonderful unique experience of a
fifteen cent hot dog at Rockaway Beach or Coney Island.

I think it is something like this for us when it comes to our relationship with
God. Psalm 34 verse 9 says it clearly: "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Happy the person who takes refuge in Him." The stages we can think of in
our relationship to the hot dogs at Rockaway Beach run parallel to the
stages we might experience in our relationship with God.

Some people never heard of Rockaway Beach, or, having heard of it once or a long
time ago no longer think of it day by day. In the experience of some people we
could substitute the word God in that sentence for Rockaway Beach. Some people
may have heard the word God and can recall an image of God from years ago, but
do not know the Triune God of Father Son and Holy Spirit from an adult or current
point of view. They might be compared to someone who went to a beach,
somewhere, but not to Coney Island or Rockaway. We might very well find
ourselves unwittingly talking to one another about different hot dogs. And a
different God.

Some people may have gone to Rockaway and having heard from friends or people
 like me who tell them great things about it they buy a hot dog. A problem is they
are there in winter, and in winter it is not what I experienced or described. Or
maybe they have a case of ulcers of the stomach, and that makes a difference
as well. Or maybe they just had a full course meal in Chinatown before driving
over to the beach and they have no appetite for any further food. Their hot dog
that day would not be the same as the hot dogs I enjoyed!

And maybe they do go to Rockaway in summer and the hot dogs are really great,
 but they do not have the money it takes to buy one, or they do not know
how to eat one without getting sand on it while sitting on the beach. I
see the possibility of experiencing conditions similar to these  on a
spiritual plane when it comes to our relationship with God. For example, the
ulcers might be interpreted as sin. The full meal in Chinatown which takes
away the appetite can be identified with a life that is so full of the desires
and distractions that come from our seeking and possession of this world's
temporary values and treasures there is little room left for the time or
 energy it takes to cultivate and experience a desire and an appetite for God.

A genuine relationship with God is always identified with love. That involves a
preference for God over all that interferes with our love. Choices must be made.
There is a price to be paid for love. A good hot dog is worth something. God is
worth our all.

If ever you have dropped a hot dog in the sand you know how that goes! Without
going so far as to drop the hot dog in the sand, sometimes there is sand on your
fingers and even a little sand interferes with the pleasure of eating a hot dog.
One of the ways I interpreted sand on my hot dog as it might relate to my
relationship with God is to see the sand as whatever it is that would tempt me
away from God, make me lose confidence in God, or love God less. St.Paul
enumerated such experiences in his life as persecution, distress, hunger, etc.
borne for the sake of and in the name of his faith. (Rom 8: 35 - 38). Then he
asks the question whether any one or all of these would cause him to
cut back on his love and service of God.  His answer was no.

Applied to the hot dog at the beach, this would go like saying: " Will I give
up eating hot dogs just because I am on the beach and there is so much
sand there?  Rockaway and Coney Island is where the best hot dogs I
have ever found are available. So what, if there is sand all around? Does
that mean I have to get it on my hot dog? Of course not."  Just so, on the
spiritual plane,  I  have to be aware  there are temptations around and
within me, and I have to address them just as I have to address the
 presence of sand at the beach.  Here is an opportunity for me to be like
 St. Paul.

Any conditions we place or experience in our love when it comes to our
relationship with God places us in danger of losing an opportunity of
finding obeying and loving the One Single True God. A god that is
conditioned in any way is limited by those conditions and as a result is
not the God Whom Jesus revealed to us in His unconditional
obedience and total  love  for the Father throughout His entire life
on earth and in His death on the cross.  That is the love He invites us to
share in our quest for the happiness that can be found only in a genuine
love for God, through, with, and in Jesus.

Blog # 253 The God Who dwells in us

Blog # 253 The God Who Dwells in Us 

All of our human experience, as great as it is, is limited.   I drink a glass of milk, but not
all the milk there is.  I see the moon, but not always.  I read a newspaper, but not every
newspaper.  My dictionary contains more than 142,000 words.  I can use only a fraction
of them.  Even if I knew them all, new words are being put into use as we discover and
define the new things we experience in our limited world.

Our limited experience of a limited world is yet open-ended.  It can grow and increase
so that I get closer and closer to drinking all the milk there is, seeing the moon always
etc, even though I never arrive at this point. But with our experience of God it is totally
different. All along I am actually drinking milk, and seeing the moon.  But " no one has
ever seen God."  (Jn 1: 18; 4: 12).

Our experience, always limited, is of something or someone.  Adjectives, adverbs,
nouns,pronouns, prepositions express it all.  John is strong.  Mary is wise and beautiful.
Fred is a butcher. He is Mary's husband.  God simply IS.  Our mind, our capacity, our
experience stops infinitely short of this.   We do not know by our limited experience
what it means. "No one has ever seen God."

God's infinite love was not to be frustrated by the gap between us and our Creator.
 God came among us as one of us in Jesus.  Jesus believed, as we are called to
 believe by human faith in a sole Creator of all that exists. Jesus as God's
messenger taught us of the Father, and the Spirit, and Himself as divine. 
The Father is God.  The Son is God.  The Spirit is God.  In our limited human
capacity we do not fully understand our faith in the Holy Trinity. However
it is God's desire that we know and love God personally, and personally
God is Father, God is the Word, and God is the Holy Spirit. 

Through this faith of ours we worship the One True God, God the Father, Creator
of all, God the Eternal Word of the Father, sent among us  by the Father to be
like us in all but sin and to teach us how best to receive and respond to the
Father's love, and God the Holy Spirit, eternal Love of the Father and the Son,
sent to lead us through Jesus to the Father's eternal glory.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the
beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen !  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blog # 252 AWESOME


The headline of the lead article on the front page of the Sandersville Progress on December 21, 1994 read, in the largest print I remembered the paper ever using,  : AWESOME.  The local High School football team had become the State Champs, the first time ever in Washington County history.   It was a perfect season, without a loss, with scores of 60 - 0 and 28 - 3.  For the championship game, scheduled for seven o'clock, the lines at the gate at three thirty totaled over a thousand fans.  On the Saturday after Christmas the victory parade went through town with the team seated on a beautifully decorated open float. It seemed to me the whole town turned out for that parade. No one would have doubted the occasion was AWESOME !
I filed that issue of the Sandersville Progress with the file name : Awesome. I don't
remember being aware at that time of any specific way I might use it some day.  That
day came a couple of weeks ago when I was looking through that file for some notes
from 1994 I thought would be helpful to me in preparing a homily for Pantecost.
During my search I just  happened to look up and noticed the file labeled Awesome.
I had not remembered what I  had filed there and opened  it out of curiosity.  I began
to see a Pentecost connection.

I thought how authentic and wonderful it would be if all the folks who would gather
here in the parish to celebrate Pentecost would be as aware, appreciative, and
responsive to God and the Holy Spirit as we were toward the football team back
in Sandersville when the team brought home the State championship trophy.  I
wasn't out to dampen or lessen the enthusiasm of the folks in Sandersville but
rather having affirmed it and shared it personally I might ask why we felt and
acted the way we did and then ask if and how we might experience a similar
response  to God and the Holy Spirit.

So the next question was how did I get the enthusiasm I have for God and the
Holy Spirit, asking the question in hope the answer to it  might contain
something others might find useful in their awareness appreciation and response
to what has been revealed as God's 'work' in the Bible,  now seen by me analogously
as God's perfect game of  'football', and,  in the reality of creation,  the here and
now of God's eternal infinite love for us all.

I went back to the very beginning of the story, the Book of Genesis.  A claim is made
for God as the sole CREATOR of all that exists. That claim will go through the
entire story of creation. Whatever exists, in past present or future time, by definition
exists by the will of the Creator. The creator is responsible for it all, is present in it
all and owns it all. The claim will be clarified and tested in the unconditional faith and
 trust of Abraham,  and  responded to most perfectly in the entire life and death of

In virtue of this fundamental claim of God as Creator it is a simple and logical step to
study creation in order to better realize the awesomeness of it all and in turn to grow
in our awarenes of the awesomeness of God the Creator.  Here are a few examples
of what I have found that have made me end up thinking the word AWESOME is
adequate for expressing our response to a perfect football season but only unconditional
trust and total love adequately capture our response to the magnificence of  our Creator.

As a beginning take the earth itself.  Constantly, night and day it is spinning at the
equator 25,000  miles a day  and is traveling 1,500,000 miles a day in its orbit around
the sun.  People used to think there were thousands of stars in the sky.  With  modern
science at our disposal we are now convinced there are upwards of 50 billion of them!

Don't let this give you a headache, but we estimate there are 12,000,000,000 cells in
the human brain, and each of them must have oxygen and nourishment constantly
in order to keep us healthy.  Such is the efficacy of our heart and circulatory system,
every cell in our body receives fresh blood twice a minute - over 2,500 times a day.
That means our heart pumps about 16 tons of blood daily.  If it were not for the
amazing efficiency of our blood circulation we would need 200,000 quarts of blood
to keep us alive, instead of six or seven.

The author of the Book of Proverbs (6:6) invites us to study the ants to learn wisdom.
I have been inspired many times by a colony of ants.  An ant can lift something 50 times
its own weight over its head and carry it home.  If I could  do that it would be a burden
of 6,250 pounds!  The life story and migration experience of monarck butterflies is
mind boggling. As a background for encouraging us to trust God ( Mat 6: 26 ff) Jesus
invited us to observe the birds in the sky (Mat 6: 26 ff).  As one example of what
Jesus was saying I chose the glolden plover which migrates from the northern
Aleutian Islands up by Alaska to Hawaii in a nonstop flight of 2,400 miles in
80 consecutive hours! The V pattern of a flight of geese gives another evidence of
God's wonderful care for them.  As each goose flaps it wings it creates an uplift
for the birds that follow.  By flying in V Formation they  add a far greater flying
range than if each bird flew alone. When a goose gets sick wounded or shot down,
two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They
stay with the bird until it dies or is able to fly again.  Then they launch out with
another formation or catch up with the flock.

Then comes the sleeping baby.   I have her picture on one of my walls here in
the house. She cannot be aware of it in her sleep but I can imagine her mother
out in the kitchen  preparing  a formula for the baby when she will wake up. I think
we have a parallel here with God our Creator constantly in love with us in  all of
creation, and the possibility of our lack of awareness of this at any one moment
or ever, for one reason or another

All that exists around and within the seven billion of us human creatures on earth
at the present moment of time exists because God wills it to exist. It exists in the
experience of a sleeping baby only when she wakes up and becomes aware of her
small daily share of the whole. And it exists in her experience as a gift of God's
love for her only when she believes that.  SO IT IS with all people and with
all creation and with all of God' love for us. 

Toward the beginning of this blog I was wondering how we might discover why it
mght be that the same group of people who were so spontaneously enthusiastic
and responsive to the skill and victory of their local high school football team
show less enthusiasm for offering Mass together each week, for singing in
church, for sharing and living out their Baptismal covenant with the Lord and
one another in works of mercy toward the poor, and in bearing witness to the
victory of God in Jesus over evil  in them, by their consistant choice
of a holy way of life.

For me it seems a key element to resolving my wonderment lies in a lack of
an ongoing awareness of the awesome nature of creation, an ongoing
awareness of God as the sole Personal Creator of it all, and an  ongoing
awareness of a CONNECTION of it all with all members of a parish ,
with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit that is personal  and unique.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blog # 251 Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Blog # 251   Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Though we would not have imagined or discovered  the mystery of the Holy Trinity
using our limited human resources, we do know something of the power wisdom
and goodness of God as it is reflected in all of creation.  The power of a lightning
bolt or the wind, the wisdom of the One Who taught the bee to make wax and honey,
a chicken to hatch from an egg, and the goodness of a  mother's love all reflect
something of the wisdom power and the goodness of the Creator of all that exists.

In addition, however, once we have received through faith the revelation of God
as the Holy Trinity, Father, Word, and Spirit, we are fascinated at the recurrence of
trilogies, sets of threes, so regularly in our world.  Much of our reality comes to
us in threes.  There are so many I could not feel comfortable viewing them as
coincidences, especially since anyone who knows even our limited amount about
God's Presence, realizes there are no coincidences where God  IS, which is
everywhere and always.

Time :  Past, present, future.  Seconds, minutes, hours.  Days, months, years. 
( weeks are not natural divisions of time but human formulations). 
Before, during, after.  Morning, noon, night.

Space : Left, right, center.  Length, breadth, depth. Walls, floor, ceiling. 
Top, middle, bottom.  Up, down, across.

Measurement :  Inch, yard, mile.  Millimeter, Centimeter, Meter.

Weight : Milligram, centigram, gram.  Ounce, pound, ton.
Trees :  trunk, branch, leaf.

Volume  :  Pint, quart, gallon.  More, less, equal.

Water :  Liquid, (H2O),  solid ( ice H2O), gas (steam H2O).

Answers to questions :  Yes, no, maybe.  Sometimes, always, never.

Primary colors :  Red, yellow, blue.

Secondary colors :  Orange, green, purple.

Physical creation :  animal, mineral, vegetable.  Land, water, air.

 Heavenly lights : Sun,  moon. stars.

Directions : Right, left, straight ahead.

Thanks and praise to Thee, Almighty Father, for all that exists
within and around us, through Jesus Your Son and Messenger,
by the gift of faith imparted to us in the love of the Holy Spirit!