Friday, March 22, 2013

Blog # 295 LENT - 2

Blog  # 295    LENT - 2

             Yesterday's Blog was long.  Today's is short, just a few thoughts to help us get ready for the celebration of  HOLY WEEK.

               Let's try, as individual believers, and as a community of believers, to  make the experience of  Holy Week this year a very special one. 

              Try to put aside some time each day individually and as a family to reflect and pray about the events in the life of Jesus we will be celebrating.   These events give shape to our religious experience as believing Christians.

                As the sun, which shines for each of us as if there were no others, so Jesus came and lived and died for each of us as if there were no others.  His life and love for each of us should be that close and personal.

              We carry the palms, hear the story of  His sufferings again, share the love of Calvary in the Eucharistic meal on Thursday,  touch the wood of the Cross on Friday,  experience the sorrow of the open and empty tabernacle  during the hours Jesus  lay in the tomb after the Crucifixion, and are blessed with the new Easter water which calls us back to our original Baptismal commitment of discipleship, faithfulness, and generous love.

                Be  blessed by it !   Let it be for you!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blog # 294 Lent -1

Blog # 294  Lent - 1

             'Today' on our liturgical calendar is labeled  'Thursday, Lent - week five'.  We are far along on our journey to  Holy Week and Easter 2013.  It would be appropriate to ask how our observance of Lent is going.  A text that I have found useful for some extended reflection is Philippians 3: 10. "I wish to  know Christ and the power flowing from His Resurrection; likewise to know how to share in His sufferings by being formed into the pattern of His death.  Thus do I hope that I may arrive at resurrection."  I have  coupled it with the opening prayer for the first Sunday of Lent:  "Father, through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of Your Son's death and Resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives."
             "...through our observance  of Lent...", whatever it is we decided that is different and special for us  during the weeks in preparation for the official renewal of our Baptismal commitment this Easter, whether it be to spend more time in prayer, spiritual reading, rest, less time with TV, giving up smoking, getting enough exercise, or whatever it is, this we offer to You to make something happen for us believers, joined in faith with Your Son, Whom You love. 

              "... help us..."  we know it would turn out better if You would do it all, without us, or maybe when we are asleep, but we also know that is not Your plan, so we ask Your help. Gifted as we are with faith and freedom we know it is our responsibility to discover and to live out Your will for us in Jesus, Your Son, each day.

                 " us understand..."  If You had called us, Father, to be Your slaves or servants rather than Your children, it might have been more appropriate to have prayed to "know and carry out Your will" so You would not be angry with us or punish us for our failures and disobedience.  But we know by faith You did not create us because You needed something  to be done here on earth, and then. later on, if we qualify, more singers in Your choir in Heaven.  No, it was rather that You created us because You loved us, even before we came to be.  And so You wanted us to be as much like You as we could , so we could love You each in our own limited yet real and beautiful way.

                   So we know You wanted us to understand as far as we could what You were doing when in the beginning You created all that exists, and all that You are doing now in keeping it all, including ourselves, in existance, which measns in Your  love.  In praying for understanding we are praying to be more like You,  Yes, Father, that is what You want for us.  That is what we want. "Father, help us to understand..."

                  "...the meaning of Your Son's death..."  What we are really asking for, dear Father, is faith.  ANYONE who happened to be there on Calvary when Jesus died would have known WHAT happened.  ANYONE  would have known that He had been rejected and condemned for something or other, that He was in pain, and that He died.  But ONLY A BELIEVER  would have known WHY.             

                     In asking for understanding we are asking why. We are asking for faith.  We want to understand why it was Jesus referred to His death as His 'glory' rather than His glory being His miracles, prayer experiences, preaching, or any other thing that He did, all of which was according to Your will for Him.

               Help us, Father, understand the several times in John's Gospel light is shined on the meaning of Calvary.  In Jn 3:14: "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".  Jn 12: 32  f: "...and once I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself. (This statement indicated the sort of death He had to die.)"  Jn 12: 23f: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be GLORIFIED.. I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.  But if it dies, it produces much fruit."  Jn 15: 13: "There is no greater LOVE  than THIS: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

             "...and Resurrection..."   Help us. Father, to understand the  meaning of the Resurrection.  A danger is we think we know quite well what it means, but I wonder. If a person really knew, could he or she ever sin again?  If we really knew would any of us ever be afraid of death or live in a way that was not preparing for and already participating by faith in our own calling forth by Your love into Eternal Life?  Father, help us understand...

           "...and teach us to reflect our understanding of the meaning of the death and Resurrection of Jesus in our lives..."  This is Philippians again (3: 10).   "I wish to know Christ and the power flowing from His Resurrection, likewise to know how to share in His sufferings  BY BEING FORMED INTO THE PATTERN OF HIS DEATH.  THUS do I hope that I may arrive at resurrection from the dead.
We are not asking here to suffer, but to love with a  total love, no matter what! 

Lent, 2013.   What an opportunity!   What a gift !

Monday, March 11, 2013

Blog # 293 HOLY

Blog # 293 HOLY

During the past couple of days I have been reflecting upon what it means for us to be holy.  In my concordance I found hundreds of references using the word holy.  I did not have enough time to read them all.  One in particular from Leviticus 11: 44  attracted my attention:  "I the Lord, am your God and  you shall make yourselves  and keep yourselves holy because I am holy."  My reflection had begun with a desire on my part to review and further clarify the meaning in our Catholic faith of what we know in theology as the gift of Sanctifying  Grace, the supernatural gift that makes us holy.

        The immediate reference in Leviticus is to the command of God for His people not to be contaminated by eating food that would be designated by God as  "unclean".  Through their obedience they would be uniting themselves with God's desire, an experience that fits very easily into the definition of love.

In Luke 6: 36 Jesus tells His disciples they are to "be merciful just as your Father is merciful".  Then we have Jesus praying to the  Father in John's Gospel  ( 17: 20-23,26): " I pray that all 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
loved them as  you  loved me...To them I have revealed your that your love for me may be in them, and I may live in them !".  And in John 14:23 Jesus says: "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.:  In our Catholic theology these and similar texts apply to the gift of Sanctifying Grace, a share in God's divine life in a limited and human way, making us holy and, given by God in the Sacrament of Baptism, lost or distorted by the betrayal of  sin.

At the entrance of all our Catholic churches is a font of blessed water.  It is intended to be a reminder of our Baptism to all of us coming into the church.  Dipping our hand into the water and making the sign of the Cross is an invitation to renew our faith in the meaning and effect of our Baptism.  Born in a deeply faithful family, my Baptism occurred when I  was just  three weeks old. Two of my cousins came with their families from the Bronx and from Brooklyn to be my Godparents. 

      As in the experience of my natural birth three weeks before, so now in the experience of my second birth 'from above', I had nothing to do with it but to be there.  I could not buy it. It could not be earned.   It was a gift, by nature something that could only be received.  I was to receive the gift of new life, born from above, God's love within me, a gift that only God could offer. All I had to do was grow up and believe in it, to make God's love my own, to be holy, compassionate, merciful, loved as the Father loves Jesus, called and appointed to do God's will in union with Jesus for the rest of my life on earth and into eternity!

          Though the sounds of in meant nothing to me that first day of my new-born life in Jesus, the  priest said in Latin as he poured the water over my head: "Charles Matthew, I Baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." If he did it correctly he did not say "Amen", as we usually do whenever the Divine Persons come together in prayer.  I have always interpreted this official omission of the Amen in the Baptismal rite as a deliberate choice on the part of the Church to offer the person being  Baptized an invitation and opportunity of consciously and freely living out the new identity he or she receives through the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism as a member of the Church, a branch on the Vine,  enlivened and made holy with the presence of our living God within us.

          Amen means yes.  At my present age, and starting at about the age of four or five I probably have responded to that call., unwittingly perhaps at times but yet really, a minimum of sixty thousand times!

Praying the  Amen! of our Baptism could be compared to signing a contract with a manufacturing Company of a pro ball team, making a commitment to do a certain thing for the Company or the team,  to keep myself up on the development of the business or to keep myself in the physical shape that will permit me to play the game the best I can.   In response to my commitment, the Company or the team grant me identified benefits.  The Baptismal Yes-prayer has power.  In times of temptation, Help me. Lord.  Amen!  In times of joy, Thank  You Lord, Amen!  In times of sorrow, Be with me, Lord.  Amen!  In the morning, Amen! At the end of the day:  Amen!  At the final conscious act of my life and the instant of my death : I come to do Your will, O Lord.  Amen!.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Blog # 292 The Divine presence of Jesus

Blog # 292  The divine presence of Jesus

The reality of a winning high school football season recalled preserved and available in news articles cut from the local newspaper and pictures in the high school year book is indeed real in a limited sense. The reality of the life and love of Jesus the Person of the Word of God incarnate currently available to us by faith is essentially different.

In relating to Jesus we are not relating to the limited human reality of a football team capable of living only once in the present and after that only in the memory of someone who would remember or pass down through history the remembrance of the reality rather than a current presence of it.  We realize such memories can have real power to inspire and call forth from a future coach and future students in our local school real hard work and real dedication to practice all that needs to be practiced in order to have a great team in a current season. But there is an essential difference between this and the real presence of   the Resurrected  Divine Jesus, present as GOD is present,  in all of creation, everywhere, today.

 We must never forget that in the person of Jesus, by faith, we are relating to God.  Limited for a while according to God's plan ( Phil 2: 16), Jesus was truly one of us.  He walked and talked ate grew tired and responded to events abound Him in joy and sorrow in a way that was as human as our own.   He could and should be imitated in this, but He did not come merely to be imitated.

Jesus was always, personally, even in the historical limitations of His experience on earth, divine,  When His work on earth was done and His perfect human love for the Father and their perfect love for us was fulfilled on the Cross, then, as the Risen Christ, His story would take a new turn.  Because they were true, His human experiences would be dated in time and in history, which means, in all ages since He walked among us in human flesh, they would be spoken of in the past tense. But the Risen Christ is free of time.  As with the Father  so with the Word: "a thousand years are as yesterday...or a watch in the night" (Ps 90:4),  and "one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day" (2 Pet. 3:8)

The presence of the Risen Christ among  them was for the Apostles, for Paul, and for the early Church the foundation and  a substantial part of their faith.  Jesus was alive until Calvary .  But now, after the Resurrection He is alive.   They knew this for the forty days He appeared among them here and there from time to time.  But after His ascent to the Father it still would be true.

It is true today. Our faith in the presence of the Risen Christ among us is a gift of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus and sent by the Father in Jesus' name. (Jn 14: 16 ,25, 26).  The Spirit calls to our minds and clarifies in history the content of the message Jesus was sent to  bring.  We want to know today what it means for us to hear Jesus say to the Father "as  You sent me into the world so I have sent them into the world" (Jn 17:  ), and when He says to the Apostles "I solemnly assure you, the person who has faith in 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 14: 23). And the words of Paul: " I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me." (Gal 2: 19).

By faith we know the Eternal Word of God came among us and was given the name  (Emmanuel). Throughout His entire ministry  Jesus fulfilled the Father's will for Him on earth. (Jn 8:29; 6:38; 5:30; 4:33).That was the past tense of it.  That we read in the Bible.  In the present tense we recall the baptism of the Lord, reflect upon its meaning, and with the same gift of faith invite the Risen Lord to fulfill the same Father's will  IN US. That we do not merely read.  That we live, to the glory of the Father through with, and in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

Lord Jesus crucified and risen from the dead two thousand years ago in history,  as I  reflect upon what I have written in this blog, I recall the words of the prayer you prayed aloud at the 'last Supper' in the presence of your chosen Apostles and in the presence of anyone who would read the seventeenth Chapter of the Gospel of St. John.  You prayed to the Father that all who would come to believe in You would be ONE, not merely that we would be friendly toward one another, and that we might work together in helpig the poor, all of which would be a bleesing for the world, but that we could be recognized as united in our faith and love for You not as individual blades of grass are united  in a beutiful lawn but as sharing Your Divine Life as branches share the life of a singular vine or the  members of a single human body share in the life of that body, SO THAT the world, seven billion human creatures living on earth today would know it was Thee, Father, Who sent me to invite them to be one in us, I  in Thee, You in Me and I in them.    

How sad it is for me, dear Jesus, to know how far removed we who do profess a faith in you are apparently not concerned or aware of your prayer as it should affect us all , let alone to make it ours and bring it to life in our present moment of history which is starving for  lack of  Your love.