Sunday, June 30, 2013

Blog #306 The answer is love

Blog # 306  The answer is love

            Anyone, even an unbeliever, can know and share historical human elements in the life of Jesus two thousand years ago from reading the account of it in the Bible and from the research of scholars about the historical conditions of Palestine when Jesus lived and died. Only a believer can hear God speaking and see God walking in the words and actions of Jesus.(Jn 14: 9,10). Only for a believer is the Resurrected Jesus alive and present as God in our world today.

             In the mystery of our faith experience we acknowledge God as the Creator of all that exists. This means we acknowledge God's presence whenever and wherever we experience creation, through faith, in prayer, or through sight hearing taste touch or smell, from mountains to mole hills, in water and wind. Following upon this, the answer to our questions about  good news and 'bad', pain and pleasure, life and death is found in God.  And since the God in Whom we as Christians believe is  love (1Jn 4: 8) , the answer to our questions is found in love.  Both  faith and love for God are gifts received in freedom. We have to receive them and put them to work  in the task of asking and answering our questions.  Let's continue on our way in that process now, in composing on my part and responding on your  part to Blog #  306.    

            On one occasion a lawyer asked Jesus what was the greatest of all the commandments. His answer was love, love God above all and then secondly love your neighbor as yourself. And what is the meaning of love? "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." (Jn 3:16). We are all familiar with the broad use of the word give. The poor widow, in her two small coins, gave more than all the others because of the greatness of her love. We use the word  love in reference to a hug, a kiss, a handshake, a birthday party, a cheer for the home team. We speak of  love between husband and wife, father and son, mother and daughter, children and parents, friend and friend, neighbor and neighbor, soldier and his country, believer and God. To love means to give. The more we love the more we give. "There is no greater love than this than to lay down one's life for one's friends." (Jn 15: 13).

          In that quotation "to lay down one's life" means to die. I cannot figure out or imagine any other way we could give all that we have than to die. We give a certain amount of our time, our patience, our money. That is genuine love, but it is not the greatest.  Death is the only way we can literally fulfill to greatest commandment of loving God above all else, encompassing as it does all that we have, given.  Until the very last two seconds of our lives we have those two seconds to give. In the instant of our death our total love is realized. We may not be conscious of this at that insant but we can identify and claim it as our own, conciously and willfully, long years before the last instant of our lives is ours in history.

            We do exactly that theoretically whenever we renew our Baptismal covenant, whenever we make ourselves aware of the meaning of what we are about to do and then offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, whenever we really pray rather than just recite the traditional 'Act of Love' many of us learned by heart in preparation for our First Holy Communion in a Catholic grade school many years ago , and finally, if we will it to be so, even years ahead of the actual time it occurs at some future definite singular instant in the future.  "O my God, I love Thee with my whole heart and soul beccause Thou art all good and worthy of all my love..."
                  A reminder and proclamation of the relationship between Baptism and death is often explicitly given in a Scriptural quotation from St. Paul at the time of a celebration of a Mass of  the Resurrection on the occasion of a Catholic funeral liturgy.  "Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we might live a new life.  If we have been united with him through likeness to his death, so shall we be through a like resurrection.  This we know, our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed and we might be slaves to sin no longer....If we have died with Christ, we believe that we are also to live with him....His death was death to sin, once for all; his life is life for God.  In the same way you should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus....Offer yourselves to God as men who have come back from  the dead to life, and your bodies to God as weapons for justice." (Rom 6: 3 - 13).

               In order for us correctly to identify acts of suffering and death to which a Christian believer is uniquely called and entitled, uniquely one by one, in the new life received in  Baptism, we identify them as a gifts. In suffering and death God is not asking us merely to 'put up with them', or to see them merely as acts of penance for our sins, but in the essentially different way of experiencing them in union with Jesus as members of His Body, transformed into love! By way of analogy this might be seen as something like what love does in tranforming a golden ring into a wedding ring by the love of husband and wife. 

                Mother Theresa of Calcutta helped me be aware of and appreciate more fully the identity of suffering and death as gifts.  She said that everything that exists is a gift from our Creator.   It is easy to identify and receive as gifts from God the 'good' things that make up our lives, health, friendships, wife, children, family,good neighbors, sunshine, water, music, art, poetry,colors, shapes, and sounds. It is a challenge for us to recognize suffering and death as gifts.

              Gifts are identified as an expression of love Suffering and death seem to be the work of an enemy rather than a friend. Yet our Catholic response to sufferings and death invites us to understand and experience them precisely as gifts from God, understood and experienced as opportunities and invitations to love and be loved, loving God and being loved by God.
                The second greatest commandment as given by Jesus, commanding us to love our neighbor as ourselves presumes we are to love ourselves, and the fifth of the Ten  commands us to avoid injuring or destroying our lives. To do so would be a sin. Yet God  in our  Catholic faith identifies all suffering and death itself as a gift! How can this be since God cannot sin? 

               Recall what we said in Blog # 304 of the necessity of keeping consantly in mind in our effort to understand our Catholic response to  the 'evil' of suffering and death that the word God at this point in our discussion refers to Jesus, the Eternal Word and the son of Mary identified as a single person. We recall  here also the reference from Paul identifying his desire to live in conformity to the pattern of the sufferings of Jesus. He was not asking to be crucified but to share in the love of Jesus even to the point of  the total love of crucifixion if that were to be for him as it was for Jesus  the will of the Father.  Then before leaving the Upper Room on the occasion of the Last Supper Jesus said: " that the world might know that love the Father, let us be on our way." and He led the Apostles to Gethsemani. He did not call attention to His suffering but to His love.

                St Paul shares a very important and helpful insight into the identity of Jesus' suffering and death in his lettter to the Philippians: "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 resurection from the dead." (Phil 3: 9,10). Again Paul is not expressing a desire to be crucified but rather to share through faith and Baptism the obedient love with which Jesus died, even though it might lead to crucifixion. In other words he was expressing a desire to see and experience in whatever suffering and death God had in store for him a share in the unconditional trust and total love of Jesus for the Father.  He could not have asked for a better way to die. Nor could we.

              What I have been trying to share with regard to death applies to all  pain and suffering this side of death,in large and small portions, arthritis, a sore finger, loss of a job, whatever.  How sad it is that apparently many if not the majority of people even among Christian believers are not habitually  aware of the Catholic insights we have been sharing, with the result much suffering and untold experiences of death are in a sense wasted when they are identified and measured by pain and suffering rather than by love.
             I thought Blog 306 would be the final one in the series on evil, but there is more so hang on for # 307.  Thank you. 


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Blog # 305 Is God the Answer?

Blog # 305  Is God the  Answer?

               My claim and proclamation in Blog # 303 is that God is the answer to all of our questions, questions about goodness as well as questions about evil. Now I face the challenge of defending that claim with regard to the question of evil. The response we make to the claims we make is also important ,but it is an item based upon the identity of the claims we make, and  so must wait for a clear understanding and appreciation of the meaning of our claim before we put it into action in our response.
              An essential element in the introduction to  Blog # 305 is a reminder of the fact that all we think or even imagine with regard to God in every case is analogical.  In other words no one but God knows understands and experiences God in univocal terms, having a single meaning in every application, such as is the case when we speak of a bear as a wild animal.  Analogically, we can apply the same word, bear, to a man who acts like a bear or is strong or fierce as a bear.  Our greatest thoughts, most clear and sublime, are limited and  not qualified to 'capture' or completely understand God other than by way of analogy, leaving essential room for truth that is beyond us yet true in God.

                 To ask God  "Would you please help me find my lost watch, O Lord?" as if God did not know where the watch was and would go looking for it with me, would be evidence I did not know what I was asking or Who God is.  "Would you please help me look for my watch, O Lord?" would be a more correct way to address my need to God .

                 In my desire to give authenticity to my conviction there is no sin so great (evil) that it can conquer the power of God's love (goodness), I found it helpful to begin with individual instances of what might be considered legitimate or at least apparent challenges to my conviction. This rather than first addressing the various multiple and therefore mutiplied challenges present in the suffering and death of thousands and thousands of people all at once in the aftermath of tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mass murders. I'll address that question in itself later on.

                  The familiar text from St. Paul's letter to the Romans (Rom 8: 35-39) is clear and powerful in supporting the conviction I am  trying to proclaim that God is somehow the answer to our questions about evil, and that precisely in Jesus we find this truth realized. It is so clear and powerful that I will copy it here so you have it handy.  "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Trial, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?  As Scripture says: "For your sake we are being slain all the day long; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered". Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us .  For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height not depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord."

              There are three important insights in this text I take as the substance of my faith conviction regarding the question of evil.  They are set forth in the final words of the text.  1. Our answer is not primarily about the various samples of evil that have or will come our way. Rather God is the key element or primary focus in our answer to evil of any sort or degree including death.  2. Since we believe God is love (1Jn 4:8), the answer to the question of evil will be found in God's love. 3. The divine love that constitutes our answer comes to us in Jesus.

                In using the term 'my conviction' and 'my claim' I am not  trying to establish  the authenticity of a  disconnected personal or individual claim but one which I am convinced is the faith of the Catholic Church and the Bible.  It is not that I might have liked to have had things with regard to evil as I am convinced about them,  and then initiated the claim on my own rather than  that I received it in the faith handed down to me in conformity to the  Bible and the tradition of the Church. It was not mine to 'invent'.  It is mine to believe, to proclaim, and to share.

                In the few simple words at the conclusion of the quotation from Romans that I gave above, we have an ESSENTIAL FACTOR in understanding the claim that God is the answer to every question we might have with regard to evil in creation.  It is the realization that when we use the word God here, we are referring primarily to Jesus Who is God and at the same time one of usTo BE the answer to every question we might have about God, and creation, good or 'evil', is essential to the mission given Jesus by the Father, lived out in perfect and constant obedience to the Father's plan or will.  In other words, to be the answer to every question we might have about God was among the essential 'reasons' the Word of God was incarnate of Mary and called Jesus, which means Savior

             God,  Father Word and Holy Spirit,  in God's absolute perfection, cannot suffer or die. Jesus, the Eternal Word,  in His humanity could and did suffer and die.  In the Incarnation of the Word the person of Jesus and the person of the Word are the same person.  Flowing from this, His suffering and death and His entire experience on earth  were  identified as divine as well as human.  His body born of Mary was a human creation animated by the person of the Word through the power of the Holy Spirit.  At any one point in His experience on earth Jesus could have been called through obedience to the will of the Father to perform a miraculous action such as to cure a blind man or raise Lazarus from the dead . Through faith and Baptism, like branches on a vine and members of a body, we share that divine life of Jesus,  in our own unique limited  human way.

                 In our union with Jesus through faith and Baptism, God in Jesus can speak and teach us in human terms from a human experience like our own, of important factors in answer to questions we have relating to suffering and death such as what does obedience mean? and what does it mean in God's wisdom and design in human terms to love someone?  and what does it mean in God's wisdom and design in human terms to trust someone?  In Jesus we do not be receive the answer to these questions by way of analogy, but in clear univocal terms based in the historical human experiences, example, and wisdom of Jesus.
                 Jesus was keenly aware of and proclaimed His identity as the the unique Savior of  the entire world.  Here are a few typical texts along that line. " I am the sheepate.  If anyone enters through me he will have eternal life."  ( Jn 10: 7,9). " I am The Way, and The Truth, and The Life" (J: 14: 6). I am the  Resurrection and the life." (Jn 11:25). "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that all who believe in him may have eternal life." (Jn 3: 14). '...apart from me you can do nothing." (Jn15: 5).  In these and similar texts Jesus proclaimed a fundamental,  and in my conviction the most important theological truth about Him in His identity as the sole Savior of all people, whether they realize it or not.  His answer to our questions were given for all and can be received and applied by all

                  When Peter was asked by Caiaphas by what power and in whose name Peter was preaching and healing , Peter told  him it was in the name of Jesus.  "There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved."(Acts 4: 1-12). Apart from Jesus no one has a right to address God as our  Father and claim all that flows from this fact in the prayer Jesus gave us when He was asked how we should pray. All of this is key to understanding our insight and faith in seeing Jesus as the divine answer to all our questions about suffering and death.

                A clue to the meaning and importance of this insignt can be found in the universal practice of the Church in our official prayers of the Mass and in the administration of the other Sacraments of identifying and concluding our prayers in the name of Jesus.  "...through Our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen"

                Having identified Jesus as the sole Redeemer of the entire world and believing in our union with Jesus through faith and Baptism as branches on a vine and members of a body, we ask what are the mechanics, as it were, for us to apply what we believe about Jesus being the answer to our questions about evil.

                Evil persists even for a holy person.  We have about fifty funerals each year here in St. Mary on the Hill parish in Augusta. Unemployment, arthritis, pneumonia, broken hips, sprained ankles, cancer of many sorts, kidney lung and prostate diseases are all among the prayers people bring to church.  ...the Father's "sun rises on the bad and the good, he rains on the just and the unjust." (Mat 5: 45).  What is the practical difference between the response of a saint or a sinner when it comes to sickness, suffering,  and death?  I am convinced there is a beautiful specific Catholic theological response. It is the answer to questions about the meaning, importance, purpose, and value of suffering and death. Without it, the 'problem of evil' would be real and would continue on in history as a problem rather than as a question for sincere enquirers. .   
              A difficulty is I am  not sure the majority of Catholics have been adequately informed of it or day by day are aware of it. Few seem to think or experience it as a major factor in their relationship with God. This is especially sad  when a call or opportunity is given them from God to put it into practice as for example whenever we offer Mass, at hard times, and at times of sickness suffering and death.  Sad, as well, they stand in danger of becoming dead rather than actually dying, with death identified as something that happens to them rather than as something they do  and the greatest  experience possible, ever.

               Obviously there has to be at least one more blog on the question of evil.  Hang on!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Blog # 304 Father's Day

Blog  # 304  Father's Day

           The Catholic custom of  referring to a priest as "Father" is and has been a serious obstacle in the minds of many of our fellow believing Christians.  It is worthwhile noting that the Bible verse in question, 
(Mat. 23: 9), is immediately followed by another verse that reads: "Avoid being called teachers.  Only one is your teacher, the Messiah". (Mat 23: 10).  There is a history to the problem of course.

          In the early ages of the Church, before and during the time when the New Tesetament was being composed there was no problem.  Nor was there a problem as the Church moved through the centuries until on the American scene fundamentalistic preachers developed it into a major issue.   It is not a ommon problem among Scriptural scholars, nor is it a problem in other parts of the world where the American influence has not prevailed. 

         Certainly the Catholic Church knows the words of the Gospel with regard to Jesus' statement.  We know, however, as well, the meaning of the  statement.   Taken out of context, we would no more have taken up the custom of calling a priest Father, let alone tolerate it for centuries, than we would have taken up or tolerated a custom of stealing, telling lies, or murder.

           The Bible itself, the inspired word of God, makes use of the term father both in  regard to God and to natural human fathers on earth.  In the Hebrew Scriptures ( the Old Testament), the word father is used 706 times, but only 10 of these refer to Yahweh (God).  In the Christian Scriptures, ( the New Testament), the word father is used 359 times, of which 229 are in reference to God.  On the surface it would seem the Bible itself contradicts the command of Jesus, which we know is impossible. 

           For St. Paul, who explicitly referes to himself in the Bible as a father of believers, the use of the term was a blessing  rather than an obstacle or a wedge between himself and God.  This is true because for him it was a definite reminder and proclamation of the fact Christian believers through faith and Baptism experience a second birth,  becoming children of God, heirs with Christ of the Father's eternal love.  Our use of the term for the ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Baptism (a priest) is the same.  It seems a lack of knowledge, both of the meaning of Scripture in  this instance and of the meaning of our Catholic tradition and the reasons we retain the tradition are at the root of any problem a sincere Bible-reading person would have with it.

            Here are a few samples of references in the Bible using the word father for someone other than God:  1Cor 4: 14 - 17. I am writing to you in this way not to shame you but to admonish you as my beloved children.  Granted you have ten thousand guardians in Christ. you have only one father.  It was I who begot you in Christ Jesus through my preaching of the Gospel. I beg you,then, be imitators of me. This is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful son in the Lord.  Rom 4:16,f. "Abraham is father of us all, which is why Scripture says, "I have made you father of many nations...   Rom 9 10.  "for when Rebekah had conceived twin children by one man, our father Isaac... Acts 7:2;  James 2: 21;  Acts 2: 29;  and 4: 25.

        Aware the gift of new life into which we are born by faith and Baptism is a share in the life of the Resurrected Jesus, it is always helpful to reflect upon how that life is identified and proclaimed in the Scriptures. The Resurrected Jesus is the same person as the  historical Jesus who walked among us, ate our bread, needed and enjoyed the sleep we need and enjoy but is now revealed in His glorified state.  Jesus was constantly aware of the Father's presence to him.  Though divine and from all eternity united with the Father in divine love, like us, Jesus while on earth was called to discover and respond to God humanly in the physical world, in people, and in the human experience of prayer.   It was to this response to which Jesus was referring when on the night before He died in obedience to the Father's plan for Him on the Cross He said His obedience was evidence to all that He loved the Father.  His invitation to all was to join Him in that love.         

               Not all would understand.  Not all would be willing.  In the course of Jesus' life as given in the Gospels we find Him so perfectly obedient to the Father's will that all who heard Him speak and saw Him act should have known His love for the Father was the supreme value in His life. This could only be total love.  Nothing and no-one could take the Father's place as Creator of all that exists.  No-one should be thanked as the Father should be thanked, no-one worshiped in His stead. No-one could asssume his authority or His Name."Do not call anyone on earth your Father. Only one is your Father, the one in Heaven." 

          Sadly, it seems that our Catholic practice of referring to a priest as Father remains a problem of such major proportions as to preclude on the part of some any serious possibility of investigating and discovering the richness of our faith, history, and tradition.  All that we would ask of anyone who would want to enter into discussion with us with regard to a justfiication or condemnation of the practice on our part is an open mind, a willingness to accept our word as sincere, and a prayer for the light of truth for us both. 

          First of all it should be said most clearly we as Catholics profess faith in One God, Father,Son, and Holy Spirit. There is no other God. Statues are not God. Mary the Mother of Jesus is not God. Angels and Saints are not God.  The Pope, priests, nuns. and ritual are not God. Not being God, they neither deserve nor are offered the praise thanks adoration love and worship we offer to God alone.  We do not believe in any competitor for God's glory. We don't even come close to being tempted away from our conviction  here.  The official texts of the Mass illustrate and give clear evidence of our awareness of the Father's place in our life our love, and our devotion to Him.l

           Here are a few samples from that text. "Father, it is our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give You thanks."  "I believe one God, the Father almighty."  " You are indeed holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness ".  "Our  Father...Hallowed be Thy Name...Thy will be done."  And the final proclamation at the most solemn part of the Mass is: "Through Him (Jesus), and with Him, and in Him, to You, O God, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, is all honor and glory , for ever and ever.  Amen!"

             Back in 1990 I was living down in Manassas. Georgia. I was scheduled to offer early Mass in Statesboro, twenty-five miles away. I was out before dawn feeding the chickens in the pen in the back yard.  They were just chickens, but they were mine, and they gave me special joy.  I was happy to be very careful not to make any noise or fuss when I was placing their feed, careful not to wake them up. In some notes I wrote later that morning I saw this incident as a reminder of how God relates to us.   How happy I was to care for the chickens.  How 'happy'  God is to care for us, and how much more perfectly and powerfully He does.  "Look at the birds of the air...Your Father feeds them."  How much more love, wisdom, and care our Father shows for us!  God delights in us when we are good. (Prov 2: 31) "...and I found delight in the sons of men."   Happy we should be!  That is God's plan, all the way to the end.  Those who discover it and follow it need not be afraid.  Do you ever think we might come to a day here in the United States when we will celebrate Our Father's Day with a joy like we have on Christmas?              

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Blog # 303 The Question of Evil

Blog # 303 The Question of Evil

           For several weeks now I have been hoping to get this blog composed and published. I had many insights that came and went  that seemed helpful to me in my response to the reality of evil in the world, but when I sat down at the computer they would seem less attractive and go away. Another day would pass, and then a week of days without Blog # 303. Reflecting about this for the past couple of days I think I have come  up with a root cause, background, or primary reason for my difficulty.  I had been asking many questions about the nature and existence of evil, and as the process of addressing them continued, more and more questions would come.  A single answer to all of them would always come into focus in my mind.  Here is that answer : GOD !

           I was becoming more and more secure in my choice of that answer and convinced of its validiy as the only response I would ever need or could imagine that would ever be available to me or to anyone who would be sincerely seeking the answer to a question about the existence of evil of any kind in our experience of creation.

           The only problem I had, and I think this was a primary root of my difficulty in getting started on this blog, was the simple logical fact that for anyone else other than myself to buy into that single answer, we would have to start with the same basic meaning or identity we give to the word  God . This is not to say that people other than myself who did not have the same meaning and identity I give to  'my' God would not be capable of having a differenet answer to the question of evil that would seem valid and adequate for them  even if it were to be their response would be to say there is no just and all-loving God.
              The single God in whom I believe and proclaim as the answer to all questions regarding evil in creation is the sole Creator of all that exists,  revealed by Jesus in the Blessed Trinity as Father, Word, and Sprit . In making a statement like that, I keep myself  fully aware that in consequence of our natural limiations and God's infinity, all we say and think in reference to God is always by way of analogy, this being something like saying the picture of a man on a dollar bill is George Washington.  It is true and not true at the same time in a different way in each case. 

              I believe and make my own all the Catholic Church solemnly teaches with regard to the the identity of God as infinitely good, all-knowing,all-powerful, all-loving, ever-present, with the  Eternal Word incarnate as one of us in Jesus.

          If we were looking for someone to blame for the existence of evil in creation, that would be easier to do in the case of willful sin and the evil of pain suffering and death  that exist as the result and in consequence of sin. The sinner is to be blamed. But even here with God identified as the sole creator of all that exists, God shares a responsibility not only for the existence of sin but for the  results and consequences of sin as well.  I refrain from blaming God here in the light of God's warning us of the need to avoid temptation leading to sin and also of  God's promise of the grace we need to overcome it.  Nevertheless, the God whom I know and love does not back away from some responsibility for everything that exists, good or evil from our limited point of view.

          A far more difficult universal aspect of the question of evil comes with the case of infants, young children and other innocent people who are victims of natural disasters such as hurricanes,tornadoes, erupting volcanoes, mass murders,  train wrecks, and all of us who have lived, or ever will live, suffer, and die.   Death is not only one among the many human physical emotional and spiritual evils we can and do experience but  is easily seen as the greatest of all and the one we all have to face.  It seems, then, our primary interest and need in addressng the question of evil is to realize we are not seeking an answer to a question that affects some of us but all of us, and therefore is applicable to all evil and to all people. From this we can see how we are addressing the question whether or not it is adequate and sufficient to have God as the single answer to all the questions that come to us in the process of forming our response to evil. We begin with evil seen and experienced as evil ,and move through other questions to the point where there is no longer a prolem of evil ,  to die and to suffer are not altogether bad, and there is no need or room for further questions once we understand and experience total love.

                  Here are a few samples of the questions I have used in coming to the conclusion God is the answer to all and any questions we might have as individuals and as a community of world-wide human creatures.  What is the nature of evil?  Why is one thing or experience evil and another thing or experience
 good?  Is there any identifiable thing or experience that is absolutely or totally evil?  Can we identify a purpose or usefulness of any kind for evil?  Could someone who does not believe in a personal God discover a purpose or usefulness for evil?  Can we discover relationships between repairing evil and forgiving offenses we experience?

               I'll leave for another blog some significant references from the Bible that helped me see the truth that claims God is the ultimate answer to questions we might have with regard to the meaning and purpose of suffering, and particularly of death. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Blog # 302 We are all related

Blog # 302  We are all related

            Did  you ever consider what the difference would be for you if you believed in more than one God?  We sort of take for granted the notion of God as Single, Unique, Creator of all, Ever-Present. All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All-Good, etc.  There was a time in human experience, when the notion of a single God would have been like thinking the world was round at the time of Galileo.

           One significant insight that comes to me when I consider what might be the difference if there were several gods rather than one is this: with the notion of a single Creator of all that is, everything that exists is connected.

           There are no exceptions here. Frost and warmth, light and darkness, youth and old age, flowers and insects, mountains and rivers, life and death, men and women, you and I are all connected if you accept as fact there is but one God, one Creator of all.

            Rather than the word 'connected' we could have used the word ' related'.  Then the notion I am reflecting  upon comes out like this:  Everything and everyone that exists is related to everyone else and everything else that exists in the one Creator of all.  In fact, this relationship is so profound and all pervasive that all other relationships are subsequent to it and based upon it.  The relationship we have to one another as brothers and sisters in a family is not as deep as the relationship we have to all creation in God our common Creator.
             Such a thought might be a shock to some people. Yet when you think it out, our parents give us much of  what and who we are. God gives us all that we are. This little consideration gives a bit of insight into the meaning and significance of God's command , given us in the divine Jesus, (Immanuel - God Among Us) "Love one another as I have loved you."   To have commanded us to love one another as brothers and sisters would have been less strong.

            These thoughts are helpful in discovering and appreciating more perfecctly the meaning and power of our human history and in our study in the field of science as well as our study of the Bible.  Days and years are related. Historical epochs are related. Ezra is related to Moses. Moses is related to Abaham.  Abraham is related to Adam and Eve. David is related to Luke.  All of creation is related to Jesus the Word of God, the Messiah,  the Galilean  carpenter and rabbi.  We discover something of the full identity of Jesus in discovering the identity of Moses, Abraham, of Adam and Eve and of ourselves.
              This connectedness in history could very well be recognized even by a person who does not believe in God.  But for someone who does believe in God the connections in creation did not merely happen, as it were, by chance, but were built into creation according to a plan we call God's love.  The birth of Moses did not surprise God. God loved Moses into being. So for Abraham and Adam and Eve and for you and for me.

              In Jesus something altogether special and unique occurs.  In Jesus God relates to all creation not from some unimaginable place, with some unimaginable degree of Power Wisdom Goodness and Love, but in Bethleham, at a given moment, in a given year of time, like us in all but sin.

             Jesus is related to Moses and to Abaham and to Adam and Eve and to you and me through His birth from Mary.  Yet Jesus is also related to the Father and the Holy Spirit in a unique way that could never be ours unless it were through Him.  But that we know is God's plan.  This is the good news of  salvation.  We are to be like brancehes on a vine in the image given by Jesus and as members of His  Body the Church as given by Sts. Paul and John. "See what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God. Yet that is what we are!"   We are brothers and sisters in Adam.  We are children of God in Jesus.

            Jesus was sent not merely to teach about God, as others had been sent before Him to prepare the way for Him, but to be God among us, God Incarnate, in  human flesh, walking  talking sleeping eating, yet divine.  He was not merely to be a good example to us,but  the power to make us good.   At the beginning of His public ministry , in the synagogue of Nazareth Jesus selects a passage from the  prophet Isaiah:  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.  Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

          Though sent and anoinetd by the same Spirit to bring the same message of God's wisdom and goodness, there was an essential difference between the prophets who had come and gone before Jesus and Himself. Other prophets had announced and proclaimed the message and promises of God.  Jesus claims He IS the message and the fulfillment of the promises. Limited in His humanity but infinite in His love, Jesus is the perfect expression on earth of the Father's will.  He was sent by the Father for this.

        But it was not for His sake that Jesus was sent. It was for the sake of others.  "Come, follow me",  Andew Peter James John Frank Mary Tony Annie Mae.  Down through the ages until the end of time the invitation continues to be given.  "Come, join me in fulfilling God's plan for you, bringing justice,peace, light, freedom, love."

        There is but one Creator of all that is. All creation , past, present, and whatever is to come shares in the invitation Jesus was sent to bring. "...a people living in darkness has seen a great light."  Look, listen, learn, follow.  Thank You, Jesus!