Monday, December 29, 2014

Blog # 425 Connections

Blog  # 425  Connections

               Though the color of the vestments at Mass during Advent and Lent is the same, the flavor of the two seasons of the Church's Liturgical Year is different.  A single word that can be used to express the flavor of Lent is penance.  We are interested in seeking forgiveness and making up for our sins, setting things straight with God.   Humility and justice are the guiding lights of Lent.  Humility to accept the truth about ourselves and our sinfulness.  Justice to motivate us to acts of reparation.

                      A single word that can be used to express the flavor of Advent is waiting. We are interested in discovering more fully the content and significance of the promises made by God to all of  us from the very beginning in Adam and the content and significance of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in history and as it applies to us in our present moment and in our future. We are interested in growth. Faith and hope are the guiding lights of Advent. Faith to accept the revelation of God concerning creation, Jesus, and ourselves. Hope to experience the confidence we need in God and ourselves for the revelation to be fulfilled in us.

                   There is a danger in not seeing that all the seasons and years of our lives are connected one to another, from beginning to end. 2015 is not just another stone thrown onto the pile of an unknown number of years that will constitute the whole of our human experience here on earth. I
may not remember what I did on December 1, 1984, yet what I did then is part of who I am today at 87.  And who I am today is part of who I shall be. In other words I am continually creating the name or identity by which God will call me into my eternal destiny at the instant of my death. 

              With these insights, Advent takes on a special identity. This particular year during Advent I have been reflecting more upon the experience of Jesus on the Cross as an expression of love rather than of suffering.  It is not a question seeking to downplay the Lord's suffering but rather that simultaneously I seek to be more fully aware of the love that was present. As a thermometer is not the heat but an indicator of the degree of heat that is present, so the suffering of Jesus on the Cross was not the whole of His experience at all but rather an indicator of the immense depravity of sin and the degree of love that He was expressing which was total, giving all that He had, in death.

              As with ourselves, every moment and every experience of the life of Jesus was connected one to another. At Christmas the eternal Word of God is born among us to give God's love an opportunity of living out in flesh like ours the experience of obedience, generosity, patience, wisdom, self-control and all the rest that goes into the anatomy of love. As with ourselves, each act of love in the experience of Jesus was a giving of a part of Himself to another. On Calvary He still had more to give, another hour, another instant, more life and more love. Then, when  the greatest hour in His life had come He could cried out: "It is finished!". The work He was sent to do is done!  It is finished. His love on the Cross was total, unconditional, complete. "There is no greater love...".

              In the light of such reflections the connection of Christmas with Calvary becomes very clear. The Incarnation furnishes the Word of God with a human body so that He could give of Himself as we, united to Him by faith and Baptism, are called and empowered to give of ourselves in acts of love throughout our lives until that final instant when it will be finished and our love will be the total unconditional obedient perfect love of death.

              Knowing well many of the details of the story of the life of Jesus on earth, the Church directs us in celebrating them anew each year.  Advent is a time of waiting. We go back to the time in history before the first Christmas. We are like a saw hanging in a carpenter's shop waiting for what it was made to do. Hanging in the shop it is a noun. Sawing wood it is a verb. Applying this to ourselves, all of us who have been Baptized are Christians. By that fact we should be ever waiting to do what we were made to do. I don't think we hear the word 'Christianize' very often. It is the verb form of Christian. It means all that it means to be humanly good, but additionally through Baptism empowered with the identity of Jesus within us, acting in us by faith.  It is the verb form of Christian. Christianize our attitudes, desires, days and years is another way of saying Happy Christmas!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Blog # 324 Exhortation of Pope Francis

Blog # 424  Exhortation of Pope  Francis

            I just finished reading the exhortation published a year ago by Pope Francis entitled The Joy of the Gospel.  As I put the book down I prayed again a prayer of thanks I have prayed many times since the conclave of Cardinals from around the world chose Francis as our current Pope.  The book is thoroughly what it claims to be, an exhortation or plea to the entire Church membership in our current moment of history. Francis is obviously well aware of the seriousness, challenges, and difficulties involved in the task that has been given him. Yet he is also obviously confident in God's presence among us and the legitimate hope we have for a successful realization of God's plan for today's world if we work together as a world-wide family of  Catholic believers.

            Throughout the book I felt Francis was humbly sharing his own story as one of us. It was almost as though he were in the same room with me, just sitting in a different chair. I heard his concern that we keep ourselves aware of the salvation of all people as a primary agenda of the Church with Jesus as always and in all that we do in evidence as the sole Savior of all, with salvation identified in the joy and peace that comes in this world as well as the world to come beyond the grave.
              Everyone counts.  No one came into existence without God willing it. We have to learn to listen to others, especially the poor, and appreciate the stories of those who do not see things as we do. We have to be worthy to help them by cultivating within ourselves the attitude of Jesus and the love He has for all. Aware of our union with Jesus through faith and Baptism, sharing His life and His love in all that we do, we need not be afraid. (Col. 3: 17).



Sunday, December 21, 2014

Blog # 423 Christmas a Beginning

Blog # 423   Christmas a Beginning

            Generally we are accustomed to celebrate Christmas with the whole focus of our attention on the infant Jesus.  We are impressed and appreciative that the All-Powerful, Almighty God came among us as a newborn baby like our very selves, one of whom we need not be afraid and to whom our hearts and affections are naturally attracted.

             However, it seems to me that if we fail to connect the birth event in the life of Jesus with the remainder of His life on earth we can hardly understand and appreciate the full meaning of that birth.
The Eternal Word of God was sent to earth with a message to proclaim, a promise to be fulfilled, and a mission to accomplish. His life death and resurrection was to be the fulfillment of His Father's promise to our first parents of a savior, our Messiah. He was to tell us of our Father-Creator's love and to respond in his human freedom to that love in all of the time and circumstances of  His life. This was to be accomplished through perfect obedience to the Father's will for Him

                He would tell us He was sent for this, and further that just as the Father had sent Him so He was to send us to do the same Father's will.

                  A human body had to be made available to the Word to speak and live the message and mission that was to be accomplished.  That is the story of Christmas.

                   Christmas, however, was only the beginning.  He would grow to be a man. And it was all connected. Always and everywhere Jesus would be conscious of being sent. He would always and everywhere think speak and act according to the Father' will for Him, not in some totally divine way but in a unique humanly-divine way, in circumstances just like our own  In the end, He lived out His human unconditional trust and total love for the Father in giving over to the Father's will His entire life in His death on the Cross.

                    With Christmas as the beginning, if we fail to see the rest of the story and the connection of the beginning to the rest of His life we miss an essential element in the meaning of HIs birth.  And in this we fail to see an essential element in our own rebirth through faith and Baptism whereby we are made one with Jesus as branches on a vine, called by the Father and sent by Jesus to live and die in union with Jesus in constant obedient love.  As Baptized Christian believers we have more to do than 'get to Heaven'.  In Him we are sent to proclaim the message and live the love He brought from Heaven and shares with us, always, and everywhere.

                  "What will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus ?"  (Rom. 8:35 - 39,  Rom. 6: 3 - 5).  That is a good question for anyone who wants to be a Christian.  It is a good 'Christmas

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Blog # 222 Christmas

Blog # 222  Christmas

         The original story of Christmas on earth began over two thousand years ago.  Our liturgical celebration of the story  began nine months ago March 25 when Mary was offered and accepted
Gabriel's message from God that she would be the mother of the Messiah promised to God's chosen people from the very first Chapter of the Book of Genesis. As the Bible presents it, the next nine months of Mary's life were much the same as the months any ordinary mother experiences the time of waiting for her child to be born.  We can imagine her getting advice from neighbors and her mother St. Anne. She knew her baby would be a boy and she knew Joseph had been told to give him the name Jesus on the eighth day of his life according to the law of Moses.  Again from the story as it is given in the Bible, the boy Jesus was very much the same as other boys growing up in the neighborhood of Joseph's carpenter shop.  We do not hear of miracles he performed, that he prayed a certain way, that he was significantly different in his relationship to Mary and Joseph  than any of the other boys in the neighborhood in their relationships. As the story progressed from his infancy through his youth to the life of an adult it continued the same, for about thirty years.

           All of  this is very familiar to us and I think we are comfortably accustomed to take it for granted, waiting for the public ministry of Jesus to begin with his first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana.  This year it has turned out differently for me.  Somehow all during Advent I kept thinking of and being impressed more than I remember with an awareness and appreciation of  the content of my faith in the humanity of Jesus. The Eternal Word of God, though divine and infinite, and united as one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, is the same 'person' as  Jesus!   And that was true every day of the human life of Jesus from the hour He was conceived to the hour he died on Calvary.  There are mysteries here beyond our limited human comprehension, but there are also insights that guide and help us to know appreciate and love Jesus more than we may have been accustomed to be consciously aware of.  For example there is a danger for us not to appreciate  more fully that, as one of us it would not have been any more natural, and therefore without the gift of grace for Jesus to know and love the Father than it is for us to do so. As one of us Jesus had the same need we have for the gift of grace in order to pray, to know God as we do, and to obey God.  This plays up for  me the depth of humility the Word, in Jesus, accepted and portrayed when as one of us He assumed our humanity and accepted the need for the gift of grace for achieving goals common to Him and to us in our humanity.

            I am also inspired  and encouraged in seeing how as one of us Jesus experienced and responded to rejection misunderstanding and lack of response to His goodness wisdom and teaching. Just imagine how Jesus felt, as one of us, when nine out of ten of the lepers He healed did not come back to thank Him and receive the greater gift of His friendship in which the gift of their healing was wrapped. I am also inspired and encouraged in witnessing Jesus in our common humanity tired, hungry, spending time in prayer and enjoying a fishing trip with His disciples. 

             I admire and appreciate the wonderful achievements men and women accomplish individually and together with others in a team during the Olympic games. They inspire me but do not invite me to imitate them at the age of 87.   In the case of Jesus I can hear Him telling our Father "I have sent them into the world as You have sent me"(Jn, 17: 18),  and praying that all who will come to believe in Him would be one in Him so the world will know the Father loved us as He loved  Jesus in His humanity,{Jn, 17 23) united  in Baptism, as a living branch on a single vine, the  Church.    

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blog # 421 God living in us

Blog # 421 God living in us

         Jesus prayed aloud to the Father the evening before He died that we who believe in Him would be united to Jesus as Jesus was united to the Father in His humanity so that through faith and Baptism all who believed in Jesus would be united to Jesus by sharing His divinity. (Jn, 17 22,23 ). This would be so the world would know the Father loved Jesus by granting His prayer and  consequently that He loved us as He loved Jesus, united to Jesus in the gift we have come to call the gift of Sanctifying Grace, the gift that makes us holy or one with Jesus by sharing His divine God-life in our limited but real human way.

          As a small child receives from a teacher the knowledge that cat is spelled C-A-T, and in that experience shares something of the teacher's life, so we through faith and Baptism are gifted with a share in God's life/love.  We learn of the gift from the Bible, from history, from the experiences of those around us, and from our own experiences and conscience.  But there are cautions and dangers to be avoided to help us guarantee the gift will  be one of which we are  aware of in our everyday experiences. It is not to be like a gift of fine china  which we have received on our wedding day which is always ours but is stored in a closet and used only on a special occasion.  We live in the house with the gift and would never throw it away but we use it only occasionally. Days go by and we are not consciously aware of it and not consciously in need of it for the agenda of those days, living almost as though it were not ours and we were not radically different because of it.

          To guarantee the gift of Sanctifying Grace will have its intended effects in our lives we have to make decisions.  Decisions are made in response to questions.  Are  we interested in growing more holy in our life?  Are we willing to be different because we have been identified with Jesus through Baptism as a branch on a vine, sharing His love, proclaiming His presence in our life as a light,
(Matt, 5: 14). revealing the meaning of salvation in Jesus and the power of His grace to conquer sin. 

           I remember as a boy we had a small holy water fountain by the front door and  how we would dip our finger into it as we  went out and make the sign of the cross with it.  I think one of the Sisters in school suggested it and my mother always kept it supplied with holy water.  It was a small way but a definite way we had to remind ourselves that we were Baptized.  On entering church we do a similar thing with a holy water font at the entrance.  .  But here too it could become just a routine custom we have had since we were small children.  On the other hand it could be a conscious willful act that renews our Baptismal promises and prepares us to live in a way that is more worthy of our union with Jesus and His love.



Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blog #420 Evil= Freedom - Love

Blog # 420  Evil -freedom -Love

            This blog derives from  notes I wrote back around 2001 after the tragedy perpetrated by the terrorists  on the World Trade Towers in  New York City.  A friend had sent me an article that had appeared in one of the Chicago newspapers.  Apparently it was the work of a regular columnist who writes for the paper. 

             The author refers to correspondence he had been having since the attacks with a friend of his who believes in God.  Of his own situation with regard to believing in  God the columnist says:  "I don't".  He  continues: " I believe that the nature and desire of God, if any, are so impenetrable that trying to puzzle it all out is futile."  If he meant by the phrase "puzzle it all out"  understanding and knowing God on our own, what he wrote is good Catholic theology. What is so different in us and in  God' infinity results in the fact we cannot in any natural way know in the sense of contain God in our limited created mind. However, having said this we do profess an ability on our part to receive  from God elements of truth about Himself that make it possible for us to be in personal relationship with God, and intelligently respond to God in prayer and in an authentic awareness of God's will for us.
            Further on in the article the author says if God wouldn't do any of a thousand little things that would have stopped the tragedy - if he wouldn't keep the towers standing long enough for the people inside to escape, and so on - then what is there to do other than live your life as best  you can and  hope for the best?  What he is doing here is putting conditions on faith in God.  If God will do this or if  God will do that, I will or I will not believe in God.  This of course shows an ignorance of our definition of faith and therefore that we are talking of two different things when we talk about the experience of faith.

              God is the Creator of all that we are and all that we have. God is not our servant but our  God. God is worthy of our unconditional trust and total love.  No other love is worthy of God. Once
we put conditions on our faith in God and our love for God we are dealing with a notion of God that is untrue.  God could have prevented the tragedy of September 11 but He need not have done so to be the true God we know, trust, and love.  If all people knew and obeyed God's commands for us there would be peace and love for all.  The tragedy of September 11 would not have occurred.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Blog # 419 A Living Faith

Blog # 419       A Living Faith

          This blog will be an almost verbatim copy of an essay in the parish bulletin of the
church where I was Pastor back on the 1st Sunday of Advent 1995.  It reminded me of and renewed for me a special grace I had received the day before and I thought it might be helpful to you as we prepare for the gift of Christmas 2014.  

          Yesterday afternoon I went over to Toomsboro to anoint Inez. It was a special privilege for me. You could tell from the number of cars and pick-up trucks parked around the house there was something going on that was of special importance to the family.

           Inez lay on the couch in the front living room.  One of her grandsons was cradling her head on his lap and her son from Savannah was kneeling by her side.  Her older sister, in from Arizona,
announced the priest had arrived. Though I had not met any of them in person, I felt I knew them all well from their pictures there in the living room and the descriptions and stories Inez had given me of them on the regular occasions when I brought her Holy Communion. I knew she loved them deeply.  Now I was witnessing some of their deep love for her.

            It is about twenty miles from here to her house, and about the same distance to the nearest Catholic churches in Dublin and Milledgeville. As far as I know, Inez is the only Catholic in the whole town of Toomsboro. What a difference it is from the experience of being Catholic in Chicago,
where she used to live, with St. Peter's church on one corner and St. Paul's just a few blocks away, with St. Symphorosa a few blocks in the other direction.

           The distance between churches and the number of Catholic friends and neighbors may be
different, but the content of her faith is the same.  The faith she learned and loved as a girl is the same faith she knew and loved yesterday afternoon. She had learned, as all of us who attended parochial schools in our youth, there were seven Sacraments or holy signs of God's special love for those who believed.  One of the special signs is for those who are sick and in danger of death. It was hers yesterday, not just as one on the list of seven she had memorized for religion class, but as an experience

              It was the experience of a special personal here and now love of God the Father of Jesus and her Father. There was real oil and a real sign of the Cross on her forehead and hands.  Jesus was not just a memory handed down from age to age through nearly two thousand years of history, but a real person, with a real message and a tangible expression of God's love, with real power over death, taking away its sting and giving it meaning and value by transforming it by faith into love. On the way home I thought of what a great privilege it was to be used by God to deliver this grace, and what a joy it was to believe.

        I began to tie in the experience yesterday afternoon with our liturgical celebration of  the first Sunday of Advent today. Earlier in the week I had been thinking of ways we might more effectively gather the graces that are offered by the celebration of the season of Advent.  All around us stores, homes, TV, and radio are appearing and sounding as though Christmas was already here.  Money rather than faith seems to be the major ingredient in creating a merry Christmas.

              Then an interesting  thing happened when I was walking over to the track by the high school this morning. It was still dark, and the light on the pole by the entrance to the track was casting a strong shadow of myself on the pavement in front of me.  It does this every morning, but this morning it made a special impression.  It reminded me of the image I shared with you last Spring with regard to illustrating how God and we work together to produce God's plan for us on earth.  The sun, our bodies, and the pavement all work together to produce an obedient shadow.  So it is with God's love, shining on us and producing an obedient effect on the world around us. 

              The artificial light this morning did a similar thing without the sun.  I thought of  this in relationship to the celebration of Christmas.  Music, dancing, sounds and experiences of great joy can be produced at Christmas on the calendar without explicit reference to Jesus.  But the time will come when we need more than music and dancing and all the earth can offer to make a happy life or a  genuine merry Christmas.  We need something or someone to tie it all together, to give meaning and value to it all, from beginning to end, and especially the end. 

            This is where Jesus comes in.. Advent is our invitation to discover the reality and power of His coming this year, in our life. It should not be just another Christmas, one more added to the many as though they were stones piled in a heap, but rather joined to all the rest we have enjoyed as one whole, the story of God's love in our life, creating in Jesus our eternal name.  Inez' anointing yesterday afternoon was related to her anointing at  her Baptism. Jesus makes this possible. 

           Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, John, Jesus, you, and I are all in a row, part of God's eternal plan for all of creation.   Come, Lord Jesus !  Teach us your plan.   Help us love  you. one another, and the world around us more and more. Amen!  Inez, pray for us.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Blog # 418 Rock Foundation

Blog # 418 Rock Foundation

          St. Matthew gives the famous discourse of Jesus generally referred to as the Sermon on the Mount in Chapters 5,6, and 7of his Gospel. At the conclusion of the sermon Matthew says: "Jesus left the crowds spellbound at his teaching.  The reason was that he taught with authority."  In the text of the sermon as given in Matthew Jesus covers a great deal of ground beginning with the Beatitudes
then on down through identifying  His disciples as 'salt' and 'light', love of one's enemies, the  text of the prayer we have become accustomed to refer to as "The Lord's Prayer",  the Golden Rule which directs us to "treat others the way you would have them treat you" with reference to that rule as  the sum of the law and the prophets, and finally concludes with the famous story of the two men who built their houses, one on rock and the other on sand.   Blog # 418 will be a response to that brief  but significant conclusion of  the Sermon on the Mount.  

            In my current reading of the passage I have received a different lesson than the one I had been receiving for many years, focusing appropriately and almost exclusively as I did on the foundation of the houses as reliable or not, rock or sand. Recently I began to see a comparison between these few verses of Matthew's Gospel and the equally known story of the widow's mite. ( Lk. 21 1-4 ).  In that story Jesus draws the attention of  His disciples to a poor widow placing just a couple of pennies into the treasury of the temple and then saying she put in more than all the rest, some of whom put in large sums.  That story obviously was not about mathematics or money alone, but relationships.  The rich contributors and the widow put into the treasury what each of them felt the temple was worth to them.
             This same relationship could be expressed by placing God in place of temple, God's house,  and their story comes out as telling us primarily of their different relationships with God. From this we see the substance meaning and value of our spiritual life does not hinge primarily upon our accomplishments but on our relationship with God, resulting primarily in our obedience to  God's will.  In this light two pennies can be more than all the rest.

         In the story of the two houses built on different foundations the same lesson that sees  relationships as more important than  accomplishments is presented in a different way.. The two houses, accomplishments, are not compared as one more perfect than the other.  From the story as given in the Gospel both houses were well built. Only the foundations on which the houses were placed is the focus of attention. Both were subjected to the same adverse weather conditions.  The difference is their foundations.  In our practical application of the story to our lives, we are invited to identify and examine the foundation of our faith and the difference our faith makes for us between ourselves and someone who does not  share the faith we possess. 

           As Catholics our faith rests securely on the testimony of God through Jesus as the sole witness to those truths we take as true and upon which we build our life ('house'). An act of faith I memorized in preparation for my first Holy communion in the second grade and which I continue to pray daily goes like this:  O my God, I firmly believe that Thou art one God in three divine Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I believe Thy divine Son became man, suffered under Pontius  Pilate, was crucified died and was buried. I believe He rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  I believe these and all the truths the Holy Catholic Church teaches because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived.  Amen! The testimony of God is surely a secure foundation. In response to it St. Paul could say nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord.  (Rom. 8: 35 - 39.)


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Blog # 417 Christmas 2

Blog # 417  Christmas 2

          I have heard it said that one of the greatest dangers to a happy growing and lasting marriage
 relationship is for the partners to take one another for granted rather then daily discovering one another again and again ever more deeply as the years of their marriage go on.  In a similar vein, years ago when I was teaching a class on marriage, the class came up with this definition of fidelity in marriage: I will try to keep myself as attractive to you as when you first discovered. me.

            This year it occurred to me to apply these insights on marriage to our celebration of the birth of Jesus. Trying to look back on it I imagined I first discovered Jesus as attractive about eighty years ago when I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs on a Christmas morning and found the Lionel trains all set up on the parlor floor and presents laid out around the room for everyone in the family.

         Now in 2014 for many of our families the same beautiful artificial tree will be taken in from the garage and set up in the parlor with the same strings of lights wrapped around it, the same decorations hung on its limbs, and the same beautiful angel presiding over it from its peak.  All of this will be good and make a  meaningful celebration in the family.  Pictures will be taken and stored with those of other years, and in a couple of weeks Christmas will be put away until next year.

           The decorations and parties, yes, but let's not put the event of Christmas behind us.  When a baby is born in a normal human family the event of the baby's birth is the beginning of an eternal relationship that is designed by God to grow and develop. So it should be with the birth of the divine Word of God on earth as Jesus, close to two thousand years ago in history and currently in our official public liturgical celebration of Christmas in 2014.  The baby Jesus will grow and live among us as God and as one of us, in our private prayers, our family prayer, and in our official public liturgical celebration of His life and love for us, again as we have known it before, and in new ways that are still to be created this coming year.

          As with the case of a newly married couple and that of another man and wife married for fifty years,  a power-laden and beautiful question they are entitled and called to ask of one another every day is how can I know you better and love you more.  We Baptized believers are united with Jesus in a way He Himself described as that of branches on a vine. We share the life of that vine with the vine itself and with the other branches on the vine, which is the Church. Certainly we are entitled and called to ask of Jesus and of one another how can I know you better and love you more.

           If that were to occur , the event of Christmas would not be put away in the garage with the tree the lights and the decorations. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blog # 416 Advent 2

Blog # 416  Advent 2

              Advent has often been envisioned as a journey.  We are traveling to Bethlehem to experience again the birth of Jesus. It is not a question merely of remembering, of turning the clock back almost two thousand years or walking in our imagination on the physical terrain of Israel. Rather it is a  question of finding a place in our minds and hearts here and now that Jesus can call Bethlehem and come to be born there according to the Father's plan.

              Our goal is 'Bethlehem'.  It is a state of mind, an attitude, a collection of desires and an awareness of the gift of freedom rather than a physical place.  How do we get there?  As with the goal of any journey, the direction we take is determined by where we are when we begin the journey.  If  you are going to New Jersey you travel south from Boston and north from Washington, D.C.  On our Advent journey to Bethlehem, if we do not realize that Jesus is God and that God is the Creator of all, then we will not have an adequate idea of what is going to happen. If we do not have an idea of God's intense love for us we will not know the real reason Jesus was born. If we do not see that in Jesus all of creation is connected, then we see only part of what He came to do. Our personal salvation is only part of the whole, and we must see beyond ourselves to understand fully His birth.

             Advent is the time for considering and responding to all of this.  We have gone to Bethlehem before.  But each year we come from a new place and a new time.  We were never here in our life before.  It has never been now. We bring new gifts, new memories, a new sinfulness, new joy. lf we make an effort to set aside some quiet time and energy for God to speak to us,  Christmas 2015 will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience of spiritual growth.

            The theory is that as human beings and as Christian believers we are hungry for this. But there are distractions, with so much going on around us and within us at this particular moment of history that focus upon other stars than that of Bethlehem.  I think it would make good sense and I would like to see the whole world respond to the birth of Jesus with an enthusiasm matching that shown in the streets of Atlanta years ago when the folks greeted the new world boxing champion returning home from his defeat of Mike Tyson in the ring, or in Chicago when the whole City seemed to come out to the streets to honor Cardinal Bernadine as his funeral procession passed by.

             I feel this way not because of some long habit of thinking of Jesus as worthy of our best love, but because of a personal relationship with Him based upon a deep fundamental conviction in faith that He is God.  God is the Creator of all, and God loves me and all people with an everlasting love.  That love brought Jesus to Bethlehem.  That love invites and leads us there.  To love Jesus more and to be loved by Jesus more is a real reason for going to the Bethlehem in our hearts to kneel quietly before Him in joyful praise, heartfelt thanks, and humble adoration.

            But there is more.  The love we receive is to be shared with those around us. As the Father sent Jesus, Jesus sends us. (Jn. 17: 18; Jn. 20: 21).  What Jesus came to do we are sent to do.  "Love on another as I have loved you." (Jn.13: 34;  15 12. It takes time and energy to discover what this means. That is why it is good for us to celebrate Advent again. It gives us an invitation to look around and within us, to ask questions, some new ones, some old ones with new answers, some we have never asked before.

          Advent is a journey.  Sometimes the road is bumpy and rough.  Sometimes it is night. It can be a long road. Sometimes there are more people going in the opposite direction.  But Bethlehem is real, and Jesus will be born again and again until the end of time.  Come, Lord Jesus!   Make us ever more worthy of your presence in and around us. Teach us how to live the faith and love you  have given us. Amen!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Blog # 415 King of Love

Blog # 415  King of Love

           The purpose and experience of celebrating feasts in the life of the Church is very much like the purpose and experience of celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions in the lives of those we appreciate and love. Because of such meaningful relationships we have with certain persons, because of their goodness  generosity and kindness to us in one way or another, because we  admire and appreciate them for their virtue character good example and source of support and inspiration they have been for us, and for what they have accomplished in their lives, we respond in joyful praise and feel privileged to be part of a celebration in their honor.

         The same emotion and joy we bring to a birthday or anniversary celebration should be ours on the occasion of  the celebration of Saints in the calendar of the Church.  Especially should this be on the occasion of feasts celebrating special features of the life of Jesus. The feast of Christ the King is such an occasion.  I did not think I did it justice last Sunday so I will give it another try today in this blog.  It is the climax of the Church's Liturgical Year.

      Jesus had come among us seemingly as a very ordinary infant.  We watched  him grow and walk among us as a man, prayerful kind and compassionate to those in need and finally crucified for claiming to be God's Son, one with God, divine.  He invited us to see in  His death not a tragedy or failure but an exchange of love between Himself and His Father.  He was not being killed at all!  Rather He was "laying down His life", giving it away, in loving obedience to His Father's plan, as an effect and sign of the Father's love for us all.

              We might have thought, and we heard some say sin was the cause of His death, but this was not so. Sin would not be given that power or privilege.  In spite of its power to cause our ruin, sin did not have the power to kill God's beloved Son Jesus. This was made clear to us when on several occasions sin, in the hatred and willful misunderstanding of the people, they would have stoned Jesus or thrown Him over a cliff  to His death, Jesus simply walked away unharmed. ( Luke. 4: 29-30; Jn. 8: 59; Jn. 10: 31, 39). His 'hour' had not yet come.  Jesus did not say "Watch me suffer",  but "No greater love than this has anyone, than to lay down one's life for a friend."

             We began to see more closely or perhaps for the first time the suffering and death of Jesus not as an effect of sin, but rather as God's response to sin.  It was bloody and painful, yes.  It was altogether tragic as the rejection of the most perfect Presence of God on earth in the humanity of Jesus. In the death of Jesus God most emphatically declared for all time the absolute evil of sin. This was God's Beloved Son, God Himself, paying the price for our sins, laying down His life, giving all that He had in total love!  This was to give us some idea of the enormous evil of sin as a contradiction of the Father's wisdom and a rejection of His love. It cost Jesus His life to tell us how evil and tragic sin is.

           But at the same time, and in the very same act of dying, Jesus was telling us God's love was worth this much to Him, and God's love for us was this great.  God was not punishing Jesus on the Cross. Rather He was giving Jesus the opportunity of placing love where love had been denied. It was what Jesus referred to as His "glory".  (Jn. 17: 1). He did not single out His preaching or prayers, His wisdom and goodness, His kindness and humility, but His death as His glory. The divine love of Jesus on Calvary is the greatest love that ever touched the earth. "No greater love than this has anyone than to lay down one's life". The greatest expression of the greatest love on earth was given to the world on Calvary.  In that act of dying we see Jesus as the King of Love.

             Each occasion when we offer the sacrifice of the Mass we recall and experience once again in faith the obedient loving sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross. All that Jesus said and did was related to this, His greatest act of love. The Annunciation is here, and Christmas too.  You cannot give what you do not have. In Jesus God would have a human body like our own. On the Cross and in the Mass it is 'given'.  Easter is here too, for the eternal glory of the Resurrection is the Father's response to the love of Jesus on the Cross.

              As all that Jesus said and did is not to be considered apart from Calvary, so all that we as Christians do and say and all that is said and done to us is not to be considered apart from Jesus and His love in us. Along with pain comes courage and trust in Him. Along with the power to wage war, experience impatience fear wrath or dishonesty comes, in Him, the invitation and power to live in peace as individuals and as nations, the power to create in our lives patience love generosity and prayer.

             But it does not always come out this way.  Our freedom sometimes objects.  When Pilate stood before the people and asked " Shall I crucify your king?" they did not hear him asking whether he should give God the opportunity of loving us as Jesus did, but only whether Jesus was to be crucified and forgotten. "We have no king but Caesar!"

              There are many possible 'Caesars', rival kings to Jesus.  Passions weakness fear feelings fatigue culture all claim power, all seek to rule. "Come".  "Go".  "Look like this!"  Speak like this!" "Act like this!"  They are 'Caesars'.  At any moment we might stand before Jesus and say with the people in Pilate's court "You are not our king. We have no king but pleasure, sex, violence, money, prestige, secular humanism!"

                In  Pilate's court Jesus was led away to be crucified and forgotten.  Now, almost two thousand years later, He is our KING OF LOVE, and all who condemned Him are gone. 

                                                     PRAYER TO CHRIST THE KING            

              O Christ Jesus, I acknowledge You as the Universal King.  All that has been created has been created for You.  Exercise over me all the rights that You have.
               I renew my Baptismal promises, renouncing sin, and I promise  to live as a good Christian. Especially do I pledge myself  to bring about the triumph of the rights of God and of Your Church.
             Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer You my poor actions to obtain that all hearts my recognize Your consecrated kingship and thus the kingdom of Your peace my be extablished throughout the world, in the minds and hearts of all seven billion of us.  Amen!  


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blog # 414 Advent

Blog #  414   Advent

            During Advent the liturgical readings at Mass reach out in hope and joyful anticipation toward the fulfillment of the promise made in Genesis , the first Book of the Bible, and  is reconfirmed and called to mind down through many years of history in Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Samuel, Zephaniah, and the Book of Psalms. Beautiful visions of peace and joy are being set before us to be fulfilled when the Messiah, the Promised One, will come.

           Finally Gabriel reveals to Mary the time had come for the Messiah to be born. She would be his mother and he would be given the name Jesus, Savior.   He grew up and became a man in the ordinary way all of us have done. Assuming the role of Rabbi, he began to speak of  God as his Father. He began to say and do things that only God was expected to do, such as healing the sick and raising the dead to life.  He claimed to be alive even before Abraham came to be. Then he was falsely condemned as a criminal and died on Calvary.  From the Cross he told us his mission on earth as one of us was complete.  "It is finished"'  Now, and down through 2000 years of history we who believe find the divine and original mission of the person of the Word of God continuing until the end of time in the Resurrected Person of Jesus.

            For those who stood at the foot of the Cross and thought Jesus was a fraud, he received in death the punishment he deserved.  For Jesus, his death was a witness and expression of the love that God deserved.   For Mary his mother, the few disciples who stood by him to the end, and to us who continue to listen to him and follow him in response to the Father's identification of  Jesus as His Beloved Son at the time of his Baptism by John, Jesus continues on as the risen Savior, the incarnate, eternal, infinite, Word of God Among  Us,  Emmanuel!  

          For us who believe, the death of Jesus as one of us, in human history, was a human act of unconditional trust and total love for the Father. As an infinite act of the single person of the Word of God, incarnate as one of us and called Jesus, the death Mary and the few disciples witnessed on Calvary was the fulfillment hoped for since its promise was given to Adam and Eve, the promise of a new eternal covenant, the power to pray, to forgive and be forgiven, to love our enemies and one another as we love ourselves, to love God above all, lasting peace, genuine joy, and the accomplishment in Jesus of  God's will for us, all day every day until "it is finished" in the unconditional trust and total love of our death!   

           The message of salvation brought to earth from Heaven by the Eternal Word of  God, in
Jesus was to be shared with everyone, whoever or wherever we might be. As St. John Paul II put it: "All who are  Baptized are missionaries."Jn. 20: 21).   The gift of peace and joy that comes from knowing and loving  God is intentional on the part of  God.  It was planned that way from the beginning of creation.  "Taste and see how good the Lord is!"(Ps 34:9).            

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Blog # 413 Christmas

Blog # 413  Christmas
        Christmas is whenever we think about it.  And the more we do the better it gets.  Here in the United States, on December 25,  you could hardly miss the fact it is a special day. We Catholics call it Christmas. The day on the calendar is the same as all other days of the year as far as the number of hours it contains, or in other words as far as the sun is concerned.  But it is very special for some of us who will have spent the time between then and now celebrating the  season of  Advent, getting ready for the celebration of Christmas Day 2014 to come. 

         Our experience of Advent is important, but especially so since under the influence and effect of the present current pagan culture and mass media, whether we realize it or not, we are pressured and tempted to conform to the way the day is lifted up under the name Holiday with little or no explicit  reference to Jesus rather than Christmas in many if not in the majority of  instances. As the sun goes down on Christmas Day we sometimes have the feeling the day was too short, and we have wished the event of Christmas could go on forever.

        Actually, the event of Christmas can, should, and does in some way go on every day of the year in the hearts and lives of those who believe and are Baptized, until the end of time.  But we must think about it, understand it, and make it our own by faith in order to experience Christmas as it was designed to be. We are blessed by our Catholic experience of spending these coming few weeks
celebrating Advent with a spiritual emphasis on what the event of Christmas is about.  We will try not to permit distractions and secular competitors  to consume too much of our time and energy and overshadow the experience of Advent.  As in years gone by,  on December 25 there will be pies and presents, snowmen and reindeer,  Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, gourmet eating and the wonderful experience of Christmas love shared with our families.  All of these are good, and we will be blessed and please the Lord in enjoying them again in 2014. But they are not what Christmas is  all about.

          The theology of Christmas invites us to think more deeply than the colors shapes and sounds of Christmas Day to the identity and meaning of the original event that occurred two thousand years ago.  We are called to realize  in our limited human way the baby born of Mary, to be called Jesus, is one and the same divine person revealed in the Gospel of John as the Word of God , equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit in the everlasting all-powerful Blessed Trinity.  The Resurrected Jesus is the current Jesus to whom we are united as branches on a vine and with, through and in whom we worship God, whom we recognize as our intercessor before the Father, and to whom we address our prayers.  Jesus as the Word of God (Emmanuel) is the sole witness to the creation by God of all that exists, the love of God for all people, the authenticity of the Bible and the Church as the Body of Christ,  and the possibility and unimaginable power that would be required and available to bring peace among all nations around the world if we would seek, believe, and obey His will. 

               All of this is involved in the gift of Christmas. Advent is an invitation to spend time and energy reflecting upon and  increasing our awareness and personal appreciation of it all as it applies to our daily experiences throughout the coming year.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Blog # 412 "...lifted up."

Blog # 412   "...lifted up.

               This is what Jesus said of  His death: "...once I am lifted  up from the earth I will draw all people to myself,"  (Jn. 12: 32 f, Jn. 3: 14,15).  To hear this makes it possible.  To believe it makes it real.  To live it makes it ours. It is God's plan for all people in response to the death of Jesus. It was about love.  Listen.  Believe.  Love. "There is no greater love anyone, not even Emmanuel, God Among Us, could  have, than to lay down His life for others in obedience to the Father's will. To die on the Cross was the greatest thing Jesus came from Heaven to do.  It was His greatest love. It is the love we who have believed and through Baptism, united with Jesus as branches on a vine, are to  possess and share with one another.  "Love one another as I have loved you." It is not that we will be called to be crucified or die a  cruel martyrs death but that we are to live and die giving ourselves in many ways great and small day by day as expressions of the total love to which we are committed by our union with Jesus in Baptism. (Jn. 13: 34; Jn, 15: 13).

              I have known people through the years who have walked away from the Church and joined another or just stopped going to any church because of several various reasons, among which were a grouchy priest or Sister, sermons on money, or lack of friendliness in a congregation.

             Such reasons are examples of elements that touch the surface.  They are not what the Church is about.  Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost touch what the Church is about : love, God's love for us, and our love for God and one another in Christ Jesus.  No one in his or her right mind would walk away from that kind of love. When it is a question of  'leaving' the Church, I think it is in many cases simply a question of not knowing what the Church really teaches.

             "...if I be lifted up" is to say if  you only knew my love for you, you would come to me  and you would bring with you others whom you love who are searching for meaning  peace and joy in their lives.  That is a promise and an invitation from God!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Blog # 411 The End

Bog # 411 The End

          This is the final week in Ordinary Time of the year 2014.  Time does fly!  Remember back in '97,  '98, and '99 when we were all excited about the New Millennium that was on the horizon yet off at a distance, getting closer, and then was here?  I can easily imagine how time might seem to drag for people who are confined to bed with illness.  Yet when we look back on the past fourteen years of time from wherever we might be, so much significant history has occurred in the new millennium that it may seem much older than it is.
          Sunday we celebrated our current response to the life death and resurrection of Jesus and acclaimed Him once again as our own personal Savior, and King of the entire world. At the ending of the Liturgical Years as they occur, we look back to assess and evaluate all that has occurred during the past year. We cast aside all that we see as unworthy of God and take with us in praise and thanks all that we see as pleasing to God and sharing in His love.

           We remind ourselves that all creation as we know it is coming to an end. We can also be reminded of this as evening falls each day, as the weeks and months come and go.  It would not be rash to think that in the relatively short time of a hundred and fifty years none of us living on earth today will be alive. The end is coming. It could be as close as tomorrow for any of us.  From the moment of our conception we have never been too young to die.

             This might seem threatening at first.  It is not intended to be so.  But it is real.  In my imagination of it, the Church and our Scripture readings today are like a football coach reminding the quarterback of the set-up for football, four quarters, so many minutes each.  "If you want to score  you have to do it within that framework."

              For those who have prepared well for a history exam it is not so formidable or fearsome at all.  So with judgment and ourselves.  When we honestly reflect upon our conscience we are in a real sense at that time already judged. How we stand in the presence of God in His goodness mercy and love is much the same as we stand before ourselves when we honestly reflect upon our conscience.

                When I look at what God permits in the world with regard to sickness, disease, loneliness, war, etc., I am less inclined to think He is kidding when He speaks of judgment.  I have thought part of the reality of suffering in the world is an expression of  the wisdom goodness and mercy of God telling us and inviting us in one more way to experience the truth about ourselves and God.  Our true and lasting purpose peace and joy can be found in God alone.  "Our hearts are restless until they rest in God" as St. Augustine put it.

                  We remind ourselves that all God's promises will be fulfilled, All bills will be paid. All awards will be given. United with  Jesus and following His will for us the best we can, we are not afraid.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Blog # 410 Marriage

Blog # 410   Marriage

           Growing up as a boy I never even imagined we would ever have in the US the situation we face today with regard to the proportion of marriages that end up in divorce, the number of children who grow up in single parent homes, the number of runaway children on the streets of our large cities, the bias of the media, nor the significant political and juridical power that has been attained by groups advocating same-sex marriage.

            Among the letters I  have received over the past several years from relatives and friends of many years scattered across the country there have been several and a growing proportion telling me of a divorce or a runaway child in the family.  The stories that come reveal a deep sorrow and a significant challenge not only to the person writing to me, but both to myself in giving a response and also to the Church and our nation.  A special synod called by Pope Francis in Rome just concluded on the subject of the Family and a sequence to it will be held next year.

             Sometimes when I receive letters from troubled couples I think it must be hard to be married.  Other letters have come from wonderfully happy couples and I wonder just what makes the difference.  As a priest I  tend to get caught in the middle, a friend to both sides in a divorce case and holding on to hope until the end.

               I see parallels with married life in my own experience of priesthood.  At times and in particular in this particular moment of history it can be a difficult and lonesome road.  Through my faith in the Sacrament of Holy Orders I am confidently aware of being called to accept and live out the possibility of being happy as a celibate priest.  I see it as a privilege.  Along with the privilege
goes a responsibility to care for it, and to protect it from danger distortion or loss.  To be able to offer Mass each day, with the same words and the same motions repeated over and over through the years in a reverent and meaningful way, I must choose to pray at other times outside of the time I offer Mass, and spend time alone with God, renewing my faith and love for Him.

               So, I think it is, for married folks and families. Words and experiences that may have thrilled them in the beginning of their love may tend to grow commonplace and stale after many repetitions through the years.  True love is always free and therefore chosen. If a couple does not find themselves renewing their love by choosing it over and over again, even daily I would think, then their love and their marriage is in danger of losing its luster, its value for them, its ability to call them successfully away from temptation, and support them in times of difficulty and challenge.

                 Doing this or not doing this it seems to  me constitutes a large portion of the difference between a happy priesthood  and an unhappy one, and between a happy marriage and an unhappy one.  In our prayers  let's  remember not only your own individual  marriage and family, but families throughout the world, and for priests, Religious Brothers, and for Religious Sisters who are in need of the same graces that produce a happy marriage  .

Friday, November 21, 2014

Blog # 409 Death

Blog # 409  Death

           The sun makes a beautiful picture as it sets in the western sky.  But it also has the power to burn our skin and contribute to cancer of the skin or cataracts in our eyes.  Water is beautiful to behold  as we sit by a placid lake and watch the sun come up out of the water. It is good in refreshing us as we wash in it each morning, and drink our several recommended glasses of it each day. But water can also freeze and become the instrument of our falling on the ice.  I used to have two good knives in my kitchen and I kept them very sharp.  The more sharp they were the more danger they were for someone who did not exert caution and possess skill in using them. 
             The sun is not the problem here, nor ice that comes from water, nor the sharpness of a knife.  The problem is our lack of awareness and caution and a wrong or inadequate response and use of  the gifs we receive.

                Cancer of the skin and cataracts of the eyes are as real as the sun.  Ice is as real as water.
Reflecting on thoughts like this I began to consider how suffering and death could fit into the picture.
Without the use of a hearing aid and a cochlea implant I have no detectable sensation of sound whatsoever in a normal conversation.  I am fascinated by the experience of trying to understand what I am asking when I ask myself is silence as real as sound, or darkness as real as light, then saying to myself the answer is "yes", and then ask further of suffering and death can both be a gift and an invitation to experience love, and the answer again is "yes".

              Our Christian response to death does not deny the difficulties they  provide with regard to seeing them as a gift of an All-powerful Loving Creator. However, by force of our faith in the meaning and power of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus and in union with Him in His unconditional trust and total love for the Father we respond with thanks and praise :  Yes, Father, I want to love you this much, with unconditional trust and total love, because I believe you alone are worthy of such trust and love.  I make this choice confidently because of my union with Jesus through Baptism, relying on the power won for me by Him, and joyfully because of the truth about me that Jesus brought from Heaven and You, and He said death was an invitation to experience the greatest love anyone could ever know, and it is the goal You set for me when  you called me into existence here on earth eighty seven years ago.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blog # 408 Unity in Truth

Blog # 408  Unity in Truth

          Just imagine for a moment the tallest mountain in the world. Imagine the peak of the mountain, shaped as a cone. Imagine several groups of people climbing up the mountain from several different points on ground level thousands of feet below. Imagine them not as in a race to the top but independently of one another all seeking to climb to the top of the mountain. If you had made a drawing of what you had imagined it would be easy to see how, as each group climbed higher and higher up the mountain, they would be getting closer to others climbing on another side of the cone-shaped peak. 
           In doing myself what I suggested you do with your imagination in that first paragraph of this blog I see an analogous illustration of the case of the many sincere and dedicated groups of people belonging to various religious bodies throughout the world, including Christians among them. They are all related to the others in that they are starting on the same common level ground all over the world.  They have much in common human needs, love, sleep, nourishment, the experience of living in a family and among neighbors and friends. They make a different sound when they teach their children what to say when they point to the sun the moon, to apples and onions, but the sun the moon apples and onions, are the same realities of which all of them speak.

           There are questions and mysteries in their everyday human experiences.  Why are some people kind generous patient and loving and others are greedy self-centered dishonest and unhappy? What happens when someone dies, and why does it have to be that all have to die? Truth sheds light on  mysteries and gives answers to all questions. In our analogy ,then, let the highest peak of the highest mountain be truth.   Truth is one, and unites those who have found it, but also those who are sincerely seeking it.  As we climb toward the truth in our understanding and  get closer and closer to the whole truth, the  peak of the mountain, we get closer and closer to one another.  In finding the whole truth we would be made one in it.

             If our quest were to climb the highest mountain all the way to its highest peak, to stop at a lower  peak and think that was the top, we might be happy there thinking we had reached the top, but our happiness would not be based upon the whole truth.  If our search were for happiness rather than climbing to the top we have a different picture.  The important question would be are you happy, rather than are you at the top

          A similar situation in regard to religion would be to identify and regard the most important question religion should address is "Are you saved?" rather than "What has God revealed?" , or if you are a Christian, What did Jesus teach?' (which includes salvation for all people!).  So the real problem is not so much that people are, in God's mercy, finding peace in various religious bodies, but the  fact we are divided on what is the truth, and don't even see or be disturbed that we can be united in less important truths such as truth about medicine, mathematics, and even the arbitrary truth about the correct spelling of words as proclaimed in our dictionaries and not the truth about God.  ( Jn. 3: 111; 5: 43,44).  We accept the testimony of man and not the testimony of God.  And until we become aware of this it is not likely we will ever change and come to the single truth about us and all of creation in  the one true God.

            I am convinced the lack of  unity among all who profess belief in God, and in a special way the lack of unity among all who profess to be Christians, is a far greater evil than the terrorism, real and possible we all face at this moment of history.  lf we were one in God, the God Who IS LOVE
peace would follow.

               Years ago I had a printer that could produce copies in black and white but not in color.  I used that as an example to help me understand how the solution to our world-wide and personal problems could be found only in God's love.  We cannot produce this no more than someone other than yourself could produce your love. That is because is your love.  You would have to offer it to another and that person would have to receive it to make it  his or her own.  The copy machine had to receive color though it could produce copies in black and white.  We can be good men and women naturally without faith, but we cannot be children of God without the supernatural gift of  new birth through faith and Baptism.  We may be high on the mountain but only at the top when we have accepted in faith the gift of new birth that makes of us a new creation as members of the Church, the Body of Christ, THE TRUTH. as He claimed to be. 

                The answer to it all begins to come in prayer, that we as individuals and all who believe in God throughout the world might come to a true knowledge and a generous love of the single God of all creation, so that God's love shared with us will make us one in God and bring peace to the world.
(Jn< 17: 20 - 26).



to the questions the group has as its concern.   The group we are cosidering in this blog are special.             

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Blog # 407 Immortality

Blog # 407  Immortality

           At some time, a long time ago, the first man and woman came to be.  Since that time trillions and trillions of men and women came to be.  All of them, with the exception of the approximate seven billion of us now living on earth today are gone.  We speak of them as 'dead'.

          Yet there are those who live among us, and I am one of them, who claim every man and woman who ever lived is yet 'alive'.  It is not that I foolishly deny the death of the body.  It is for the  human person I claim eternal life. I can conceive  a definite unique eternal relationship between the body and the person in each unique human being ever created.
            That transcendental  relationship is understood fully only by God and by those who have already been called from a time on earth to the experience of eternity. In the light of this relationship, without fully understanding it, I can honestly proclaim  the resurrection of the body in  the Apostle's Creed .

              Is this claim of ours a mere guess, an opinion based perhaps upon a deep seated hope in our hearts, a desire that brings comfort in our response to the loss in death of someone we love?  How can we hold such a conviction in the face of overwhelming universal physical evidence contradicting it?  Does anybody know for sure?  What is the basis for our conviction?

            St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest philosophers and theologians of all time, wrote in the thirteenth Century in favor of the immortality of the human person.  As a philosopher he gave five 'arguments' that conceived  the notion of immortality as 'fitting', but he admitted they were not definite proofs.  In 1947 as part of the requirements of a BS degree with a philosophy major I wrote a dissertation on eternal life. I had to concur with what St. Thomas concluded seven hundred years before.  As philosophers, the only way we could definitely prove we live forever is to live forever!   

              As theologians, both St. Thomas and I were absolutely convinced of the immortality of the human soul.  How could that be?  By Faith.  We believed it. To believe is to take something as true on the testimony of another. The conditions for faith, applied to the question of eternal life were fulfilled, and our conclusion is as secure as mathematical certitude.  2 + 2 = 4.  I believe in eternal life, and the resurrection of the body. the total of what that means for me, until I 'die',' only God knows.

             To have faith occur we have to have  as the object of our faith a truth that is not otherwise 
known to us at the time we believe.  A revealer or witness to the truth is then required.  Trust in the revealer follows this, and the experience of faith is ours when we actually accept the truth as our own.

              In the case at hand Jesus is the sole revealer, the only one who claims and has the right to claim from personal experience the reality of eternal life.  He, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is responsible for all of creation, for all that has and will come to be, for the design and production of our life on earth and our eternal life in the life to come.  When we trust the authenticity of His credentials and believe His claim, truth about eternal life is, by faith, for us as true as if we had already experienced it.

Blog # 406 Choices...Decisions

Blog  # 406  Choices,,,Decisions

           Many years ago I had the experience of offering a small boy, about three years old, either a ten dollar bill or an ice cream cone.  He chose the ice cream cone.  That decision was not an altogether dumb one.  He got what he wanted when he wanted it.  But if he had only known...

           Some furniture, some automobiles, some houses, some thoughts, desires and experiences, are more valuable, more beautiful, more authentic and dependable than others.  Each day of our lives choices are available to us. Some of them have little consequence.  Some of them are routine. Some of them can be major.  Some choices are difficult to make.

            What is the best medicine for arthritis?  What is the recipe for making Grandma's Irish soda bread?  What is the shortest way to New Jersey from here? What ought I...?  All of these
questions are related to one another. All of them are seeking truth.

              The question "What is...?", and questions beginning with "Ought I...? imply a quest for truth on a different level.   What is questions normally refer to truth on a physical, psychological, or emotional level.  Should I and Ought I questions normally refer to truth on a moral level.  Both levels are real.  There is truth  to be sought and found on both levels. 
               It is something like living in two different worlds that are distinguishable one from another yet are united in our one life.  It is something like the shape and the taste of an apple. Both are real and distinct from the other, but can exist together in each apple.

              It is  possible to be  more explicitly aware of one level rather than the other, both in the case of the apple and in our experience of life. For example I would think most of us are actually  more aware of and responsive to the taste of a apple we are eating than its shape. The shape is there, but it is not prominent in our immediate consciousness of it. Such an experience is possible with regard to our conscious awareness and response to the physical aspects of our lives as distinguished from their moral aspects.

           These days  we seem to be more aware of and pay more attention to the physical level than the morality involved. What is the quickest diet to get ready for the beach season?  What is the most popular color this coming Spring?  Ought I apologize to my neighbor for having said something unkind and untrue?  This experience is fostered and encouraged by the climate of consumerism, secularism, and materialism in which we currently live.  The answer to what questions tend to promote business. The answers to should questions tend to promote goodness and love.