Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blog # 324 Seeing Double

Blog # 324   Seeing Double

                   In reading a Scripture passage in my breviary recently I was especially impressed with the author's  elation and response to God in creation. Here is what I read from Sirach. ( 42: 15 - 43 12).  " As the rising of the sun is clear to all, so the glory of the Lord fills all His works.  How beautiful are His works!  ...all of them differ, one from another, yet none of them has He made in vain...the sun....the moon... the stars that adorn with their sparkling the heights of God at whose command they keep their place and never relax their vigils.  Behold the rainbow!  Then bless its maker, for majestic indeed is its splendor; it spans the heavens with its glory, this bow bent by the hand of God."
                       Sun, moon, stars, rainbow; all are ordinary things so frequently taken for granted, overlooked and missed as an expression of God's presence power goodness and love.  At any one time or another we may not have an opportunity of actually seeing with our eyes the stars, the moon, or a rainbow.  But if we stop to think about it we know they are 'there', real, in some actual place in the universe.  Wherever we are we have to take time, put other agendas aside for a while, and relax, to let the Lord in.  A poet might tell us the stars are 'watching' us, though we may not be watching them. 
                     For someone who experiences faith in God as the Creator of all that exists the stars the sun and the moon are not just natural realities that we see, but gifts that we receive  from our Creator.  There is a dimension here that we cannot buy or earn.  Once we believe in God as the Creator of all, everything that exits is a gift.

                      An atheist sees the sun and is warmed by it.  So are we.  An atheist is nourished by the same food and process of digestion as we.  Only those who believe are consciously and personally gifted by the  Father's love.  As a  person who is asleep might as well be blind during the time he or she is asleep, so the person who is not actually aware and conscious of the presence of God in creation might as well be an atheist until he or she 'wakes up'. In this we can distinguish a professed atheist  from a practical atheist.  Neither of them is blessed by the joy and peace we know in living by faith in the ever-present love of our Father. 

                   All creation is a gift, an expression of the Father's love. Let's not pass it by as though all the beauty it offers is what we see with our eyes rather than in addition to what we see, what we know through faith.  Thank You, Lord, for what ever was, whatever is, and what ever will be !   

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blog # 323 Missionary Attitude

Blog # 323   Missionary Attitude

                 A 'Missionary Attitude' could be described as a way of seeing our life as joined through Baptism with the mission of Jesus to believe, experience, and proclaim the message of salvation.
The familiar enthusiasm of our Baptist friends in asking the question "Are you saved" exemplifies a missionary attitude.  Jehovah Witnesses and Mormon missionaries knocking on doors throughout the neighborhood are also examples of a missionary attitude.  Francis Xavier, Junipero Sera, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Katherine Drexel, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther King Jr. could also be added to those who lived out a missionary attitude. 

                     Several Characteristics come to mind when I think of a missionary attitude. It is generally associated with a keen awareness of a dimension of reality beyond the physically sensed world.  There is  a strong and clear experience of faith and an ongoing sense of God's presence in the world and in the missionary's life. There is generally an awareness of a personal Biblical commission to bring Salvation to all  people.  There is an awareness of the centrality of Jesus as  one's personal Savior, a regular prayer experience,  an assurance of one's personal salvation in Jesus,  generous dedication to God's work, and a conviction that  every Christian is called to be missionary.

                     The theology or theory of our Catholic missionary attitude incorporates all of the above. Yet if we observe a typical Catholic parish we do not always detect the same degree of enthusiasm for evangelization or active participation in it that we  find in several of  the non-Catholic church congregations  living around us. All of our recent Popes have made special efforts to remind us of our BAPTISMAL COMMITMENT  to evangelization.  Each Baptized person is called and committed to participate in the work of evangelization. of the world not only in memory of Jesus, or in imitation of Jesus, but IN HIM, united in the ONE LIFE of Sanctifying Grace.

                     The ROLE of sharing in the mission of Jesus through faith and Baptism is common to all.  The OPPORTUNITIES for exercising it are unique to each of us.

                        The identity of a Christian missionary is distinct from that of a propagandist for a particular (Christian ) cause, or a recruiter of new members for the Church.  Our role as missionaries is to bring  the holiness of Jesus to our whole life and our particular moment of history.  We begin by being missionaries to ourselves.  Whenever, wherever, and in whatever way the world as we know and experience it does not 'belong' to Jesus as its unique Savior is the legitimate object of our concern in one way or another.

                         This insight helps us see more clearly the meaning of our Baptismal identity as missioners.  Everything is connected. All  that exists is the object of a desire and plan of the Creator
of all.   The parables of Jesus regularly exemplified this truth.   He spoke of wheat, pearls, fish, bread, wedding feasts and garments not for their own sake but for the meaning He saw in them by way of their relationship with something He wanted to teach as part of God's plan for the people to whom He was speaking.
                            As a result of this method  of His, teaching  moments were multiplied for Him and the meaning and application of His message became more clear.  Jesus had formed a habit of seeing an invisible spiritual reality beyond the physical sense world.  We can do the same, on a purely natural level, as for example when we receive a written message from a friend and read between the lines the richness of a message mere human words cannot completely convey in the light of the relationship we have with the person who wrote the message to us.  Applying a similar procedure to the experience of what pertains to the content of our faith, we hold ourselves open to God's  love coming to us beyond and more richly than the sounds shapes and colors of material realities such as sun stars flowers birds bread wine oil water and words can convey.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blog # 322 Catholic Theology # 9

Blog # 322 Catholic Theology # 9

             In his letter to the Romans Paul has this to say: "Are you not aware that we who were Baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into His death?...If we have been united with him through likeness to his death, so shall we be through a we have died with Christ, we believe that we are also to live with him.  (Rom. 6 3,5,8.   And in his letter to the  Philippians Paul says: "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 likeness of his death.  Thus do I hope that I may arrive at resurrection from the dead."  (Phil. 3: 10.11.  In the canon of the Mass on the occasion of a  Catholic funeral the commemoration of the person for whom the Mass is being offered reads: "Remember your servant N. whom you have called from this world to yourself.  Grant that he (she)  who was united with your Son in a death like his, may be one with him in his Resurrection." 

                I feel more sure of our resurrection than I feel sure the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning. God has not promised the sun will exist tomorrow morning, but He has promised our resurrection from the dead.  My assurance the sun will rise in the east  tomorrow will come from experience.  My assurance of the resurrection comes  as soon as I believe it from faith.  God has made the claim and I trust He is not making a mistake or telling me to believe in a lie.  Faith gives us real assurance with regard to truth and is quite distinct from hope, desire, taking a guess, or having an opinion about something.

                 The claim our Catholic theology makes for our resurrection is that it has its foundation and substance in our union with Jesus.  This union is brought about in Baptism and is designed to be carried on until death in the supernatural gift of Sanctifying Grace, which is the name we have given to the divine life of Jesus shared within us.

                  Our entitlement to share in the unconditional  trust and total of Jesus on Calvary, in the celebration of the Mass day by day throughout the world and in our resurrection is ours through our union with Jesus as ranches on a vine in Baptism. There never was  anyone on earth whom the Father could love as He loved Jesus until Jesus asked the Father in prayer the night before He died on Calvary to unite us with Jesus in such a way that the Father's love of Jesus could be shared within us. This union and love is ours initially and officially through the Sacrament of  Baptism. 

                      It is not our good works fasting and prayer that gets us to Heaven. It is our union with Jesus in His divine life that gets us to Heaven. Our good works fasting and prayer are the fruits of the divine life of Jesus living in us in the here and now of our everyday life on earth.  It comes to us through faith and Baptism. What a wonderful gift Baptism is when viewed in the light of this insight!
                     Wonderful too is the light it shines upon the identity of Jesus as the sole Savior of all mankind.  Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, The Gate, The Good Shepherd, the love of God within us and around us, always and everywhere, worthy of our unconditional trust and total love.
                                                   THANK YOU, LORD !

Monday, July 28, 2014

Blog 321 Catholic Theology # 8

  Blog # 321  Catholic Theology # 8

                   The action-prayer of Jesus on Calvary, identified in its unconditional trust and total love as an act of worship, was a gift to the Father that was pleasing to Him.  The Father's response to Jesus was the gift of  RESURRECTION !
                     That was indeed a marvelous gift.  But only Jesus offered that unique and perfect action-prayer of worship on the Cross. Only HE actually physically died in that perfect and  unique historical  action-prayer of  Calvary. Only He was entitled to the Father's response. What of us?  What, if any, is our connection to the Father's response to Jesus?   First it could be an opportunity for us to appreciate the validity and value of the human unconditional trust of Jesus in laying down His life in obedience to the Father's will. Then, in response to this appreciation we could have confidence in the validity and value of our day by day acts of obedience to the Father's will, that they would be pleasing to the Father, though so small compared to that of Jesus, yet done in memory of  Him and inspired by His obedience  But there is more!
                In John's Gospel we have Jesus praying on the occasion of the Last Supper this way:( Jn, 17: 20 - 26). " I pray for those who will believe in me through their word, that they all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I am in you; I pray that they may be one [in us], that the world may believe that  you sent me.  I have given them the glory you gave me that they may be one , as we are one- I living in them, you living in me - that their unity may be complete.  So shall the world know that you sent me, and that you loved THEM as  you loved ME...To them I have revealed your name, and I will continue to reveal it (in 2014)  so that your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them."

                   In Blog # 320 Catholic Theology # 7 I applied this text to the entitlement we receive through Baptism to offer the worship Jesus offered to the Father on Calvary as it is offered again in the celebration of  the Sacrifice of the Mass. Here I apply it to identify and assert a second claim,  a claim for our resurrection.  In other words it is through our  union with the Resurrected Jesus in Baptism that we make our claim for our personal resurrection.

                      A few brief comments on the text may be helpful here.  The union for which Jesus prayed is given not merely as a union that could be visualized as bought about through imitation, admiration, or memory of one person with another.  Rather the union for which Jesus prayed is more in the nature of an organic union of one member of a living body with another member of the same body.  Jesus spoke of our union with Him as a union of branches on a vine. ( Jn. 15.   Scripture
clearly identifies us as members of a body identified with Jesus as the head.  (1 Cor. 12: 12, 20, 27;
6:15; Rom. 12 4; Eph. 5 30.

                       This union of ours as members of the Body of Christ the Church comes about through Baptism.  Jesus prayed the Father would love us AS He loved Jesus. The Father responded to the worship Jesus gave as His gift to the Father, in the Father's gift to Jesus of the resurrection.  In loving us in response to the prayer of Jesus,  the Father recognizes our union with Jesus in  Baptism and in this union qualifies us to share the life of Jesus both in His gift to the Father of worship and in the Father's response to that gift in our resurrection!

                         I do  not remember ever thinking of it this way before or ever reading about it in this way before.  It came to me very clearly in recent months and seems to lift Jesus up as our unique Savior in a way that correctly interprets the Scripture passages relevant to the situation we are reflecting upon and identifies the mission of Jesus in the story of the salvation of the world clearly and well.  Jesus obtained for us in His prayer to the Father the night before He died our entitlement  to share, united with Jesus through Baptism, His experience of  worship on Calvary  and the Father's response of our resurrection.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blog # 320 Catholic Theology # 7

Blog # 320  Catholic Theology # 7

                  At the Last Supper Jesus did not say of His actions over the bread and over the wine symbolize  this but do THIS.  Also He did not say remember me by calling to mind what He had dome, but by doing what I have  done you will remember me.    "This" in the present context means what I have done.  Jesus is speaking as God. When God tells us to do something and we do it, I will be done! "This my body given for  you."

                  I remember an incident many years ago when I was instructing a man scheduled to be executed the following week.  I took out a match from a box of matches I held in my hand. I lit one of them by striking it on the side of the box.  Then I said to him: "Do what I have done."  He said "I can't."  " Why not?"  "I have no matches".  I handed  him the matches and he did exactly what I had done.  Something like that happened at the Last Supper.

                   No one but God could say of bread this is not bread but my body given for you and no one but God could say of wine this is not wine but my blood poured out for you.  Jesus did and said this of bread and wine at the Last Supper.  Then He told the Apostles to do what He had done. We  cannot understand how this happens, but our faith in the divinity of Jesus enables us to believe it was by His infinite divine power.  As it was for me and the matches for the man who did not have a match, unless I gave him a match he could not have done what I had done, so in the case of Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Supper.  Unless Jesus gave them a share in His divine power they could not have done what He had done.  The Apostles did this and we believe the power they received was handed down from one generation to the next according to God's will.

                      The same infinite power and love  present in the sacrificial worship offered the Father by Jesus on Calvary was present and active in the experience of Jesus with the Apostles at the Last Supper and is also present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

                        With the Apostles physically present with Jesus at the Last Supper,  it is easy enough to see a  definite practical sharing in that worship given them.  But what about the rest of us two thousand years and the many miles that separate us physically from Calvary and the Last Supper?  How are we connected?   What is the basis of any claim we may make to share in that power, love, and worship?

                           The authorization and right to participate actively and officially in this daily offering of sacrificial worship throughout the world is received in the Sacrament of Baptism when we are officially identified with Jesus as members of His Body, the Church.   As branches on a vine we are identified with Jesus living in us as He lives in the Father and the Father lives in Him.  Through Baptism we become the answer to  the prayer of Jesus in this regard given in John 17: 21,23:  "I pray for those who will come to believe I me that all may be one, as we, Father,  are one - I living in them, you living in me." 

                            This privilege of sharing with Jesus in the sacrificial worship He offered the Father on Calvary and continues to offer in the Mass extends to all members of the Church, men and women, who are not otherwise excluded through the presence of willful serious sin in their lives.  We are officially entitled to this sharing through Baptism.  It is referred to as the priesthood of the laity. Jesus, before He was identified and authorized as sole priest-redeemer of the New Covenant, related   in a similar way through circumcision  to the sacrifices of the Chosen People. Jesus was not a member by birth of the priestly tribe of Levi.  In a similar way all who have been Baptized are qualified to share in offering His sacrificial worship though not all participate in the ministerial role through ordination.

                       The official privilege of sharing by all members of the Church in the sacrificial worship of Jesus in the Mass through Baptism is not a new idea in the Church, though I am not sure all of us are currently keenly aware of it. Back more than seventy five years ago when I was in about the third grade in St. Thomas the Apostle  parochial school we began each school day with what we referred to as 'the morning offering'.  I still use it in my daily morning prayer.  "O Jesus, through the immaculate heart of  Mary, I offer You my prayers works joys, and sufferings of this day for the intentions of  Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of our Holy Father Francis.  Amen,!" 

                            The ministerial ministry sets apart, through ordination, certain members of the Church who are officially designated to preside over liturgical celebrations and confect the
Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. It is a genuinely servant role for the worshipping community. There is a similarity here between the role of the members of the priestly tribe of Levi in offering the sacrificial worship of the Chosen People of Israel and the ministerial role of ordained priests in the case of offering the  Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Blog # 319 Catholic Theology # 6

Blog # 319  Catholic Theology # 6

                                        THE CRUCIFIXION AND THE LAST SUPPER

                  The physical crucifixion of Jesus occurred at a certain hour of a certain day in the history of creation.  The death of Jesus had a human dimension to it.  As such it was the same as the death of all seven billion human beings alive on earth today, all those who have gone on before us, and those who will follow. It occurred but once.  It was final. It does not occur physically again.  What makes that death infinitely different and unique in the history of creation past present and future is the fact we have, in the eternal Word of God incarnate on earth and in Jesus one person, human and divine.

                     The Word of God can be said to have experienced the death of Jesus on Calvary in some mysterious way beyond our comprehension as incarnate in the real human flesh of Jesus .
To experience a second such physical reality would take a second instance of an incarnation of the eternal Word in other human flesh than that which was conceived in the womb of Mary thirty years or so on the calendar before the death of Jesus, and which physically died on Calvary once and forever in the case of Jesus.

                   Jesus did the will of the Father always and everywhere. ( Jn. 8: 29). Normally it was the will of the Father that Jesus think speak and act in the same way and with the same limitations that all human beings normally experience.  He got hungry and thirsty.  He grew tired.  He wept over the death of His friend Lazarus .  He enjoyed fishing with His friends and disciples.  He loved His mother and St. Joseph. From time to time, however, the will of God was for Jesus to act and speak  as God , healing a crippled man, giving sight to the blind, and calling Lazarus back from death to life.

                  Now, with regard to the crucifixion and the event of the Last Supper, we are going to see something similar.  The genuine human act of dying on the part of Jesus on the Cross was to occur once and for all on that occasion. Having experienced the finality of physical death He could not experience it again without a miracle of some kind.  Such a miracle has never been revealed to us.  In the Scriptural account  of  His death, His death is revealed as final.  It is clearly revealed that in His resurrection Jesus rose from the dead!

                    On the occasion of the Passover Supper with His Apostles on the evening before Jesus
died on the Cross, the Father's will has Jesus, as GOD, lay aside the limits of time and space that captured the crucifixion event within the few hours of a particular calendar day.  This will permit Jesus, during the Passover  Supper,  to produce the same event that occurred on Calvary, on the evening before it occurred physically on the following calendar day!  He will take bread and say of it "This is my body given for you". He will take wine and say "This is my blood poured out for you."  Those same words could easily serve in a description of the sacrificial  event Jesus experienced on Calvary the following day, body given, blood poured out.  The same love, the same worship offered by Jesus on Calvary was the same love and worship offered at the Passover Supper!

                   I think of this like the case of a dollar bill. We normally think of it as paper.  But the same value  present in a paper dollar bill is present in a different mode when we have four quarters, ten dimes, five dimes and ten nickels, or any one of many other possible combinations.  The paper is missing but the value is the same.  In a similar way with Good Friday and Holy Thursday the love and worship is the same though the physical scourging and blood of Calvary is presented in a different mode.  We know this is true in the same way as we know the event of Calvary is true, by faith.

                     We have another instance of Jesus always and everywhere doing the will of the Father.  It was another instance when Jesus was to speak and act as God and as man.  A genuine act of sacrifice was accomplished in the bread and wine now transformed by Jesus into His flesh given and His blood poured out. The TOTAL LOVE of  WORSHIP Jesus Offered the Father physically on the Cross He offered Sacramentally in  the name of all humanity on the evening before He died!
The command of Jesus "Do this" at the Last Supper is  precisely what qualifies the Holy Eucharist to be among the list of  the seven Sacraments defined as outward signs instituted by Jesus to give Grace.  

                    Down through the years, and possibly light years remaining in the history of creation, the worship offered our Creator on Calvary and at the Last Supper will be offered Sacramentally again and again in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in many languages on altars throughout the world!

                    That is how much God loves us all!  That is what gives full impact and power to His command to the Apostles before He ascended into Heaven,  and in His identity as Head of he Church throughout the world today, and until it is accomplished,  to preach the Gospel to every creature. 

                     Thank You, Lord!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blog 318 Catholic Theology # 5

Blog  # 318    Catholic Theology  # 5

                                                       ADORATION / WORSHIP

                   A second goal for the crucifixion in addition to that of reparation for sin is worship.
Reparation brings forgiveness of sins. The action-prayer of crucifixion brings forgiveness of sins.
Identified as sacrifice it also brings worship, in the unconditional trust and total love called for in the Christian experience of death.
                     Since there is but one Creator of all that exists, God alone, recognized as that Creator, deserves the loving response of praise and thanks that adoration and worship gives.  This is the content of the first Commandment. (Mat. 22: 37). "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with  thy whole heart..."  To offer such trust and love to anyone or anything other than he one true God constitutes the sin of idolatry. 

                       Before leaving the upper room on the evening of the Last Supper Jesus said: "that the world may know I love the Father, let us be on or way." ( Jn. 14 31.)   And He led them to Gethsemane.

                       As an act of worship death is seen as a unique opportunity to experience an
unconditional trust and total love for God.  Jesus knew that in Gethsemane.  He would be willing to   suffer and die on Calvary motivated by His total love for the Father.  However He also proposed in His prayer in the garden that if there were  some other way He could be the Savior of all mankind without the crucifixion He would choose that way. (Mat. 26 39. 

                         I do not interpret Jesus' proposal as a request He be spared the suffering of the Cross, but rather to have some way that would prevent the sin that would be committed by those who  refused to trust and love Jesus and blindly saw in His death the punishment of a blasphemer rather than an act of worship on the  part of God's Incarnate Word.  Nothing other than death would be adequate to take away or prevent that sin.  But also, the whole story of creation is about love and the victory of love over  evil.  And if love were not to be free it would not be genuine loveIf we, along with Pilate, were to lose our freedom and be forced to make our moral choices by instinct or some other way that would take away our freedom, we would be reduced to the level of irrational animals.
That is not God's design for us.

                         The sin responsible for the suffering and death of Jesus was the greatest evil  that ever was or ever could be.  In the identity of the crucifixion as an act of worship it was the greatest act of love that ever was.  Finally, once and for all, in the historical hour and experience of the crucifixion of Jesus, human and divinethe salvation of the world was achieved!  In this unique action-prayer of God's unique Beloved sinless Son on earth , we have a unique worship of infinite value!  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blog #317 Catholic Theology # 4

Blog # 317     Catholic Theology  #4
                                            THE ACTION-PRAYER OF CALVARY

                     The definition of sacrifice I am using here is not that applied by way of analogy to 'giving up something  you love' as for example someone might 'give up' eating chocolate candy or
smoking for Lent. Rather the definition of sacrifice I am using is a technical theological one that identifies sacrifice as an offering to God alone, by an official representative of the people, of some material thing, with the change or destruction of what is offered identified as an act of love in response to God's supreme dominion and our complete dependence upon God. 

                     The action-prayer of Jesus on Calvary fulfilled all the conditions of that definition.  In His claim and identity as the sole redeemer of all mankind Jesus was not laying down His life as a
private individual nor by the will of Pilate but in obedience to the Father (Jn. 19: 11), and consequently was constituted an official representative of mankind.  Not His other prayers, good works, nor His sinless moral life , but the crucifixion was the official redeeming action of our Savior. Not merely motivated by love, the action of dying, freely chosen, constituted the  greatest love that He or anyone else of us could perform. (Jn. 15: 13).   In His death. Jesus responded to a call for unconditional trust and total love. "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend." (Jn. 15: 13).

                       All that went before, His birth and rearing in Nazareth, His ministry of preaching and good works, His private prayer life and His participation in the public prayer of His fellow Jewish believers were all part of the total whole of the life Jesus offered the Father on Calvary.  There is no other way such total love could be achieved than by giving all in obedience to the Father's will, in death.

                                                      THE GOAL OF CALVARY

                         Recognizing the four ends or goals of prayer mentioned above in blog # 315,  and applying this to the experience of Jesus on Calvary we see two separate goals for His action-prayer of sacrifice. 
                           A first goal was for it to be an act of atonement for the sins of .all mankind.  This
universality of the atonement won by Jesus on the Cross is possible and realized  because in Jesus and in the Word of  God, in the absolute mystery of the Incarnation of the second person of the Blessed Trinity we have one person.  As a result, the life of Jesus on earth was truly human yet also of infinite value in the Father's response to it.

                             Since the existence of sin in the story of creation given in the Book of Genesis goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, any question about whether or not, if sin had not been committed there would have been some other way for humans to express their total love for our Creator than by dying is a hypothetical question and need not concern us here.  With the existence of sin in the picture, the unique opportunity for unconditional trust and total love offered in the experience of death can be clearly seen as fitting atonement for sins that have distorted or betrayed that love.

                           In view of this insight applied to the crucifixion, I think a good number and perhaps a majority of people regard atonement as the major if not the primary and most important goal we  give to the suffering and death of Jesus.  "See what our sins have done and repent."  is a common response to the crucifixion. It is a valid response.  However there is more.  "Where sin abounded grace did more abound."  (Rom 5: 20).


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blog # 316 Catholic Theology # 3

Blog # 316   Catholic Theology # 3

                                          LOCATING THE ACTION-PRAYER OF JESUS

                 It enhances the power and helps clarify the importance, meaning, and relevance of both the prayer of Jesus and His death on the Cross to keep ourselves aware that  both those prayers and His
death the following day occurred on the occasion of the official annual commemoration of the memorial of the liberation of God's chosen people from the slavery of Egypt which was interpreted and celebrated by them as a foreshadowing of the coming of the Messiah originally promised to their first parents.  After many many epochs of time, the occasion and hour for that promise to be fulfilled had come in the life death and resurrection of Jesus. The climax and essential goal of that life was the Crucifixion.

                                      THE ATTITUDE OF JESUS TOWARD CALVARY

                 Several people  over the course of the years have expressed to me the problem they had with reconciling the Father's love for Jesus His beloved Son with the suffering and death of Jesus on Calvary.  Could not the salvation of the world have been accomplished in some other way?  Did not the Father have enough love to have forgiven the sins of us all merely by willing it without the suffering and death that it cost Jesus to have or sins forgiven? 

               The best source for formulating an answer to such questions, it seemed  to me, would be Jesus.  What was His attitude and response  to the sufferings He would endure?  How did Jesus  identify His death on Calvary?  The Gospel of John helped me find the answers.

                After the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the accolade the crowds along the way gave Him, certainly a glorious moment in His life and ministry, John Has Jesus speaking of a different glory that would be His.  "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.  But if it dies, it produces much fruit.  The man who loves his life loses it, while the man who hates his life in this world preserves it to life eternal...My soul is troubled now, yet what should I say - Father, save me from this hour?   But it was for this that I came to this hour." (Jn. 12: 23 - 27).  And again: Now has judgment come upon this world, Now will the world's prince be driven out, and I - once I am lifted ujp from the earth - will draw all men o myself." This statement indicated the sort of death He had to endure." (Jn. 12: 31, 32).  Jesus' greatest glory can be recognized in the victory of Jesus over the evil of sin in the power of  His love, and the judgment against disobedience achieved in His obedient love. There would be no evil that could not be forgiven in that love. To be the instrument of  that transformation and forgiveness was the glory of Jesus in His suffering and death. He did not wish it to be otherwise.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blog # 315 Catholic Theology # 2

Blog # 315 Catholic Theology # 2

             The current series of blogs entitled Catholic Theology will be concerned with some very important Catholic theology that had become misunderstood, neglected, and even denied by some Catholic theologians over the past thirty or forty years. It focuses upon the identity authentic Catholic theology gives by faith to the death of Jesus on Calvary, the identity of SACRIFICE. In logical sequence of this identity we treat the identity of the Last Supper, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the priesthood of the laity, the identity of Baptism, and the Church identified as the Mystical Body of Christ with Jesus as her Head.

                The problem that helped me be motivated to write these blogs was a gradual movement among authors of articles in reputable and popular theological magazines that emphasized the experience of Jesus on Calvary primarily and almost exclusively as an act of atonement making up
to God for sins.  As the movement grew in its influence upon people in the pews, the experience of the Last Supper with the command of Jesus to do what He had done with them that evening before He died began to be seen primarily as a holy meal shared by those whose sins had been forgiven on the Cross rather than the experience of the same sacrifice as that of Calvary, anticipated and experienced in a different mode.

                                            THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION
                   I am convinced the most fundamental and important question we can ask ourselves as free intelligent human beings is the question of our relationship with God.  A professed atheist, in
denying the very existence of any god at all, would deny any relationship with a god of any kind.  "I have no relationship with any god and desire not to have any relationship with any god."  That decision expresses his or her relationship, unknown and unchosen but real, with God  the Father of all, Who knows us, though we may not know Him.  An agnostic answers questions about his or her relationship with God by saying "I don't know". Those of  us who relate to God by faith relate to God primarily through prayer,  with  prayer being defined as a lifting up of our minds and hearts to God.


                        Four goals or purposes of prayer are given as: worship, thanksgiving, reparation for sin, and petition for the gifts and graces we need and desire to help us carry out God's will for us. These goals can be achieved or expressed in thoughts and words, but also in actions , as for example taking a kneeling position, with hands folded, or raised and extended toward Heaven, making the sign of the Cross, etc.  For my purpose here, which is to establish a claim for an identity of sacrificial worship for the action-prayer of Jesus dying on the Cross,  I will focus upon references in the Gospel of St. John concerning the occasion of the Last Supper the night before Jesus died.  Particular emphasis will be given to the prayers of Jesus offered on that occasion.                  


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blog # 314 Catholic Theology #1

Blog # 314  Catholic  Theology #1

                   All of us, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, those who belong to a Church, those who do not, those who pray regularly, those who do not pray,  those who are single, those who are married, those who are divorced, those who are healthy, those who are sick,  those who are wealthy, those who are poor, those who are Catholic, those who are not Catholic, and every one else all have two ways of arriving at  truth, either by experience or by faith.  This experience is different from just taking a guess, hoping something would be true, or merely having an opinion on something that could be true or not true. 
                      I am a Catholic. I want to be a Catholic. That has something to do with truth.  The
natural truth I, a Catholic, experience, for example: Catholics pay the electric bills just as anyone else, Catholics get wet when they come to church in the rain without an umbrella, and Catholics get sunburned at the beach can be shared as experiences with all the people included above in the first paragraph of this blog. Also for a Catholic, even some truth dealing with God, a good moral life, the authenticity of the Bible as the word of God, the role of Jesus in our quest for justice, peace and salvation, and other important truth that lies beyond the scope of our experience can be shared with many of our neighbors who are not Catholic but believe in the same God in Whom we believe. In this case our believing in the same truth would be based upon our faith in the testimony of other believers rather than by experience.

                         There exists some truth, however, that is officially and exclusively claimed as truth by the Catholic Church. Examples of this would be our belief in the authority of the Pope as the Vicar of Jesus and the head of the Church, the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle, and the efficacy of the Sacraments.  As a Catholic I believe these certain truths.  In order to do so, I must know them as what  the Catholic Church calls me to believe. (Rom.10: 14,15).  And to know here means not only to be able to recite the words of a creed, but to know how the truths I believe affect and apply to our everyday experience of life in our current moment of history. In other words, as St. James puts it: Faith that does nothing in practice is thoroughly lifeless. (James 2: 14-17).

                          Since by definition faith deals with truth a believer would not otherwise know than by faith, the bottom line will not be for me as a Catholic whether or not I believe what we might label 'Catholic' truth. That question is answered "yes" in my claim to be a Catholic. The important question is do I know and understand what I believe  as a Catholic. 

                         In a series of  blogs entitled Catholic Theology beginning with this blog, I hope to touch  upon several important fundamental points of our Catholic faith that have been  unfamiliar misunderstood distorted or neglected over the course of  recent years. These points include the Incarnation, the divinity of Jesus, the definition of worship,  how sacrifice in its true theological meaning fits into the definition of  worship, the priesthood of the laity, and how the Crucifixion, the Last Supper, and the Mass must be seen in their relationship to one another before we can understand and believe in the true meaning of any of them.  Some of what I hope to present may seem new and unfamiliar to you. That just plays up the need for it to be written. Please let me know if it is not clear or helpful to you. I hope it will help us in living out our Catholic faith in the spirit in which Pope Francis has begun his  ministry among us these past several months.
                                                                                            The Lord be with you as you read!

Blog #312 A treasure

 Blog #312 A treasure
   If, one day this week, while digging in the back yard, I found a million dollars wrapped in a package, you could use a bit of it, right?  Well, actually about twenty years ago I did find more than a million dollars, and I want to share it with you.
                In the case of the million dollars, I would have had to be digging, to be able to recognize a dollar, and to be able to count to a million in order to know what I had done and what had happened in my life.  So with what I actually discovered there.  I needed to be looking, searching, working, open, focused, available, and other possible descriptive words in order for the incident to occur.  I would have had to be able to recognize a value that was beyond sight, sound, touch, taste and smell to recognize the value I had found.  This is just as I would have had to recognize what money can buy to recognize what I had found if I had found a million dollars, in itself just paper, but for someone who knows, a much more valuable realty than paper.

                What I found was an egg.  A gold egg?  No, just an egg.  I found it in a nest I had set up in a pen where my six young chickens lived. The next morning I was preparing to have it for breakfast and I began to think about the whole incident while waiting for the egg to boil.  What do you think I found when I cracked it open?  Right, an egg, just like so many other eggs I had for breakfast in the past.  But as I reflected further this egg was beginning to be special.

                   Size, shape, color, texture, and taste were very much the same as any egg.  Egg white, egg yolk right in the center.  The same.  The difference began to show in my response to the egg.  I began to ask what it really was, beyond what I saw, the why of it, and how it came to be.  A prefect shape, the color of the yolk was just right, the wonderful taste of a fresh egg.  What all went into it was the question on my mind.

                  Time, corn, earth, water, sunshine, and grass all must have had something to do with my egg.  But none of these, nor all of them together could explain sufficiently the fact the egg was so much like all other eggs in size and shape, color and taste.  None of the chickens in that particular pen had ever laid an egg before.  They were all eggs themselves just a few months ago. Who taught the mother hen how to make an egg?  Yes, the corn and the grass water and sunshine had something to do with it, but not all, nor in themselves.  To think there was not some reality beyond these would have been like receiving a package in the mail from someone who loves you in Chicago and thinking it originated merely in the local post office.  So I let my mind be touched by God, and began to imagine and praise the Designer, Gift-giver, Someone-Who-Loves-Me, Creator, Wisdom, Goodness, Presence, My God and Father!

                     I had discovered far more than a million dollars in that egg. Scripture texts began to come to mind.  “Look to the birds of the air”…and to chickens.  “The Father cares for them…how much more you?”  God is the Designer of chickens, eggs, and us.

                      May we receive many eggs in our life!  May all that we call our own remind us of the Lord.  All of creation is on loan to us.  But God owns it.  May our eggs give us more than vitamins. May they also nourish our souls!  Enjoy your breakfast! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Blog # 313 Back In Business

Blog # 313  Back In Business

                It has been since September of last year (2013) that I published the most recent blog.
It might be a good idea before beginning what I hope will be a more regular experience of publishing new blogs, to introduce myself as the author of Catholic Insights.  My name is Fr. Charlie Hughes, born in Woodhaven, Queens County, New York City, on a Saturday afternoon upstairs in the back bedroom on a Saturday afternoon in December 1927.  I was there but I don't remember it, so, like yourself  I take the information I gave you as true on the word of others, by faith. 
                  In 1947, in my third year of college, I joined a Religious  Community that had its origin just a few years before in 1939.   Our  name is: THE HOME MISSIONERS OF AMERICA. Our Founder was Father William Howard Bishop, a Diocesan priest from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland.
                  Father Bishop had become aware of some startling statistics about the presence of the Catholic Church here in the United States.  Growing  up in Woodhaven, you could walk to any one of several Catholic Churches in almost any direction.  Ordained a priest in 1954, my first assignment was in Statesboro, Georgia in the  Diocese of Savannah. We had three Home Mission priests and one Home Mission Brother assigned to the parish which covered seven Counties, a hundred miles from north to south and  seventy two miles from east to west. Similar situations to ours were the norm in rural areas throughout the South and Southwest.
                   Father Bishop made a map of the United States showing the Counties where there were no Catholic Churches.  He colored in those Counties and it was obvious there was a very large region of them in the South and Southwest.  He labeled the Counties that did not have a Catholic Church as a whole: NO-PRIEST LAND, U S A .  The Catholic Church was a Metropolitan-based Church. In founding his Religious Community he invited his fellow-Catholics to join him in prayer and an effort to recruit members for  the new Community who would dedicate themselves to the work of making the  Catholic church available in  the home mission field right here in the United States in a similar way the  Maryknoll Missioners and others had so successfully done with regard to foreign mission territories.
                   If you want to know more about us here is  list of  available contact points:
P O box 464518, Cincinnati, OH 45246-4518;  (513) 874-8900;   www/ ;  info@glenmary,org.
                     On the occasion of my 60th anniversary of ordination as a  Glenmary priest I am almost totally deaf and hardly capable of  continuing to carry on the role of a Pastor of a local parish. I have moved back to our headquarters in Cincinnati in hope that through prayer and the writing of blogs I will be able to continue live out  my passion for evangelization and respond positively in this limited but real way to the command of  Jesus to proclaim to all the world the message we have received
from Him.