Friday, October 31, 2014

Blog # 392 Come, Holy Spirit

Blog # 392    Come, Holy Spirit

           Before Vatican II and still in some areas of our Catholic experiences, priests Sisters and Brothers were identified as those who were especially holy or close to God and Jesus in the Church.  No banquet graduation or wedding reception among Catholics was begun without the prayer of the priest if he were in the room.  And in many instances we would wait it for him to come.  He knew the Bible. He answered all religious questions without hesitation and with authority.

             This was the  expectation of the 'faithful', the word commonly used to identify lay members of the Church.  The priest was trained for this through a minimum of four years of post graduate work in theology and in the experience of a  specially focused daily regimen of prayer, meditation and discipline.  There were leaders,. There were followers.  It was what you would naturally expect, and the  Church, was at peace.

             Then a new era of history began. Change was everywhere.  Text books that seemed up to date before World War II were now the story of what used to be.  This was true of medicine, physics, chemistry, social sciences, and theology, all the way up and down the line.

                It is important to learn where we have come from in all of these fields in order to know more fully where we are at the present time.  But there is a difference between being a teacher of the history of medicine and being a current practicing neurosurgeon.  So there is a  difference between knowing the Beatitudes in  your memory and being consciously blessed by living them out in our life today.  And between knowing that Pentecost occurred for Peter, James, and John and letting it occur for us personally in our present moment of history.  What was for them, yes.  But also what it is for us today.

               We like to think of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church. As members of the Church  we
have different functions in a way similar to the different functions of hands, feet, and head in the life of a  living body.  But we are one Body, the Church.  We are not related to one another as shoes on the feet of a walker, going along the same path but not sharing a common life. .  We belong to one another.  We grow, we diminish, we are healthy or sick together.  We can injure or help one another.  We are called to this in the love of Jesus we share in the new life we receive in Baptism.  But because it is love, it must be done in freedom. In other words the question "do you understand?" calls for a second question "do you desire?"  "Come Holy Spirit" is our prayer.

              Here is a quotation from St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop of Jerusalem between the years 348 and 386. It could have been written here in Ohio in 2014. He is commenting on John's Gospel 4: 13 and 14. "Whoever drinks the water I will give him will never be thirsty; no, the water I give shall become a fountain within him, leaping up to provide eternal life."   

             Jesus was speaking to the woman he met at the well and asked of  her a  drink.. Then Cyril  continues:  But why did Jesus call the grace of the Spirit 'water'?  Because all things are dependent upon water,...although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one on a palm tree, another on a vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation.  It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same it adapts itself  to the
needs of every creature that receives it.    
               In the same way the Holy Spirit apportions grace to each person as He wills.  Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit...The Spirit strengthens one person's self control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom.  His action is different in different people, but the Spirit Himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals His presence in a particular way for the common good.

            The Spirit comes gently...He is not felt as a burden...The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console.  The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives Him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.
            As light strikes the eyes of a person who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of a person counted worthy of receiving the  Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of."  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Blog # 391 The Resurrected Jesus

Blog # 391  The Resurrected Jesus

                Each Sunday we proclaim our faith in the Incarnation , death, Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven of the Eternal Word of God :We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,...eternally begotten of the Father...begotten, not made...He came down from Heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit ... He became man... was crucified...rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father."  In line with the truth these words of faith express, we believe Jesus was like us in all of our humanness but our sin.  (Heb. 4: 15).

              In our official liturgical celebration of  the story of the life of Jesus each year,  we celebrate this faith in the identity of Jesus as God and yet as one of us, human and divine.  In Jesus, God, with human eyes saw the same sun moon and stars as we.  In Him God walked from Jerusalem to Jericho, ate, laughed, felt sorrow, joy and hunger, talked, prayed, grew tired and went to sleep.  Then, as we are humanly destined to do, He died.

            We have Christmas, the Sermon on the Mount, the Crucifixion.  In the Bible story of the life of Jesus and in liturgical celebrations of His life we have clear evidence of the humanity of Jesus, His patience, kindness, generosity, self-giving human love. But at the same time we have continuing evidence of His divinity in the stories of His miracles, the  voice declaring Him the Father's beloved Son, and  the transfiguration.

             In the Feasts of the Resurrection and Ascension we celebrate something new and essentially different.  In His and in our birth until His and our death we hare a common human experience, unique in Him and unique in each of us, yet common to  Him and to us all. In His death and in ours our human story ends. We are joined to the humanity of Jesus through the Biblical stories of His human experience on earth in a way similar to the way we may be joined to other human personages who have gone on before us such as George Washington, Terese of Calcutta, Francis of Assisi ,
neighbors, blood relatives, and friends.  We remember them and they are at that moment in a sense real for us.
             In the  Resurrection and  Ascension of Jesus is given His  eternal identity. Up until His death He was like us in all but sin. In His resurrection and ascension He is forever glorified in His personal experience,human and divine, of the eternal life of Heaven. In the will or plan of  God, we, united with Jesus by faith and Baptism, are called to share that same identity by faith in our own unique limited  human way.  Each of the Sacraments is a sign of our union with Jesus in His eternal life of glory, by faith until our death, then by the experience of Heaven.  In this transition and experience,   God's faithfulness to His pledge or covenant, and the authority of the Bible and the Church is proven true.  Faith and hope will no longer be needed. We shall have become the person God desired us to be, from all eternity. Our relationship with God and one another will be so secure God's love  for us and our love for God and one another  will  never again be threatened  or challenged by temptation, or diminished by sin.  

              I found the following quotation  written by St. Leo the Great in the fifth century  as part
of a homily on the  feast of the Ascension of Our Lord helpful in understanding and appeciating the important insight he shares with regard to our Sacramental theology and eternal life in Jesus.
              "On this Feast ( the Ascension) we are commemorating that day on which our poor human nature  was carried up in Christ,  above the highest heavenly powers to the very throne of God the Father.  It is upon this ordered structure of divine acts that we have been firmly established, so that when in spite of the withdrawal from our sight of everything that is rightly felt to command our reverence, faith does not fail, hope is not shaken, charity does not grow cold...our Redeemer's visible presence has passed into the Sacraments. Our faith is nobler and stronger because it has been replaced by a doctrine whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high...Throughout the world women no less than men have given their blood in the struggle for this faith...The truth is that the Son of Man was revealed as Son of God in a more perfect and transcendent way once He had entered into His Father's glory.  He now began to be indescribably more present in His divinity to those whom he was further removed in His humanity...reached not by physical handling but by discernment."

               I wonder how many people realize the meaning beauty and importance of what he is talking about here and how many have ever applied it to our Sacramental experiences.  St. Leo wrote it in the fifth Century.  I have come to understand and appreciate it more clearly just last week!  Come. Holy Spirit! is my prayer!
                 A Sacrament is defined as an outward sign instituted by Christ to give Grace.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Blog # 389 Former Catholics

Blog # 389   Former Catholics

            There has always been an element of sadness for me in the experience of meeting someone who tells me they "used to be Catholic" or was "raised Catholic" and now attend some other church or none.  My sadness is not that I feel the particular person I have met is 'going to  Hell' or even is in sin.  I have no way of judging or verifying this, and I have been told by Jesus not to try, because I  have no such right. Such knowledge and judgment belong to God alone.

            Why, then, would I be sad?   Some of these people I  met at an airport or through a letter from a friend in a city far away.  Their leaving the Catholic Church and going to another had no direct effect upon the everyday life of the parish where I was Pastor at the time, so I had no reason to be sad on that score.

             Other inactive or 'former' Catholics I met locally  in the parish, at such places as the grocery store, the  Post Office, or while putting gas in my car. Had they remained active members of the parish they would have added to our small number as we gathered each Sunday for worship. Their presence would be a support for each of us in our faith, telling us by their presence what we do is worth their time and energy, is at least as valuable as whatever else they could be doing with their life each Sunday morning. We would be encouraged to continue our effort and struggle to seek find and love the Lord and to overcome whatever obstacles we encountered in our effort and struggle.  Without them, we are less, and it is more difficult for us to be faithful and to grow in holiness. This would seem reason enough for me to be sad.

            But an additional reason comes from an awareness the quality of our prayer and worship is lessened by their absence.  Some of them are blessed with a singing voice.  There might even be enough of  them to make a choir. The sounds we sent to the Lord in our worship would be more beautiful because of them. Those who could not perhaps sing very well would increase the volume and substance of our vocal prayers and response to the liturgical readings each week. Some would have other talents to contribute to the task of making our worship more worthy of the Lord. Some would bring flowers, some would make a banner, some would welcome visitors or help in some other waay to make our worship better thsan it could be without them.

             Each of them has a unique life story, unique experience of prayer, unique  joy, sorrow, struggle, and accomplishmenets. All of this would be added to our own as we gathered each week and offered ourselves in grateful love to God in worship.  Witout them our individual personal love for God need not be less, but the quality of our common expression of that love is diminished. It is easy to see this as a significant  part of the reason I was sad when I met someone locally who had left the Catholic Church,

              Other reasons come to mind.  Our Religious Ed Programs, both for adults and for chiddren, could not be as good witout the participation of  those who had left the Church. Whatever we could hope to accomplish through social or recreational experiences, the help we could give to the poor,  the inspiration and support we might hope to be for those who were still withot faith was less.  The youth who were growing up wounded by the influence of drugs, alcohol, and distorted sex, selfishness, and violence all had lsss hope because we had less prayer and infuence through the absence among us of inactive and former Catholics. This also made me sad.

              There is still another reason that relates in some way to all that I have written here, to the quality of our worshop, the support we give one another, the programs we can produce and enjoy, and the help and inspiration we could make available to the community around us. This reason focuses upon the peresons themselves who have left.  Some of them I feel sure did so without sin, or even as an expression of virtue. This would be possible only if they did not know and experience our Catholic faith as it could and should be experienced.

               They may have known what the Catholic Chrch looks like , but not its history, theology, or what it is today.  They may have known Catholic words but not the full meanng of the words. Some have told me how they used to be altar boys.  The danger was in knowing how to serve Mass and not knowing how to offer Mass, when to bow without knowing why. Without knowing and experiencing the whole truth about the reality of the Catholic Church we could find a substitute  or something that seems to be better. I do not think we could do this without sin if we knew and experienced the real Catholic Church.

            Part of that reality is the celebration of the life death and resurrection of Jesus each liturgical year.  The presence of  God in Jesus is easily seen in the experience of Peter, Mary, the Apostles and the early Church.  But  the reality of that same presence of God in Jesus is to be experienced in us by means of the Sacraments and Gospel stories.  Even unbelivers can read the Bible.  The further realiy is, by faith, Jesus lives dies and rises again in us who believe.

            How sad it is when people do not know and experience this, and think they find a substitute and something better, for whatever reason.                  


Monday, October 27, 2014

Blog # 390 Jesus, Human and Divine

Blog  # 390   Jesus, Human and Divine

                 In the Eternal Word of God Incarnate, and Jesus, the son of Mary, we have the same person.  The  Word did not cease to be divine in coming among us.  Yet in order to be really one of us He had to be limited, as we are, by time and all the human limitations that are ours. 

                  He had to learn how, in His own time and place, in His own limited human way, to express His infinite eternal divine love for the Father and for all creation.  He had to be satisfied, for the time being, to experience, develop, and express this divine love in human words thoughts and actions just as we do.

                   He had to pray. In His limited short-lived experience among us He had to praise and thank the Father for a very small part of all He knew God had done. Maybe it was something like our own experience of thanking God for all the stars we see, knowing all the while there are far more we do not see.

                  We believe that all Jesus was sent to do was done not only for the Father's glory but for us.  In view of this we sometimes tend to see and experience the life of Jesus as an attempt on His part to set a pace, as it were, to put some footprints down for us to follow.  Abraham, Moses, St. Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Terese of Calcutta, John Paul II, and our Patron Saints were sent for this. 
Jesus was sent for more.

                    The Word came from Heaven and was known as Jesus.  Jesus  lived among us so that we might 'go' to Heaven living in Him!  This gift, referred to as Sanctifying Grace, makes us holy, or like to God through sharing God's life in Jesus. This is what Jesus was trying to explain to Nicodemus when He spoke to him about being "born from above", and how necessary this was for anyone to "see", which in this instance means know or experience the Kingdom of God.  (Jn. 3:3).

                    Down through the ages back to the very beginning of our story, the Church has taken these words of Jesus at face value.  As with ST. Paul, we are a "new creation" in Jesus through faith and Baptism. Jesus did not merely go before us in a previous moment of history.  He lives in us today. He did not merely live for us as a role model but shares with  us by faith His very life.  "... and the life I live now is not my own alone; Christ is living in me."  (Gal 2:20; Jn. 14:23; 15: 1 - 5).

                    Our faith is not like a house in which we live but more like a medicine which heals us and food that gives us life.  God's divine love is to be shared with us as it was lived in Jesus. He has gone to prepare a place for those who believe and live the Father's will so that where Jesus is they might be, forever.  (Jn. 14: 2,3).   


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Blog # 388 SIGNS

Blog  # 388  SIGNS

           There are signs all around us and within us.  Many times we hardly recognize them or pay attention to them.  Street signs, traffic signs, billboards along the highway, signs at the Post Office,  the supermarkets, the gas stations, fever, the pink color and swelling of a wound.  Normally we pay attention to signs when we need something, like the location of a particular Street or building.  Signs point us in the particular direction we want to go.

             By their very nature signs point beyond themselves. DANGER!, Children playing, Ice on the Bridge,  The first element in every sign is the reality that points, the wood, the paint, the letters, etc. Secondly comes the meaning of the sign, what the words on the sign say, that to which  the letters or symbols on the sign point, the actual danger, the actual children,  the actual ice on the bridge.  A third element is the function or purpose of the sign.  It answers the question why a particular sign was made and placed here or there, what should a particular sign do, and what should be my response to the sign.

            The first element that goes to constitute a sign is a given, the facts of the sign, whether   external or physical and attained by the senses, color, shape, temperature, etc.,  or internal such as psychological pain, joy, loneliness, etc. and experienced within.  This second element is determined by the sign maker.  The sign maker wants to point out a dangerous curve in the road ahead.  A curved black line on a bright yellow background will do the job.  The third element, the response to the sign by anyone who is exposed to it, is determined  and produced by that person, ideally in fulfillment of the meaning or purpose of the sign as indicated in the sign itself by the sign's maker, e g. : STOP.

              Most likely few people consciously think about or relate to signs this way. As with other areas and experiences of our lives we tend to touch  the surface and move on.  How many of us as we travel down a road ever think of the person who put the sign we see together, cut the wood, made the paint, arranged the letters, etc.  Yet someone did all of that.  In the ideal human scenario those people would see their work as a way of making a living but also as an act of love for the people who benefit from the si, and we would receive it as such when we read the sign, and pray a short prayer for the sign maker without even knowing the name of the sign maker but nevertheless having a relationship of thanks and appreciation for him or her.
                How many of us keep our driving speed at 55, 35, or 70 as an act of trust, cooperation and obedience rather than because we don't want to get a ticket or a fine?  Yet in the ideal order, traffic signs and the regulations to which they point are not for the purpose of raising money for the  Government but the safety and good of the people using the roads.  Not keeping ourselves aware of
these potential broader insights in general  keeps us away from a level of experience that could enrich our lives considerably.

               In my reflection on these thoughts a fascinating insight began to become clear: ONLY GOD IS A NON-SIGN,UNCREATED, AND POINTING TO NOTHING BEYOND HIMSELF.  Creation, everyone and everything but God, is a sign. As Creator of all that exists, God is the universal sign maker. In reflecting on this we begin to see how and why it is that we adore God alone and only God is worthy of our total love.  A common response to hard times or sickness is the question:Why me? When we recognize hard times and sickness as signs  and ask the question what is God the Sign-Maker saying to me here, I am on my way to the answer to the question "Why me?".  It is because God desires to love me this way.

               All that you have been reading so far about signs, sign makers, and responders can be applied 1)to all of creation as a sign of  God's presence, 2) personally to God the sign maker, and 3) to ourselves as created capable and called to respond to it all by way of a conscious awareness and appreciation and in a personal relationship with the Sign Maker, God Our Father.

             To see all creation as a sign from God is to see Easter as the sign of the Resurrection of Jesus and God's response to the loving death of Jesus on the wood, and to see that death as a sign of the victory of Jesus over all that is evil or contrary to God's love.
            United to Jesus by faith and  Baptism, we become signs of His unconditional love for the Father played out in us.  That is a sign we should be constantly trying to keep in our awareness.  Our efforts and desire to overcome temptation and do what we know is right are signs in us that Jesus lives, loves us, and is loved by us. This holds for every moment of our lives.

             Try to see  yourself as a sign of God's love through Jesus in your life and see your effort rewarded with new power over temptation and sin.  This seems to me to be similar to what happens for us when we apply in a practical manner the Parable of the Potter and the Clay.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blog # 387 CHARLIE

Blog # 387    CHARLIE

           "Hello!  I'm Doug's brother, Charlie."
           When Charlie introduced himself to me this way, Doug was sick with pneumonia in a County hospital in Kentucky.  I was the local Catholic Glenmary Pastor.  Before the week was over, and  Doug's pneumonia cleared up, I got to know Charlie fairly well. In the course of our conversations he told me he didn't feel quite ready for it yet, but he wanted to be a Catholic before he died.

            That Fall, Charlie himself was in the hospital with a serious kidney infection. I thought of what he had said about being a Catholic before  he died, but the doctors were not sure he was dying.  I did not want to scare him into the Church, or fail to recognize the power of God's grace working within his own conscience, so we talked of life rather than death.

             He seemed to be getting weaker every day. I talked of patience and generosity and trust in God's love. He talked of getting well. On the Friday afternoon of Charlie's second week in the hospital, he was conscious only off and on.

            That evening, as usual. I attended one of the local high school basketball games.  At half-time I noticed Charlie's doctor in the stands, and went to talk with him. He told me that Charlie would not make it.  He thought Charlie might die that very night.  I left the game and went directly to the hospital.

             Charlie was sleeping.  I roused him by saying, very close to his ear, "Charlie, Charlie!

            "I'm  Fr. Charlie, the Pastor at  St. Joe's.  Do you remember me?"


               "When we first met, Charlie, you said you wanted to be a Catholic before  you died.  Does that still hold?"


                 I still do not know just why it occurred to me to go further, but I am grateful that I did.  "Charlie, you've said uh-huh three times now, and that's good.  But to show that you really mean it, and that you are really free, could you just say 'no'?:

                    With difficulty he slowly moved  his head in my direction.  His eyes almost opened. His lips smiled.  "Nnno".

                     "Thanks, Charlie, thanks!"  I soaked a wash cloth in water and Baptized him right there.  He died about an hour and a half later, Charlie still, but with a new name as well, Jesus! I was 31 years old.  Now I am almost 87.  If anyone would ask if priesthood has meaning and value for me, I think I would think of Charlie to begin with, and the answer would be clear.  Thank You, Lord!




           Charlie was unconscious. I roused him by saying very close to his ear "Charlie.  Charlie!"


            "I'm the Pastor at St. Joe's.  Do you  remember me?"


              "When we first met, Charlie, you said you wanted to be a Cathooic before you died.  Does that still hold?"


            I still do not kow just wdhy it occurred to me to go frther, bt I am graeful that I did. "Charli, you've said uh-huh thre tmes ow, and that is good. But to show that y ouo eallymean it, and that  you are really fre, cold you just say 'no'?" 

            He slowly moved his head in my direction, and his eyesalmost opened.   His lips smiled. "Nnno.
              "Thanks, Charlie,  thanks!".  I soaked a wash cloth in water and Baptized him right there. He died about an hour and a half later, Charlie still, but with  a new name as well, Jesus!  I was 31 years old.  Now I am almost 87. and if anyone would ask me the priesthood still has meaning and value for me I think would think of Charlie and Baptism, and Heaven, and the answer would be clear.  Thank You, Lord!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Blog # 386 The Honor and Glory of God

Blog # 386   The Honor and Glory of God

          Outside of Christmas Day, when almost all of the Christian world goes  in spirit to Bethlehem and kneels before the manger to thank God for the gift of a little newborn baby, a good number of those  who follow Christ think of Him almost always as the performer of miracles, the Prophet of the Most High God, the King of Nations, the Savior, a full-grown man between the ages of thirty and thirty three.

            But if we think the question out for ourselves, we know from  the Scriptures and from reason there was more to the life of our Savior than the first days of it and the last three years.  There was a time in the life of Jesus when He was  not a man, but a wonderful hope in a mother's heart.  There was a time in the life of Jesus when He did not appear as teacher or king, but as a boy who learned to speak and sing at His mother's knee, and who learned to use carpenter's tools, and make benches and chairs in the carpenter's shop of Nazareth.

            Do you ever think of Jesus as a boy, playing games with His friends, chopping wood for the fire, sawing a board, praying and singing with His neighbors in the local synagogue?  If  we have not done so, we have missed something valuable in the life of Jesus and something of the goodness and happiness the whole life of our Savior can and was intended to bring into the world and into the lives of each of us.

          Jesus is our Savior. He came to save us, to make it possible for us to enjoy the eternal happiness of Heaven. Our personal salvation is important in the sight of God and must be important in ours, but it it not all there is to the life of Jesus nor of our Christian life. Jesus redeemed us on the Cross and became the Savior of the world for a purpose, and that purpose was in God.

          Jesus often and consistently talked of the will of God, His Father. Even in the  garden of  agony the night before He died all that He was  doing He was doing because it was the will of the Father. "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by.  Still. let it be as you would have it, not as I."  (Mat, 26: 39).

          The same is true of our personal salvation. If we fail to save our souls, all else we might do,  whether it be to build churches, schools, or hospitals, no matter what we do, without the salvation of our soul, all is meaningless forever.

       Jesus came to save us. But that is not the only thing He came to do. And so when we decide to follow Jesus, we  must seek the salvation of our souls, but that is not the only thing we seek.

       Jesus came to save us first of all for the greater honor and  glory of God, and then for love of  us.  So,  if we are true followers of Jesus, we must seek even our salvation for the greater honor and glory of God, and then for our own sakes.  We don't hear that very often, and that fact  may be a large part of the reason various Christian congregations are not as disturbed as we should be by the division of the Church.  The first question we should be asking is what did Jesus teach, and then the question are we saved.  Both goals are attainable as the will of the Father. Otherwise Jesus would not have prayed they both would be realized for all people in every corner of the world. (Mat. 28: 19,20;  Jn. 17: 11,22,23).

Blog # 385 Creator

Blog # 385  Creator

             Normally as an introduction to our practice of praying the rosary we use the Apostles' Creed.
 It begins: "I believe in God,...the Creator of heaven and earth,"   The Nicene Creed is normally used at Mass on Sundays of Ordinary Time. It begins: "I believe in one God...maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible."

             Right now I harbor a hope of publishing hundreds of blogs before I die.  As I started  thinking of this one dealing with our Catholic theology of creation,  I asked myself to imagine having a hope of just ten more rather than hundreds, and then asked: What would those ten blogs have as their concern? ; What in line of importance would their content be?  Close to the top of the list would be the blog I am typing now, dealing with the mystery of creation. It may prove a tough one for you to read and get something out of it, but I am so convinced of the place our theology of creation
 holds as the foundation and source of  the rest of our rich Catholic theology that I am going to give it a try.  If you have any comments you think would be helpful to me please do share them with me, even if it is just that you didn't find it as important, exciting, or helpful as I did as we journey along together in writing and reading these blogs.  To get the opportunity of sending a comment just sign  up on the list of followers and use a fictitious name for yourself if  you wish to remain anonymous.  .
             Why would I think the  theology of creation is so important ?  Because our notion of what it means to create is the absolutely essential  need we have in order to know Who God is and secondly what is our fundamental relationship with God our Creator

               To realize our Catholic theology of creation declares the meaning of the word create is an absolute mystery for us, makes us realize that, consequently, our notion of God our Creator, no matter how well developed this notion  might be, also remains an absolute mystery. This is because the strict theological definition of the verb create means to will whatever it is that we are considering as created , to come from non-being to being, from nothing to somethingThe meaning of that sentence is absolutely beyond our limited human competence to understand. Nothing is the word that gives us the problem.  Just try seriously to imagine nothing. It is beyond us, unimaginable. You end up with nothing. What you have done is almost humorous. Nothing strictly speaking is absolutely unimaginable for us. If you have tried and think you have imagined it, you most likely have imagined something rather than nothing.   So, consequently,  it is with the meaning of the verb create.  God alone knows what it means to create, and from this we begin to understand our faith in a single Creator of all that exists.

           I think I have shocked some people when I said God does not exist. The word exist comes from two Latin roots, ex, meaning from, and est the third person singular of the verb esse which means to be.  Technically then the word implies an existence that is dependent or from another.
This insight throws light upon the response God gave to Moses when Moses asked whom should he say to Pharaoh sent him. God said "I  AM". In other words,  I am independent; I am always in the present tense; I did  not come from somewhere;  I am not going anywhereI am the Creator of all that exists right now, or that has ever existed, or that ever will exist ; I am God.  The same eternal living God Who sent Moses to Pharaoh so long ago is the same eternal living God Who loves us and is existing us right now!

             There is a logically infinite difference between the meaning of the words make and create, and that is the reason we might be surprised at first when we see both of them used, one in the Apostles' Creed and one in the Nicene Creed.  However I am confident in proclaiming as authentic Catholic theology the strict literal definition of create as to will (desire) something to exist from nothing. The verb make normally refers to an act producing one thing from another rather than from nothing as is the case of the verb to create.  In the case of its use in the Nicene Creed it is used in an
applied sense, so there is no problem of a contradiction in its use.   

              Here is an additional essential point in helping us understand something of the literal meaning of the verb create, though it still remains a mystery: although the word exist is listed in our English dictionaries as an intransitive verb, that is a verb that does not take an object, (such as the verb to be), in our Catholic theology, in the unique case of creating, it is used and understood as a transitive verb. In other words, (and here is where our limited competence come in to play) we  give  it the object clearly revealed by God, that we refer to as 'nothing'.  In other words in order to arrive at a correct theological definition of the verb create, we claim for it in the unique case of God's action as Creator the quality of a transitive verb, with this resulting in our theological conviction that everything that exists is being existed ,ALWAYS, in the present tense, as long as it exists, in every aspect of its existence, color, shape, and sound, etc. by God's total creative power.  If  we ever catch ourselves wondering what God is doing right now we just have to think God is creating, creating  billions and billions of stars,  the moon, your shadow as you walk down the  sidewalk in the sunshine, our mother and our father who may already have gone on before us to Heaven, and at that point we are ready to know and praise and thank God better than we have ever done before.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blog # 384 Darkness / Light

Blog # 384  Darkness / Light

           You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works of  the One  who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light"   These words come from the 2nd  Letter of St. Pater (2 Pet. 2: 9 ).  One morning , before the sun came up on the morning after I had reflected upon this text I turned off  the light in my room and looked at the rug on the floor.  I could not tell what color it was in the dark. I  prayed to be "protected from the darkness of ignorance and sin. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge. Sin is a deliberate choice of something we know to be contradictory of the will of God for us. Those are our enemies and obstacles in the way of achieving God's plan for us, the reason He created us, the gift of God's love.

          From the very beginning of Jesus' ministry on earth His message was not always clearly understood.  Thomas and  Philip both illustrate this for us.(Jn. 14: 1 - 12).  Both of them were Apostles.  I do not think either of them dwelt in the darkness of sin.  Their need was to  free themselves of the darkness of ignorance.  Realizing the presence of such a need in the case of two Apostles, it is easy to see the place and the need for my regular prayer to be protected from the darkness of ignorance.

          In the darkness of the morning with the light turned out I am ignorant of the color of the rug on the floor. Darkness causes me to be ignorant of  truth about the rug.  Ignorance does the same thing on a higher level when it comes to truth about God, creation, neighbors, myself, and Jesus.  I can know something of the truth about the rug in the dark. I can reach down to touch it and know it that way but this is not the complete truth about the rug.

          It can be something like this with regard to the truth about God, creation, neighbors, myself, and Jesus.  Thomas and Philip heard the words of Jesus and no doubt had some idea as to what they intended to say. But they did not understand the complete meaning of the words, nor experience their power in their daily lives. Today, with the world, from nations down to individual families, and
individual people in the shape we are in, it should be obvious that we have need of light.

               Neither our  relationship with Jesus nor the exercise of our faith should  become static and a mere memory no more than it did for Thomas and Philip.  He rose from the dead in their experience of Him.  By faith He has risen in ours.  There is danger of relating to the Risen Christ in the same way we would  relate to the historical Jesus.  The Resurrected Christ has indeed 'gone' to the Father and is preparing a 'place' for us.  We are not talking here about physical realities, a physical place in a physical Heaven, the product of our limited imagination with regard to a reality the Bible proclaims as unimaginable.  We are talking about realities on a higher spiritual plane known by faith.

             Don't we believe now the Father and Jesus are one, that the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father? ( Jn. 10:30; 14:7- 10; 8:19.  Don't we believe now that we are united with Jesus through faith and Baptism as branches on a vine and as members of a body and its head?  (Jn. 15:5; Col.1: 18,24; Eph. 1:10,22;  Eph, 2 14,16,19;  Gal. 3: 26 -28;  1Cor. 12:ff to end of Chapter;  1 Cor. 10: 17;   Rom. 12: 5; Jn. 17: 20ff).

             Eternal life has already begun!  It is already ours by faith and Baptism.  "Eternal life is this: to know You, the only true God, and Him whom You have sent, Jesus Christ."  (Jn. 17: 3).   " I am with you always to the end of the world."  Mat. 28: 20.)  "Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him." ( Jn. 14: 23.)  All of  these texts have meaning and applications not only in the past or in the future but through faith and Baptism, now. When in our daily experience of life we live the Easter victory of Jesus over all that is evil, knowing, trusting, loving Him, fighting and conquering sin in His name, forgiving one another in His name, praying in His name, dying in His name, united with Him as branches on a vine,  we are already experiencing by faith the gift of eternal happiness in His name.

             All Christians know well the words that describe the event we remember in a special way on Easter.  Anyone who can read can experience the words in the sight of them on the pages of the Gospels. To experience their full personal meaning comes only by faith and love.  This would be something like the difference between reading a greeting on a birthday card in Wall Mart and receiving the card in the mail from someone who loves us. 

           For me, what I have written here throws light on death, the commandments, the questions of justice and peace, prayer and appreciation to God for all that God is doing today. No wonder I pray to be protected from the darkness of ignorance and sin!  How sad it would be to lose or be unaware of such a treassure.      

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Blog $ 383 Christian Holiness - 2

Blog # 383  Christian Holiness - 2

           After publishing Blog # 382 I had the feeling something was missing.   Then in the mail that arrived  today two items convinced me that my feeling was correct.   What was missing was at least a
partial listing of the various Biblical references that are the foundation and  substance of the Biblical revelation of the indwelling of the Holy Trinity  and the incorporation of all who are Baptized into the Church as living branches on a living vine.

             Both items that arrived in the mail told me part of the current stories of several relatives and friends who do not attend church and feel no need of doing so.  In two of the stories there was a recent birth of a daughter. The pictures enclosed in the letters revealed two beautiful healthy babies.    I was asked to remember them in my prayer. Then later on in the day I had the opportunity of asking a couple of active practicing Catholics what their notion of holiness was. and then if some of of the references I was intending to use to fill out what I had shared about holiness in Blog # 382 were texts of  Scripture with which they were familiar, and  whether the texts had any significant practical  bearing for them in their lives today. I asked whether these and similar texts were clear to them in identifying them as members of the Church, and how clear to them was our faith in the presence of  the Resurrected Jesus living in them, as really as He walked the Streets of Jericho and Jerusalem two thousand years ago, but in a different mode, then in the physical mode of His human experience which was as human and limited as ours, and now in the spiritual and sacramental divine mode of His Resurrected body, free of the physical  human restrictions we know on our way to our resurrection.

            You can answer such questions for yourself, but I would not be too surprised to find that your answers indicated the same facts the folks to whom I proposed them gave me here today. So I will continue with a brief introduction of some of the texts then ask you  to join me in prayer whenever  you think of it on behalf of those babies I learned about, and so many more like them being born here in the U.S. and all around the world in this moment of history when they have little chance of learning from their mothers and fathers of the love and meaning of life our Creator has for them, and in the meantime waiting for someone who appreciates it and lives it out in goodness love joy and prayer each day to reach out to them to tell them their experience in conversation, in their example of Christian living, and at least in their prayer.

The proclamation of the angels around the throne of God:   Holy, holy. holy is the Lord of hosts. ( Is. 6:3.
Its nature:  (God-life)   Born again;  rebirth;  new life; God-life are all terms used to describe an        effect of Baptism.   
 John 3: 1ff.  Jesus is in conversation with Nicodemus: "How can a man be born again when he is
John 20:30f   :Jesus performed many other signs as well - signs not recorded here - in the                presence of  His disciples.  But these have been recorded to help you  believe that Jesus is the
Messiah, the Son of God, so that through this faith you may have life in His name."

John 6:35  I myself am the bread of life.

John 6: 47  he who believes in me has eternal life. 

 Makes us children of God  and brothers in Christ.
  John 1:11f    To His own He came, yet His own did no receive Him.  Any who did receive Him
                       He empowered to become children of God.  

 Rom. 8 14ff   All who are led by the  Spirit of God are sons of God.  You did not receive a spirit of
                        slavery leading you back into fear but a spirit of adoption trough which we cry out
                        "Abba!" (that is, "Father!").  The Spirit himself gives witness to our spirit that we
                         are children of God.

1 John 3:1        See what  love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God!
                         Yet that is what we are.


1 COR.   6:19    You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within - the
                          Spirit you have received from God.

John 14: 23        Anyone who loves Me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we
                           will  come to him and make our dwelling place with him."

John 15: 1 - 5      Live on in me as I do in you.  No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart
                            from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me.  I am the vine, you are the

Gal. 2: 20            ...and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me.

Rom. 6:4             Through Baptism into His death, we have been buried with Him so that, just as
                             Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new
11 Cor.  5:17        If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

Eph. 2:15             Christ created one new man from us who had been two.

Eph. 4: 24             You must put on that new man created in God's image, whose justice and
                              holiness are born of truth.

Col. 2:13                God gave you new life in company with Christ.

Col. 3:10                What you have done is put aside your old self with its past deeds and put on a 
                               new  man,  one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image
                                of His Creator.
Titus 3:5                 He saved us through the baptism of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

1Peter 1:3,5              Praised be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who in His great mercy
                                  gives us new life...ready to be revealed in the last days.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Blog # 382 Holiness

Blog # 382   Holiness

           In Leviticus, Chapter 19: 1, 2 Moses is told by the Lord: "Tell the whole community: Be holy, for I, the  Lord, your God, am holy." Then a series of commandments are given to fill out the expression "Be holy".

           What comes spontaneously to your mind when I mention the word holy ?  If we do not have some definite clear content or meaning for the concept of holiness how could we expect to have the motivation we need to desire and make the efforts required in achieving holiness in our everyday experiences?  If I said to you "Ellos trabajan juntos en la tienda", and you didn't know any Spanish, what would I have said to  you?  It would have been mere sound, or in terms of being of any use to you, nothing.

           Why would it be any different with the word holy.  If we did not see any application for it in our everyday experience of life it would be of little or no use for us to hear it.  So we begin our  Blog today seeking to identify or put some personal practical meaning and content for ourselves into the word holy
             During the course of the years I have wondered  why it was that, almost any time I suggested to someone he or she should be striving for holiness or was actually holy, the person would respond with something like: "Oh, no, I can't be holy", or "Oh, no, not I. I am not  holy."  Answers like this have always been intriguing, challenging, and disappointing to me. 

             If we are not consciously striving to be holy, growing in holiness, and achieving some significant degree of holiness, then what has been the purpose of our attending church services all these years, of all the prayer that has been ours, of the sermons and homilies we have heard , of the Mass and of receiving  Holy Communion?    Certainly the purpose and accomplishment of it all has not been to do God some favor, to come into the presence of the Lord in prayer from time to time, or kneel in thanks before the tabernacle so the Lord would not have to be 'lonely' there, or to 'pay' for our salvation and eventually enter Heaven. What, then, are we trying to do in church, in prayer, in obedience?  Is there a plan?

               A couple of Scripture texts might help us and give us some direction at this point.  In 1 Cor. 3:16 - 23  we have: Are you not aware that you are temples of God, and the Spirit of God wells within  you?...the temple of God is holy, and you are that temple."  Then, in  Mat. 5:33 - 48  Jesus proclaims how our Christian holiness perfects that which Moses commanded his followers to achieve. v. 33 " You have heard the commandment imposed on your forefathers "Do not take a false oath...What I tell you is: do not swear at all."  Jesus fills in some of the details of what it means as a Baptized person to be holy, to have God dwell within us.  The plan is simply that, to be holy as our God is holy. cf. Lev. above.

               Some famous person, I forgot who it was,  is supposed to have said: "If we can imagine something, we can accomplish it."  An insight like that has made inventors, adventurers, discoverers, record breakers, patriots, poets, great athletes, and Saints out of people.  In most categories it is not too difficult to understand and apply that axiom, but in the category of Christian holiness there is a special difficulty.  We are to be holy as God is holy.  But that is unimaginable.

               The solution to the problem comes from several sources or directions.  First of all from God. The Bible tells us God is holy.  God has told us to be holy.  As a result we know it can be done. 
Because the holiness of God is infinitely or unmeasureably above all of creation, including ourselves, it is for us unimaginable.  Our only logical response is to see our holiness as something we receive
rather than as something we achieve. In God's plan for our holiness, in Jesus through faith and Baptism, we are actually gifted with a new relationship with God, a limited human share in God's own life in a similar way a branch might be grafted to a vine. The term we traditionally use to identify this gift is Sanctifying Grace.  The term has three Latin roots that clarify its meaning: sanctus, which is the word used by the angels around the throne of God in the vision of Isaiah (Is. 6:3); faciens,  the Latin word for making,  the root of our English factory, a place where things are made;  and the Latin word gratia, the root of our English word gift. In Sanctifying  Grace, we have the gift that makes us holy or like to God.                                                                                              

                   To identify holiness as a gift makes a very big difference in our perception and carrying out of the plan and command of God that we should be holy.  We worry less, and  'join hands with God'  in prayer more frequently and significantly.  We are in less danger of being proud of our holiness.  We are more deeply thankful for it, and more appreciative  of its richness, beauty, and value.  We do not feel so determined beforehand to know what it should look like, sound like, or do.  We  see sin more clearly as the tragedy and the betrayal that it is.



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blog # 381 ...than all the world

Blog # 381   ...than all the world

           Some time ago a friend told me of a dream he had. In the dream he was driving down a highway.  Another car, identical to his own, pulled up next to him and then moved out in front of him and cut him off so as to force him to pull to the side of the road in order not to crash. He got out of his car and walked up next to the other car and noticed the driver was himself.  The dream recalled for my friend a motto he had learned years before as a boy in school that said something to the effect that we can be our own worst enemy.  I suggested to my friend an addition to his motto that would read: worst enemy, or best friend.

            This is true for several reasons.  One of them is the fact each of us is unique.  There is no other person who ever was, is, or will be, you or I.  We are like the topmost branch of a tree.  There may be many trees around us, before us, and to come after us, with their own topmost branches, but we are the only topmost branch of this tree.  There is no other.

          As a result of this, we alone are capable of knowing ourselves from within, as we really are, and of loving ourselves as we really are. Others can compare us to themselves and others, and make judgments as to how we seem to be to them, but only we can know and judge ourselves from within.
We can share much of who we are, feelings, hopes, fears, and desires, with others, but only we can experience our own personal individual self. 
          In consequence, we see the meaning and truth of the motto about being our own worst enemy or best friend.  We make the real decisions about ourselves, the direction we are going to go with our lives, the things we are going to try to do, the thoughts we are going to have, and the desires we are going to keep.  We may fail a math test, but love ourselves for having tried the best we could.  We may be rich and happy, or poor and happy.  We may be rich and sad, or poor and sad.  We, you, I, have the largest and most significant part in our unique identity.  We can be our own worst enemy, or our own best friend.

             It takes a certain degree of self-awareness for all of this to be experienced by us. It seems the lives of many people are so affected by habit, custom, pleasure, social pressure, or violence they are not consciously aware of their own possible freedom and capacity consciously to make decisions about themselves, to identify themselves over and over again, even in new ways, somewhat independently of all that goes on around them. As a result such people seem to be living on a lower level than our distinctively human level.  There is so little self-awareness, such little true freedom, and so many outside influences, that our motto applies only to a very limited degree.  Other things, other persons, take our place as our worst enemies and best friends.

            I do not think this is the way God desires it to be. Otherwise what would be the meaning and impact of the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves?   As we love ourselves we are to love one another. As we avoid injuring ourselves we are to avoid injuring others.

            From as long ago as the first Century before Jesus, the author of the Book of Wisdom reminds us of some of the difficulties in this.   We find ourselves timid and unsure of what to do and how to act, our minds reaching for truth and our wills desiring what is good, but the body with its limitations and needs slowing us down and inviting frustration.  But hope comes from confidence that God is present to us, not only as designing us as we are, but also in sharing with us divine wisdom, teaching us of the value and purpose of things around us and of ourselves, our value and our God-given destiny.  In Luke's Gospel ( 9: 25), Jesus asks the question what good would it be to gain the whole world and destroy ourselves in the process.  There He indicated a person is more valuable than any and all things. In chapter 14 of Luke, He goes further with His teaching, and makes the claim that HeJesus, is greater, more valuable than not only things, but even persons,  those whom we are to love as we love ourselves, those closest to us, who have given us most, father, mother, wife, children, and even our  unique self !    

           To say yes or no to this is surely one of the most significant decisions we can make.  The opportunity for doing so is constantly given throughout our lives.  To say yes takes faith, trust, and love.  The reason we will not be cheated in our saying yes is that Jesus is  God.  He, in His human experience here on earth had the same yes to live.  He said it best on the wood, trading  everything and everyone, even His mother, for His love for the  Father.  At that moment He was His own best friend, trading all that He had on earth for all that is! We are offered in Him the same bargain.            

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blog # 380 The Great Amen

Blog # 380 The Great Amen

            I remember years ago when I was Pastor of one of our Glenmary Missions out in Oklahoma, there was a beauty contest.  Twenty-six girls from the local high school vied for the title of Beauty Queen.
             Here are their names: Jill, Jamie, Emily, Brandi, Kristan, Darissa, Kelly, Mandy, Mandi, Lorrie, Nikki, Misty, Ayesha, Sharbee, Samritha, Wendy, Ami, Jena, Kristan, Melissa, Jeanna, Leann, Krystal, Renee, Jennifer, and Wendy.

              In my immediate family there were only boys.  Here are our names: John James, Andrew  Paul,  Thomas George, William Francis,  Edward Joseph, and Charles Matthew.  The difference in the lists of names is not only in the fact one is a list of males and the other a list of females.  A significant difference lies in the fact one of the lists is made up totally of the names of Saints, and the other is not.  The difference is rooted in significant cultural  and religious changes that have been occurring in our world and nation during the past Century or more.

           No such changes come about with the pressing of a button or overnight. In the case of my generation almost all of the kids in the neighborhood, girls and boys, Catholics and Protestants,  had the name of a Saint.  In most cases the names were also the names of the father or mother, uncles and aunts, or cousins in the family. There was a combination of the  secular and  the sacred. I don't know what degree of awareness there was in the average  person's experience of the fact he or she was named after a particularly holy person so that he or she might be inspired by that person's example and follow suit.  In the Catholic Church we had the regulation that everyone was to be given a Saint's name on the occasion of Baptism.  But even for those not members of the Catholic Church the likelihood of actually having the name of a Saint was very strong in that almost everyone's parents, uncles and aunts, and cousins, friends and neighbors all had the name of a Saint.

            Whether or not the fact we had the name of a Saint had a significant effect upon the holiness of our lives would be hard to tell. I imagine in my own generation the practice was to some extent just something taken for granted, handed down, secure for whatever or perhaps for no reason, unquestioned from age to age. In other words the custom may already have become something different  than it had been in the past.

           From a comparison of the two lists given above it is easily and clearly seen the practice of giving a 'saint's name to our children is far less than a universal custom today.

           This is just one example of the general secularization of our current American culture.  If we wish and seek support or inspiration for our Christian life today we cannot look to the secular world around us.  We would have a hard time discovering and growing in our love for God if all we relied upon for support was current experiences of  TV, newspapers, magazines, junk mail, shopping malls, politics, and public education.  Only in a vey strong religious culture would these realities be explicitly supportive of faith. They are not committed to faith or to the life beyond the grave.  They deal directly and explicitly with earth, not Heaven.  They do not pledge more and we should not expect more from them.

            My observation, therefore, about them not being a source of support for my faith is not a complaint, just an observation.  But it is a very important observation, and invites a response.

              Here is the way I saw this illustrated for me one morning last winter.  I shined my flashlight on a thermometer outside the office window at 5 o'clock.  It was cold,  below freezing.  That was my observation.  It related to my health and comfort. I was planning to go out for my regular morning walk. I had no inclination to pray the sun would come up and make it warm for me.  I was fully aware of the sun's power to warm the earth, but also that it would not ordinarily do that in these circumstances and at this particular time in the morning.  For me to hope or pray the secular culture around me would have no secularizing effect upon me or would go away merely by prayer, would hardly be a better response than the one above to the cold weather and the sun.  God, like the sun ( God's sun!), has power to make things and people, warm, in the case of the sun, holy, in the case of people. But this power in both cases is not exercised willy-nilly, in contradiction to a plan and the truth about God's love.

         I had other options for my response to the cold.  I could have decided to go back to bed.  That would be like deciding to read only prayer books rather than newspapers.  I wanted the exercise so I looked for a different response.  This was like desiring to remain current in my moment of history and facing the fact of the dominance of secularism in our American culture today. I could have cursed the cold. This would certainly be ineffective for changing it to warmth, and would be like failing to see and appreciate a definite though limited goodness in all of creation, in the secular order, in all but sin.

         I decided to wear a different hat, put on a scarf,  gloves, and an extra sweater. It worked out very well.  I was warm even in the cold. Our response to secularism can be as simple and as effective. Keep making observations.  Check the thermometer. Decide whether we want to go along or not, to be cold or not, to be faithful or not.  Take measures to counterbalance the cold, the secular influences. Scarf, hat, gloves, an extra sweater. Prayer, reflection, study, send letters proclaiming the content of our faith to the local newspapers. Let Christmas keep happening in my life.  Let Jesus be born in me each day, each time I choose the Father's will. Jesus is the fulfillment of all God's promises.  As truth itself, Jesus today is a light shining in a dark place.  Through faith and Baptism, united with Jesus, we are called and sent to be the same.  His YES to the Father's will for Him, His great AMEN! is to be ours.  "Be not afraid,"   


Monday, October 13, 2014

Blog # 379 Our Father

Blog  #  379   Our Father

         Our Father...

With the image of God as  Father before us, how much easier it is to trust God, to feel at home before Him as we try to do our best, or lie down at the end of a day thankful rather than anxious, how much easier it is to accept confidently God's forgiveness of our faults and how in all we do our
emphasis is not so much upon our works as upon our relationshjp to God, our growth in our love for Him, and our joy in knowing He is our Father.

              As I was standing in my garden one day years ago, I noticed, as is the case with most gardens, some insects were eating the plants.  The insects were obviously enemies of the plants.  They were as real as I was in the garden. I began to think it was not worth it to have a garden. The insects would come and destroy my work. It might be better to do something else and buy  my  vegetables in the store. Then it occurred to me to wonder if we couldn't appreciate God's mercy and love more perfectly if we applied this thought to God's relationship with us when we sin.

          Sin is our enemy and tends to destroy us, the same as insects are the enemy of a garden and tend to destroy it.  In taking measures to destroy the insects in the garden I saw myself somewhat like God in His attitude toward our sins.  He wants to rid us of them because he loves us. He comes to our aid in overcoming our sins much the same as I came to the aid of the garden in riding it of insects. God never says I will abandon the garden to the insects, the garden is not worth my effort to rid it of its enemies.  Rather God sends His Son, the Lord Jesus, to win for us through His love and suffering the power  to overcome our sins, to conquer the enemies of our souls, and to produce good fruit in lives of holiness and peace.
          I was happy when I walked in from my garden, having learned from it to understand and appreciate more perfectly the meaning and beauty of the revelation of Jesus that God is our Father, His Father and ours.

          Father. help us to see Your love in all that occurs in our lives, to trust you as our
Father, and to come to you lovingly, thankful, and unafraid, through Jesus Your Son, whom You sent to teach us of your goodness and Your love!  Amen!


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Blog# 378 Good / Bad

Blog  # 378  Good  /  Bad

            This morning I was reading over some notes from years ago when I was Pastor out in our Glenmary  Mission in Idabel, OK., looking for something I thought might make a blog.   What follows here is an adaptation of something I found.

         "And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God..."  (Rom. 8: 28).
These words from the letter to the Romans took on a special significance for me last week-end when the water supply system here in Idabel broke down. It was real. Was it good or bad?  Both.
           In itself, to be without water was bad.  But the Bible had taught and reminded me that all ,
(and I had always included sin in that all),could be turned into good for someone who loves God. So I began to think how this truth about all things and God and us on this particular occasion could be discovered and verified in our lack of water.

          For one thing, it was easier now to appreciate the value of water.  I came back from Broken Bow Sunday afternoon thirsty, and there was no water.  Now that it was no longer available,  I thought how easy it is for us when we ordinarily have it to take it for granted. And  how this same thing could be done with regard to time, health, friends, opportunities to grow and to pray and to do good for others as it was with water'  It was bad to be without water, but it was good to be reminded of the thoughts that came after the water was no longer available.
          I reflected on how wonderful yet commonplace the gift of water is. We need and use it to wash ourselves, our dishes, and our clothing, to nourish our house plants, pets and gardens, to float our boats for fishing, to quench our thirst and to make it easier for those who are sick to swallow their pills, to enjoy  a scene of beauty and peace on a placid lake, to receive and express our sharing in God's own life in Baptism, to cook our food, to fill a water pistol for children at play, and for swimming. And all of this was good.
            I called some neighbors and discovered the lack of water was not just in my house but was a general condition in the whole city.  This reminded me of how we all share life not just as individuals but as a community, and this was good.  Then a neighbor brought me a gallon of water he could spare, and that was good.  Men were working generously to repair the trouble, on Sunday, what would ordinarily be a day off for them, and this was good. I prayed in thanksgiving for them and again for the gift of water, and that was good.  The letter to the Romans was true, not only in Rome centuries ago but now in Idabel, and that was good.

          Thank You for all of your gifts, dear Lord, those I have enjoyed and used in the past, those I have today, and those that are to come in the years ahead. Help me not to take them for granted and to realize they are always better when they are shared. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

Blog # 377 Faith and Good Works

Blog # 377 Faith and Good Works

           I would be surprised if I came across two otherwise normal people discussing let alone arguing whether it was more valuable to have a particular color eyes than the ability to see.  Yet it seems something like this has been done in the history of Christian faith.

           For  several centuries now, a frequent focal point of serious discussions, arguments  and
misunderstandings between Catholics and others has been the question of the relationship in God's saving plan between faith and good works.  My contention is that just as in the truth of the matter there is no real competition between the color of one's eyes and the ability of a person to see, so, in the truth of the matter, there is no real competition between faith and good works.

             On the physical plane,  in God's creative plan, the color of one's eyes and the ability to see work together for the good of the whole person.  On the spiritual plane, also in God's creative plan,  Christian faith and good works blend together for the salvation of the individual believer, the good of those around us, and the glory of Jesus. Why or how can we argue over that?  Yet argue, contradict, condemn, and remain divided of the issue we do, all we would like to think in the name of Jesus.  It seems to be something like Moslems fighting Jews in the name of God, Irish fighting English in the name of God, Hutus fighting Tutus in the name of God, all over the world, long ago and now.  It may be hard  to understand or justify when  you are not involved in the process.   It is sad as it is real. So our arguments and division over the relationship between faith and good works. 

            Using the Bible as our source of ammunition, we line up on  two sides and throw texts at each other as though they were poisoned arrows capable of overcoming the contradictions to 'God's word, as we see it, in one another.   There is plenty of ammunition available or both sides.  When we put all of our texts together in a row, we wonder how it could be possible for other side not to see it our    way and follow as we all should the clear path we have discovered.  One of he problems is that each side is as confident and sincere as the other. There is also the serious damage of not seeing the real problem.  The  real problem is not that one side is right and one side is wrong.The real problem is our division.
           When we are dealing with God's plan of salvation in Jesus, as long as we are divided in our conviction as to what that plan is, all of us are missing something God  desires us to have, and to this extent all of us are wrong.

            Thee are several texts of Scripture that help us focus our efforts to understand one another and reconcile our differences with regard to the question of the relation ship between faith and good works.

             First the side of faith. "Before faith came we were under the constraint of the law, locked in until the faith that was coming should be revealed.  In other words, the law was our monitor until Christ came to bring about our justification through faith.  But now that faith is here, we are no longer in the monitor's charge.  Each one of you is a child of God because of your faith in Christ Jesus."   (Gal. 3: 23 - 26. )  "Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life."  (Jn. 6: 47.   "What must I do to be saved ?" The answer was : "Believe in  the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and all your household". ( Acts 16: 30,31).  "If  you have faith, everything you ask for in prayer you will receive."  (Mat. 21 22) . 

             Then on behalf of good works: "I solemnly assure you, the person who has faith in me will do the works I do..." (Jn. 14: 12).  "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor lack of it counts for anything; only faith, which expresses itself through love. (Gal.5: 6).  "What doth it profit . my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, or destitute of daily food, and one of  you say unto them "Depart in peace and be you warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?  Even so, faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone."  (Acts 2: 14 - 17).  "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory...and before Him shall be gathered all nations...Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come  ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink . (Mat. 25: 31ff).

             " that manifests itself in love" (Gal.5:6) seems  to be the Scriptural solution to any problems we may have developed with regard to the relationship between faith and good works.  God's gift of salvation is not one or the other, but both.  Neither one lives or is itself without the other.  The eye that sees is the eye that is brown  blue green or gray.  The color is part of the  eye's design. So faith and good works are part of one another and cannot be true without one another.

             There are incidences in Scripture where faith is proclaimed and there are incidences where good works are lifted up. One of these is the story of Jesus cursing the barren fig tree. (Mat. 21:19).
Down through the ages believing Christians have used such incidences to argue, contradict, and divide ourselves.  Jesus laid before us a different path.  "I am the vine. you are the branches".   We are called to be one in Jesus in such a close relationship that we share the same life.  Then, 'He who lives in me and I in him, will produce abundantly". The beginning of it all, the essential requirement throughout our 'Christian experience is to be united with Jesus through faith.  Then, united with Hm as branches are united to a vine, to the roots  and to all the other branches on one single vine, we produce in Jesus the good fruit of God's love. 

             The prayer of the Vine for HIs disciples was this:  "Father, that  they may be one, even as we are one..."   Then one day after Jesus had arrived home He asked the disciples what they were talking about on the way home.  And  you remember what it was.  They were talking about who was the most important among them.  (Mak 9: 33,34).