Saturday, January 31, 2015

Blog # 440 Creator of All

Blog # 440  Creator of  All

              Did  you ever consider what the differences would be if you believed in more than one God?  We sort of take the notion of God as Unique, Creator of  All, Ever Present,  All knowing, All Powerful, All Good, etc. for granted. There was a time in  human history,  however, when the notion of a single God would be like thinking the world was round at the time of Galileo.

                  One significant insight that comes to me when I consider what might the difference be if there were several gods rather than one is this: with the notion of a single Creator of all that exists, everything that exists is related.  There are no exceptions here.  Frost and warmth, light and darkness, youth and old age, flowers and insects, mountains and rivers, men and women, you and I are all connected if we believe there is but one God, one Creator of all that exists. In fact, this relationship is so profound and all pervasive that all other relationships are subsequent to it and based upon it. 
                  The relationship we have to one another as brothers and sisters in a family is not as deep as the relationship we have to all creation in God our common Creator. Our parents gave us much of what and who we are, but God gives us all that we are. This consideration gives us insight into the significance of God's command given us in  Jesus  (Emmanuel - God-Among-Us):"Love one another as I have loved you."  To have commanded us to love one another as brothers and sisters would have been less strong.

                   Days and years are connected.  Moses is connected to Abraham and Adam and Eve. Nehemiah is connected to Luke. All of creation is related to Jesus the Word of God.  We discover something of the full identity of  Jesus in identifying the identity of Moses, Abraham, Adam and Eve, and ourselves. These connections in creation did not merely happen, as it were, by chance, but were built into creation according to a plan we call God's love.  The birth of Moses did not surprise God.  God loved Moses into being.  So for Abraham, Adam and Eve, for you and for me.
                  In Jesus something altogether special and  unique occurs.  In Jesus God is related to all creation not from some unimaginable place with some unimaginable degree of power wisdom goodness and love, but in Bethlehem, at a given moment, in a given hour of time, as an ordinary infant, like us in all but sin.  Jesus is connected to Moses, Abraham, Adam and Eve, and to you and me through His birth from Mary. Yet Jesus is also related to the Father and the Holy Spirit in a unique way that could never be ours unless it were through Jesus. But that, we believe, is God's plan.  That is the good news of salvation. We are to be branches on  a vine as it is expressed  by Jesus, and  members of His Body as given by Paul: "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. 12 :12-30.  We are brothers and sisters in Adam and Eve.   We are children of God in Jesus.

             Jesus was sent not merely to teach about God, as others had been sent before Him, but to be God among us, God Incarnate, that is, in human flesh, walking, talking,  sleeping, eating, yet divine. He was not merely to be a good example to us, but the power to make us good. The message of the Prophets sent before Jesus was the same as the message Jesus brought. Their message and His had to be the same since it was an authentic expression of the wisdom and goodness of the one eternal Creator of all.

              Though sent and anointed by the same Spirit to bring the same message of God's wisdom and goodness, there was an essential difference between the prophets who had come and gone before Jesus and Himself. The difference was not in the message, but in the messenger. Jesus claimed that difference for Himself at the beginning of His public ministry in the synagogue of Nazareth.(Luke 1: 1-4, 4:14 - 21).  Other Prophets had announced and proclaimed the message and promises of God. Jesus claimed He  IS the message and the fulfillment of the promises.(Jn. 14: 5).

           In Jesus all God's promises are fulfilled, from Adam and Eve, through Abraham, Moses and all the Prophets.  Limited in His humanity but infinite in His love, Jesus is the perfect expression on earth of the Father's will. He was sent by the Father for this. But it was not for His sake that Jesus was sent. It was for the sake of others. "Come follow me.", Andrew, Peter, John,  Frank, Mary, Tony, Annie, Mae. Down through the ages until the end of time the invitation continues to be given.  "Come join with me in fulfilling God's plan for you, bringing peace justice light freedom love." 

              Through Baptism into His death we were buried with Jesus so that, just as  Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so too we might have a new life in Him. (Col. 3: 10)  "What you have done is...put on a new person, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image of His Creator".  For this to be, we do not need any special talent but rather faith and love.  It is a gift to be received rather than a task to be achieved.   Thank You, Jesus !

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blog # 439 A Prophet's reward

Blog # 439  A Prophet's Reward

            Pope Francis' Exhortation entitled The Joy of the Gospel was published in 2013.  It is an appeal to the whole world and not just to Catholics to reach out to discover, assess, and respond to the conditions of life in which people around the world in our current moment of history live.  He expresses deep and sincere concern for the great number of people who live in dire poverty with little hope for anything better. The book reflects Pope Francis' wonderful humble happy disposition so many people in all walks of life throughout the world have noticed and welcomed in the short time since he was elected to his post in Rome

            In great detail and in clear recommendations Francis focuses problems, challenges, opportunities, and resources that are or can be made available for achieving a world where everyone will be able to live as God desires, happy and at peace with one another.  Changes in attitudes,  lifestyles, and economic procedures we have taken for granted as the best may have to be reassessed in a new light.  New ways of thinking about the whole world as belonging to us all in one way or another are likely to be very difficult to share. I hope people will not write the exhortation off as an impossible dream and that all will be blessed by God with an awareness of the part each of us will be called upon to play in order to make the 'dream' a reality. 

               I think it might have been a response to the word Joy in the title of the exhortation that a certain text from the Gospel of St. John came to my mind today as I sat down to compose Blog # 439. "You will live in my love if you keep my commandments, even as I have kept my Father's commandments and live in His love. All this I tell you that  my joy be yours and your joy may be complete." (Jn. 15 11). In his Exhortation to the world Pope Francis clearly proclaimed and emphasized  the fact there is joy here on earth as well as in Heaven for those who dedicate themselves to living out the Gospel message Jesus brought from Heaven.

             I thought back to November 4, 1954, just six months after I had been ordained a priest and the Feast Day of my Patron Saint, St. Charles Borromeo, as I drove  the 45 miles home from the Georgia State prison where I had just brought his first Holy Communion to the first man I would Baptize, and then witness his death in the electric chair. I had been driving back and forth daily for the previous three weeks instructing him in the faith and in that process learning it in a more personal way than I had learned it in my text books.

               I was happy and thankful that the prayer I had offered back in fourth year high school when I began thinking of becoming a priest, that I would flunk Latin so I would have a sign from God that I need not think further about becoming a priest was not taken seriously by God. A clever kid! 

              I think the feeling and experience I had while driving home from the prison is what Pope Francis is inviting all of  us to discover through dedicating ourselves together as a worldwide community of human beings to making whatever changes  might have to be made, facing together whatever challenges we will face, and whatever new attitudes we might have to assume in the name and desire of the Creator of us all toward  the poor among us in our current world of seven billion people.                                                   

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Blog # 438 Three Questions

Blog  # 438   Three Questions

           The overall plan of the committee given the task of choosing particular Bible readings for the  liturgies throughout the year was to review the story of the life death and resurrection of Jesus as a reminder and invitation to us that as Baptized Christians we are being called to participate in that experience of Jesus by making it our own in some way.

            As the Word of God was sent by the Father to share our human life, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of Mary, and given the name Jesus, we are called through faith and Baptism to be united
with Jesus as branches on a vine, sharing His divine life in our limited human mode. Aware of  this union with Jesus, and that as the Father sent Jesus into the world with a message and mission, Jesus sends us into our world with that same message and mission, we reach out to the liturgical readings  to discover and to clarify what that mission and message might be.  In response to this insight we experience the readings as addressed to us personally and as a community of believers. Our goal is to grow in holiness precisely through growth in our obedience and likeness to Jesus.

             The experience of desiring the readings be a source of growth  was a thought I had many times.  Today it seemed to be especially meaningful.  I was impressed significantly by the thought God is speaking to me in these readings in the here and now of my life.  We are familiar with several prophets in the strict sense of someone who is chosen by God to speak in God's name .  All creation, the work of God, can be seen and received as a 'prophet in a broad sense, speaking a message from God to those who believe.  For example, a butterfly, bees, morning, night, a humming bird, the Church, are all 'prophets' daily speaking in the  power and name of God, telling us of God's presence wisdom and love.  In receiving them and all of creation as 'prophets', daily we  receive a new share in God's presence, and God's love.
                 The words of Scripture tell us of what God said in the past.  God used angels, prophets, visions, thunder, the whole of the natural world and at times direct revelations to speak to people.  It is a long story of God revealing Himself and His plan for creation, with people responding in obedience or sin.
               When Moses wanted to know God's name, Who God was, God said "I AM".   God said " Let there be light."  When God  finished the work of creation God  looked at it and said it was good. God said to Pharaoh let my people go.  God said of Jesus this is  "My Beloved Son. Listen to Him".  Jesus said of the Father "The Father and I are one."  And Jesus said to His disciples "Follow Me."  All of these references were given directly in history to people long long ago and in circumstances many times quite different from our own today.

              We have situations and realities to face in our present moment of history the human authors of God's divine revelation in the Bible did not know and consequently did not explicitly address.
Consequently to this we have a second question: "What is God saying now, to  me/to us?" How do our liturgical readings day after day bear upon our relationships with one another, our health or lack of health, beauty, sorrow, joy, food, work, clothing, temptation, and prayer?  Only you can say for yourself. If we 'hear' the words I love you, that is God's answer to our second question.

            A third question comes to mind. "What will God say when our story and the story of creation is over?"   This question can only be answered in  hope.  The answer develops year by year as long as we live on earth, and then as a final answer when our life is over. The answer is related to and is built upon our answers to the first two questions. What we experience as God's word to us in the present is the foundation and basis for what we hope will be God's word to us in the future and for all eternity.

            Archbishop Sheen used to say he hoped that when he first met Jesus on the other side of death Jesus would say to him "You remind me of my mother". That hope was based upon Archbishop Sheen's great love for and closeness to Mary in his everyday life on earth. All of us should be living in such a way that he or she can confidently hope God will say when we come to judgment "Come, N., take possession of the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world".


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Blog # 437 The Daily Work of Love

Blog # 437  The Daily Work of Love

               When we love someone deeply, that person has a profound influence upon our life.  Since to love means to give, and the more we love the more we give, it stands to reason that the more I love
you the more you receive that is mine.  In this we are like one another and made one.

                 This is true of friends at school, neighbors, family, husband and wife, God, and those who love God. Sadly,however, in all of these categories there are people who do not love, do not take their love seriously, do not keep themselves aware of their love, develop their love, protect it or appreciate it daily.
                  Knowing the danger of  neglecting, forgetting or taking for granted even our love for God, it is good for us regularly to reflect upon the nature of love itself, to examine the ways we love God and one another, renew our love, and make new effort to help it grow. How many people do you really know in your neighborhood? How much time do you spend with your family other than those times you have to be with them to eat and sleep? How deep and meaningful are your conversations with your husband or wife?  What have you given to God or received from God today?  These are questions that tend to indicate the reality and depth of our love.

                When  we love someone,  everything that relates to that person takes on new value and meaning for us.  The  young mother who cherishes and stores away the first pictures her little son had drawn does not do so because of  their beauty but because of her love. The same is true with regard to our love for God and God's love for us.

                  Great Saints have always well realized their personal limitations and even  their sinfulness.  None of the Saints stood before God and boasted of their deeds.  Yet they knew God cherished their lives and found joy, to speak humanly, in all they did because of God's love for them.
And so it was on the part of the Saints.  Because they loved God and realized that God was present in all creation, all creation spoke to them of God, all creation was holy, all creation was a temple in which they discovered God's love and worshipped God.  Their love for God had a profound influence upon their everyday lives.

                 In relation to husband and wife, hobbies, relatives of one another, sickness, achievement, needs, all take on new meaning for one another because of their love.  In relation to God, all creation is His, the work of His hands.  God is present in all of creation and so all creation takes on new meaning and value for someone who loves God. Our love for God brings joy peace praise and thanks for all that is around us and all that is within. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Blog # 436 I believe...

Blog # 436   I believe...

          Faith is a gift.  Through faith we know some very important truths that could not be ours if we did not believe them to be true, as for example truths about God the Creator of all that exists,  truths about the divinity of Jesus and the identity of the person of Jesus as the sole Savior of all,
 the identity of Jesus and the Word of God as a single person, and the presence of God within us through the gift of Sanctifying Grace.

           Our faith gives us assurance of eternal life, the reality of Heaven as a response of God to our life here on earth.  However there is a danger our faith may primarily have reference to the future and over truths over which we have little or no control.  I think it is useful from time to time to think what faith does for us and in us right now, in our everyday lives and in our relationships with those who live around us and are members of our families.

            One of the first things we notice when we begin to study the notion of faith in the Bible is that it makes a difference in a person's life. St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians ( 2 Cor. 5:7), says that if anyone is joined to Christ by faith, he/she is a new creation. Certainly to say of something  that it is a new creation is to say that it is different than before!  For a person to believe in Christ is to expect to be different.  And St. Paul's words do not imply the future life in Heaven.  Rather he is speaking of the present time, and the difference faith makes in the here and now. In his  letter to the Philippians (2:5), St. Paul tells us we must have the attitude of Jesus. Jesus frequently and clearly identifies Himself as being sent by the Father.

             In one of His prayers Jesus tells the Father that He sent His disciples into the world just as the Father had sent Him, to do always and everywhere the Father's will.(Jn. 17:18). We are to be recognized as disciples of Jesus by our love for one another.(Jn.13: 35).  The joy of Jesus is to be ours. (Jn. 15: 11).  We are to love one another as Jesus loved us.{Jn.15: 12,17; 13: 34). We are confident in the reliability and infallibility of the message Jesus gave the Church(Jn.17: 8) to hand down from one generation to another, which includes our confidence in the forgiveness of sins and in the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  We are to find in the example of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples the way we are to serve one another. (Jn.13: 13: 14,15). We are to pray in times of trial and confidently always in Jesus' name  (Lk. 22:40 ff. )  We are to trust always in God's love. (Lk. 12: 22 ff.).

               Joy, confidence, obedience to the Father's will, love, trust, prayer, awareness of God's presence in us as well as around us , are all characteristics  of a faithful person.  They are integral parts of the virtue of our faith in Jesus itself.  I see them also as foreshadows of the rewards the Father is keeping for all of us who have  received and lived out the mystery of  His love for us in faith.
              A person who through no fault of his or her own does not have faith is judged by his or her conscience at the time of  his or her death. A person who has faith is judged by a conscience that is formed by faith.

               May your faith and mine cause us to think, and speak, and act like Jesus.  What a difference!  It is a difference for ourselves and for those around us.    


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Blog # 435 Unity of the Church

Blog # 435  Unity of the Church

           The week of  January 18 to 25 has for many years been designated by several Churches in the
United States and throughout the world as a period each year in which special prayers are offered for the intention of the unity of Christian believers.  I invite  you to set aside some time each day of these days, beginning today, to pray for the unity of believers in Jesus that He himself  prayed for the
night before He died.
            He is with the Apostles in the final hours He would spend with them before His agony in the garden, and His loving and obedient death on the  Cross ( Jn.17: 20ff.)  We hear Jesus praying: " I pray...for those who will come to believe in  me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in You, so that the world may believe it was You who sent me.  I have given them the  glory You gave to me, that they may be one as we are one that the world will realize it was You who sent me and that I have loved them as much as You have loved me."

              I cannot understand how anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus could take these words of  His lightly. Yet we tolerate divisions of the Church almost as if they were in agreement with His prayer and desire.  Part of the problem seems to be that none of us wants to be wrong or deficient in our faith, and in order to give ourselves the security we need to live in the conviction that we are right it turns out that others who differ from us must logically be wrong.  Then we try to discover the errors of others generally with little or no personal contact with the people we are judging. On the other hand,  none of us is completely right until all of us are one. Isn't that what Jesus prayed for the night before He died? If we really want to count to ten we count to ten; no exceptions.
              Suppose you were a teacher, and you had eighteen students in your class. Suppose you taught them all to spell cat C-A-T.  In learning it, all eighteen  students would agree with you.   Then, when they related to one another, if they really learned what you taught, it would necessarily follow they would also agree with one another.  If not, something would be wrong.

            This is similar to the way it is with the churches.  Jesus is the teacher of all. We wish to learn and believe, to follow and live what He taught.  We want to agree with Jesus, to be one with Him. The fact we are not united indicates that something is wrong. It is this problem I am inviting you to pray about this week.  "That all be one...that the world may believe is was You who sent me and that You loved them as you loved me.'


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Blog #434 Signs

Blog # 434 Signs

              Some days when I sit down to compose a new blog a thought for it seems to come right out of the blue.  At other times it will come in response to an article in yesterdays' local newspaper.  At other times, like this morning, a thought that invites me to respond to it in a blog just does not come, and I went back to reading some of  the essays I published each week in the parish bulletins of
various Glenmary  mission assignments as Pastor in Arkansas, Oklahoma, or here in
Georgia.  That is the way it was this morning.  The bulletin that helped me was from St. William Mission in Sandersville, GA dated October 29, 1995!

               The  gathering prayer of the Mass that day had these words in it: "Lord, may we do with loving hearts what you ask of us..."  The first reading of the Mass from the  Book of Sirach 35 said:
"He who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens..."  The Gospel gave the story of two men at prayer in the temple , one a Pharisee and one a Publican or tax collector.
                 The Pharisee flaunts his righteousness before the Lord.  "I did this and that, so many good things. The Lord should be happy, yes. I have glorified the Lord. How marvelous, and wonderful, and great I am!"  The glory offered was tarnished and the Lord was not pleased. The tax collector's head was bowed and he addressed the Lord from his knees. He recognized his sinfulness and his plea for mercy was a promise to do better.  The Lord's will would be his joy!
                   The following week I was preaching a parish mission over in Tennessee.  There were scheduled mission talks both in the mornings and in the evenings for three days.  In the afternoons I visited various members of the parish who were housebound.
                     One of the people I visited  was a lady thirty two years old who had been suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) for years. She could not walk or stand. She had to be fed by others. She could believe in God, and she did. Through Baptism she was one with the Lord and the Lord was one with her, by faith. She could believe and she did. She could smile and she did.  In God's love she possessed what she had always sought. Her dreams were realized in a way other than she had imagined, but really, and  in a way she could not have imagined. What a blessed experience it was, and what a source of inspiration to have the privilege of bringing her the Sacrament of  Holy Communion!
                        That evening I was giving a talk on the theology of Sacraments, outward signs,  that give God's love to us personally. In the talk that evening I gave the definition of a sacrament as a sign and then illustrated various  types of signs and how they work. A sign by its very nature points to something beyond itself. An exit sign  tells you where the way out is located.  A stop sign asks you to do just that, stop. If you receive a letter in the mail and it ends with the words "I love you", that too is a sign. " I love you" does not merely indicate a fact, like the exit sign, nor does it try to get you to do something like the stop sign.  Rather it tries to give you something, love. Every Sacrament is a sign that says, from God, through Jesus, I love you in a particular way.
                         That evening in 1995 has had an influence upon the content of Blog # 434 today.  Since God is the  Creator of all that exists, everything is related to God and points in some way to God. Stones do this, and flowers, and we, for we too, with the stones and flowers have all been created by God and are signs that God is real.
                          Debbie, the lady with MS, "serving God willingly" was a very special sign of  God. She was a sign that in spite of all our weaknesses and limitations, God's love can come to us, and invite us to be happy and to smile. I asked her to pray for me.  In honor to her and in thanks to her I will end Blog #434 with a prayer: Lord, thanks for all You have given me in the many years I have lived and in the many places I have lived and for the many people who have touched my life. Help me to pray and trust You as You taught Debbie to trust and pray, giving You the freedom to love me in any way You desire, for You are my God and You are worthy of unconditional trust and total love,  Amen !         

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Blog # 433 A Single Saving Vine

Blog # 433  A Single Saving Vine

              Most likely you would be surprised if you came across two otherwise normal people discussing, let alone arguing over whether it was more valuable to have a particular color eye or the ability to see.  Yet it seems something similar has been done in the history of Christian faith.

               For several centuries now a frequent focal point of serious discussions and arguments 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 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 and how can we argue about that?  Yet argue, contradict, condemn, and remain divided over the issue we do, all, we would like to think, in the name of Jesus. It must be something like the 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 and justify when you are not involved in the process, and it is as sad as it is real, but real it is  So it is with 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 for both sides.  When we put all of our texts together in a row, we wonder how it could be the 'other side'  does not see it our way and follow as we all should do on the clear path we have discovered.  One of the problems is that each side is as confident and sincere as the other. 

              There is also the danger of not seeing the real problem.  The real problem is our division Since we are dealing with God's plan of salvation in Jesus, as long as we remain divided in our conviction as to what that plan is, all of us are missing something essential God desires us to have, and. to that extent, all of us are wrong.

                There are several texts from Scripture that help us focus our efforts to understand one another and reconcile our differences with regard to the question of the relationship between  faith and good works.
                 First for 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 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 in me hath everlasting life." (Jn. 6: 47  KJV).  "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 and destitute of daily food, and one of  you say unto them, Depart in peace, 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, ..." (Acts 2: 14 - 17  KJV).
"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. KJV.

             " 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, or 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 proclaimed.  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.
                 In John's Gospel 15: 1 - 8  Jesus lays before us a different path. "I am the vine, you are the branches."  We are 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 essential requirement throughout our Christian experience is to be  united with Jesus through faith. Then, in union with Jesus, as  branches  united to a vine and to all the other branches, in one single life, we produce the good fruit of God's love.

               The prayer of  the Vine for His disciples was this: "...Father...I pray that they may be one, even as we are one."(Jn.17: 20 - 23. Then one day when Jesus had arrived home He asked the disciples what they were talking about as they walked along with Him on the way home. And remember what it was.  They were arguing about who was the most important among them. ( Mark 9: 33,34.)  History repeats itself.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Blog 432 Living in God's Presence

Blog # 432  Living in God's Presence

            People have told me they have found God present while walking  in the woods, skiing down a mountain, or holding a newborn baby.  I can understand this. I have been there.  Someone also told me that if he were looking for God, one of the last places he would look would be in Church. That
made me think. In the end I could also understand something of what he was saying, and it made me sad.
              Why would someone expect and experience God's presence in the woods, in the snow, and in a baby, and not in Church?
                 Words like beauty, truth, goodness, power, strength, generosity, wisdom, joy, relationship, meaning, and love all come to mind as part of what all of us seek and need in order to be happy. The realities experienced by such words are to be sought and found both within and around us. They are not found completely all at once, as when you might buy a golf club and you get the whole club all at once, even though the club will grow in value and meaning for you as you use it to play the game, enjoy it, and let it tell you your game is improving or going down hill.

                This is because a golf club is entirely physical, a material reality. We, in a human personal capacity, can add other dimensions to the club: hope, joy, remembrance, etc.  The realities I mentioned as the object of the need and quest of each of us are spiritual realities. They manifest themselves and can be found in our behavior and experience in varying degrees. They are not locked into physical dimensions such as color and shape as the golf club is.  Our share of wisdom, hope, love, and  goodness is limited but open ended.  No matter how much love we have, this side of death we never have it all.

                 A golf club is always the same size and shape.  We want it for what it is.  We protect it to keep it from being stolen bent or broken.   Love, as a spiritual reality, is open ended and can grow. We want it not only for what it is but for what it can be. We protect what we have of it but we are always seeking more.  We do not always need or want another golf club, but we always want more love.
                    One of the problems is we do not always realize this.  It seems we sometimes seek more things and physical pleasures as though in them happiness would automatically be ours.  This would be like a person seeking to play a better game of golf who would buy more clubs rather than work on his or her golf swing.  Though a club is part of a good game of golf it is not the game. A good game of golf is not in the club but in your use of it. 

                     Now back to God. Where is God?  God is everywhere.   That statement has been, is, and always will be true. But the same changeless ever-changing God is present always and everywhere differently at different times and in different things and places. That is one way of saying we do not know exactly what we are saying when we speak of God.  But we can understand something of the truth of that profound statement by seeing something of a reflection of it in a golf club.

                    The club is the same all week as it sits in the trunk of your car as it is out on the course on Saturday mornings.  Yet it is much different in the two instances.  God is the same yet different always and everywhere.
                    Your golf club is always yours,  wherever it might be.  But it is especially your club when you are using it to play golf.  So God is. God is always and everywhere.  But God is especially our God when we pray.  And only when we pray. So if you can pray when walking in the woods, skiing down a mountain, or holding a newborn baby, your God is there.
                       If we do not pray in the snow we do not find God there. If we do not pray in church we do not find God there. If we do not pray, wherever we might be, does not mean God is  not present.   Some people own golf clubs they never use. 

                       And when we pray in the snow it is not just the whiteness we experience but the cold as well. When we pray in church God is present not only in the walls and beautiful windows that surround us but in the people, and in the relationships that call us to forgiveness  patience trust hope generosity joy and love. Rather than discover by faith and accept this challenge that comes with the presence of God wherever we are, some people let themselves be tempted to say God is not present. 

                      Even as He continues  to create us and everything and everyone around us moment by moment, may God be present to us through faith and love everywhere we go!
                      I begin to understand more fully the words of  Paul to the Thessalonians: "Rejoice always,  never cease praying, render constant thanks ; such is God's will for you in Christ Jesus".  (1 Thes. 5:17).  As a prayer those words come out like this: Lord, help us rejoice always!  May we never stop praying and giving You thanks in and through Jesus Your Beloved  Son. Amen!   

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Blog # 431 The Baptism of the Lord b

         Blog # 431 The Baptism of the Lord  b
              Our faith in the presence of the Risen Christ among us is a gift of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus and sent by the Father in Jesus' name. (Jn. 14: 16, 25,26). The Spirit calls to our minds and clarifies in history the content of the message Jesus was sent to bring and live.  We want to know what it means for us to hear Jesus say to the  Father "as You have sent me into the world so I have sent them into the world" ( Jn. 17: 18), and when He says to the  Apostles "I solemnly assure you, the person who has faith in me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our abode with him."  (Jn. 14: 23).  And the words of Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me". (Gal. 2: 19).  Then the very significant text of the prayer Jesus offered the Father during the Last Supper in which He prayed that all who would come to believe in Him would be united, so the world would know you loved them as  you loved me. (Jn, 17: 22,23).
              We celebrate today on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord our faith in the Eternal Word beginning His public ministry of fulfilling the Father's will for Him on earth. That was the past tense of it.  That we read of in the  Bible. In the present tense we recall the baptism of the Lord, reflect upon its meaning, and with the same gift of faith invite the Risen Lord to fulfill that same Father's will IN USThat we live, to the glory of Jesus.

               "And a voice came from Heaven, saying, "This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."  Today's Feast has some of the elements of the experience of inaugurating a President, the swearing in of a judge, the presentation of a diploma at a college commencement, or the presentation of a driver's license to a person who has just passed the required exam.  Each of the persons in these incidences is recognized as officially qualified for some particular task or office. So it is with Jesus in today's Feast. 

                Jesus was ready to remain in the  Temple at the age of thirteen, but this was not the  Father's will for Him.  So He waited and willingly went back to Nazareth to live and learn what the Father had prepared for Him in the home of Mary and Joseph.  But now His time had come.  And the Father expresses His approval and great love for Jesus, granting His official credentials for being the Savior of all. This is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him.

              According to the Father's plan and desire, the life and ministry of Jesus is to continue on through history in the life and  ministry of  Christian believers.  It is not just that Jesus has gone on before  us to set an example for us to follow.  Rather He lives in us to accomplish  the father's will.  Through faith and  Baptism we are officially sent into the world to help make it holy. The Father
invites each of us to be the object of the same declaration we celebrate in the life of Jesus today on the  Feast of His baptism.  THIS IS MY BELOVED!  In our Baptism and in our continuing to lead a  Christian life we become the answer to the prayer of Jesus that the Father would love us as He loved Jesus.  Here we see the importance and the application of John 17: 20- 23.  " I pray for those who will
believe in me, that all may be one in us...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."   Our calling and identity as Baptized believers is to live in union with Jesus as beloved by Our Father.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Blog # 431 The Baptism of the Lord a

Blog # 431 The Baptism of the Lord a

             This blog will come in two parts, a and b.  This week-end we are celebrating the occasion of the Baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan.  The story is given in Matthew 3:13 - 17 and Mark 1:7 - 11.
In part a  I just want to review the process whereby we come to our knowledge of the facts of the
story. In part b we will consider the meaning or application of the facts and our response to them.

            Whenever a high school football team wins a State championship in their division it means they played good football.  I remember living in Sandersville, GA back in 1997 when  our local  team did that. Their record was 15 wins, no losses.

            You could have known our team played good football if you actually attended any of the games.  But even if you did not attend the games you could tell they played good football by the record.  And the more you know of football either by playing the game yourself or following it as a fan the more you appreciate and find interesting and exciting the experience and performance of the local team.

             Then when the season is over, the final game is won, and the trophy brought home, large enthusiastic headlines in the local paper proclaim the victory and exalt the team.  A parade is organized and the team rides through town on a flatbed truck. Cheers go up. The memories and excitement of the games come alive. The team is not actually running tackling passing scoring and winning now. That had all been done. Now is the time of glory appreciation and celebration of what had been done.  
              I see what you have been reading so far, lived out in our relationship to Jesus, in general, and particularly in relationship to the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
              Here's how.  As any Sandersville Hawks fan knows the team played well, so any believing Christian knows Jesus did something great with His life. But a difference comes here. None of us was alive almost two thousand years ago when Jesus actually spent His life for others.  This would be something like having none of us from town actually present at any of the fifteen games our team won.  We know what Jesus said and did primarily from the Bible. That would be something like knowing  how our team performed by their record, by the newspaper accounts, and by the pictures in the high school year book. 

               The sweat has been washed away, the victories have been won, the games are over. Some of us can get really excited just by reading about a good season this way. We watch the parade and cheer for the team even though we did not actually attend any of the games. With Jesus it can be somewhat similar.
                 We know we cannot eat with  Jesus in Martha's house, walk with Him on the streets of Jericho, hold the scroll for Him to read from it in the synagogue of Capernaum.  We were born too late for that. We could take this for granted and be satisfied to read it all in the pages of the Bible.
The actual games our team played, the actual life experience of Jesus on earth is over.  The memory of it, handed down through the centuries is exciting in itself.  It is fitting and proper that we bring deep praise and appreciation to Jesus for all that He has done.

                 This is the way it would be for someone coming to Sandersville years from now, when all the tacklers, end guards and quarterbacks will be gone.  You could get out some copies of old newspapers, read about the games, and rejoice  in the victories that we won.  But the real action in the three dimensions of it all would be in the past, real in that sense, but only in that limited sense.  Here is where our analogy parts from the reality of the story in the Bible.
                   In dealing with Jesus we are not dealing with the limited human reality of a local football team, capable of  living only once in the present and only in the memory of someone who might remember.  We realize these memories can have real power to inspire and call forth from a future coach and future students in our local school real hard work and real dedication to practice all that needs to be practiced in order to have a great team.  But it is different with Jesus and us.

                  In Jesus by faith we are dealing with God.  Limited for a time according to God's plan (Phil. 2: 16), Jesus was one of us.  He walked and talked ate grew tired and responded to events around Him in joy and sorrow in a way that was as human as our own. He can and should be imitated in this, but He did not come merely to be imitated.

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

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



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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Blopg # 330 Super Glue

Blog # 330   Super Glue

        If  you want a temporary binding Elmer's glue is fine.  It washes off children's clothes after a session in the craft class. If you make a mistake and glue the wrong pieces together it can be soaked off to give you another chance to do it correctly. That is not the way it is with Super Glue.  Super Glue is permanent.  Don't let children play with it. Make sure you put the right pieces together whenever you are using Super Glue!

          This afternoon I applied this to our reception of two of the Sacraments, Baptism and Reconciliation.  In both of them there is a commitment made to avoid sin in the future.  Our  lives are made up of the 'pieces' , experiences, of the individual days and years that will be ours. Some pieces are automatically ours by our nature.  Some are only possible and come to us only after they have been chosen. Time is a piece of our life.  The gift of faith is another. Family and friends. Our employment. Sacraments. Eventually death.  Sins are pieces of our lives consciously and willfully chosen in disobedience to God's love. Pornography.  Someone else's stolen wallet in our pocket. A refusal to forgive, dishonesty, lust.
            I imagined what we are talking about in terms of an experience of running.  In a local high school we can consider different categories of students who run.  Some run just for the fun of it, to stay healthy, to make it to class on time, or just because their boy or girl friend runs.  Others join the track team.  They do not run merely to run, but in a special relationship to the school, officially as members of the team.  The physical motion of their running is the same.  In the second category of runners, however, there is a whole new level of awareness that changes the very  nature of the total experience of running.

              It is something like this with all who live. Some just live. Others experience a special relationship with God  through faith and Baptism, and through Baptism, a new identity and relationship with God and others in the Church.  For runners on a team, there are good days and bad days as far as performance goes.  But the experience as a member of the team continues throughout.

                Diet, sleep, training sessions, coaching, and track meets all enter into the responsibilities that come to a member of the team. Prayer, obedience, collaboration, social justice, mutual respect and concern, love for the poor, moral goodness, and worship all take on a special identity for us as members of the Body of Jesus, the Church. All the good we do is done not merely in imitation of Jesus, but  in Jesus., Jesus living in us, we living in Jesus, our love in Jesus' love, Jesus' love in our love! (John 17:22,23,26).

                  Jesus said and did the Father's will always.  We  say and promise to do this when we renew our Baptismal promises and when we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but we sometimes forget, sometimes do it poorly, sometimes continue to let ourselves be tempted, and sometimes disobey.

                    Yet we are always identified and called to be, good or bad, a branch on the Vine which is Christ, a member of His Body. And that is where the image of the glue comes in.  From all eternity God's design for creation included a union of our humanity with the divinity of His Son. Nothing less than a supernatural power could effect and preserve such a union.

                  Elmer's glue is not used  when it comes to joining a piece of wood with a piece of  metal.  A weak faith will not sustain us in times of trial.  The author of the letter to the Romans asks " Who will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?...I am certain that neither life nor death, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord."  (Rom, l8: 35 - 39).        
                  He is talking about a faith that says yes and follows through until the end of the race.
It is available to us always and everywhere in union with Jesus in the unconditional trust an total love Jesus gives the Father in our name.   It is powerful enough to conquer every temptation and eliminate every sin.  This is God's eternal design.  It is designed to last forever!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Blog # 429 Christmas revisited

Blog # 429  Christmas revisited

            T'was the day after Christmas, and all through the house... - GIFTS.

           Here we are almost two weeks past Christmas.  We have celebrated the whole week of Christmas as if it were a single day.  Then it was Epiphany. This coming Sunday will be the  Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. He will be a grown man by then and next in our Liturgical Year celebrating His entire life as God's Beloved Son Among Us, we will go into Ordinary Time. This morning as I sat down to think of what to say in Blog # 429 I found a benefit in briefly revisiting Christmas and that is what I will share with you.

           What did you receive for Christmas?  What comes to mind immediately were I to ask you that question?   Gifts!  Toys, clothes. food, joyful Christmas music, sacred and secular, appliances, money, furniture, trinkets, jewelry, cosmetics, etc., etc. etc., right? 

            Yes, and how about on a different level, the beauty of Christmas wrappings, the greetings and news from old friends, some from thirty years ago, the joy of a surprise, the hugs and kisses of friends and family, the memory of Christmas celebrations gone by, good  health.  And did some receive the gift of sickness?

           Then JESUS,  "the Reason for the season.  The inspiration of His life death and resurrection  that we found again as it applied in new ways to the new experiences in our lives we were called to address this past year, the source of our hope for holiness and happiness here below and forever,  His teachings that became our faith, His love shared, our greatest joy, His prayers ours, His Father Our Father.  The Holy Spirit sent by Jesus from Heaven as He promised, to aid us and strengthen us be be empowered to know You, love You and always fulfill Your will for each and all of us.
             'Tis the days after Christmas, and all through the house gifts...our eight-room house, our  two-room apartment, our room at a local nursing home, our hospital bed, in the very personal 'house' I call my heart....GIFTS, some as yet unopened but given.

               Thank You, Lord!  Amen!


Monday, January 5, 2015

Blog # 428 God , People, Freedom, Love

Blog # 428  God, People, Freedom, Love

           People around the world come in different shades of color in a variety of distinctive shapes and sizes. Yet there is something consistently the same about us wherever we are.  We make different sounds in a wide variety of languages to signify the same realities of bread, water, hope, anger, loneliness, enmity, and love.  In spite of our many differences there is something the same about us that makes us all one.

            The critical truth that makes us all one is the fact we all come into existence through the will of  a single Creator, the one true God.  After this most basic fact about us is realized the differences we experience are minor.  The differences are real, yes, but are far less consequential than the truth that makes us one.

             What I have just stated is the dream, the ideal, the map, design, goal, plan, or whatever you might like to say in order to indicate the work and will of the Creator of us all.  And yet in the human limitations that are ours and in the gift of our freedom, that dream and ideal is not what we have yet worked out among us. 

            We remain unaware of one another, apart from one another, strangers, competitors, sometimes enemies.  This is true of folks who live in nursing homes, villages, cities, families, and nations.  As a result of our failure to discover,  understand and follow the design of God that invites us to be one in God, we often stand alone, argue rather than discuss, compete rather than cooperate, fail to trust one another, and make war rather than build peace.

             We are present in the book of Genesis as we are in our daily newspapers.  And our Creator is present to us now as He was present to our first parents in the beautiful garden in which He had created them. Now as then water freezes, fire burns, the stars shine, the earth moves around the sun, men and women are gifted with the gift of freedom.  The Creator seems merely to be watching from a distance rather than from within all that exists. 

              It almost seems as though God, in giving us freedom, has given us humans less rather than more than creatures on a level of existence lower than ours. The rest of creation follows the Creator's plan without fail.  For us it is sometimes yes and sometimes no.  The rest of creation is never ashamed embarrassed or guilty because of its behavior. This is regularly the case with us.

              Truly, however, it is a fallacy to think the gift of freedom is anything less than the greatest natural gift we have as human creatures.   It is only when it is abused or left unused that freedom is the occasion of our being ashamed embarrassed or guilty.  It is a dividing line between ourselves and the rest of creation. It is what the Creator 'saw' when the first work of creation was done.  The Creator looked upon it all and said the work of creating human reflections of  His wisdom and goodness gifted with freedom was very good. (Gen. 1: 31).

               Fire water air and earth are all expressions of the Creator's love. For them this is not done in freedom.  We are gifted with the ability to make it ours by choice.  This choice of ours is made possible through the gift of freedom. We are called to discover God and respond to our discovery in freedom.. Through freedom we open our hearts to those around us and form a community of hearts.  Through freedom we live out our Baptismal commitment united  in Jesus in our daily experience of the gift of life as branches on a single vine and members of  the Church in unconditional trust and total obedient love for our Creator.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Blog # 427 Epiphany

Blog #  427 Epiphany

          A song book, a home video of Grandma's eightieth birthday party, playing cards, seeds, a recipe book, a crucifix, the Gospel passage telling us of the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem.

          What have all of these in common?   There is something real in each of them that comes to us from the past and reaches to the present, inviting a response.  Sing it again, play it again, plant another garden, bake another cake. Remember Grandma.  See her wonderful smile again. Introduce her to her four year old grandchild, although she died at the age of eighty, seven years ago.  This is how we loved her on her eightieth birthday.  This is how she sang for us.  This is what she said about Grandpa, who had died twenty years before.

             It is different, yes, but true, and the same as it was when we were there with her thirteen years ago.  The video helps us remember.  Watching it again helps us renew and grow in our love for her.  It is not just another TV show. We keep it and plan to watch it again.  It is similar with the other items listed above.  Seeds for more tomatoes.  New and different tomatoes, but the same breed we enjoyed last season, and connected with them in the seed.  The same playing cards, bridge, the same name of the game Mother played last evening, but now you are playing with a different set of friends. 

             You found the recipe for the great spaghetti sauce you enjoyed in that famous restaurant in New York City when you were there for your fifteenth wedding anniversary.  Now it is another special day, your sixteenth anniversary. You are not in New York.  But you remember.  You put the recipe together and it has been cooking almost all day on your stove.  You found all of the ingredients called for in the recipe.  Your kitchen smells very much like a famous restaurant in New York. How happy you and John will be when you light the candles and sit down for supper together.  The
spaghetti sauce has all of the ingredients the recipe called for, but it has the added ingredient that makes it uniquely special this evening, your anniversary love.

          It is something all of this with the feasts we celebrate throughout the liturgical year.  Something
real  happened in the past.  We believe. We remember. We sing it again.  We watch it again.  Jesus is born, and we are there.  Jesus claims to be God.  Jesus teaches,  Jesus dies on the wood. We are there. Jesus asks us the same questions He asked Peter and the other disciples. He tells us the same message He gave in Jerusalem. He offers us the same love He offered in Bethany. We are invited to respond, to make it our own. The same recipe, a new bag of flour!  God' love, in  us.

           Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem. It happened a long time ago, in a far-away place.  They came by camel rather than by air.  They traveled a path in the desert. It was a long and difficult journey. If we realize what our liturgical feasts
are designed to do, we realize we have a part to play, today, in the events in the life of Jesus that we recall and relive in a particular feast.  We have questions to answer. What was happening? Who are the people involved? What did hey think, say, or do?

         Mary and Joseph continue to be present in today's feast. They are faithful servants of  the Lord,
holy ones. We admire them and thank them.  They give us joy in their love for Jesus.  The Magi are discoverers, willing to grow, to follow their star, responsive, self-giving, persevering, rich, humble , blessed.  To be like them we are not called to learn to ride a camel, but how to identify and follow a star. Their physical star may have been Haley's comet.  No doubt they were among many people who
saw it with their physical eyes.  The real star of the Magi was the star that told them of God's plan for them, that invited them to go after it. It was their conscience, and they followed  that star to Jesus.  We have a conscience too; that same star is calling us and leads to the same Jesus the Magi discovered.

            Herod was jealous, fearing and fearsome, selfish, insecure, and violent. We can thank him for teaching us how we should never be.   Finally the ordinary people.  As tradition has handed the story down, the Magi were few in number. Most of the people seem to have been unaware of them and their story. Most of the people were following another agenda.  Maybe later on some of them came to know and believe in Jesus.  Maybe some of them were on Calvary and just watched that go by too. Maybe they did not realize they had a part to play. They are alive today.

               The traditional theological content of today's feast has been a recognition of the divinity of Jesus in the coming of the earthly rulers and wise men to pay Him homage and offer their treasures to Him, and secondly an emphasis on the universality of salvation, and the call to welcome the whole world into the saving love of God in Jesus.  This is seen in the fact the Magi are traditionally given as Gentiles, rather then as Jews or as already members of the People of God and children of Abraham.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Bloog # 426 Humility

Blog # 426  Humility

        A telephone a computer an electric razor a color  TV, all are different in what they were designed to do. Yet all are the same in  that they must be plugged into an electric source in order to be what they were designed to be.  That is the way humility works.

          But before we get to that, think of the most recent time you used the word humility or heard the word spoken in your presence. I would not even think of asking  you when it might have been when you most recently read the word in a daily newspaper or heard it on TV. Chances are the word humility is not a frequent or significant part of your daily conversation. If this be so, it is likely to be true that you are not aware of any special value in it for you and that you are not growing in it. The new year might be a good time to check this out.

          What comes immediately and spontaneously to your mind when I place the word before you now?  I think many people would think of sinfulness, lowliness, or powerlessness of some kind.  There is a connection between all of these with one another and with humility, but these words do not capture all there is to  humility nor its real essential meaning.

            We are to be humiliated in the sight of our sins, yes,  but there is a positive and more significant aspect to the virtue.  Jesus was without sin, yet was the most humble of us all.
Even with the lowliness, if  you want to put it that way, or the simplicity and poverty of His birth in a stable, and His lying as a baby in a manger, Jesus was God, divine, lofty beyond our imagination.

             Though we find Jesus walking from Jerusalem to Jericho, and though He wept over the death of His friend Lazarus, Jesus had the power to walk on water, and to calm a storm.  Though He was hung on the cross as a criminal, He had the power to tell Pontius Pilate that Pilate would have had no power over Him whatever if it had not been given him "from above".  (Jn. 19:11).

             Humility can be experienced in lowliness powerlessness, and in response to our sins. But it can also be experienced, and perhaps more perfectly, when we are holy, at the peak of our prayer, and at the moment of our greatest success.

                Humility is a natural virtue and can be experienced even by a person who does not believe in God. For such a person the ingredients of humility are truth and honesty, seeing or experiencing life as it is (truth) rather than as we might like it to be, and accepting  this truth rather than denying or distorting it. Such a person is naturally humble and naturally happy.

                   But humility has often been labeled as a characteristically Christian virtue.  The basics of
Christian humility include what it takes to make the natural experience of humility, truth and honesty,  the acceptance of the truth, but adds the dimension of God and our union with Jesus in our response to God.  To  the natural experience of humility the Christian virtue of humility adds faith and obedience.
                    By faith we accept as fact that God is the Creator of all, and that we depend  upon God for all that we have and all that we are or hope to be. When we respond to that faith in obedience and accept all that we are and all that is real for us as an expression of the will of  Jesus we have Christian humility.  We do not look to ourselves for our purpose or meaning but to God.  Health or sickness, wealth or hard times are not what determine for us whether we are humble or not, but our relationship to all things in the light of our relationship with God in Jesus.

                   I am humiliated  by my sins. I am humble when I accept forgivenessIn my sin I turn away from God.  In forgiveness I am once again the person God desires me to be. 

                     I am humble in the garden as I stand before the plan of God in the power of a seed to grow, shared with me in the here and now of the garden. I am humble before the wonders of my body with so much going on within it shared with me totally yet all belonging to God. I am humble before the sun as it rises and sets. The sun belongs to God. Yet its beauty and power are shared with me.  I am humble before friends and before love. God has commanded everyone to love me and me to love everyone. I am humble before this command and rejoice in trying to fulfill it.

                    The seed would grow and the sun comes up and goes down for the unbeliever as well as for me. But it is God's gift only for the humble honest thankful one who believes.

                      Now let's go back to the beginning of our blog.  We are something like the electric appliances in that in order to be fully what we are designed to be we must be related to God as the electric appliance must be plugged in to an electric source in order to be what it was designed to be. We are real even though we are not consciously related to God, but we are not all we were designed to be. We do not have Christian humility, and we are missing a wonderful experience.

                       Here is a short prayer Sister Christine Marie taught our class in our first year in  grade-school eighty years ago: Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.