Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blog # 451 Come to me.

Blog # 451  Come to me.

            It seems to me that if we are to understand what a person is doing we have to try to understand why he or she is doing it. The goal of our actions gives them meaning.

              So it was with Jesus.  Christmas is connected to His teaching, kindness, and miracles.  These are connected to Calvary and Calvary is connected to Easter. Easter is connected to His Ascension,  the Ascension is connected to Pentecost, and all are connected to the question Why did Jesus come?
 Jesus frequently identifies himself as being sent by the Father and always doing the Father's will. (Jn. 8: 29).  The Eternal Word, incarnate on earth and called Jesus, was a messenger of the Creator of all that exists.  He was to remain on earth for certain time.  He was  like us in all but sin.  He always did the Father's will. In the Father's will was the goal of  his life on earth and its meaning..

              Jesus did not cease to be the Word in coming among us.  Yet in order to be really one of us he had to be limited, as we are, by space time and all the human limitations that are ours.  He had to learn how, in his own time and place, in his own individual 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 his divine love in human limited words thoughts and actions. 

             He had to pray. In his limited short-lived human experience he had to praise and thank the Father for a very small part of all that, as the Word,  he knew God had done.  Maybe it was something like our own experience of thanking God for the four goldfish we keep in a ten gallon tank of water in our living room, knowing all the while there are unimaginably numerous other fish we do not see for which we can be thankful.

             We believe that what Jesus was sent to do was done not only for the Father's glory but for us.  We need to deepen our understanding of this faith of ours.  For example, we often tend to view 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, Mary Magdalene,  Francis of  Assisi, and our Patron Saints were sent for this. Jesus was sent for more.

              The Word 'came' from Heaven and lived among us as one of us so that we might 'go' to Heaven living in Jesus!  The supernatural gift that makes this possible we have called Sanctifying Grace . It is a gift that makes us holy or like to God  by way of uniting us with Jesus as branches are united to a vine and share the life of the vine to which they are united. 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" the Kingdom of God, seeing in this instance meaning to know or understand. (Jn. 3: 1-12).

                 Down through the ages back to the 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 just go before us in a previous moment of history but he lives in us today.  He did not merely live for us as a role model, but currently shares with us by faith his divine 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 church building in which we pray, a house where we live, or clothes that we wear, but more like 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 in him so that where he is they will be. (Jn. 14 2-3).

                 "Come to me" was his call to people 2,000 years ago. To come to Jesus was to be united to Him as branches on a vine, sharing His divine life.  What a gift and joy it is to hear that same call each day as we awake from sleep, and finally especially at the instant of our death!


Friday, February 27, 2015

Blog # 450 Love

Blog # 450   Love

           As the Biblical source of this blog I am using Jer. 1: 4-5,  1 Cor. 12: 31-13: 13, and Luke 4: 21-30.
            In the first and third passages we find Jeremiah and Jesus in similar situations.  Both are at the beginning of their public ministry as prophets of the Lord.  Both have been sent with a message for the world around them.  Neither of them show any hesitation or lack of confidence in the content of the message they bring.  They give themselves generously to the task at hand.

             In preaching their message both Jeremiah and Jesus run into difficulty.  The people are challenged to change, to grow, to look after the welfare of others as if it were their own, to discover what it means and how much it can cost to love someone. They see this as a difficult path to follow.  They do not like what they hear. Both prophets are presented as being in trouble.  Their confidence as prophets was being challenged and in the case of each of them being proved.

              In our passage from Jeremiah we hear the Lord verifying his call to Jeremiah given before the prophet was born.  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you."  The difficulties and rejection are also seen.
"...gird your loins, stand up and tell them all that I command you.  Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass against the whole land..."  The final vindication of the prophet is also assured by the Lord.  " They will fight against you but will not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord."

              We see three stages in the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah: 1. his call and dedication by the Lord, 2. struggle and rejection, and 3. victory and vindication. Three like stages can be recognized in the prophetic ministry of Jesus.

                Jesus is in the synagogue at Nazareth.  He has read from the prophet Isaiah.  "The Sprit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me...He has sent me...".Jesus says of the passage "Today this passage is fulfilled in your hearing."  The first response of the people was one of affirmation and approval.  But soon Jesus challenged them to greater holiness.  He points out to them how God was more close and pleased with a widow in Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian leper (both  not members of the Mosaic community of faith) than He was with the Israelites who were Israelites in name rather them in their hearts.

                The struggle heats up.  The people drive Jesus out of town,  and lead him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built with the intention of casting him over the cliff to his death.  Luke indicates the third stage of Jesus' prophetic ministry, his victory and vindication, in the simple words "Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away."

                It is easy to see the three stages of ministry (call, struggle, and vindication) in the  lives of Jeremiah and Jesus.  They also can be discovered in he lives of great Saints in the Church and in the lives of  everyone who believes in God and follows God's plan.  That includes you and me. 

               For those of us who were Baptized as infants the process began at that point.  The moment of our Baptism represents our official call by God to a prophetic ministry in Jesus. lt is similar to the call of Jeremiah before he was born.  For those who came to a conscious free act of faith at a later stage of life that moment represents the initial call.

                 Than follows the struggle, more intense at some times than others.  We are challenged and tempted away from faithfulness to our call. Many of us know the relief and joy it is to taste the pleasure of victory over temptation, or the blessing of coming back to prayer when we have neglected it for a time.  These moments and occasions of call struggle and victory occur throughout our lives.  Some are brief and small.  Some are large and extend over a long period of time.  They should not be considered accidental.  Rather they can be seen as a share in the victory of Jesus over evil given him by the Father as a reward for his faithfulness to his call now lived out in faithfulness by us.

                 When asked on one  occasion what was the greatest of all the commandments Jesus answered without hesitation we must love God above all else and then as a bonus he gave the second commandment as our love for one another.  Love would be the key to understanding and releasing the meaning and power of His message.  I found myself wondering why the people who rejected Jeremiah and Jesus acted the way they did when the message of both prophets was one of love. I
found my answer in 1 Cor. 12 31-13: 13.

                    This passage is very familiar to us all. It is often chosen by couples as one of the Scripture readings at their marriage ceremony. On those occasions it is seen as a beautiful and fitting expression of the core and foundation of the relationship the couple entering married life wish to have. And it is certainly that.  But when I read it over again in preparation for writing this blog I saw it in a different light.

                    The vision of love 1 Cor. gives was just as beautiful and attractive as ever, and perhaps  more so.  Its beauty and attractiveness was what made me wonder at the attitude of the  people who expelled Jesus from the synagogue.  His whole message was one of love. He summed up all of  God's commands to us in love.  How could anyone reject him for that? I went to Cor. again and the answer began to become clear.

               What we read in the letter to the Corinthians is what the people heard in the synagogue at Nazareth. "Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not  rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices over the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,  Love never fails."  Whatever else you have, if  you do not have love, you have nothing of real value.

                There is a price to be paid for love, and I imagine that is where the difficulty came for the people in accepting the message of Jesus. Love has to do with more than just good feelings toward another or an attractiveness to another's personality or physique.  These can be part of an experience of love, but they alone are not enough to define and sustain the love Jesus preached as the heart of our relationships with God and one another.

             To have genuine love we must have patience, kindness, a willingness to identify the needs of others as our own, and generous self-giving. These constitute the challenge of love. Somehow at times we would rather have it another way. When someone comes along  telling us in the name of
God we are not doing it rightly we wish he were someplace else, and if enough people in the synagogue feel that way we throw him out.l

              But love never fails, which means it never gives up, it never stops.  Jesus will be back, and he will say it again.  Because to love means to give, he will say very clearly there is no greater love than to lay down your life for someone.  To lay down your life is to give all that you have.  Jesus will illustrate that perfect love on Calvary. He loves the Father and us that much! Thank You Jesus!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Blog # God's love.

Blog # 449 God's  love.

         This blog originated in some notes I had used in preparation for a homily at Mass over in Sandersville, GA twenty years ago. The readings of the Mass were: Is. 66: 10-14 and Luke 10: 1-9

        Throughout the world Mother Teresa of Calcutta was known as a holy person.  She had accomplished a great deal in her love for the poor and afflicted.  Yet if we study her life and the talks she gave on occasions of dedicating hospitals and places of refuge for the poor it becomes evident that in her own mind her holiness does not so much consist in what she had accomplished as her personal relationship with God. It is in God's name and with God's power within herself that she did what she did and said what said. And it has been this way with holy people down through the ages.

         Jesus reinforces this truth and reminds of it in Luke 10: 1-9.  He focuses the relationship His disciples have with Him by sending them out to preach the message and share what He has shared with them. They accomplish the task and come back from their mission rejoicing.  Jesus lets them know He was aware of what they accomplished and rejoiced with them. Nevertheless He tells them do not rejoice so much over what you have done as in that you are living in union with God, and that
 your names are inscribed in Heaven". 

           I wonder how many people experience the impact of Luke's use of the present tense of the verb used in that statement of Jesus. I think some people would tend to read the phrase "are inscribed" as "will be inscribed" in Heaven. We tend to think of Heaven as coming in the future rather than as present, now, as well as then.

            If what we do is the expression of who we are, and this seems to be what Jesus was telling the returning missionaries, then we do rejoice in what we do, yes, but even more in who we are.  Both elements of our identity are the will of God and cause of rejoicing. but one is temporary, the other for now and forever.

             These thoughts led me back to the first reading at Mass, from the prophet Isaiah.  Writing centuries before Jesus, the author invites his readers to rejoice with Jerusalem.  It is the time of the return of God's people from exile. They are coming home to the Holy City. Their exile and separation from the Jerusalem was a response from God to their sinfulness.  Their coming back was the joy of being reunited with a loving mother. "As a mother comforts her son, so I will comfort you."

            It should be easy for us to understand and appreciate the joy in both these readings, the joy of coming home, and, with the power of God and at the invitation of Jesus, the joy of sharing the message of Jesus with others. I asked myself the question: must this joy be the experience of people back in the time of Isaiah and of Jesus, or can it, should it be mine today?  And the answer came: Yes!, it can, it should be mine. Then I set out to discover how and when.   

            I began to realize more clearly the meaning and impact of the fact "I believe in one God". as I say so regularly and nonchalantly each Sunday in the Creed at Mass. One God, the Creator of all. The
God who summoned and led the Chosen People back to Jerusalem is the same God who summons and leads us today to wherever he wants us to be, for whatever His commandments lead us to think say and do. Their joy is our joy.  United with Jesus through faith and Baptism and sent by Him to share with all we meet, the same message He gave the seventy two disciples sent in Luke, their joy is my joy. God has a plan or will for each of us always, today. To be aware of this is to be aware of His joy and mine in all that we do in His name.

          There is but one God, and God is love. Everything and everyone is connected In God's love.  If we understand that and live by it our names are inscribed in Heaven!                      

Blog # 448 Love

Blog  # 448      Love

              I thought it would be good to refresh our memories as to some of the things the Bible says of love.  Here are several  of the references I think we can find useful in discovering in a deeper and more meaningful way the content and challenge of the command we have to love God above all and to love one another as Jesus loves us.  We are never without God's love, but sometimes we forget or
are distracted by something else and are not aware of it. What a source of peace joy and power the love of God is!  But it can also be a challenge.

Love in the Bible:

1 Jn. 4:8   God is love...God's love for us was revealed when God sent into the world His only Son. 

Matthew 22: 34-40. Which is the greatest Commandment?... love the Lord your God... and the second is love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two Commandments hang the whole law...

Jn. 13 34-35.  This is how all will know you are my disciples, your love for one another.

Jude 3: 19 Keep yourselves in the love of God.

Jn. 14: 31 I love the Father.

Jn. 15: 9  ...abide in my love.

Jn. 15:13 ....greater love than this no one has...

Jn. 21 15  ... you know I love  you...

Romans 8: 28  We know that to them that love God all thins work together for good.

Romans  8: 35 What shall separate us from the love of God?

Romans 13: 8  Owe no one anything but to love one another.  One who loves one's neighbor has fulfilled the law.

1 Cor. 2: 9  Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it dawned upon us what God has prepared for those who love Him.

Your Lenten smile
What is an Indian hitchhiker called in October?
                       An Indian Thumber

Pete Hey Mac, What was the largest  island in the world before they discovered  Australia?
Mac:  That's easy.  Australia!

Mac:  Hey Pete, Did you hear about the kidnapping in Paris yesterday?  Pete: Yeah, they woke hjim up.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Blog # 447 God

Blog # 447  God


What did  you think of that first paragraph?   It almost looks like a  typographical error, just three   letters sitting there alone.  Yet what you and I think of God is the key to what we think of the value and meaning of the life of Jesus, and of the Church, of ourselves, and of the whole world around  us.

          Blog # 446  considers briefly some ideas about God that will perhaps invite us to ask further questions about God, and in the process grow in our knowledge and love for God.  St. Thomas Aquinas, back in what has been called the Golden Age of Catholic Theology and Philosophy, asked the question: Can we really even speak of God?

           What do people mean when they say: In Heaven we shall see God face to face?  What do we mean when we say : God is changeless?   What do you think of this statement?: "You cannot prove that God exists.  If we could, I would think He/or She, the god you would proclaim, is not God. And I would imagine that among intelligent people there would be few atheists and among less intelligent people there would be few who discovered God, but that is not the case. If you or I were to 'prove' that God exists, I would think He is not God. To prove God exists would be in a real sense to be greater than He, to contain Him in our mind , to control Him, to be God's  God!"  Also, to exist is a
word that automatically limits the verb to which it applies. If  something exists it has to exist here, there, or some place else,  large, small, hot, cold, etc. etc.  When God  gave His Name to give to Pharaoh God said I AM.  God  is infinite, without limits.  God simply IS!
            With regard to the question of seeing God we profess that it is impossible ever here or in Heaven to see God physically with our eyes.  This is so in that to be seen physically requires that what is seen be colorful and to be colorful would automatically limit God and make God Who is unlimited a contradiction in terms. Then realizing our dictionaries and the Bible itself uses the word see to mean know, we ask can we see God in the sense of knowing God. Again in  view of the infinite difference between creator and creature, we acknowledge our inability to know God. As the eye is not capable of experiencing sound, and the ear is not capable of experiencing color, so our minds are not capable of knowing God in Himself.  1John 4:12 testifies to this. "No one has seen God." Verse 18 of the first Chapter of John has the exact same words:  "No one as ever seen God."

            So use  your imagination for a moment and imagine yourself walking along a smooth seashore. You see footprints in the sand.  You have no problem recognizing them as evidence that a horse, a man, and a dog were walking on the beach. In a similar way we see evidence of power wisdom and goodness around us and within us. That cannot be denied.  From these 'footprints' a person can draw the conclusion, as we draw a certain confident conclusion from footprints on the sand that a Power a Wisdom and a Goodness is present in and around us, and we say the word God. This experience is something akin to seeing a person in a mirror rather than directly.
Our knowledge would be true, but because of our human limitations, it would be very incomplete.

             God. in His divine love for us desired to offer a greater knowledge of Himself so that we in our turn, knowing God better could love God more. And  so, in a significant text  for our present considerations (Matthew 11: 27) , we have: " one knows the Father but the Son, and anyone to whom  the Son wishes to reveal Him". 

            Jesus, alone, as God's eternal Son knows God on an equal basis.  Jesus. like us in all but sin, reveals God according to our limited human capacity.  We hear Jesus speak of  the infinite God in human terms as our Father.  We see Jesus praying, worshipping, trusting. obeying the Infinite God in a very real and personal way on earth, from earth, with the same human nature as we possess. No one can see God. But God has been revealed to us by His Son Jesus. No one knows the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him!

            Jesus is the revealer of the living Eternal Ceator of all! Why is it that some of our Protestant friends are afraid that Catholics do not believe and know this of Jesus?  How important it is that each of us lives in such a way that no one around us would ever have the least doubt that we know and love Jesus as the sole source of our faith, the justification of our hope, and the model of our love for the Eternal Creator, God, our Father, worthy of our unconditional trust and total love!

Your Lenten smile:

Pete: Hey, Mack, How come your dog keeps turning around in circles so much?
 Mac: . that's OK. The guy who sold him to me said he is a watch dog, and that is how he  winds himself up.
Knock, Knock.Who's there?   Phyllis.  Phyllis who?   Phyllis in on the latest news.





Monday, February 23, 2015

Blog # 446 The Gospel...My Gospel...Me.

Blog # 446   The Gospel...My Gospel...Me.

            Since there is but one God-Creator of all that exists, and God alone is holy, it follows that holiness has to be in a relationship with God, a sharing somehow in God's holiness, a reflection of it, an expression of it in a limited way in our own lives.  And since God is present always and everywhere in all that exists, we can  discover reflect and express God's holiness in all that exists, always and everywhere.
             There is a lot of  'meat' in that paragraph. Yet it is very simple. I used it about twenty years ago in one of my weekly parish bulletins. It seemed to express the thought and lesson conveyed by the Epistle (Is  6: 1-8) and Gospel (Luke 5: 1-11)  of the Mass that Sunday.

               Isaiah, through a vision,  is put into a relationship with God. The experience is awesome for him. He is afraid.  He is conscious of his unworthiness and separation from God.   Then God's messenger comes to him and he is transformed. He becomes a messenger of God's holiness himself.

               In the Gospel Peter relates to Jesus at the beginning in a very practical way. He supplies the boat from which Jesus would preach to the people on the shore.  Peter can  handle this.  Jesus could have used any other boat.

                 Then when Jesus finished speaking he sent Peter out to fish. The carpenter tells the fisherman how and where to fish!  Almost as though God would not know, Peter tells Jesus about the night before when he caught nothing. Now, not as a fisherman, but as one sent by Jesus, Peter lowers the nets and makes a great catch.  What was different in his experience now and last night was not in his competence as a fisherman, in the  quality of his boat, or his 'good luck' but precisely in that he was now fishing according to the plan of Jesus.  Jesus was in him and in his fishing as God, the Holy One, was to be in Isaiah.

                God IS, always, everywhere, in all that exists.  The same God  who was dealing with Isaiah was dealing with Peter through Jesus. The same God is dealing with us! There is but one
God. Our time is part of always. Our place is part of everywhere. We are part of the total that exists.  The God of Peter, the /God of Isaiah, is our God.

               That simple, yet profound. It sheds light, yet challenges us to use the light it gives to face  the darkness we know. We might have expected Jesus to tell Peter to come with him to the synagogue to pray.  But He told him to fish.  God was able to be with Peter everywhere.  His fishing was to be a holy experience, done according to the plan of God. There would be times when Jesus would take Peter to the mountain, to the desert, to the garden, precisely to rest, reflect, and to pray. But He would also send Peter fishing, to work in the world, and to experience reflect and express God's holiness there as well.

            But for all of his to occur Peter would have to listen understand and follow. He would have to make the plan of God in Jesus his own.  Here we are in 2015. We are Isaiah.  We are Peter. God is still the Holy One.  God is still sending Jesus. God is sending us.  There are stages to the process. First we must hear the word of  God. Then we must understand what we hear. Then we must follow, make what we hear or own and begin to live it. And when this begins to occur, that moment, that place where we are, whether it be fishing or at prayer, it is a holy moment, and that experience, and we, are holy with a share in the holiness of God. That is God's plan every day of our life. It is simple, yet divine.

           It is something like eating an apple. The apple is real.  We make it our own.  By eating it we make it part of us and we do things with he energy it provides.  So the Gospel. We must discover it to make it real.  We must believe it to make it our own.  Finally we must  live with the energy and direction it gives. Then it is what the Gospel is intended to be for us.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Blog # 445 Three Questions

   Blog # 445 Three Questions

              What did God say, ever?   What is God saying, now?  What will God say when our story and the story of creation is over?

               We can arrive at definite answers to the first two questions. We might begin by quoting some of the Bible as the word of God.  For example, in the first Book of the Bible God said let there be light.  When God finished the work of creation God said it was good, and when God had created humankind in God's own image, God said that was very 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 and Himself we are one. And Jesus said follow me.  Maybe you could find some time this week answering the question for yourself. 'What did God say in the past?"

              The second  question asks what is God saying now.  If we are really willing to be  honest, and there is no other way to be before ourselves and God, then we might have to say as our answer "not very much", or  "nothing right now". Certainly such an answer would be better than a whole stream of words that would not be true.  What is God saying to you as a unique individual, to your family, currently, this week, today? Only you can say, but I can and do invite you to ask the  question. 
              The third question can only be answered in hope.  The answer, of course, will come year by year as long as we live on earth, and then, as a final answer, when our journey here  on earth will be over.  Whenever we ask the third question its answer is related to and depends upon the answers to the first two questions.  What we experience as God's word to us in the past, and what we experience as God's word in the present is the foundation and basis for what we hope will be God's word to us in the future and for eternity.

             Years ago when I attended a retreat for priests in Louisville, Kentucky I heard Archbishop Sheen say he hoped that when he first met Jesus on the other side of death Jesus  might 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.  A boy of eleven or twelve, based on his value system, might hope God will say we have plenty of Nintendo games here in Heaven. 

              Any Catholic should live in such a way that he or she can confidently hope God will say at the final judgment, come, blessed one, take possession of the share in my Kingdom prepared for you by Jesus from  the foundation of the world. (Jn. 13: 3).  These words are attractive and clear enough, but it can be a challenge to keep ourselves aware of  them, give them power over our lives, and permit them to be the rock upon which our hope for eternal blessing and happiness rests.

                      ++++++++                         +++++++++                +++++++++
  A Lenten smile for  you:
         After the church service one Sunday a little boy said to the Pastor: : " When I grow  up I am going to give you some money".  "Well, Thank you, but why me?"  "Because my  Daddy says  you are one of the poorest preachers we have ever had".

           I have heard that patriotic people pay their taxes with a smile.   Then I tried it but they wanted cash,

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Blog # 444 Stages in our Christian identity

Blog # 444 Stages in our Christian identity

        The truth about a chocolate layer cake can come in three stages. First is the recipe.  Stage one. If you follow the recipe you get the cake. Stage two. But there is more to come.  The joy, the energy it gives, the birthday party, the love between husband and wife, neighbors and friends are all part of the possible truth about the cake. Stage three. You could stop at any stage with part of the truth, real, but partial and incomplete.
           It is something like this with the Bible and the story of the life and teaching of Jesus.  There are stages in experiencing the truth about Jesus.

             First we are informed with  facts about Him, when and where He lived, some of the things  He said and did. That is stage one. Some people have never heard this. Some people have heard but no longer have an interest or believe in what Jesus said or did.  Others continue to believe and continue to identify themselves as followers of Jesus, but it is a sort of part-time experience.  Their experience of living by the commandments is more the experience of obedience than of love. That is stage two. Stage three remains.

             No matter how much we have grown in our relationship with God,  through our awareness and understanding of all creation as the expression of the Father's power, goodness, and wisdom, through our observance of  the Commandments, or through prayer, there is still out in front of us an unimaginable amount of discovery experience and growth in our knowledge and love for God. Each of us has a personal unique story that continues to the instant of our death. Stage three is this final stage of our unique story on earth.

             First of all we realize by faith and keep ourselves aware of the fact our salvation is already won for us in the life death and resurrection of Jesus.  By way of an analogy this would be to say it is like the recipe of our birthday cake already written in the recipe book, or, put another way, like money we have inherited, already in the bank in our name. That was true of us before ever we were conceived.  It is true of all who will come into existence in the future. In Jesus we are dealing with God's love for all, and it is wonderful.

                  Once having heard the Gospel message of salvation we must make it our own, believe it, follow it, live it out.  As light casts out darkness and health casts out disease, so the message of salvation calls upon us to cast out sin and whatever is contrary to the presence and design of God's love in us.  This entails choices on our part.  Some of them are difficult. Who would find it easy to love an enemy if we did not have the command and support of Jesus?  It is among the more difficult and specifically Christian choices to which we are called.

              Then comes the third stage. Even if we do succeed in living out the Gospel commands to the extent of following them in our actions, there is still the reason or purpose of the commands, the very heart of salvation, you might say, that is a distinct stage beyond obedience. It consists in our relationship with God through faith and Baptism. 'Reborn' in Jesus, we are  a "new creation" as Paul put it.  Or : "I live, no, not I, but Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:20;  ;  Rom. 8: 14ff;  Jn. 3: 11f;  2 Cor.5: 17;  Col. 3: 10, 13).  Through faith and Baptism we are to be transformed into the image of Jesus. It is a process.  Our goal is to live not merely in imitation of Christ, but "in Christ", sharing, being part of His love for ourselves and for those around us! That is stage three.

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A Lenten smile for you:

Pete:  Hey Mac, there is a story here in the paper that says a man is run over by a car in the Streets of New York every 80 seconds.   Mac:  Wow! That's bad.  Someone should tell him to stay on the sidewalk.
Pete: Hey, Mac. Do you know what is the leading cause for dry skin?  Mac: Towels?          




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blog # 443 What did Jesus say and do, and Why?

 Blog # 443 What did Jesus say and do, and Why?

             Use  your imagination for a moment...We are in South Dakota. It is two days before the primaries.  We are in the same room.  One man, who hopes to be President of our nation some day, is speaking. It is not the same experience for everyone in the room.                

              One person is hard of hearing and can hardly follow the candidate's line of reasoning. That person's experience tends to be one of irritation, anger, and discomfort.  Another person is exhilarated by the speaker's wit and wisdom. The speaker is assured of that person's vote.  Someone else never has agreed with the speaker's particular plan of action and does not do so now.  One less vote for the  speaker.  The speaker's mother is present, together with his wife and their children.  The experience is a very special one for them. One of the speaker's close confidants who also feels qualified to fill the office of Secretary of State thinks the speech is a winner. By now you probably got the point I was trying to make. The same sound, the same room, the same occasion was not the same experience for everyone in the room.

               Nor is life. Nor is the Bible. Nor is Lent.  Throughout the nation and the world millions of  Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and others will hear the same passages of the  Bible that we Catholics will use in our liturgical worship during the Sundays of Lent. It will not be the same experience for all.  This is not necessarily bad.  The experience is a rich one and has more in it than any of us could gather all at once on a single occasion.

               But to be a deaf person at the political rally or to fall asleep during the speech is to miss the point of the experience.  I think it might be so for someone who enters into Lent unprepared.  If we are bored with an experience, fail to recognize or understand the meaning of it, or our part in it, we tend to fall asleep, or experience it as a burden rather than a value, a joy, or a blessing.  Hearing the Scriptures proclaimed in our presence and the broader experience of Lent could be such for some.  At times when I notice someone in church yawning or gazing off into space during the reading of the
Scriptures I think this might be true for that person. 

                Though the arguments and the line of reasoning in the political speech may not be altogether clear or to our liking, we can be fairly sure the purpose of the rally and the goal of the speaker is known. It seems to me this may not be the case with regard to the purpose of Lent and the goal of God and the Church inviting us to come together and share this particular extended experience which we refer to as Lent.  I do not think we should take it for granted that everyone knows and is deeply and in a practical way aware of what the experience of Lent is about. At least there should be no harm in asking the question : do I know?

                  I used to have a very old book that was of particular interest to me each year at the beginning of Lent.  The title of the book was 'The Lenten Manual and Companion for Passion Time and Holy Week'.  Beneath the title in smaller print were these words: "Now is the acceptable time.  These are the days of salvation."

                    The Lenten Manual was published in New York City in the year 1846, just before the Civil War. The quotation is from St. Paul's second letter to the people of Corinth, Greece ( 2 Cor. 6:2).  Paul was martyred in Rome sometime around the year 63.  In Cor. 6:1, immediately before the quotation above, and in order to clarify and enhance its power St Paul says: " As your fellow workers we beg you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For He says "In an acceptable time I heard  you, on a day of salvation I have helped you."  This reference is to Isaiah 49: 8, dating back toward the end of the Babylonian exile. (538 BC).  The quotation extends far back into our religious tradition and across a vast geographical expanse!
            One of the favorite hymns used each year at the beginning of Lent begins "This is our accepted time, this is our salvation". It throws light upon the purpose of Lent and is a key to answering the question as to whether or not we know what Lent is about.  The crucial words in the quotation from St. Paul are now and salvation.  Now refers to place as well as to time, to Babylon, 528 BC, Corinth, first  Century, New York City 1856, and Cincinnati, 2015. Salvation refers to God's plan for all people. ( Jn.13: 17:  1 Tim. 2: 4).  It is a plan for all people to know God, to love God, and to be loved by God.

               Love unites.  Whatever separates people interferes with love.  We cannot be united with someone we do not know. We do not love someone we do not choose to love. So with God and God's love. The plan, God's love, is not known or consciously experienced when and where God is not known and loved. Ignorance and sin are the enemies of God's love, wherever, whenever, in and by whomever, whether it be in suffering, pain, joy, or pleasure 

                Lent is the process and experience of discovering  more perfectly all of this and of saying yes again to all of it. Only in Jesus is it realized perfectly. In His obedient death and glorious resurrection His human love for God and God's divine love for Him is perfect.  Lent then is about Jesus, what He did and why. But it is also about us. We are invited to believe in Him, and united to Him through faith, in Baptism, to share His love for the Father and for all people.  Lent is about Good Friday and Easter in the here and now of our everyday lives, 2015.      

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Here is a little humor for  anyone who  might think we cannot smile again until Lent is over.

Patient: "Doctor!  Doctor!  I keep thinking there are two of me!"  Doctor: "I'll take you one at a time."

Patient: " Doctor! Doctor! I think I need glasses."  Doctor: " You surely do. This is a fish and chips shop!"

Patient: "Doctor!  Doctor! I keep thinking I am invisible."  Doctor: " Who said that?"

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blog # 442 Where did Christmas go

Blog # 442 Where did Christmas go?

           The tree is gone.  The lights and decorations are stored in the garage.  Christmas is over. Chances are we have not thought of it in the last six weeks.  But what about what Christmas was all about, the birthday of Jesus, God coming among us as one of our own?  Has that gone too?  Did Jesus come for just a week or two and then back off again until next year?  Was that the way it was when your son was born, or your daughter, or your sister, or your brother, or you?  A new relationship is realized in our birth as brother sister, son daughter, and friend.  And that relationship continues for good or for ill.  Should it be otherwise with Jesus?   

         Rather suddenly after Christmas Jesus was fully grown and began His ministry of healing and teaching. In the incidences and stories of  the life of Jesus we lifted up in the liturgical readings for the past several weeks, our minds were focused on particular individual experiences and responses to Jesus.  In the process a relationship of it all with Christmas may have been unknown, overlooked, or forgotten. So last week I asked myself the question where did Christmas go and found it helpful in preparing for the season of Lent which begins today. I asked myself why did Jesus come originally, twenty centuries ago in Bethlehem,, and in our lives this past Christmas.

        As a result of His coming, as well as of the social customs we have built around  His birth, and the pressure of modern advertising and business interests, people received and sent greetings, received and gave gifts. Our Christmas experience and customs are  rooted in the original coming of Jesus to earth.  The glitter, the gifts, the business of Christmas could be seen as a tribute to Jesus, His sharing the Father's love for all creation, and for all people. Jesus certainly rejoices in the happiness love and goodness people experience and share at Christmas.  Now, however,.almost two months beyond December 25, the distractions are put away, and it is a better time to ask the question. What really did Jesus come to do? What is His agenda for us, here and now?  Though such a rich question could be answered many ways, one simple yet far reaching and profound answer comes in the words: "I came that you mayhave life, and have it to the full"  (Jn.10: 10).

            Jesus came that we may have life, a natural life here on earth, and a second supernatural life which begins with Baptism and is designed to live forever. Other prophets and teachers were raised up and sent by God to tell and show us how to live happily here on earth, as good and happy men and women,  Jesus was not just one of these. Jesus stands alone as God's own Son, divine as well as one of us, a bridge between Heaven and earth, telling us and showing us in His own experience of the two lives to which we are called. The first life is experienced by all people who ever live.  The second is a supernatural gift given through Baptism to those who believe.  Lent is a time for preparing ourselves to understand and experience more deeply the meaning and truth of the 'reason' Jesus had for coming.  He came to invite us to become by faith children of God, sharing His very own divine experience, rooted on earth, discovered on earth, and fulfilled in Heaven.

            As the gift of faith is designed  to produce spiritual fruit in our lives, joy peace patience and  other gifts we have referred to as the fruits of the Spirit, it follow that a good tree bears good fruit and the more perfect we are as persons here and now, the more perfect we are as children of God and bearers of good fruit.

              Our union with one another through our union with Jesus in faith and Baptism is identified as more than a mere fellowship whereby we give one another support by way of good  example, advice, and our prayer for one another, as good neighbors or as members of a fraternity or sorority in a college community. Our union with Jesus and one another in the Church through faith and Baptism entails more. In Him our union and care for one another is best illustrated by the Biblical image of body and vine. Our care for one another is to be as the care of one member of our body for another member.

          A few years ago I saw a TV program that showed how the various immune systems of our bodies work, how the brain influences many functions in the body for fighting disease, healing a wound, etc. That program made a deep impression on me.  It helped me clarify my understanding of  the power and implications of the Biblical image of the Body of Christ and Jesus as a living vine.   In the command to love my neighbor as myself I see not a reference to a degree of love but a love that is uniquely defined by my union with Jesus through faith and Baptism.  As the hand cannot say to the foot I have no need of  you, so I can not say to others I have no need of you.  My concern for the poor and the sick is to be the concern of the blood of my body for an infection or wound in my body, no matter where in my body it occurs.  And this not only applies to the physically poor and sick but also to those spiritually and emotionally poor and sick.

         United as we are with Jesus, one vine, one body, Christians share His love. For many people it seems this means share in the sense of receive His love. It does mean this, but it also means share in the sense of express or give His love to others. To share Christ's love is not an option for Christians. Rather it is part and parcel of our very identity as 'born from above' though faith and Baptism. To love one another "as I have loved you", again, is not referring only to a degree of our human love, unto death, in imitation of Jesus' great human love, but with the love of the Resurrected Jesus shared with us in faith.  ( Jn. 15:5; 13: 34).
              This kind of thinking throws light on our quest for personal salvation and the identity of our holiness.  Personal salvation remains a goal of our existence, but it is seen as a shared goal.  In more than thirty references in John's Gospel Jesus indicates a personal awareness of being sent by the
Father. Then in that powerful text also in John we hear Him say to HIs disciples: As the Father has sent me, so I send  you". (Jn. 20: 21).What He was sent to do we are sent to do. And what is this? To love. What is the greatest commandment? To love. What  is the second? To love. "By this will all know you are my disciples, by your love." ( Jn, 13: 35).
              It follows our quest for holiness is a quest for the  glory of Jesus. For us He died. With Him we struggle to conquer evil.  In Him we live.  Our love is our salvation.  Our salvation is His glory.
And in all of this we are connected.  We are ONE in the single vine and the unique Body of Jesus. Our individual desire and effort to grow in holiness during the weeks of Lent will be a blessing not only upon the life of each of us individually but upon the branches of the Body of Christ throughout the world for His glory.  Lent begins in 2015 today.  Let us be on our way, joyfully, together.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Blpg # 441 Candlemas Day

Blog # 441  Candlemas Day

           Back when I was a boy February 2 was referred to as Candlemas Day.  It got its name from the practice of blessing candles to be used at Mass and also a practice most Catholic families experienced of making sure there were new blessed candles in the 'sick call set' which hung on the wall of the dining room or some other room of the house. It was  a special crucifix that opened up and contained within it a small bottle of holy water, a clean linen corporal and two blessed candles, all in preparation for a priest to come to anoint someone who might be sick or to bring Holy Communion to someone who might be unable to get to Church on Sundays.  February 2 , the fortieth day after Christmas, is the day the Church celebrates as a significant Feast,  the Presentation of Jesus in the temple in obedience to the law of Moses.  I think the connection with that event in the life of Jesus and candles may have come from the identity of Jesus would later give for Himself as the Light of the world, a light shining in the darkness of error and sin.(Jn.8:12; 9:5).
             I have recalled two valuable truths that celebrating the Feast have brought to my memory and focused it for me.  The first is our faith in the humanity of Jesus, and the second is the honored place Mary is given in her human relationship with Jesus as His mother.

               In God's response to the effects upon all of Adam's descendants of what we refer to as Original Sin , God promised to send a Redeemer from Heaven.  In God's unimaginable power, mercy, justice, and wisdom, the promised Messiah would  be equal to God and therefore capable and worthy of making a fitting apology and a just recompense to God on God's level, and also equal to us in our humanity so that justice be achieved through him on the human level as well, by someone who was descended from Adam. Jesus claimed to be that Messiah. The time had come!  God's promise in Genesis would be fulfilled in him, Emmanuel.  the Word of God, Incarnate, one of us, capable of suffering!

             As one of us Jesus was obliged to obey the laws of God. The role of Mary and Joseph in today's Feast is similar to that of Catholic parents and God-parents at a baby's Baptism, pledging their support in bringing the child up and teaching him or her obedience to God's will.  Jesus frequently took an occasion to declare his constant and universal obedience to the Father's will.  In the Feast of  the Presentation we have Mary giving witness to her dedication to God's will for him and for her in presenting him in the temple at the age of forty days in accordance with Mosaic law.