Monday, May 11, 2015

Blog # 477 Mothers' Day

Blog # 477   Mothers' Day

                 Another good thing about our American tradition is that we celebrate Thanksgiving Day,

Fathers' Day, and Mothers' Day.  There is a special wholesomeness about these days.

                  I do not know where the idea came from to represent the birth of a child as a special

delivery from a stork, but it surely has been a firm tradition.  Any mother knows how much

difference there is in this from the real thing! 

                    The long nine months of waiting,  the concentration of energy and almost total

dedication to this event, and the pain of it, can only be known fully by someone who has gone

though it all.

                    So yesterday we honored and thanked all mothers as well as our own for their saying yes

to God, for giving and caring for new life, for the very special love and inspiration that is a  mother's,

for giving all that it cost them to love, even at times when the price was high.   

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Blog # 476 Living as the Body of Christ

Blog # 476 Living as the Body of Christ

            Before we forget, I thought it might be good to have a blog that would help us guarantee the benefits Lent offered us as a believing community.  In the early Church Lent was a time for the intensive preparation of those getting ready for Baptism and those who were to be reconciled to the Church by public penance.  In recent years, we have been trying to focus again this identity for ourselves. Through Baptism we are united to Christ and through Him to one another in a new supernatural life..
             Lent is a community experience in which the whole Church is interested and involved. It is the work and mission of Jesus today, sent by the Father for the salvation of all people. Lent calls us to the love Jesus gave the Father on the Cross,  and the love the Father gave Jesus in the Resurrection.

            Before the renewal of  the liturgy and Christian life that came from Vatican 11,  there was a different emphasis.  Rather than being a time for focusing mainly upon the mission of Jesus shared with us, the emphasis tended to be upon works of penance to 'make up' for our individual sins.  The emphasis seemed to be upon individual effort rather then on the effort of the community, His Body, the Church. More frequent Mass attendance was seen as an act of penance rather than an act
seeking growth in holiness.  The two are related, it is true, but there seemed to be a greater emphasis on one over the other.

            Since Vatican 11, the Church has been trying to acquaint us with the insights and experiences of the early believers in Jesus,  and to hear His call to us as He called His original disciples to be one with Him in in His mission from the Father  to bring light, truth, and divine love into the world, beginning with our  own  minds and hearts. 

            As members of the Church there is a connection between what we do as individuals and what we do as united in the one  Body of  Christ.  So strong and definite is this connection that all that we do should be done, in our awareness of it and in our intentions in doing it, in union with Jesus and one another as a sharing in His mission as Savior of the world.

             Sadly, such a vision, though clearly grounded in our Catholic  theology and  in the Scriptures. does not seem to be commonly and clearly experienced by many, even of those who are faithful to attendance at Mass and efforts to live a Christian way of life.

               Yet without such a vision and an awareness of its implications in our everyday experience of faith and life, our moral goodness , our honesty, concern for the poor, and even our prayer can be much the same as those of other human beings throughout the world who strive in the name of the
God of Islam, of Israel, or of  Buddha..  Without such a vision we are less than mission minded and the truth about Jesus and  His glory is less well known, appreciated, and effective.

               We need the experience of Peter, James, and John in the Gospel story of  the Transfiguration of Jesus.  We need to be convinced again in the divinity of Jesus.  Without  Jesus, as God's  Son, we are without the full meaning of creation.  Without a personal relationship with Jesus in our everyday experience of life, in our prayers, in our relationships with one another, we are
missing something of the reality of  God's plan for us, and the joy peace and love the Father desires to share with us all.

                "This is my Son, My Chosen One. Listen to Him."  We need to be constantly reassessing and reconfirming our belief  in the divinity of Jesus in order to listen to Him.  In the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain the Father wishes to identify His Son not only for Peter James and John but for us. With the grace of our faith in the Transfiguration of Jesus as our base, let's establish His identity again today, so that we can listen to His call and follow, together as a community of  faith, members of His Body, branches on the Vine, one in faith hope and love.          

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Blog # 475 The Good Shepherd

Blog # 475   The Good Shepherd

           In each season of the Church's Liturgical Year the theme of Jesus identified as the Good Shepherd is celebrated. In the  Easter Season it is the  fourth Sunday of Easter and the readings this week other than on feasts will remind us of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

         The initiative in identifying Jesus as the Good Shepherd was taken by Jesus Himself.  (Jn. 10: 11-16).  In early Christian art and as Biblical references in the catacombs, carved in stone, the Good Shepherd was most commonly used.

           Living as we do so far removed from a regular experience of sheep and shepherding, we might ask what lesson or value can be ours in celebrating Good Shepherd Sunday, 2015.  Chances are none of us is, has been, or will be a shepherd.  Very likely most of us have not even known any shepherds personally.  Is the theme like a delicate precious antique we have in our possession, to be handed down from one generation of Christian believers to the next?  I hope not.

           In identifying Himself as the Good Shepherd Jesus compared and contrasted  that image with what He referred to as a hired shepherd.  The Good Shepherd has a high regard for the sheep, is dedicated to their welfare, and is willing to risk his life for their sake. The hireling works for the pay
he receives rather than for the good of the sheep. When danger comes the hireling flees from the scene and leaves the sheep to be scattered and killed.

              In reflecting upon the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd various thoughts begin to focus for us. The Good Shepherd is dependable, generous, self-giving, and worthy of trust.  In identifying
Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus is inviting us to see in Him these same qualities, not by way of bragging about Himself on the part of  Jesus, but by way of  relating  closely  through them to Him as a personal friend, one of us, unafraid, with ourselves in place of the sheep He cared for so well.

              This insight makes a difference in my prayers to Him.  I never want to lose an awareness of
the awesomeness with which my prayer to the Father should be identified in response to the infinite, beyond-my-imagination, power and perfection of the Father, which may have tempted me to fear rather than to love God. unless Jesus, as the Eternal Word, equal to the Father, and as our friend the Good Shepherd, equal to us, revealed Him as Our Father.

                When and how can we remind ourselves of this invitation, respond to it more frequently, and appreciate its implications more frequently and effectively?   The early Christians did this through prayer to Jesus the Good Shepherd, through drawings and paintings of Jesus as the Good Shepherd in their homes, cemeteries, and places of worship. On one wall of my room I have a large I image of  the  Crucifixion.  Just below it I have an image of Jesus  the Good Shepherd.   This was the man who was crucified.  The combination of the two has been a special grace to remind me of the great love of  Jesus for us all, human and divine. 

                Also, though I would not be able to say how many folks who offer Mass regularly think of this, each time we offer Mass we offer the loving obedient death of our Shepherd. I also have a  small photo of  the Good Shepherd attached to the front of my file cabinet.  This gives me many opportunities to be reminded of  my Shepherd-friend.

                    Here are some questions that might be helpful.  Identified as we are with Jesus through faith and Baptism, do we see ourselves as good shepherds, to ourselves and others?  What type of persons must we be to live out the truth, that we are sent by Jesus as He was sent by the Father to be good shepherds?  What attitudes and habits of thought and action should we be cultivating in order  for the love of the Good Shepherd  to be alive in us?

                      What questions! Questions such as these tend to act as fertilizer in the garden of our lives.  They clarify the path to holiness and call us closer to the Lord and to one another.  They are valuable gifts.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Blog # 474 From God

Blog # 474  From God

             The Bible  makes a claim that anyone who enjoys  the  power of reason and is looking about himself in the world, with all its wonders, if he asks himself the question where did all of this come from, should be able to say "From God".   (Rom 1: 19.   I stand in defense of that claim.

               Charlie White is a Ford mechanic.  At first he could just tell the difference between a Ford and other makes of cars.  Then in high school he could tell you what model Ford was passing by, the particular features of that particular car, and its cost.  On Saturdays you could find  him changing tires in his father's  Ford dealership and garage business.  Now he is  a  master mechanic, and knows just about all there is to be known about Ford cars.  And Charlie White is no closer today to denying that Henry Ford ever lived than he was back in his high school days when he was just beginning.  That is just what  you would expect.

               The same is true in other fields as well.  We should not be surprised, then, that such great scientists as Bacon, Newton, Dalton, Pasteur, Madam Curie, Edison. and Marconi were deeply religious people as well as outstanding scientists.  There is no more reason for persons who made extensive studies in science to love  God less or believe in Him less because of their studies, than there is for a man like Charlie White to deny the fact Henry Ford ever lived. 

               There is, however, much more reason for anyone who studies creation in view of the claim of  God the Creator of all that exists, to love God more in knowing God better through their research. in science. In the case of Henry Ford, he was an inventor, and a manufacturer.  He made one thing out of others. And he did not do all this by himself. For an automobile this would include glass, rubber, metal, leather etc.  There is an infinite distance between this and the act of creation  by force of which whatever exists does so by  the will of its Creator.  Without the Creator currently willing whatever exists to exist, it would not exist.  From this flows  our total love for God our Creator Who has been revealed to us by His  Son Jesus  as Our  Father.                                                                  


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Blog # 473 Anatomy of Love

Blog # 473 Anatomy of Love

           Let's consider what might go into a decision to love someone, whether it be God or someone else.
           First of all we must know someone if we are to love him or her.  We cannot love someone we do not know.  This implies in our decision to love, that we be open to discover one another, using knowledge, as it were, as a key to our hearts. This is true of our love for God as well as other loves.

            If we really want to love God, we must want to know  God.  If we do nothing  to discover  God, or nothing to know God better, we can hardly say we have decided to love  God or to love God
           Also part of a decision to love someone is to draw close to that person, share, praise, receive gifts and give gifts, to rejoice in the love, and to protect it, strengthen it and help it to grow.  Such decisions are not made by accident, nor can they be taken for granted, Again, whether we are speaking of our love for wife, husband, children, friends, enemies, or God, this is true. 

            A big question for husbands and wives who wish to grow in their love for one another, then,
should be the question what have we done today to increase our knowledge of one another?  How have we praised one another?  What have we shared?  What have we given? 

             With God too, for all who wish to love Him and grow in love for Him, we should be asking the questions: What have I done today to increase my knowledge of  God?  How have I  praised  God?  When did I rejoice in God's love?  Have I made any effort to protect my love for 
God?  What have we shared?  What have I given to God and what have I received from God as a sign and expression of our love?      

              In preparing for this blog today I came across a letter I had filed away back in 1980.  It was written by a man in Minnesota to the editor of a national Catholic newspaper.  Here is a portion of it.
"Catholics  want to hear the word of God preached, complete, with the words sin, heaven, hell, damnation and salvation mentioned occasionallyInstead, all we get in our homilies is love, love, and more love, accentuated by the odious kiss of peace which has  turned into a love-in in many churches."
               You may have heard a similar complaint before or even felt that way yourself.  Yet Jesus summed up all the commandments in love.  St. John teaches us that God is love.  And St. Paul certainly and clearly puts love at the top of  the virtues and good deeds we might perform.

                The solution seems to lie in identifying what love is, what it entails , and what the consequences of distorting or losing it might be.  In the Scriptures, with Jesus, John, and Paul, to love is to give, the more we love, the more we give.   "There is no greater love than this, to lay down one's  life for a friend."  That is because we would have no more to give.

                  Take a look at this past week in your life. Most likely it was a typical week. Look at it honestly.  Listen to it. How much love was present?  How would you know?  Love is a choice.  It requires freedom, patience, kindness, lack of rudeness, no self-seeking,  no undue anger, trust, hope, the power to endure.  How much of this did you see and hear, within yourself and around you? (1Cor. 13: 4-8).              
                    That is how much love there was in your life this past week.  Will this week be the same?


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Blog # 472 Come!

Blog # 472 Come !

           Peter died more than nineteen hundred years ago.  Elijah lived in the ninth century before Jesus was born. Both of them lived and died far away from here and a very long time ago. We are separated from Peter and Elijah by vast distances of space and a very long time.  Is there anything  special that unites us with them?
           This is an important question because if we cannot recognize anything special in their lives and in ours that is similar and related, their stories and writings would not have a great deal of influence in our imitation of them in our lives.

         One basic key element in the lives of Elijah, Peter and ourselves is the fact the same God Who was present to them is present to us today. Whatever was happening to them in relationship to God could happen to us. We cannot live nine centuries before Jesus was born.. We cannot die in the first century after He was born.   But the same God Who called  Elijah to be the great prophet that he was is the God Who called each of us to be the child of this or that particular mother and father, from the very moment we were conceived.  And the same God Who promised and gave to Peter  the courage love and grace he needed to lay down his life in the name of Jesus, is the God Who promises and offers us the courage love and grace it will take to discover and achieve the unique goal He has set for each of us.

               With our relationship to the same God to Whom Peter and Elijah were related in mind, we approach their writings and stories given us in the Scriptures with more insights and better questions.
We listen for God to speak to us as God spoke to them.  We preach with Elijah.  We go fishing with Peter.  But primarily to discover what God said to them and through them so we might hear that same God speaking to us.

                   We marvel at the fact we see the same moon shining as Peter and Elijah saw.   No doubt they knew the tribute the  Psalmist paid to the moon in exalting it as "a faithful witness in the sky".(Ps 89: 38).  We think of how this might have inspired their own faithful witness and hope it would do the same for us. We find ourselves closely related to Peter and Elijah in our freedom our faith and our deep desire to discover and follow God's plan for us.

              My mind was drawn to the offertory prayer at Mass. "Blessed are You, Lord, God of all creation..."God of the large and the small, of mountains and valleys, of the great miracles like healings that occur only now and then, but also of the ordinary miracles that occur before our eyes each day, a geranium plant, a rose, the gift of sight, prayer, forgiveness, grass growing fresh after a rain,  raisins, a tomato, a smile.  What miracles!. "Blessed are You, Lord, God of all creation".

                  I was surprised today while reflecting on the story of Peter accepting the invitation to walk on the water with Jesus. (Mat. 14:  22-33). His first response taught me about prayer. It seems to me many people try to set an agenda for God in their prayers, and that agenda set for God seems to be for God to help us in our agenda.  "Help me get as raise."  "Please find us a nice house." "Please heal this pain of mine."
                   These prayers are good. but I see a different kind of prayer illustrated for me in Peter today. Remember he and the other Apostles were out on the Lake in a storm.  It was three o'clock in
the morning. They were all awake and worried.  Jesus approached, walking on the water. It was a perfect setting for a prayer for help.  "Please, Lord, keep us safe." "Please, Lord, calm the storm".  I can easily imagine some of those on board with Peter prayed such a prayer. But not Peter. First he wants to make sure he was not deceiving himself by thinking it was Jesus when it might have been just an illusion. So he begins his prayer by checking it out with Jesus:  "Lord, if it is really you..."
              Then he says what he wants: "Tell me to come to you, across the water".   Peter loved Jesus deeply.  And he knew Jesus loved him too. This is part of the story, and his words might be interpreted something like this: Jesus, I love you and want to be close to you, even though it takes a miracle like walking on the water as you are doing.  For Peter it was a prayer to be more like Jesus.  And Jesus said: "Come. Be like me! Forgive! Pray! Love unto death! Trust!  Believe! Work miracles in my name! I will be with you."
               For us. today, living under the strong influences of our current secular  culture,  the gift of faith in the Church, faith in the Mass and Holy Communion, and faith in the reality of sanctifying grace is a miracle just as walking on water would be. Whenever and wherever faith is required of us it is 3 AM in our life, we are on the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus says: "Come ! "            

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blog # 471 God

Blog # 471    God

          Wherever the sun is shining,  wherever there is a stone, wherever a flower, a drop of water, or  a human tear, God is present.

            We use the word present both of God and others.  In both instances it means something similar and yet something different. We know and are present to others beginning with our five senses.  God, the Creator of all, is present to all of creation in a way that is unique to God and mysterious to us, totally beyond  our limited human comprehension.

              Everything we say or think of God falls short of the whole truth about God.  The whole truth about God is absolutely beyond anything we might say or think.  Few people seem to realize this and we find ourselves speaking and thinking about God almost as though God were just better than  we rather than absolutely different.  Understand just a little of that statement and we begin to realize how foolish it is for anyone to say there is no God.  Such a person does not know what he or she is talking about, or what he or she is saying.

                Analogies sometimes help but they do not solve the problem.  You may have a quart of water from the ocean in a jar, but you do not have the ocean there. If someone were to ask you of the photo you keep in your wallet who is that (sic)?, you have no problem saying she is my sister.  It is a  photo of your sister all right, and  no one else, that is true.  But the photo , like all photos, is paper, and your sister is a living woman.  All we think or speak of God is by way of analogy.

                It a case of something being similar yet different on a limited scale, when we think and speak of God there is a limited similarity between our thoughts and words and the total truth about God, but the difference is absolute, without limit.  Words like awesome, majestic, stunning, adorable, generous, kind, and great are all words we could be comfortable with  in speaking and thinking of God. Yet not one of them or all of them together express the solution to the problem we have by the very nature of our limited human thinking and speaking of God.  If there is a solution God alone would  know it.

                  Because God is kind, generous and all those words we use when we try on our own to think or speak of God,  God has solved the problem for us in Jesus.  In Jesus, by faith, we see God walking, hear God speaking, share God's love in human circumstances and in particular times and places.  Jesus claims this for Himself on behalf of all people down to the very end of the world.  "No one has ever seen God.  It is God the only son, ever at the Father's side, who has revealed Him." (Jn. 1:18. Also (Jn.3: 32; Jn. 6: 46.  And: "I tell you what I have seen in the Father's presence." (Jn. 8 :38).  "Lord", Philip said to Jesus,  " Show us the Father and that will be enough for us."  "Philip", Jesus replied, after I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me?   Whoever has seen me has seen the Father."  (Jn. 14: 8,).   "If you really  knew me, you would know the Father also". (Jn.14: 7; Jn. 8: 19). "The Father and I are one. (Jn. 10 30).

              Jesus insists there is but  one God.  Yet Jesus speaks of God as Father. Jesus Himself claims to be God.  Jesus speaks of sending the Holy Spirit from Heaven, and the Holy Spirit as divine.  In what Jesus tells us of the Father, Himself, and the Holy Spirit being truly God, and in His clear proclamation of one God the Creator of all that exists, we have a supernatural mystery clearly   beyond our limited human  understanding.

               We believe, that is, we know, by faith the Father is God,  The Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.  We believe, that is, we know, by faith there is but one God. We know this now, by faith.  After judgment our knowledge will be "face to face".  But now, and then, always and everywhere, the one Eternal God, Father Creator, Son Redeemer, and Holy Spirit Sanctifier, awesome beyond thoughts and words, is intimately and personally close to us through faith in love. The model of our love for God is the perfect total unconditional human obedient love of Jesus on the Cross. His trust there was unconditional.  His  love there was total.

                   In response to the words of Jesus: "I am in the Father and the Father is in me", ( Jn. 14:10) and His identification of our union with Him as a union of branches on a vine(Jn. 15:5) , here is a short prayer inviting God to keep us mindful of one of the gifts that comes to us in Baptism.
                                Live, my Triune God, so live in me,
                                that all I do be done by Thee,
                                that all I think and all I say be
                                Thy thoughts and words today.