Friday, November 16, 2012
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Monday, October 29, 2012
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Monday, October 8, 2012
Saturday, September 22, 2012
IMAGINE you know little of Christianity. You see some people moving their right hands to touch their head, heart and shoulders. “What are you doing?” you ask.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
All my life I’ve prayed, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit” — without an inkling of what I was saying.
I knew the Father, Son and Spirit were the Three Infinite Persons of the Holy Trinity. But in praying, I half-consciously visualized them in human dimensions: not exactly as an old man, the human Jesus, and a descending dove, but something like that.
Then a Jesuit from the Vatican Observatory showed us slides of the universe: two hundred billion stars in our universe, and our sun with its solar system is only one of them. Just to find our little planet in the whole universe, one would have to be God!
And that is just the spatial dimension. To translate the age of our universe from “light years” into calendar time, I would need to know mathematical symbols that I never learned. I could not even say to someone in ordinary speech “how many years old” our universe is.
Then one day, praying the “Glory be...” it dawned on me: the Father is this immense Being reaching “from one end of heaven to the other.” The Son is as vast as the Father. And the Holy Spirit, whom I have been asking to come down and inspire me like a visiting dove, is all-encompassing. A Being too huge to imagine. And all the description just given doesn’t begin to approach the reality, being couched in physical images.
These are the Persons I am talking to!
And this God has existed “from the beginning” — beyond the reach of mathematical calculation He “is now,” when I am increasingly aware of how contingent my own being is. And he “will be forever,” when I — and everyone, everything I know — will no longer be even a memory on this earth.
This is the “eternal Life” these Three Persons are sharing with me!
I understand why the monks, when they say this prayer to end each Psalm, bow low from the hips.
Ask now about former ages, long before your own, ever since the day that God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of heaven to the other: has anything so great as this ever happened or has its like ever been heard of? (Deuteronomy 4:32).
No, not from the beginning. It only “is now” that the Word made flesh has revealed him. And it “ever will be” revealed to all who “in Christ” will live with him forever — “world without end.”
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Everybody knows that the Greatest Commandment is to love: love God as All, and our neighbor, no longer “as ourselves,” but according to Christ’s “new commandment” — “Love one another as I have loved you.” Which is humanly impossible.
So we love by surrender to “grace” — that is, to the divine Life of God within us. This really means surrender to the living Persons of Father, Son and Spirit living in us, uniting us to the Life they are living, acting in and through us, letting us share in their own divine life and action. To act by grace is to act by God.
The opposite of love is hate. But few of us really hate anybody else. So, to be practical, we have to ask what the “groundlevel opposite” is to love. It is disunion.
After giving his “new commandment,” Jesus prayed to the Father:
“I ask... on behalf of those who will believe in me... that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
This is how Jesus is “glorified” in the Church. Our unity is the visible proof of his victory over sin.
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
We forget this constantly. At least, I do. I “fight for the right.” I condemn errors and those who are teaching them. And when I am accused of error (always falsely, of course!), I don’t make peace; I make war. I know only too well what Gandhi meant when he spoke of the “rage of being right.”
Then God says to me through Paul:
Let no evil talk come out of your mouth, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God...
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you... Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us...
When I’m right, I’m wrong;
When I’m strong, I’m weak.
When I’m weak, I’m strong.
When I’m wrong, I seek.
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Saturday, August 25, 2012
It is not easy to love one another as we should in this world. Fortunately, Jesus has given us confidence by making it absolutely impossible.
The old Commandment was, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That is, at least theoretically, something we might be able to do. And if able, then we are obliged. If the ball is in our court, it is up to us to hit it.
But Jesus took the ball out of our court by making it impossible for us to do what he commands. He changed the Commandment.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another... just as I have loved you (John 13:34).
That is impossible. To love as God does, we would have to be God. The old Latin proverb says, “Ad impossibile nemo tenetur”: “No one is bound to do the impossible.”
So, first of all, we can relax. Jesus isn’t calling us to make some superhuman effort to love as he does. “Superhuman” means “supernatural,” and we can’t achieve that by any kind of effort. On the other hand....
What we cannot do by effort, we can do by surrender. They didn’t teach us that in grade school.
Yes, we are called to live a “supernatural” life. We are obliged to. As Christians, we have a moral obligation to do the impossible. But not by our own efforts.
To love as Christ loves, we have to surrender to letting him love in us and through us.
In us: Jesus is in us, sharing our life and sharing his life with us. Our life is a partnership with God: a divine-human way of living in which we do what is divine by letting Jesus in us do it through us. We surrender to him as “senior partner.” We let him act.
But for him to act through us, we have to choose to give expression in our physical, visible, human actions to the spiritual, invisible, divine action of Jesus living in us.
We love as Jesus does by surrendering to letting him love in us and through us. The ball is in his court. We don’t try to hit it; we let him hit it. But for Jesus to hit the ball on earth today, he needs a body. That is what we contribute to the partnership. We make his divine love human by giving it human expression. We speak and act in a way that expresses the divine love that Jesus in our hearts is sharing with us. We give it human, physical expression. As his partner.
In a partnership, there is only one action: the act of the corporate whole. When the “corporation” does something, neither partner is doing anything, and both partners are equally doing everything.
So when we love as Christ’s body and he loves in us and through us, Christ is loving humanly and we are loving divinely. Our bodies are not “packaging.” They — with our human minds and hearts — are our contribution to the partnership. What Jesus does through us, we do in him. What he does humanly, we do divinely, and vice-versa. Jesus is loving as a human. We are loving as God.
Does that take off the pressure? If not, reflect on what it means to “surrender.”
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The three magic words Vatican II gave us are “conscious, active and full.” That is the participation that works.
Surprise! I am not going to analyse them. I am going to give three other words that will help you get into that kind of participation.
The words are “faith,” “love” and “hope” — in that order. Be conscious of them in turn, activate them in that order, and you will participate fully in the Eucharist.
During the Introductory Rites and the Liturgy of the Word (up until the end of the homily and Profession of Faith), listen for invitations to be aware of what you believe. Listen to what the words of the presiding priest and your responses to them say you believe. Then say them, actively believing. Actively express your faith that you are living by the divine life of God (the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ), know the love of the Father and are called into the mystical “communion of the Holy Spirit” with God and others.
Listen to what the words of the Gloria proclaim about the Father, Son and Spirit. They are saying what you believe. Say them as if you believe what they say. Say them choosing to believe.
Don’t listen to the readings. Listen to God speaking to you through the readings. Listen to what he is calling you to believe. Believe it.
Do the same with the homily. Forget about whether it is good or bad; listen for what it challenges you to believe. And to do as an expression of your faith. Process what you hear. Be a “doer of the word,” not just a hearer.
From the Presentation of the Gifts through the Eucharistic Prayer, be consciously, explicitly loving. Put yourself on the plate with the bread and wine to be placed on the altar and offered. Present your “body as a living sacrifice” (see Romans 12:1), pledging that where your live body is, you will be sacrificed to letting God work through you for the good of others. Make every word of the Eucharistic Prayer an expression of your praise and gratitude, your love for God and others. Offer yourself with and in Jesus as his act of offering himself on the cross is made present. You are in that host. Offer yourself, your own “flesh for the life of the world.”
And when the Rite of Communion begins, start looking forward with hope. Everything from the Our Father on puts our focus on the “end time,” on the “blessed hope” of Christ’s return and the manifestation (epiphaniam) of his glory. Communion is a preview, a foretaste of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” Be conscious during it of the “peace and unity” present in the community at that moment — a preview and motivating taste of the peace and unity of the Kingdom that animates us to work for peace and unity on earth now. “That there might be peace in our day.” To work with persevering hope in spite of the hopelessness of it all.
After all have received Communion, enclose yourself with Jesus in your heart. “Taste and see that the Lord is sweet.” You have within you, right now, all you need to be perfectly happy forever. Let the rest of your life be anticipation enlivened by experience.
Stop wasting your time “going to” Mass. Start participating with faith, hope and love.
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Saturday, August 11, 2012
Saturday, August 4, 2012
What Rallies the Risen? The Psalms! — Eighteenth Week of “Ordinary Time,” August 5 to August 11, 2012
The truth is, I never got much out of the Psalms. At first I said I didn’t know “what they meant.” This from a man who used to teach poetry! Then I just found them boring; I couldn’t “get into them.” I wondered how the Benedictines could stand to chant them all day.
Guess what? Growing never stops. I just rediscovered the Psalms. Now I am saying: “I’ve been missing all this! If I had been a Benedictine, I would be filled now with what I am just beginning to appreciate. And what is that?
In last week’s Wednesday reading (Jeremiah 15:10-16), the prophet wishes he had never been born! He complained that God sent him to minister to his people, and “all of them curse me.” And those who do not curse do not listen. Christian ministry is discouraging by nature, because its goal is to urge people to live on the level of God! We who are the risen body of Jesus on earth are called to let Jesus speak and act through us in everything we do. That is a “hard sell.” Paul said it like it is:
If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossian 3:1-3).
Paul promises: “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” But in the meantime, ministers who preach this get a discouraging response. So most of us are tempted to “dumb it down” and just urge people to live good, moral lives by the going standards of the culture. We think we are being prophetic Christians by fighting against abortion, when that is a sin anyone with a conscience should abhor. As Christians we should focus on healing those who have had abortions, not on “preaching to the choir” about how bad they are.
And we can do it. The mystery that only Christians know, is that all who were baptized into Christ’s death, died and rose in him, have no record of sin. All the sins they committed before or after Baptism, if they have repented of them, are not just forgiven but taken away by Jesus as “Lamb of God.” No woman “in grace,” who lives the life of God as Christ’s risen body, has ever had an abortion. If one did, that woman — with all her sins — “died” with Christ on the cross and rose with him as a “new creation.” Her sin was not just forgiven, but taken away. Paul says
For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins.... Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He cancelled [other translations: blotted out, wiped out, effaced, erased] the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross (Colossians 2:12-14; see Acts 3:19).
In other words, Jesus is an A+ redeemer: he doesn’t just forgive our sins, he takes them out of our history. Absorb that.
The Psalms will help. Repeatedly, they focus us on God’s power, God’s forgiveness, God’s healing, God’s victory over all our enemies. Now I read them looking for encouragement.
And I find it.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Talking to a friend whose son no longer assembles with the community for Mass or baptizes his children — but claims to love Jesus — I just realized how “unchurched” Catholics can believe they “accept Jesus” when they do not accept the Church. We were never taught the real mystery of the risen Jesus. We thought Jesus rose as an individual, and that we can relate to him as an individual. That is ten percent right and ninety percent wrong.
Yes, Jesus came out of the tomb in the body he got from Mary; the body that hung on the cross became alive again — but not the way Lazarus did (John 11:1-45), by just “coming back to life.” The body that rose “glorified” was the body of the “whole Christ,” head and members. When God raised Jesus from the dead, he “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6; see Colossians 2:12, 3:1). If we accept Jesus risen from the dead, we have to accept all who rose with him. If we do not want to associate with the risen body of Christ, the Church, we can't associate with Jesus.
Jesus’ condemnation of those who do not recognize him in the poor and needy apply also to those who do not recognize him in the Church: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” He is also saying, “If you reject the least member of my body, you reject me.” To reject the members of the body is to reject the head.
Jesus says today, “If you cannot accept me in my ugly body — in my body on earth wounded by sin and sometimes stinking with its infection — you cannot accept me.”
Think about it. Why did Jesus insist so much on mutual forgiveness (Matthew 6:15, 18:21-35; Luke 6:37)? Why did John say so strongly that love of others is the proof we are living by the life of God (read all of 1John)? “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.’” Those who cannot love Jesus visible in the Church (although “covered with sores” and sinfulness Luke 16:20), are kidding themselves if they think they love Jesus.
We are deluded if we think we can have a real relationship with the “man from Galilee” — the Jesus of the Gospels who spoke inspiring words, healed the sick and died for us with incomprehensible love — without entering into real relationship with the risen Jesus, Jesus living today: Jesus speaking and acting in the members of his body, the Church. If we think we can “follow Jesus” without assembling with his body on earth, we don’t understand the mystery of the resurrection. Jesus only walks in the company of his disciples — good ones and bad ones.
The great teacher of the Christian mystery is Paul. He never met the historical Jesus. The Jesus he met on the road to
Paul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Paul understood. From that moment on, the core of everything Paul preached was “the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
The “hope” of glory. We will not see the Church in all her beauty until we see her “coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband... holy and without blemish” (Revelation 21:2; Ephesians 5:27). But if we don’t accept her now in her imperfection, we never will see her in her perfection.
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