Friday, June 02, 2017

When the Will Cannot Work Well, and When It Can

We often hear about the Will of each individual, in Church themes, as to how it comes to help us in our spiritual life. We use the Will for prayer, for service, and in some little understood form, we use the Will for love. Love with the Will sets us apart from those who do not use the Will in an intentional form to love, those who understand love to be little more than a feeling.

Yet, the Will can be broken. A broken Will is not here being explained by past concepts of breaking the wills of children in order to get them to become submissive to a parent. In some cases, yes, to break the intentions of a will of a child or teenager might be in the order of creating peace and harmony, but in other cases it might be damaging also. That type of breaking of the will is not being discussed here.

What we are discussing is, however, as to a broken Will, is one which works hard, with intentions, and still damages and harms when it is being used, intentionally, to love. We all do that to some extent. None of us is entirely healed. The Will, however, is broken when it is disconnected from virtue and grace. If I Will to love, but greatly mistake vice for virtue, then I cannot love with my Will even though I try. And if I Will to love, but have not allowed the theological virtue of Love to enter into my heart as grace, namely the love of Christ, of God, then I cannot know what love is, and therefore I cannot Will love on my own even though I try. In this simple scene I would only be self-willed, alone, without the other, God-Love to imbue my actions. The Will, then, is hollow without Christ. To bring an abundance of love and peace, it is entirely connected to receptivity in Christ and in the order of grace.

So, how to get this grace to love? It is simply called conversion, and this comes through constant prayer and in time, but works differently for each and every individual. The answer for all of us is forgiveness of others in practice, through prayer, through time, and through works of the Will. If we do not learn to forgive, then neither can we love rightly, because healing takes place under normal circumstances over time, through forgiveness, which adjusts the Will and its difficulties to be in line with God's love. For a beginner at love, this is exhaustive, surely. For the rest of us, it is stark realization.

Yet, it is to be done. We begin by Faith, and Hope, and we live according to the knowledge which has been shared with us in truthfulness. Then we try out best to practice it. We sin, we fall, and we make many mistakes, but we wait in Hope for the Blessed Event, the Love of Christ poured into our hearts for each need. We want to grow, we want to learn to love, with the Will, until it comes as naturally as breathing.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Challenge of Understanding: Mercy and Justice Are Alike

There is an old saying, that says, "God forgives, but nature never does." We look to God, and we know that He is there watching over the world, the universe, and sometimes we imagine that He makes each little thing happen. I certainly do think it. We know that God is the Cause of it all, and yet He allows nature to take it's unyielding course so intensely, vividly, sharply, and voraciously, that we either blame Him, or come to the point of view that He could not possibly be the one who wills all that nature, including human nature, damages and destroys. Here we come to the question--we ask: "Where is the Merciful God?" when we prefer Justice; and then we ask: "Where the Just God?" when we prefer Mercy.

When thinking about gross evils, such as a ruthless murder in which the murderer remains at large, or a sudden car accident which kills an innocent rider, or even when considering how one animal eats another after a vicious kill, or the great damage done by an act of nature in a storm, we have to ask ourselves: How could that reflect God's great love and gentle manner? And so we smile and explain it away, properly, of course, as we determine that nature and God are certainly not one and the same thing. Maybe we boast, in the negative, that ours is not a loving God. Yet we somehow see that the God who permits is not always directly willing what nature seems to do so tragically in life. This enigma has caused much grief and an ocean of doubt in the minds of those who would think that God could not possibly be that mean, since suffering would be anathema to those who understand what is the essence of a loving mildness associated with a merciful God. For God though, surely multidimensional attributes cause His grace to flow, and that is surely the true essence of love.

Mystery teaches us about love, and love about mystery. Those who expect only advantages and prosperity for each and every person during each moment of life, as a reward from God, could not see the depths of God, and how He caresses, forgives, heals, and saves amid the most tragic circumstances, all the while having done everything that could be done to help each and every person involved in any circumstance, would that they would want His grace. The mystery of suffering is caught up into the web of despair for those who cannot find God in their misery, but for those who can, joy in the midst of bitterness, and heartfelt love for God in the most severe grief will bring spiritual sweetness and peace in knowing that it will all be okay "with Him at my side." It is a sign of Hope.

God loves us mercifully as He lifts us up to himself during our deepest pain, but further still, God is Just in this life and the next besides, because His Justice is without fault too. His Justice is toward humanity as a whole, but it is uncanny to us. We cannot possibly meet the requirements of understanding what God is doing in the context of the hereafter for us. His Justice cannot be empty, and neither can His Mercy, and therefore a general knowledge meets and answers the questions of why. Yet, in no way could each thought of God be understood by minds who live in a vale of tears, and who are waiting to see clearly, as St. Paul has addressed, at life's end. We do not get the gist of how God works. We are biased, we are selfish, we are naive, and we are ruthless. We are ignorant of God and His grace.

He unequivocally allows sin, which has entered the world, to take its toll upon us, and furthermore, He so meaningfully presented what would happen to those who doubted His words as far back as Genesis when He commanded to Adam and Eve, with the intent toward all of posterity, "You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die" (Genesis 2:16-17). Physical death, then, is the final evil brought upon us through sin as death over the course of our lives. We suffer it, and yet, now, with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, who suffered also, we are mercifully given that eternal life which was intended for us from the beginning, after the lot of weight of sin and disgrace. And God's mercy is greatness to exponential degrees, because with the death of His own Son, our own crosses, which have been derived from sin and darkness, have brought an immense glory to His original plan. This knowledge just barely encapsulates the power of God.

When severe death or damage strikes, or other trials of all sorts, whether it is done by us or to us, then, the God of Love comes into play. He strengthens faith, He forgives sins, He spiritually abides near to those who mourn and weep. He is present in each minute detail. Earth is the vale of tears, and it is God Himself who shares those tears with us by coming into our beings and resting with us in our pain. Moreover, He is a cleansing God--One who tests by the fiery furnace, and still, He is gentle and loving and kind, full of plans for all the best things for us--in eternal life and in this life. He waits with us as we wait; in loving patience and firmness of will we derive from the gifts He has to give while we wait. He is there, and we are there. We are with Him in our iniquity and His grace. This is surely a loving God!

Adam and Eve chose that the human family would live in exile away from God, and yet He condescends to us in our hopelessness with total Love, with a plan for something better than what sinful nature could bring to us. He is there in all trials, lifting us out of the misery which no one else is able to come and do, and yes, in our own sinful pride, we are still able to make another bad choice, again, which causes us to fall back into the misery which He has rescued us from. We are still able to get caught up into calamities which we did not deserve. In those, He calls to us. And so God saves us from ourselves, in an ongoing sense, over and over, until we finally meet what is called eternal Salvation, the greatest gift He has given to us. There, He saves us forever, once and for all.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Some Thoughts on God Who Speaks in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, certain attributes of the Father show through His spoken Word of Scripture, making what He is about apparent for comprehension. By reading His words through a contextual significance we are able to see how He speaks to His people, to see what He says to Israel so that in some certain ways, we can and do comprehend the unfathomable Lord who is mystery to us. In this also, we read with understanding by what the prophets and teachers of ancient works acclaim Him to be, through their own mystical experiences, through Tradition and custom, in union with His given Law. We come to know God, then, through the spoken Word of the Old Testament.

We meditate as we read and savor, in the Old Testament examples provided below, and then we come to know Him even more profoundly through the gospel of His Son, the Lord Jesus, He who is the Divine Word made Flesh, who speaks the true Word given in Scripture. The Son of Man who draws from that Scripture filters out human biases and perceptions of the day, perfecting the message into a total Love experience. The Old Testament sacrifices which He himself had previously taken part in, ultimately become His own sacrifice, the immolation of His Divine flesh and blood. His one sacrifice is Holy as He desires, thereby becoming the one, true guilt offering for sin, now and forevermore. At last, by eating of this sacrifice, we can become like Him in heaven! That is how great His love for us is!

His message begins with the Old Testament Scripture. It is knowable and repeatable throughout Scripture, as shown in these scant Old Testament examples, which are beautiful prophecy for us throughout all ages. The Beauty of God shines brilliantly in so many passages, the number is too great to even ponder. Yet, these few chosen depict Him well. They are some which are of the essence of the Old, and which correlate strongly to the New:

The Lord rewards fidelity to His statutes and Law. He sets these up for an exclusive, abiding relationship with His People: The Book of Deuteronomy speaks of His act of preserving His own people's reasoning power when they faithfully follow the statutes and decrees as the Lord commanded, saying, "Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, 'This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people' " (Deuteronomy 4:6). Immediately afterwards it is states, "For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" (Deuteronomy 4:7). God wants the undivided attention and worship of His People, "For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God" (Deuteronomy 5:6). And so, this jealous God brings us, a little at a time, to be of one mind with Him through the law and practices which he avails to us, even though that seems impossible at the outset.

The Lord is tender and accepts conversion of heart peacefully:  In the Book of Judges, we find that Israel has formed military alliances and also has enemies. Israel thrives through the strength that is given to her many leaders in the name of the Lord God. When they fail badly, they recognize their need and dependence upon God; they come to realize their need for the one, true God. We read, "Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, 'We have sinned against you; we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.' The Lord answered the Israelites; 'Did not the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites the Midianites oppress you? Yet when you cried out to me, and I saved you from their grasp, you still forsook me and worshiped other gods. Therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen; let them save you now that you are in distress.' But the Israelites said to the Lord, 'We have sinned. Do to us whatever you please. Only save us this day.' And they cast out the foreign gods from their midst and served the Lord, so that he grieved over the misery of Israel" (Judges 10:10-16). The gospel message too teaches us who are so weak that repentance and ongoing conversion are necessary for leading productive and steadfast lives which are rooted in the one, true, living God.

Suffering is a fact of life and God sustains us through it if we would only hold on to Hope: In the Book of Job we find that this man, Job, who had had such plenty in the beginning, and who does eventually regain his wealth and prosperity, goes through a long trial of some of the most horrific losses any man could imagine: Job's many cattle were struck dead, his camels stolen, his children were killed in a desert windstorm. He was struck extremely ill himself, and amid all of this, he would not curse God, nor would he take personal blame for it, as he believed in his heart that he had followed God's precepts and laws with love. Even his wife said, "Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and die" (Job 2:9). Job would curse the day; he would not, however, curse God, but he did say instead, "Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" (Job 1:21). This theme stays put throughout the orations spoken by him and his friends. Our Lord teaches us that perseverance will bring to us greater and deeper understanding about God's ways, and that we are not to distrust Him or forsake Him in times of evil, as He will see us through.

God is the One who tests our hearts, and we do not put Him to the test: In the Book of Wisdom we read, "Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart; Because he is found by those who test him not, and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. For perverse counsels separate a man from God, and his power, put to the proof, rebukes the foolhardy; Because into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin (Wisdom 1:1-4). The Lord wants us to be pure of heart, because purity of heart is the essence of the holiness of God. We exchange love for Love, gift for Gift, with Him, through the heart's pure motives and through His enchanting Goodness. He opens our hearts and minds in an acceptable time, and in that time each one of us comes closer to His Justice and Truth. We do not press on without His guidance and Wisdom, lest we forsake Justice.

The religious practices that we observe encapsulate, fully and formally, our beliefs about the Truth. They teach us, through Truth, what the meaning of God's Love is in its fullness. Finally, the belief in the presence of God, through the receiving of His Flesh and Blood, in His Holy Catholic Church, allows one the ability to grow in His Love in all of its Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Glory.

Happy Lent!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Shepherds Rejoice in God Their Savior

As for Christmas readings, it is inspiring to know that we have been given written testimony which first came from Mother Mary in the historical Nativity references recorded in Gospel accounts. It was Mary, mother of our Lord, who willed to see and understand the real beauty of the event which has captured the hearts of believers for two thousand years. Furthermore, she accounted for the details that spoke of a paradox, namely, that what would be willed by God Almighty is for the Son of God to be born majestically in the most glorious poverty.

What could have been more fitting for the birth of the Son of God, who is humanity's Savior?
No riches could suffice, no imposed prestige could honor, no insurance could guard, no equipment could procure a picture more moving than that which states in the humble nativity scene which describes the Savior's birth: Our Lord is God. Mary our mother understood what's beautiful. She pondered that beauty "in her heart" and it was she who related, years later, the incidents surrounding Christ's birth to those who finally recorded it. She kept always in her heart those riches of His most humble birth.

(The following poem was first written and published by me for Christmas on December 21, 2014 and I would like to to share it again!)

Shepherds Rejoice in God Their Savior

There in a manger in a cave,
Lay the Christ Child in his loveliness
Ubiquitous in his omnipotence
Flesh caressed in the solitude of emptiness

Out on the fields in the dark
Stood the shepherds on the berm's bright height
Forlorn in the coolness of a gentle breeze,
Overcome in the soft grip of Peace and Light

Afar from the sky's great dome
Appeared one angel to address those in fear
About the joy of their faith in The Promise
Uttered through ages of prophecy so dear

Spoke, did a Multitude from Heaven
Sang to the earth, of God and humanity
What sin could not forbid in His charity
That Gift which produces effect in eternity

Angels took them by surprise ahead
Onward they traveled to their destination
Looking for the doorpost of the Firstborn
Arriving discreetly in the Final Revelation

The pure Virgin Mother welcomed
The Blessed strangers from the dark in delight
Who met at the doorpost with staff in hand
In Hope the wanderers arrived safely that night

Humble shepherds saw Thine heavenly reward
The wraps showing only His Hallowed Face
Through the womb of a Virgin He came to be Flesh
In the flesh of man, King, in the Order of grace.

Merry Christmas and may God bless!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Catholics Know Simply and Profoundly

As Catholics the difference between what are human saints and what is Divine does not confuse us. We understand, simply, the difference between a saint and God, between Jesus and Mary, between what began in heaven and what begins here on earth, ending in heaven.

We understand beauty and truth because we idealize the mysterious and the marvelous. Our insight goes to show that we don't pierce all truth with human knowledge and perception, but rather, through an act of the will in faith. So it is that we do not know how there are three Persons in one God, exactly. The Incarnation is the greatest mystery to us, of course. How God's own Son came to live with us in flesh and blood, and thereafter die on the cross to save us from sin is beyond us, even though many people witnessed Jesus Christ and His many miracles, death, and resurrection. Yet, while we do not own this knowledge, we believe this fully and profoundly, because Faith itself is a gift coming from the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Father in heaven is our one and only Father in Truth, and all others are subordinate to Him, and we know and understand this all the more as we grow closer to God. We feel at ease calling Him Father, Abba, and turning to Him in times of need and in all we do, lest our decisions forsake us. We do not confuse the Father in heaven with the fatherly love bestowed upon us by our own beloved earthly fathers or the saints, such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, or St. Augustine, who acted as father to so many who felt lost. Nor do we confuse the Father's omniscient Love with the universal fatherly love of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who leads the whole church through tumultuous times throughout the whole world. We need the spiritual, and in this we do get it, that our very priests become fathers to those of us in the pews, who need guidance and direction, spiritually, in the way to go. We understand mightily that they have become fathers through the grace of God, and in union with God, only. God in heaven is Father Almighty, and each of them is father in union with His love, thereby becoming united to Him as father to us. To us Catholics, this is not a problem. We understand according to belief why St. Paul commented that he had begotten through the gospel, and that he was "Father" (1 Corinthians 4:15), and in this we know why so many other spiritual men love as "Father".

Between heaven and earth are the Divine substance and created material. Catholics know the difference in what is what.We know that Mary is created flesh only, and that as the chosen mother of the Divine Jesus Christ, who is both earthly material and the utterly uncreated Divinity of God, her material soul depicts the closest image to God's own reflection, and that in this, she has taken on the role as becoming not only the mother of God, but our own spiritual mother. She dwells in heaven in body and soul, as a material being, then, not a Divine being, except in how she has partaken in her own Son's Divinity.  She is mother in the most heavenly sense, to all those who are tired and restless, and who need a mother's love and prayers to call upon, in the darkness of night, when there is no one. She comes to us with love and prayers as mother, the greatest mother who ever lived. It is easy to understand, when Catholic, if one is only willing to think about her as a mother who most closely reflects, in her created soul, God's own glory.

As Catholics then, we are family, united through the power of the Holy Spirit, each soul unique and created to live infinitely upon arrival into being. We see all human beings who have ever lived just as this, a part of the human family which God created for love and infinity with Him. We do not recognize eternal outcasts, revealed only at a later time, but rather, we recognize the infinite mercy of God who calls all of His children to repentance and salvation. For those who have lived and suffered in love, and who have now gone on before us, we understand that God himself has given them over to us men and women of goodwill to be cherished fathers and mothers to us, now in their eternal dwelling in heaven, as they are yet a part of the Church, still praying with us and for us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Word Has Intrinsic Meaning If We Are to Fulfill All of God's Demands

 When Jesus Christ approached St. John the Baptist at the Jordan River for the Baptism of repentance, John graciously accepted Jesus' plan after a short period of reluctance. St. John knew Jesus, and understood Him in his capacity to do so, knowing Jesus to be exalted. He did not want to be the one to baptize this man whom he had set his eyes upon as being greater than himself. However, St. John kindly abided by his wishes, when Jesus spoke and said,

 "Give in for now, we must do this if we are to fulfill all of God's demands" (Matthew 3:15).

It was Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, who spoke of St. John the Baptist as having been one of the greatest men who had ever lived, and yet, ironically, he followed up by saying that

"The least born into the kingdom of God is greater than he" (Luke 7:28).

By this He introduced the primary lesson, that the Son of God presupposes the Baptism of the Holy Spirit-- rebirth into a life of grace--and it is this which is most consistent with the favor of Divine Charity. Those who are called to the Kingdom in rebirth enjoy the greatest benefits of all humanity, Salvation, that treasure in heaven.

Yet, before the great Mercy, prepared by the plan of God through his People, the Israelites; and before the tides of repentance in this same chosen People, prepared through the measure of  "a voice crying out in the desert", there was the Son of God, so far, and even until now, unrecognized. Through the prophetic inspirations of Scripture, through the accounts of St. John the Baptist in the New Testament, we come to see even more--the allegory--that just as the Jews today do not recognize the beloved Christ we worship as Son of God, who came from their own midst, neither did St. John the Baptist, in a likewise uniformity with his People, recognize Christ as the living God in human flesh, the second Person of the Single Trinity, until the dove appeared from the sky upon the Baptism of the Lord to pronounce, audaciously, that Jesus Christ was the true Son of God.

 In the readings of the gospels, and here from a citation in the book of Mark we find it saying,

"During that time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. Immediately on coming up out of the water he saw the sky rent in two and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Then a voice came from the heavens, "You are my beloved Son. On you, my favor rests"  (Mark 1:11).

We find, recounted here, in the effective style of St. John the Evangelist, that the other, St. John the Bapist, is speaking for himself, and his own lacking. Surely he had known Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary. After all, they were relatives. Surely he had spoken to Him concerning the things of God, and quite likely, he had increased much already on account of Jesus. Still, he speaks boldly and plainly here, where we find thus:

"I confess I did not recognize him, though the very reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel....But I did not recognize him. The one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'When you see the Spirit descend and rest on someone, it is he who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.'  Now I have seen for myself and have testified, 'This is God's chosen One'  " (John 1:31-33).

It was Moses who spoke and said, of God's Word, in the book of Deuteronomy:

 "Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3).

In this, we are introduced early on through the greatest of prophets, Moses, that the Word of the Lord is a command of grace which is revealed and subsequently not rescinded. Formidably, we do not live day to day, preparing our own way through material means and emotional stability, but rather, we live through the ranks of the enduring command of God, and His Will. His presence and his Will cannot be obliterated from a person's essence, no matter how forsaken one might become, because even forsakenness may be a sign of his blessing, according to his Word, if only each of us would accept it as it comes to us in Him.

In this, the Lord Jesus Christ epitomizes all that is spoken of by God. He is the living Word made present to us, his People, in the favor which God has shown Him, in the mystery of his Incarnation, the enduring style of his teaching, the life-filled grace of his healing, and then finally, in his being forsaken on the cross, the ultimate blessing for all humankind.

It was after his Baptism, and the Revelation, that Jesus Christ was given as Gift to his first followers, Jewish fisherman. We might suppose this was the enduring grace of the command of God to the Israelites, who now were not of the desert, but who were of the water and the house of Zion. This house stands as their highest mountain, their stately realm. It is in Chapter 2 of the book of Isaiah by which we might allude to the exultation of Zion, here understood in its prophetic sense concerning the Word made Flesh, to be exalted:

"In the days to come,
The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say:
'Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.'
For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:-3).

It followed, here, upon the revelation to and the testimony of St. John the Baptist, who partook of the House of Zion but who had not recognized the Christ on his own accord, then, that Jesus would speak to and seek out his own People first, who would not herald him as the Son of God, either, because He must first suffer and die, forsaken in Divine Favor and Blessing, so that all people may come to know and witness the glory of God. Of his People, their stately realm would be the Mercy which would hold them out for a time.

Upon the Baptism, Jesus Christ was made to increase, and John the Baptist, now made to decrease, was forsaken in his own divine favor, given over to a cruel death, simply for speaking words which made somebody feel uncomfortable. Yet, in practicality, let us remember how St. John the Baptist smote us too, after all, prophetically, through the grace of God, when he spoke some other uncomfortable words, which revealed to us that:

"Even now the ax is laid to the root of the tree. Every tree that is not fruitful will be cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:10).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Father and the Son Are One

We so often hear about the beautiful and profound prose in John 6:50 - 6:70, about how Jesus Christ has given us his Body and Blood for a man and woman to eat and never to die, as did Adam and Eve, and all of their descendants. For the moment we shall look at some other of St. John's recordings of his discourse with Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of man. Here we shall obtain the opportunity to recollect about the Mysteries and Truth of God.

It is in the fifth chapter of St. John, in verses 18-30, where Jesus comes to us, as He was, really, before the apostles, but speaking to the whole world through them, and tells us about who He is. He presents the case, affirming about who He is, vividly, in ways that will doctrinally, through the Church, enlighten those who have never beheld with their eyes, or have heard with their ears, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He uncovers stark Truth in a way which shocks unbelievers, and confounds believers, leaving Truth something which is to be believed through Faith, but which always works out perfectly in the end.

In this discourse, in the chapter of John 5, Jesus takes us through a series of discussion, and ends his impartment by naturally returning to his first premise, as a regard for his original intent of instruction. He is seeking to explain to the apostles first, and then to us through them, who, exactly, He is. He begins by speaking about his own will, as being perfectly conformed to what the Father wants, but does not stop there, as if He had somehow developed this virtue, and is somehow giving prime example for us. Jesus, Son of God, makes himself clear as having the essence of God. Rather than having striven for the will of God, He is unable to part from it. He says:

"The Son cannot do anything by himself--he can do only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise"  (John  5:19).

Immediately after Jesus explains that He can only do as He sees the Father doing, He puts a new twist onto what He himself does and says, in a way which could almost make one think that as Son, He has explained away his first premise. However, this could not be the case, as it is rather a multifaceted dynamic which He seeks to show us. Such is for God, who in his utter simplicity is vast perplexity to those who have not seen, to us, that is. Jesus now takes a turn and says,

"Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and grants life, so the Son grants life to those to whom he wishes. The Father himself judges no one, but has assigned all judgment to the Son"  (John 5:24).

In effect, Jesus Christ has, on both accounts, rendered himself equal to the Father, although He seemingly contradicts himself. The smooth token of explanation renders one who hears as unable to make the Son an inferior Person to the Father, who is God. In the first premise, He has told of himself as pleasing the Father perfectly in all that He does and says, in fulfilling the Will of the Father on earth, and in the second account, He shows himself as acting in regard to certain roles which the Father has given over to Him with full authority, and of which He, Jesus, has taken control, seemingly apart from the Father, as if an entirely different perspective of personality comes into play.

Further on in John 5, Jesus goes on to give a possession of eternal life to all of those who hear his Word and act upon it. We are to become subject to Him, now, hearing his Word, above all, in order to possess eternal life. He astonishes those who believe and abhors those who don't:

"I solemnly assure you, the man who hears my word and has faith in him who sent me possesses eternal life. He does not come under condemnation, but has passed from death to life"  (John 5:24).

He affirmatively speaks of himself as being Life in himself, as with the same definition by which we would encounter who God is:

"Indeed, just as the Father possesses life in himself, so has he granted it to the Son to have life in himself. The Father has given over to him power to pass hour is coming in which all those in their tombs shall hear his voice and come forth. Those who have done right shall rise to live, the evildoers shall rise to be damned"  (John 26-29).

The Lord Jesus Christ takes a turn back to his first premise at the end of his discourse. He again correlates it by saying:

"I cannot do anything of myself, I judge as I hear, and my judgment is honest, because I am [seeking] the will of him who sent me"  (John 5:30).

Again, if one studies and thinks carefully about how the Son relates to the Father, we are able to ascertain through Scripture that Jesus Christ, by a mere seeming contradiction of explanation about how He and the Father relate, shows himself to be on equal terms with the Father who sent Him. As He was sent, so again does He relate of an eternal essence without beginning, as a description of who He Is.

Surely this was difficult for the many Jewish followers to hear and understand. Would we, who have been so carefully instructed through our Baptisms, have been able to accept as much? Yet, through his most powerful words of strength, with the Holy Spirit upon Him, they must have been able to open their eyes, to look at Him, and to see!

Now He has ascended to the Father, and sits at his right Hand, and shall come again in glory and power at an undisclosed time, always and forever one with the Father, just as He has testified through his apostles, to the world. Two thousand years later our Lord lavishly gives himself in the meaning of God, through the Sacraments of his Church, from on high, and through practice, his Word is still the witness of Truth.

Friday, April 25, 2014

That We Too May Live a New Life In Christ

When we consider the moment of our redemption, we recall Jesus Christ, the Lord, hanging on the cross, with His face turned downward, bloody and beaten, to the earth, as he breathed His last breath. His final earthly breath, that point when His spirit was given over in a ubiquitous manner, was the seed which opened up new life for us; it was our spiritual germination. In turn, we give ourselves over in the same way, for new, real life. The cross becomes the light of Christ, now on my back, and my new, real life. My death becomes the completion of my own life and death in Christ, the purchaser of my new, real life.

It is important to consider that His whole life consisted of our redemption and salvation, for this is why He came to live among us. Yet, until He had expired in disgust and shame on the cross, our access to salvation could not be complete. This is mystery to us who would see happiness as fulfillment without pain or troubles. This is mystery to us as we each live out each our own calling, as there is in Christianity not only the pardoning of sin, but also the embracing of a life of goodness, in Faith, Hope, and Love, as we continue on in our struggle to conquer our own sins and death only at the feet of Christ.

Often, when we speak of salvation, it is too easy for us to think, somewhat simplistically, that we are saved because Christ came and "did it for me". While that is completely true, and the effects are far beyond what we could imagine, we cannot stop in the middle of the concept of knowing His love for us. We owe to Him, in loving response, the debt of our own love in all its fullness. He loves us, and He wants us to die with Him, in the end, to new life.

It was St. Paul who said:

"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4).

This process begins with Baptism into a life of grace, with the formation of the person who is to live a life of true commitment to the Lord, and also with the virtues which help us to discover how to embrace Jesus Christ in our own most dire needs. We turn to the cross and ask for grace from Christ our Life in this new way of life, and turn away from the servitude of a disordered human possession. Along with Baptism, the conscience claims us for what we are, and we Hope truly by being close to Him in this most interior element of human existence. It is Hope which makes for enduring Love, and Love, then, Peace.

This new life, after the first Easter, then, has been described as one by which we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ. We set aside sin and deception, and turn to truth and the ability to suffer through the evils which befall us, without turning to evil ourselves. Then, indeed, the cross becomes the light of Christ, now on my back. And my death then becomes the completion of my own life and death in Christ. My own resurrection then will be the final justification, all in accord with God's plan.

This is faith. This is works. We do not have to tumble into the pitfalls of believing that there is nothing really required by God, that we have already been given a final grace and justification. Instead, life is a journey, and it is a daily journey, for we say, "Give us this day..." Of course we can make plans, because we are free, and we can still be guided by God in whatever our journeys present to us, but what we cannot do is to take over His plan for us, or sack His plan for us, or resent His plan for us, thereby relying on our own strength to save our own selves, while simultaneously claiming possession of a Kingdom which has not yet been fully adjudicated.

Only God can save us through the merits of Christ, of course, and for this, we must rely on the wounded and risen Christ daily. This daily work means that I depend upon Him, ultimately, for all my needs, that I thank Him, ultimately, for all my gifts, and that I turn away from evil opportunities, so that He can work within me to produce good fruits. This is what works are, then: they are that total reliance upon God in all that I do, and I make sure that I do as I should, because He purchased me at a great price, and I belong to Him.