I was remembering our great speaker last March 25

In a Summertime pause, I was recalling how great our speaker was last March 25th. Do you remember hearing and seeing Jackie Francios last Maryland Day (evening)–where you there to?

I am thinking of her right now. What a blessing that woman is–to share how she lives the Faith.
I am edified and encouraged right now, even though three months have passed since Jackie’s visit.

Among the many speakers over the past seven years to the parish whom I have invited here to bless you, Jackie brought a special message of chaste love and her convictions of faith to live rightly for Jesus. She was so refreshing to receive. She really had a sincere, trusting heart for God. She gave me hope for the young adult Catholic generation today, that people are walking in uncompromising truth.

I was just remembering her beautiful witness, of her telling her story as a young adult and how she sought and found help in God’s Spirit and Catholic faith to really know the chaste love of Christ and to live His teachings and to seek His immense love in her heart.

Jackie Francios radiated that holy love of Our Lord. What a Catholic witness!
IMG_20140326_214543

We heard about an hour’s sharing (and a couple of songs) from her.
It was not a big showing of attendance on that Tuesday night in the church, but we were blessed that the Religious Ed. program of teens/pre-teens came to join in during their usual Tuesday program to hear her, and then others came too to receive her inspirational story for their Lenten renewal.
Her trip to Maryland continued after us as she spoke at a multi-parish event and also to a Catholic high school body. She returned to California the following day. I remember that she was newly pregnant too, so I decided to pray evening prayer tonight for her and her husband and their first child, who is still on the way to them in Jackie’s womb. I pray for her joy in her new motherhood. I pray that it adds to her testimony to Jesus alive in her soul.

Be Like Mary

0106141433

Be like Mary, bear Christ to the world.

She who was pleased to receive Christ into her body and then bear our Salvation to the world as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ the Son of the Living God— pray for us sinners who don’t so readily accept our own call to receive Jesus in our souls and in sacrament so to give Him to the world through our lives of faith, hope and love in God’s Spirit.

Ever Ancient/Ever New Words at Mass (“for the many”)

Sacred Liturgy Image One of the lines of the words of Consecration in the Roman Canon was translated anew for the Mass. It was the result of the method employed for the revised Roman Missal, begun in 2011. The translation got us to pray in English words more to the original words and meanings of Catholic worship. Most of the new wording has been accepted by now, by this line I speak of does still get some questions. It also is a prayer line at a most important part of the Mass, in the miracle moment of the elevation of the cup/chalice of wine to become Christ’ Blood at Mass. This is the line, and I will highlight the part in question:

“…this is the chalice of my Blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”

In the former Missal for Mass (Sacramentary) it had been: “This is the cup of my Blood of the new and everlasting covenant which will be shed for you and for all so that since may be forgiven. Do this in memory of Me.”

The question posed of this translation is: Why did CHRIST not say “…and for all” instead of “for many?” In our parish’s study of the Doctors of the Church in 2012-13, we spent a Sunday getting to know St. Albert the Great and St. Robert Bellarmine. They were formidable Catholic scholars. They also both asked the same question: “Why did CHRIST not say “…and for all?”

Borrowing from their answers, while greatly simplying it, they said that, while the Precious BLOOD of the Lamb Jesus truly suffices for all, it is the experience, still, that not all, but many are saved. There are people who will perish, even while the remedy for sin and death is there for them.

In the first tier of a two-fold answer, the Doctors say: People perish out of Christ, because, not all receive what is offered to them by God. God in Christ freely offers the pact into His eternal covenant agreement, but not all want the Blood poured out on them for forgiveness and restoration to God’s friendship. People want independence, not dependence on God. They don’t want to acknowledge their guilt nor repent and trust God first in their lives, thus Jesus knows that some will remain turned away. He knew it back then mid-way in His ministry years that not all will come to His Mercy, though Christ Jesus has extended it out to all peoples. The Lord Jesus has poured Divine Mercy out from the Last Supper and The Cross.

The second tier of the answer to this wondering of Jesus saying “for many” instead of “for all” will reveal a lot more light on the matter. Stay tuned. But first, let’s fill out some details on this first part.

Does “not all” mean that some people weren’t meant to get His Mercy? By no means does it mean that! All have been offered it. There is noone predestined to be left out, either, as some new denomination/break-offs of Christianity concluded. Catholics know that God offers free will and choice to people to be His own. We even start Mass with such a theme, with prayers like “The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The Mass is the celebration of Christ’ extension to us in ministry for favor, love and fellowship with Him, granted that we honestly come as people ready for living His kingdom and not be of the world’s fallen one in sin anymore. We are given choice and access to come to The Lord. One has a good experience at Mass if they arrive in that humble heart and mind and soul and will.
Thank you, good Doctors. We will return to your advice in a minute.

This Sunday on July 6th’s Mass we will be in Matthew’s 11th chapter where Jesus is quoted saying: “Come to Me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me…” Jesus gives this invitation (Matthew 11:25-30), amazingly, right after seeing many reject Him. In Matthew 11:16-24 Jesus concludes that the condition of some people has been to remain apart and a critic and an outside of God’s love, even though The Christ came among us in a down-to-earth, all embracing love of humankind: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say (in ridicule and rejection) ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners…’ (Of two key cities that greatly rejected Him, He sadly but bluntly states) ‘Woe to you (people of) Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For you did not repent. If the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.'” These are the lines in Matthew 11 that precede this Sunday’s lovely words of outreach of Jesus. He wants us! Even as He sees that large numbers will reject the Divine favor given through Him for salvation out of sin and its judgment of death.

How will we be among the ones who get to come to Him? Listen and read Romans 8 of this Sunday’s Word that differentiate those who would live according to only the flesh, and those who will rather surrender into Life in God’s Spirit for change-over to live in Jesus Christ. We need to aspire to live as children of God now, bending to the help of His Spirit always, and depending on the Salvation poured out for us in Christ’ Body and Blood. We need God to be glorified in us, but our willing (humbled) spirit.
============= ================== ===============

Now let us probe further, into the second tier of what the phrase means in our Consecration Prayer.

“…this is the chalice of my Blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”

HE did specifically say “for many” rather than “for all.” The holy Doctors explained that the term “for many” also signifies more than “for all,” because the former signifies a multitude which many increase indefinitely; whereas the latter indicates some complete group, which is finite.

Did you get that and its implication?

By the power and words of the BELOVED, this bread and wine in Mass consecrated from the beginning of Christianity, are also being consecrated now, and will always be consecrated “for the many.”
And we have been commanded to receive the Eucharist in remembrance of our LORD’S Divine Passion and Death. (“We proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” –St. Paul, of the liturgy.)
We are a multitude in Christ’ Body which/who may increase indefinitely. We keep growing in number. All is not reached yet!

“Do this in remembrance of ME” says: ‘Remember what I endured for your salvation, and practice this same mystery for yourselves and those dear to you. Keep it real and keep it spreading out to life eternal for others. Do not underestimate your remembrance rites of My Saving Life for the world. I want as many as possible to Come to Me, so that all the weary and sin-burdened will find rest in Me.’

We pray Mass as appealing with Christ to the world. For the Church Fathers tell us how The Precious BLOOD benefits not only the Jews, the Gentiles, or the priests, and those faithful who receive Holy Communion, but also for those whom it has been offered. A Mass is a Sacred Action in this world. Something amazing takes place spiritually every time we have the Mass offered at St. Edward parish. Believe that with your very devotion to this parish.

It is The Mystery of Faith: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.”

The Catholic Church worldwide and through history is committed to this Offering of Christ to the world as her mission until the Return of Christ in Glory.

That is the second tier of the St. Albert and St. Robert Bellarmine’s interpretation of the phrase that now is familiar to us at Mass, in the elevations at Mass.

#2. “For many” reminds us of our part in Christ’ Body to outreach to the world for their salvation.
There are many that can be brought into the Church– all are not in yet. Some Christian members who have drifted into non-practice also need to be encouraged back, by you and me, in a new evangelization.

From their first tier… #1. “For many” reminds us that not all are saved, and many are perishing, and we are those serving a Savior that they come to know Him. It’s our call to be aware of what Eucharist asks us to do/be: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” is one of the four prayer dismissals of how Mass ends in the priest’s close of the Sacred Liturgy. You say: “Thanks be to God” in this commission.

“Go forth, the Mass is ended.” “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” “Go in peace.”
are the other three main endings.0710131533

10 Great Aspects of St.(and Pope) John Paul II

John Paul II’s Legacy

I would like to share with ten great aspects of Saint and Pope John Paul the Great’s life. It is compiled with the help of a Catholic journalist friend named Mark.

I will put much time into the first aspect, since it coincides with today’s feast of Corpus Christi.
The first and foremost lesson on Saint John Paul the Great is that he loved the Eucharist as Christ the Lord. As the Church has attested for the ages, Christ Jesus is present in all the tabernacles of the world and is made present especially in Mass as the great mystery of His ongoing encounter with us. This is St. John Paul II’s life’s witness. As pope-bishop-priest and layman he spent countless hours in Mass or in church or chapel either celebrating the Lord’s Coming in Sacrament or honoring His ongoing tabernacled Presence. It was the saint’s favorite activity. He deeply believed this special Presence of the Lord—as The Son of God’s life with us now. Here in the Eucharist was where he knew was the personal manifestation place where God and humankind could meet. So he took great advantage and interest in Jesus as Eucharist among us.

Today’s gospel in John 6 has Jesus state that He was the Living Bread come down from Heaven.
He states He is Real Food, and the Flesh and Blood Gift to us. He will be raised up and He gives eternal life, so He wants us united to Him in this communion.

John Paul II (Karol Woltija) understood this Gift of Jesus as Eucharist quite closely and dearly. His escorts could testify that John Paul always knew where the nearest tabernacle was to him. He had a mystical sense to it, as if he had a GPS device in his soul to the nearest tabernacled place of Jesus. He had THAT keen a notice of it , as if the fragrance of the Lord was in the air by the altar or tabernacle and beckoning him. Or as if a beacon to the Light of the World was signaling to him that I Am here among my people. Would that we would have such a recognition of Jesus in the Sacrament. People close to the pope said how much he wanted to stop and pray at tabernacles, since it was where Jesus presented Himself. He just knew the Eucharist and Real Presence personally. He wanted to greet the Lord there, not just pass by. The Psalmist prays ” As a deer longs for running streams (and finds them to drink) so my soul thirsts for the Living God.” As St. John Paul’s example teaches us, the Christian has their supernatural sense to long for the Body and Blood of Christ, so that, as Scripture says, we might have life in us to receive. We need to better understand how the Lord’s streams of grace are in Mass and in tabernacles holding His Real Presence in churches and chapels.

In 2004 JPII led the Year of the Eucharist for the Church. It was held the year before his own death. Like Christ and His parting gift, JPII also wanted the Church to live on in life in this Great Sacrament.

That is the highlighted aspect of the 10 of JPII. Now to the other nine… of which the comments are shorter.

2.) In the second great aspect of this saint, we can look to his theme: “Be not afraid.” It is the theme he opened his papacy with— right from his opening Mass and homily as pope on Oct. 22, 1978 (now his feast day)— when he said, “Be not afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.”

This courageous love for God is what Fr. and Cardinal Karol Woltija had learned from his priestly life to that point of being chosen as Vicar of Christ. One could open wide one’s heart to Christ – and let Him in. HE belonged in our heart. HE belonged with us. Jesus’ last words to his disciples before ascending into heaven was this same message: “Be not afraid… I am with you always.” We have the power of Jesus in His Body, the Church. He renewed His people so to be able to receive Him within. (“But as many as received Him, to them He gave right to become children of God.”–Jn. 1:12.)
This is what JPII knew–that we receive Jesus so He is with us, and we need not be afraid any longer of man or the world or darkness.

There is a story that the Bishop Karol Wojtyla was told by Padre Pio (directly or indirectly) that this stigmatist priest knew Wojtyla would one day be pope. So maybe that also helped Bishop Woltyla when it actually happened. He knew God has pre-selected him, so it was in God’s hand, so the new pope (JPII) needn’t be afraid.
(We all have similar secret stories of God already going before us in His plans!)

3.) George Weigel, Catholic author on John Paul II, points out in his book on John Paul (“Witness to Hope,” ) that another great aspect was his vision of Christ as The Redeemer of the world It was the subject of his first papal encyclical letter, Redemptor Hominis, “The Redeemer of Man.” It was a great reminder of why we have hope: because God sent Jesus to redeem the world, to save us. Jesus is our Gift to be Redeemed–and this is why presenting ourselves in Him at each Mass, as given to the Father, is such a treasure and mystery. Mass is our redemption station. We turn ourselves in to Jesus and His Saving Redemption at every Mass.

#4.) An important aspect of Saint John Paul II’s legacy is how he taught that Catholics needed to understand the true meaning of freedom. He explained: The truth of Christ not only gives meaning to our lives, but it sets us free. Christ reveals to us that we are made to know and love God, and love and serve our fellow man.
As a priest, bishop and then cardinal in his native Poland, first under the Nazis and then under Communist domination, Karol Wojtyla had found his true freedom in Christ, and as the bishop and later as Pope John Paul II, he shared that message with his native Poles during his visits to his homeland. The millions who heard him there came to know that they had been free all along. As Cardinal Wuerl shared in a Catholic Standard interview, what lifted the hearts of the Polish people into solidarity and truth is the Catholic message for all of us “that every human being has a dignity that doesn’t come from anyone but God.”. Amen. There’s a message that goes along with the fortnight of freedom celebration in Md. And DC these two weeks. That’s aspect #4 if his life.

For #5.) Let us examine the aspect of how our new saint demonstrated that The Holy Spirit will keep us moving in activity of His charity. The Holy Spirit was strong in St. John Paul II as he traveled to about 130 countries and 700,000 miles in his nearly 27 years as pope. He was like a St. Paul in our day. He was Charity in motion! He was Zeal on wheels (popemobile wheels!).
I saw two of his visits here in the DC/ Baltimore corridor. Of his many US stops, one was at World Youth Day in Denver in 1993. With the purple Rocky Mountains as a backdrop to his altar, this pope encouraged the more than one-quarter million young people there from around the world to be Jesus’disciples in today’s world, sharing Christ’s love in their homes, schools, workplaces and communities. He encouraged young men to consider vocations to priesthood in that call. Today, our newest pastor in Bowie, Fr. Larry Young, at Ascension parish, was one of those who was touched by that call and answered it.

#6.) Speaking of World Youth Day, how significant was it that St. John Paul II made it a point to make youth a priority in the Church? He was always seeking to meet youth, and even inaugurated the tradition of World Youth Days, for sole attention to them, and he met with millions of young people over the years in Rome (1986 and 2000); Buenos Aires (1987); Santiago de Compostela (1989); Czestochowa (1991); Denver (1993); Manila (1995); Paris (1997); and Toronto (2002). How beautiful was it that, as John Paul II was dying in 2005, thousands of young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square in a spontaneous vigil, to sing and pray him to heaven – the destination to which he had sought to lead them.
This aspect of ministry to the young Catholic was a major one for this saint.

#7.) St. John Paul II showed us the importance and relevance of Mary for the life of the Church and her members. His papal motto, Totus tuus, “totally yours,” reflected his devotion to and love for Mary. His papal coat of arms had a “M” for Mary on it. In growing up, he lost his own mother when just a boy, but received had a real sense that Mary, the Blessed Mother of us all, continued to love and care for him and guide him. He prayed the rosary daily as his favorite prayer. He believed that Mary helped save him when he was shot in 1981 in an assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square on the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, and one year later, he made a pilgrimage in thanksgiving to Our Lady of Fatima’s Shrine in Portugal and he took a bullet fragment that had been removed from his body and placed it onto the crown of the Our Lady’s statue there. In 2002, he also wrote five new rosary Mysteries of Light for Thursday prayer.
The Marian aspect of St. John Paul the Great cannot be left out of his top ten areas of strength!

#8.) John Paul had a great care for the family and for marriage. John Paul believed the hope of the future lay in the family and in good husband/wife marriages in Christ. He said rightly that the areas would suffer under increasing attack from worldly society. He defended these sacred institutions as the backbone of Catholic living. Husbands and wives and fathers and mothers and the children are our Church’s treasure.

#9.) In close correlation to that, St. John Paul the Great was a witness for respect for life, from conception to natural death. An encyclical, “The Gospel of Life,” laid out his fundamental teachings on it, especially in regard to valuing children in the womb. Yet his across-the-board love for life was certainly connected to his gratitude in surviving World War II, and remembering the many who didn’t. When JPII was suffering and dying, he lived out this message in joining with the sick and dying and showing forth dignity in union with them.

Finally, we cover aspect #10. Saint John Paul was a lover of saints and to all those persons living in great self-donation to Christ and others. He said the secret to any baptized vocation was servanthood in imitation of Christ. He called it one’s “self donation.” JPII highlighted how so many holy lives were among us in the Church and he called our attention to many new saints. One of his favorite was st Faustina of Poland. Pope John Paul died on her Mercy Sunday on April 2nd– it was ten years ago. He was an encouragement to priests for us to be generous in giving our lives to the Eucharist and to the Church as a sign of Divine Mercy. He encouraged priests to have a full bridegroom devotion to the Church, and to show this love, even while evil and disobedience and weakness would pervade the clergy’s ranks. He asked us to remain faithful to Christ the Eucharist and bring many to this Blessed Christ. Pray for me and other priests today, and deacons, to keep service to the Blessed Sacrament as the first focus of our Holy Orders. It is so connected to the meaning of today’s feast and its reading and prayers. #Amen.

Holy Trinity Sunday: God works through saints and fathers

IMG_20140615_030542_125Christ at entranceway

The Holy Trinity

I have enjoyed researching on some definitive ways of how the Holy Spirit worked through Saints John the 23rd and John Paul the 2nd. In the Easter Season, and into this time right after Pentecost, I have been pointing out some of the blessings to the Church that these two recent popes have brought to us.
I have been highlighting how the Holy Spirit worked through them. The Holy Spirit has much been our theme.

I shared with you in a previous homily of the vision that Pope John 23 had for the Church–that he longed for a “new Pentecost” to come in our time. Good Pope John (now “saint”) said this prayer in opening up Vatican II: “O Holy Spirit, renew your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost.”

And God answered him. The Second Vatican Council had much insight and revelation and inspiration for the Church to receive. I was asked to point out again the specific four fold blessing of Pope John 23 that I mentioned in a recent homily. I will do so today, with more references. I touched on this matter of four blessings of the Vatican II Council. Looking back to it, (of 50 years of influence now), a retired 95-old Bishop Capovilla commented this year on four great documents that surfaced from the Church’s gathering and concentrated interest in renewal. Capovilla noted: First, in the document “Lumen Gentium” he said: that this work helped teach the Church more than ever who we are and where we are going, then in the document “Dei Verbum” that work told us what language we should speak and what message we should convey (to speak the Word and the Gospel), then next in Vatican II’s “Sacrosanctum concilium” the Spirit showed us how much and how hard we should pray, and then fourthly, in the equally famous “Gaudium et spes” document, Bishop Capovilla noted how the Spirit has helped us comprehend what attitude we should adopt towards the problems and tragedies of contemporary humanity.” “

So—relating this to our own life application—what have we been talking about now as the Church in our New Evangelization and our Renewal of the Church? It’s all related back to the Second Vatican council. Isn’t it? What Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict have said is that God has been working with us in these last five decades for a Spirit-building experience in The Church. We can experience Pentecost Fire and Strength!

If we would take what Pope John and His call for Pentecost, “here are four pillars-says the bishop, of our (One) being sustained by the Spirit in the building of renewed pastoral ministry, and (Two) by the Spirit encouraging us to listen to God’s voice, and (Three) by the Spirit bidding us to cry Abba and pray out to God—that is, to speak to God as his children, and (Four) by The Spirit, getting to realize how much we need to be in dialogue with all human needs and the components of the human family, so we can practice the kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. We need to learn how we can become fully human, and in all things to be integrated into the divine.” This is paraphrasing what Bishop Capovilla concludes. The bishop says that the Spirit has been Sent to us, is here, He is the inspiration given for a time of challenge to implement for the world’s betterment to the Kingdom of God. We can have power and love and discipline, or be timid and lacking courage. Our choice.

I know that it is Holy Trinity Sunday and that means Three Persons in One God. The blessing prayer in that second reading mentions the three-in-one help we have in The Divine Assistance. I just want to highlight the Spirit again today (like I did last week and the 6th Sunday of Easter). There is a hope from the Tri-une blessing that says: “May the Communion/Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (or always).” Isn’t what this is all about? The Church’s life and renewal takes place when we are in Communion with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit IS working for us to best appreciate and experience that Gift of the Father and that of the Son. The Father so loved us that He gave us His Son…. AND the Son has come among us (Incarnate by the Holy Spirit) and Jesus Christ has established a true faith in that “whosoever believes in His Name now might have eternal life” (as today’s Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 16 says). The Spirit wants to help in that Faith that leads to Eternal Life by the Son’s Sacrifice. Very much so!

On Father’s Day, the Spirit wants us very much to know and received all graces from our Heavenly Father. And He wants us to give some loves and prayers and recognition to earthly fathers on this holiday.

I have highlighted Pope John the 23rd, now I speak on Pope and Saint John Paul the Second. I think it appropriate on Father’s Day that I should speak on his life as a child and young man under his father Karol Woltija. He had a good and holy father. He became a saint probably due to that influence.

Family Life was a big part of the ministry of Pope John Paul II. He called us to experience God more fully in marriage and family relationships in the Church.

Saint John Paul had a difficult family life growing up, but saw how much his father would care for him, and he saw how the Church gave his father the necessary means to love and care for him, the son, and the direction they both needed to head in.

Karol Wojtyla, Jr. was born to a father of the same name, and a mother named Emilia. It was in Wadowice, Poland. They raised him in an apartment whose windows looked out on the Catholic Church of our Lady where he would worship and serve as an altar boy. Emilia adored him, but became sickly and then died while he was but a boy of 8 yrs.. . He would be raised by his father from that time on—just dad and him.

St. John Paul II, as he was called later as pope, said that as a boy he was called Lolec. He and dad went to a Marian shrine in nearby Kalawaria, after mom died. We handled things with faith and in God, and in Poland, with our Lady.
Dad had been a soldier, like his grandfather had been. Dad was called Lieutenant at times. They were extremely close as father and son. At some point, they even started sleeping in the same room. The Lieutenant was a force for rectitude and piety, one of several key influences in Wojtyla’s religious life. As pope, he as John Paul II remembered that, “Day after day I was able to observe the austere way in which my dad lived. By profession he was a soldier and, after my mother’s death, his life became one of constant prayer. Sometimes I would wake up during the night and find my father on his knees, just as I would always see him kneeling in the parish church. We never spoke about a vocation to the priesthood, but his example was in a way my first seminary, a kind of domestic seminary.” He said that his Dad took over dual roles in the family; his father was sewing, washing, and cooking, like Mom had done, while being father, friend and colleague to him. ” As a boy he would come home from school at lunch and eat with dad. In the evening, there was homework, dinner and a late walk with his sole surviving parent.

One time Karol-Lolec, a buddy, and his dad were hiking down the mountains to home, and the Lieutenant walked out ahead of the boys. Suddenly a fog came up, completely enshrouding Karol Senior. The fog made him, like, disappear. They couldn’t follow dad, and Lolec called out for his father, but his dad had him find the path for himself. Lolec stopped and prayed. Later, the fog had lifted, and the two boys went on home, and rushed home, and there was his father waiting for them with a cup of hot tea and a smile on his face.

Karol would like the mountains and first learned there to ski as a boy. He discovered the mountains literally step by step, as he and his friends followed another local priest, Father Edward Zacher, up the nearby slopes on their boards in the days before ski lifts. In winter, there was skating on the Skawa, the river that snakes through Wadowice; in Summer, the boys swam there. Though their life was simple, Wojtyla and his father had these friends at church, priests that they liked and knew, and company to visit at home.

One of St. John Paul II’s closest friends in his younger days, Jerzy Kluger, remembers Karol Senior’s passion for Polish history—and how he would regale his son Karol (Lolec) and the boys with tales of lost battles, the heroism of St. Stanislaw, and the rich history embedded in Wawel Castle. Karol Jr. had a much older brother who did not live at home anymore. Father and son kept in close touch with Edmund and traveled to Krakow in 1930 to see him graduate from the School of Medicine at the Jagellonian University. After the ceremony, Karol Senior took his boys to Czestochowa–the heart of Polish Christianity–where Karol prayed to the Black Madonna, Queen of Poland, for the first time. The boy was deeply moved and returned on a school trip in the summer of 1932. That winter, the second great tragedy of his childhood struck. Edmund–the adored older brother who shared his passion for theatre and soccer–died of scarlet fever. Earlier in life, they had a sister who died young, and now with mom’s death, and Edmund, young Karol Wojtyla had some losses to endure. His dad’s presence meant all the more to him.

The two of them were strongly patriotic/nationalistic for Poland and strong for the Church. Though there had not been a pope from Poland, the young Karol memorized Slowacki’s “The Slavic Pope,” a prophetic poem about a pope from the East who “will not flee the sword, /Like that Italian./Like God, He will bravely face the sword…” This prophetic work fascinated him. So did the story of St. Stanislaw, a bishop murdered/martyred by a tyrant king in 1079. As Cardinal of Krakow, later on, Wojtyla often invoked St. Stanislaw in his homilies and sermons. The Communists did not appreciate the reference. They knew he stood for the power of Polish resurrection: after his murder the enraged populace chased the tyrant king out of Krakow. As if to underline how Poles rose from the dead, Cardinal Wojtyla also had St. Stanislaw’s skull dug up and examined by forensic experts. They confirmed that he’d been executed. “In this fashion,” Tad Szulc writes in his biography, Pope John Paul II, modern science vindicated a patriotic-religious legend.” After all, Karol Wojtyla “regarded himself as the martyred saint’s successor as Bishop of Krakow–and he owed him historical truth.” This bold priest and bishop was just acting with the conviction given to him by his father and parish clergy as a young man and boy.

In one other influence of those days in Wadowice, Poland, as a boy with his dad, the future Saint John Paul II had seen his father’s and other Catholics’ merciful exchange and relationship with Polish Jews. They had befriended them, and were impressed that the Jewish people had a pride about Poland, too, as their home away from Israel. This good example would prove instrumental in Pope John Paul II’s relationship as pope to the Jews, and as Catholic to the Jews.

The Great Pray-ers have Great Prayers Available: The Canticles of Scripture

The Church encourages us to use the Scriptures to pray.

I would like to point out that the Canticles of the Scriptures as a great place to go for praying along with others who have loved God. As you know, it is a recommended thing to go to the Bible and to “pray with” the words of those people whose example made it into Scripture. The author of the various Cantilces have inspired words for us to share.

I like one of the Canticles of the Book of Revelation. It exalts Jesus ever so highly. It is from Revelations 19.1-7. It is from the praise of Heaven to the Lamb, The King, The Eternal Son–Jesus.
It is always a good thing to ‘borrow’ the prayers and praise songs of Heaven!

In the Church, The Liturgy of the Hours (TLOTH) uses it as Evening Prayer II on this Holy Trinity Sunday.
This is it:

“Alleluia. Salvation, glory, and power to our God: His judgments are honest and true. Alleluia.
Alleluia. Sing praise to our God, all you His servants, all who worship Him reverently, (the) great and small, alleluia.
Alleluia. The Lord our all-powerful God is King; let us rejoice, sing praise, and give Him glory. Alleluia.
Alleluia. The wedding feast of the Lamb has begun, and His bride is prepared to welcome Him. Alleluia.”

Another antiphon in Revelations is a good song of praise from Above– it goes:

“Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Hosts (power and might), the God Who is, Who was, and Who is to come.”

It’s a good prayer to use for ourselves, if even in rehearsal for our use of it hopefully in Heaven someday.

Canticles really get us to praying. They model for us what we are to say to God.

The Liturgy of the Hours(TLOTH) feature many of the great Canticles in its cycle of prayers. TLOTH users are given to pray a Canticle daily from the Psalms to start their day, and another to pray at sunset, and another daily one to pray at bedtime/night. The opening of day prayer is from John the Baptist’s father Zechariah, in realization of Who his son will be preparing the world for (Jesus). That canticle helps us to see “the new day” that Christians are now living in, and that Jesus is their Savior to herald.
The evening canticle, again prayed every evening in TLOTH, is Mary’s Magnificat, her praise of being a servant to God and His greatness. The canticle to finish one’s day of prayer is the Canticle of Simeon.
Here it is:

“Now, let your servant go in peace (go into secure rest); Your Word has been fulfilled; my own eyes have seen the salvation which You have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal You to the nations and the glory of Your people Israel.” That’s from Luke 2, the prayer of the priest in the Temple, as he blesses The Child Jesus. He knows that life is now right–since He has met the Deliverer of the world. He can go into a peaceful evening (or go into secure rest)–knowing that God has come to put matters into His Hands. We can entrust our day and our lives into His Hands each night before sleep; we can also entrust ourselves to God when the sleep comes that finishes our lifetime on earth.

Tonight I was just thinking about all these Canticles that the TLOTH runs by me each four week cycle in my breviary. They are special poem-songs of the Word that I enjoy praying. Here is a listing of the “big nine canticles” that TLOTH regulars proclaim in their organized prayer with the Church–from monasteries to seminaries to rectories and churches and prayer communities and to people’s homes and people’s personal prayer spots’:

(#1) and (#2) The two songs of Moses: Exodus 15:1-19 and Deuteronomy 32:1-43;
(#3) through (#7) The prayers of Hannah, Habakkuk, Isaiah, Jonah, and the 3 Holy Children (1 Samuel 2:1-10; Habakkuk 3:1-19; Isaiah 26:9-20; Jonah 2:3-10; Daniel 3:26-56);
(#8) and (#9) The two prayers of welcoming in –the New Covenant in Christ:
which are The Magnificat Prayer of Mary and the Benedictus of Zachariah (Luke 1:46-55 and 68-79).

The Canticles are a nice collection of prayers. I bought a nice gift book for a friend, a few years ago, and it was a beautifully illustrated book of Bible Canticles. I wish I had bought one for myself, as I think of how these prayers are so inspirational, and can even be a basis of anyone’s prayers — just to pray the Canticles as their regular prayer for awhile. This book has very nice illustrations and the words to the great Canticles of the Bible. I will have to look for that book again, as I feel drawn to pray the Canticles a little more.

Still, when I pray the daily prayerbook of clergy and religious, TLOTH, I know will keep on running into canticles, that’s for sure. On Week 3 Sunday Prayer I enjoy coming across a Cantilce of St. Paul from Phillipians 2:6-11. It includes some of these words:

“Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, He emptied Himself… He humbled Himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross! Because of this, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name above every other… every tongue (shall) proclaim to the glory of God the Father (that) Jesus Christ is Lord.”

By the way, for those interested in a long explanation of what IS The Liturgy of the Hours– go buy Daria Sockey’s book “The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours.” It explains a lot of it.

In the practice of The Liturgy of the Hours, one is encouraged to speak our own praise of God, in parallel prayer to the Scripture Canticles. We get an example of how to do it in the
Canticle of the Sun prayer, found in the appendix of TLOTH, for use on special times. Here are a few of its lines, which you probably know are lines from St. Francis of Assisi:

“Oh, Most High, Almighty, Good Lord God, to Thee belong praise, glory, honor and blessing…. Praise be my Lord for our ‘mother’ the earth, the which doth sustain us and keep us, and bringeth forth divers(e) fruits and flowers of many colors… Praise ye and bless the Lord, and give thanks to Him and serve Him with great humility.”

Another place in Scripture that I like to use in prayer is John 1. While it is not a classic canticle, it is a poetic proclamation. I like to look at its gospel words and fashion a prayer from it sometimes.
Here’s an attempt tonight. I will finish the blog entry here with its prayer.

A personal paraphrase prayer of John 1:
In the Beginning, God, it was You, and You Alone. It was You God, and the Word was God, and You the Word Who is Light, came to enlighten all peoples. This I embrace. You are my Light. I testify to The Light, as John the Baptism did in heralding Your Coming and Your Ministry. Now I testify to your Saving Presence and Victory for the World. And as many as received You, O Light of the World, to them who have accepted You, how blessed is it how we were given the right to become children of God. I want to be Your child, O God, and I want to live in Your Light. I know that this world I live among still many a people who prefer the darkness, and not The Light! O Lord have mercy on us all, especially the lost sinner. I know You first came to Your own, the chosen people with whom You invested so much attention on. So many of them did not respond to You. And, I am afraid that the Church is somewhat repeated the mistake of the Jews, in not being wholely responsive to You, nor noting the signs of the times. O help us, O God!

IMG_20140414_131310_662We appeal to Your Sacred Heart, O Jesus.

You have given us hope. You, The Word, became Flesh and have dwelt among us, Glory in our land! As the dearly Beloved Son of The Trinity! Thank you for Christmas. Thank you for Holy Thusday, Good Friday and Easter, and Ascension and Pentecost! You have unfolded a Mystery among us, of which seeking souls can discover it. Truth and Salvation in You. Blessed Be Your Coming! Complete us in holiness, O Spirit. And Come Lord Jesus in Glory, O Splendor of the Father!!”

Pentecost and Ascension: Homily words and pictures

05190117210519011725IMG_20140607_125642

I have had the opportunity to see some big trains and locomotives this year. I got up to see the steam engine that people can see and board a train with it pulling them along into the Amish countryside of Lancaster. I took a video with my phone of it coming straight toward me. I was safe, but my zoom lens made it appear as if I were on the tracks!
Even though that train is an old one, it still conveys power and does show that it can many transport many people and cars along behind it.

That kind of power on display is a reminder of today being a day of power. It is a day of the power of the Holy Spirit. The third Person of the Trinity has come upon us to avail us the way to live like Jesus Christ in holiness and love and power, even to rise up in His Power on the last day. Pentecost is the Birth of The Church into a power sent from Above down into our very souls for inspiration and help. We began 1,981 years ago and we are keeping going, as Jesus promised would happen. Only power from on high can make it so. Humanity is more known for weakness than strength, “yet God Who is Mighty has done great things, and holy is His Name”– as our model Saint Mary has told and shown us.

Mary is in the midst of the apostles and believers in Jerusalem when the power of Pentecost fell on people and anointed them. She recognized the blessing, as she was given the Spirit as the start of her life. She and the whole community of believers rejoiced in the Coming of the Spirit. They were elated. In joy. Surprised. Happy.

It was a holy power in them that can be compared to my analogy to the train locomotive. God’s power is the Holy Spirit, His Pentecost to us. As you live and serve in the Church, you sense this power and presence of God. He is Mighty to Save. He is God with us. He has healing and renewal and mercy to give out in His supply from Heaven. He is able to bring out the Jesus in all of us, in our baptized new life.

So Pentecost is like standing next to the ‘great locomotive’ (The Spirit) of this enterprise, The Church, The Body of Christ.

Pentecost also is the movement of the train. We are out of the station of heading home to God on this slow train of glory. God sends His dynamic faith, hope and love throught the rail cars and passengers on His Body, the Church. Just like a train car can have power supplied to it from the front locomotive car(s), so we receive power in The Lord through our varous cars on the train. As long as we are coupled in Christ, that is, connected in the train, then we have the power supply available.

I took an Acela Express to New York City this past year. It was sleek, fast and powerful. I rode in the quiet car, which brought out in the sounds of the moving train, the movement and pace to the Big Apple. The car had power for cooking, lights, all our plug-in devices, and so much more.

Speaking of power and trains, it is a neat thing to go to Harpers Ferry and see the trains coming and going. It’s a place for train watching. They have a viewer’s station where you can go out to a spot near atrain tunnel and await the next train. When it blows its horn in the tunnel, it’ll make you jump! The Amtrak station is soon after the tunnel, and it is also a nice place to wait around to see a train come by. Many freight lines go by, too.

As people ride passenger trains on those lines, such as the Amtrak to Chicago, they have on those lines the big double-floored glass view window cars. People get a nice view of the passing landscape from those train cars and seats/couches. When the train goes around a big turn, then the people can get nearly a full view of the train they are on, and its engine.

That image is what I propose the Ascension of Christ to be like. If on an Amtrak turn of tracks, people can see the front of the train, even passing into a tunnel, or going over a hill, then I propose that Christ going into Glory ahead of us is like that Locomotive. He is ahead, and in power, and leading us to where we need to go, and we are happy to be linked up to him, as our cars have not the power of their own to get where we need to go: Heaven.

This train, er, this Church, is bound for Glory, this train (Church)….

And the Lord was taken up from their sight….

He said: Wait to be clothed from On High… wait and pray… The Spirit will come upon you.

And on Pentecost…tongues as like flames fell upon the people of Jesus there, and they gave utterance of praise in many languages, and a driving wind blew through Jerusalem, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Ideas on the “Body of Christ,” Part II

=============================================================================
Some more scientific, medical observations, on the bodily life…

before I draw some spiritual conclusions on being “The Body of Christ.”
=============================================================================

Could it all be so simple that God gave us bodies and heads to witness to the set-up that humankind would be a body dependent upon its Head, the Lord?

And could the heart be a reality about the soul and the need for love within the middle of humankind, which could be the Spirit and the Merciful Charity of The Eternal Son?

And could all the misery in the world, with our huge dilemma of bodies in suffering across the globe and
in history be a message from the fact that we must truly be “separated from God?” In the Fall of Humanity, we have become separated from our Head. In Isaiah the Word says: “Behold, the Lord’s help is not short for you, that He cannot save, or that His ear is deaf to your pleas; but that your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and it is by your sins…” A verse from St. Paul says that our connection of body to Head is only found in Jesus, and it’s why He came to us, for the re-joining: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…”

Scientifically, the medical people who try to bring health to a person know another basic truth about the body: that it is very relational. The body’s parts all work together. Everything in a body and its head works in a way that teaches how the Big Picture of Life has the same message from the Creator.
God is our Life but he also has created us to love and help and rely upon one another. As long as the world keeps acting independently and selfishly apart, she will have people getting sick side by side.

If the human body is relational, then it tells a truth about the Big Picture. We can speak of God as the Head of all relationships. He is the foundation, the start. We need Him first, like a body needs a head. As one Bible verse in Acts says, “in Him we live and move and have our being.” As called into Life with God, then we are ordered, by His original design, to be called into communion with the other members of the human family (the Body) and all relating with one another to the Head, Jesus. The Bible says that the Christian needs to operate in a new bodily way and in a new creation: “Our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin… Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Nor present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death into life, and your members to God as instruments now for righteousness, as living under Grace (the Head)… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. That is your faith, one body living under God, in grace, your head.”

Aha! The body of believers is called to common bond and to mutual sanctification. In the end, this is called the communion of saints. It is what we strive for. Right. Catholics know and pray this in our creed.

It’s only natural for a body to work together and to be in full cooperation with its head. Simple truth.
0802131159a
!cid_3D7E6060EC804FBD9390C2A4743F086A@IBMA8CFDB28EA70731131138a-1
above is a photo of fellow Catholics taken at a large prayer-liturgy I prayed at in a Washington Hotel, with hundreds of Catholics, and it was an enjoyable gathering. Then, in picture two, the Sacred Heart in the midst of his own. Then the third photo is of a liturgy in the Shrine Basilica of a large Mass with a number of priest concelebrants.

========================================================================
Now we are at the Birthday of the Church, in this Pentecost time. In this week, I can’t help but apply the image of breath running through the Body from the Head. God has revealed He is a Head over us. In God’s Spirit–He is Life Breath to us, the air that is taken in that goes to fill the lungs of the body. His Breath from His Holy Spirit can send moving life through us.

In this time nearing The Body and Blood of Christ Sunday, I can’t help apply the image of God being nourishment from the Head to give life to His Body of believers. God has revealed that He is Nourishment to us. The food received by Him (The Word) gives us life. Jesus said: “Man does not live by bread alone, but on the Word that comes from the mouth of God.” We come to Mass and Eucharist in this reliance on what God gives as nourishment.

I look out on our congregation and wish for the Vision of Christ for His own to reach greater clarity and better reality among ourselves. I wish we all knew Him better as our Head and as our inter-connection.
I wish we knew better of our responsibilities to one another in the Body of Christ and, for the sake even of health to all the Body, that we would better practice the discipline of acting as one under Christ our Head. We are members called to unity and holiness. Just take a gander at verses from Romans 12.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1,2)

That’s a prayer of respecting the Headship we have been given in Christ Jesus.

Going to Mass and presenting ourselves to Jesus and into His Sacrifice is also a profound prayer and one of deep understanding of the Eucharist and the Dying/Rising Mystery Who is Present in it. We present ourselves as the Body of Christ into His Headship/Lordship. It is a covenant renewal that the Lord always desires of us.

St. Augustine preached this:(Sermon, 228b) “eat the bond which keeps you united, lest you be scattered; drink the price of your redemption, lest it be devalued.” Augustine was preaching on the gospel for Corpus Christi, which was John 6:53. “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” How truly valuable Christ’ offering is for us. How truly needed our fellowship divine in the Church is right now, all fully available.

To the needs of our bodies and souls… Christ offers us His Body (“Take it all of you”)… Christ gives His Blood (“poured out for many for forgiveness of sins”)… and He sends for His Spirit to renew us all.

St. Paul and the Gospel Evangelists teach us (even by metaphor and word pictures) how the Lord Jesus He reigns in Heaven, while also now abiding in us and indwelling in believers by His Holy Spirit. This week’s Church Feast of Pentecost celebrated the birth of our relationship to God as the Body of Christ, even those who are empowered then by the life of the Holy Spirit. Or we might better say, we celebrate our re-birth, for we had physical life before Christ’ intervention, but our souls and bodies had not saving life in them. Like fallen nature, we had life for a short duration, then to fade away and die, like the grass or leaves. But Christ Jesus changed our mortal nature to have capability for an immortal one. With life under Him and running through our souls, we could have a changed existence, even to be a body of believers under His Headship.

Christ Jesus says that, as Lord of All, He is the Head of this body of the faith-filled (or faithful). By Jesus’ Perfection as one of us in the human race, but also as the Eternal Son, He has the Way and right and authority to be our Head, and has generously given of Himself for believers to be so united under Him. The previous Sunday in this June we had the Ascension Feast when we heard Jesus’ words proclaim: “All authority under heaven and earth has been given to Me… Go and make disciples, baptizing them (into a new existence as children of God)…and I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.”

Indeed, it is good to know that Jesus is the Head and Authority of Heaven and Earth… Who is also with us as Mercy and Sacrifice, for sinners who have no worthy offering, save for Him for loved us and gave Himself for us. We shall offer ourselves in Him.

In the words of the prophecy of old: “He shall be Peace.”

Ideas on “The body of Christ”

On this week following Pentecost Sunday, the Birthday of the Church, I would like to share some things I thought of last week about the metaphor of “Body of Christ” that we use of the Church.

First I will write of what the “Body of Christ” means, as metaphor, in a medical way. As in, how does science and our personal knowledge of our biology tell us of being a “body?” Secondly, I do then try to leap from those natural lessons onto how they assist the supernatural lessons (of the Body of Christ language in Scripture and Church life) and our meaning of it.

Let’s lead off with the approach of the medical or biological or scientific thought of what it is to be called to be a body. We start with the fact that our own bodies were scientifically designed by a Higher Power/God. We are alive bodily, and we have our own experience in flesh and body (with our spirit) to give us a lot of clues to what our Maker/Creator is like and how we are to be in relation back to Him. God did give us a body, even while religion’s revelation tells us we also have a soul/spirit being to ourselves. A body defines us. Personalizes us. It differentiates us from others (though we may look a little like some other person), and we have distinctions in dna, fingerprints, eyes, blood, and other ways to set us apart. We have a human nature. There is a connection to the world of nature in ourselves. Some things that humans share all serve good purposes: hands for working and touching and holding onto something or someone, feet for standing on or moving on, skin for giving us an outer layer, nerves to sense things, ears and a throat, tongue and mouth for communication. These are not accidental that we have them in common in our human making; these shared characteristics of human nature do serve purposes and possibilities and allow for our developed use and skill as creatures of God/The Higher Power.

God truly reveals much to us in this first sense of our biology. We can take lessons from our physical or biological selves that applies to what God meant for our human living to be (and Who He is and how He lives in relation to us). We see a design for work, movement, interpersonal transaction, and more. This is all called our Natural Revelation unto Who our Maker is. In our Catholic religion, this Natural Theology leads toward the spiritually revealed theology of a God Who says “made us in Their Image.” Somehow we reflect our Maker. As we look around at the world, we can see that the Higher Power also gave all creation some co-creative power to His species. For humanity, be fruitful and multiply is matched by much of animal and plant life also being fruitful and producing new creation.

All of this says something to us who believe and follow a call to be “the body of Christ.” The body says–be yourself, be personal, work and serve, protect, sense, move, grow, and communicate! Among other messages. All of these tell us as a “body of Christ” to do these things naturally for God.

Because in a natural bodies there is brokenness and decay and suffering, as well as fulfillment and growth and joy, we realize that there is a need to process and head for goals in life, and seek ways with others for good to come about. Nature calls us.
What marvelous lessons they all are! What a search and quest we are on, if we let the stimulaton happen to our bodies and minds, and wonder if we can cooperate with a Higher Power/God behind all there is around us. Is there God? So much says yes. Some disappointing things of the brokenness and selfishness and pain among humankind makes the “yes” a little harder to conclude, yet people have responded to the challenge of it all.

So, if we are this bodily person, among other bodily persons, what are we learning as we go along in our nature?

For starters, our medical basics tells us that the human body is dependent upon its head for life. So many critical functions happen in the head, and you can’t live without these head functions. (The original “head start!”) God our Creator gave us a head with its brain waves working for all thought–for all real “knowing” of existence and for meaning for our bodies. All knowing connects to the head for cognition. God really shows us in a biological way that, without its head, the body is nothing more than its flesh and blood and bones and skin. Useless. We know not what life truly is without our head. Because we were all born with a head.

(And yet–surprise–in the spiritual realm, God says we ARE a body cut off from its head. He says it is Scripture. He says this is a dying condition of humanity that needs His saving of us. We’ll get to that stuff in a few moments… but let’s keep talking about the human body.)

We also operate all life sustenance through our heads. We take in our food by the head, and we take in our breath there, and we hear and smell and see by our head. Without our eating or breathing naturally, the body would lose its life. It’s critical, isn’t it?

Biologically or scientifically, we get a message in our own existence, that body and head should go together for all function and purpose. God has a message here in natural revelation. Our human design leaves very big hints about the rest of life to know. (What if God were meant to serve our human race in a “head” capacity, and we as the “body?” Did God ever speak or show of this reality? Spiritually, yes! Yet, I propose that He did so naturally first, by our design.)

God goes on into supernatural revelation for us with messages that we are meant to be His Body, under the Son and in the Life of the Spirit. God tells us there that Jesus came because we, the body called the human race, were separated from Him, the GodHead, because of our sin. Jesus, God’s Son, explained that we were “dead” in sin, or at least, dying away as the body. Yet people did not much believe Him about it. Yet He said He represented the Godhead Who knew something quite intricate of His bodily creatures meant to be in life by Him. We were NOT in union with Him. Jesus used illustratons of seeds and earth, trees and fruit, light and dark, and so much more to teach us that we needed to get into saving life with Him. Believe in Me, He said. I Am Life, He said. Deny yourself (turn from your sin) and Follow Me, He said.

People who are in their bodies, who hear this message as like the first time, may still think that it is not necessary to respond heartily to God. After all, they might say: look around, I don’t see dead people walking, I and others I know are not zombies, and if Christians say we are all that bad in our sin and pride, I figure that I can’t be so bad off. If sin and separation cuts us off into death, then, well I can say–I still seem to be alive! If Jesus is supposed to be “Lord” or the Head of me, well, it seems to me that I and some others I know all are still existing without the Head!’

In answer to that: when one is dead in sin, then they don’t exactly feel it so. Sin is a lie lived. the sin-filled way is a rebellion or rejection versus Life of the Almighty, and denial of this tragic drama is the smokescreen or the veil over the shame. The sinner hides in their darkness, the believer is honest and comes into the God’s light for help. The believer sees the grand dilemma of the world in her sin and pain and death and humbly goes to the Almighty and says “have mercy on us.” The unrepentant sinner says “what trouble?” or “not my problem” or “all is futile and I am of no concern to Whoever’s in charge of this mess” or “curses be to the Higher Power–why won’t He do something?!”

That’s the words of an already dead person. Yet offer his people something else. God offers life.

A man in prison got to learn much of his life while wasting away in prison on a death row sentence. He was in solitary confinement. It was just he and his bodily self alone. Meals were slipped in under the door without conversation. If we returned the tray back under the door later, then it meant to the prison warden that he was still alive in his cell. Then, recalling a Mass he attended as a guest as a teen, he somehow remembered the words of consecration (Jesus said: Take this…This is My Body given up for you). The prisoner decided to use those words for a desperate prayer to God. “Hey, God, this is my body, given up for you. Take it!” The prisoner prayed it for seven days straight. Suddenly on the next day, he woke up into a Presence with him in his cell. He felt a message was sent to his mind and heart. It was: “I WILL take it, with today’s Mass by the chaplain, I WILL take your sin. I will come to you and be in your life from now on. Be not afrain of death. I have changed you.
You are mine, your sins have been forgiven and paid for.”

He said: “The warden finally came and met me, some weeks after my God Moment. The warden just wanted to inform me of my planned date to die. He told me that “I was living on limited time.” I told the warden: “I know that now. Sitting alone by myself with all that solitude helped me realize that all of humanity really is sitting in a death sentence. All are appointed to die–even you warden. But Someone came to visit me in this time of despair. I have come to be sorry and I have peace. I gave him my body.”

The warden was confused. “Noone was permitted to see you. Who got in to see you, a chaplain?” He answered: No, sir. Only a memory got in. It was of a Catholic priest saying Mass with Jesus’ words: This is My Body given up for you. I decided to pray and give myself up, too, to God. He actually came and accepted my offer. It was perhaps my only beautiful moment in life, warden!… Now I can die at the state’s will. But really, I’ve already been dead a long time. I’ve accepted that about myself. I realize that every message in my time outside and in my cell existence was in sin and death. I am ready for letting God live in me from now on.”

What that prisoner learned in solitude is a truth that all proud and stubborn human persons must see: we are needing Christ the Lord for new life.
IMG_20140612_240001_008

One of the main problems of being in sin is that we are blinded and cannot see, deaf and can’t hear. We are lost and in peril and hardly realize it. It’s not until death that it all comes into view, that one has been outside of God and throughout a lifetime. At the Cross of Calvary, one person on the cross to Jesus left cursed Christ, the other person on the right said: “Jesus, remember me, when You come into your kingdom.” Jesus promised paradise that day to the second person.

Jesus once answered the folly of a rich man who didn’t think he didn’t need God or faith and salvation from sin. Jesus said to him: (in Luke 12) “Fool, now your life is required of you.” Jesus knew the man was soon to die and to face his judgment un-prepared. Jesus knew that the selfish rich man, who thought he could rely solely upon himself, would be in dire straights in death. He who would deny the help of God and the treasures Jesus was offering; it was his time of decision and he passed eternal Life by.

Yet the bodily life had sent messages to that rich man long before he was given the spiritual one from Our Lord. One’s dead skin and scalp, aging skin, and weakening muscles and such all send us a message–that there is a passing away already going on and a need for renewal always calling out (ready to work).

One’s heartbeats and breaths are here in the present, but then fall into the past, not to be re-lived or recovered. Time is passing, slipping by, fading– we know it is so– and one needs to wonder to where. One needs to wonder if this trap of time and limitation in the bodily life has a reason. One needs to ask about the body’s pain and suffering and ultimate passing. Why is all of this so? The natural answer is that something is wrong on earth and our lives. Catholic Christians call it the Fall of Humankind into sin and separation from God. Pride has led to a fall of humankind into rebellion and independence from God, which resulted in our living in such brokenness, sadness and loss. But this natural understanding for meaning and a need for change for humanity is meant to lead us to Christ Jesus as the Answer. Good Catholics know that they need to come to Christ daily for their re-creation. The Lord’s Prayer is recited: “Give us this day our daily bread, O Lord… thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”

Jesus was offering re-connection with God to the body of Israelites (and persons like this self-reliant rich man of little faith in Luke 12 or to the whole town of Sychar in the Woman at the Well story in John’s gospel or to Zaccheaus in Jericho town or to the leper in the group of ten sick persons), Jesus is saving people who were cut off from God by their sin. Jesus delights in that leper man coming back as a well person, to meet a thankful heart. Jesus sees a man whose body is not only well, but whose whole life and soul are recovered to wholeness. Jesus’ hope is for many persons in the world to become well. The leprosy of sin can be cured. The tightly closed soul can be opened up for light and eternal love.

Jesus said: “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” He explained how the one they were presently under, the devil, was only going to deceive and to steal and destroy from them. They would lose life who followed his ways in the world. They were already dying and heading to death on that plan.
Jesus said: “Apart from Me, apart from God, you can do nothing. Abide in Me, and I in you.”
Jesus said: “Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavily laden with burdens, and I will give you rest.”
This is language of God wanting to join us into Himself.

Jesus is remedy for our ugly reality of sin and its wages and grim fact of death. (Romans 6:23) Our bodies die. The world and its people are caught up in this darkness. Yet God has the solution in Christ. He is forgiveness. He is Light. He is Resurrection. He is new life.

Will humankind try to survive without its Head? The only person really to ‘exist’ without a head is the fabled headless horseman in Sleepy Hollow. Nobody else has pulled head-less existence off! [All puns included 🙂 ]

Perhaps Ichabod Crane in the novel is a bit like all those who are running away. We get chased by the image of the headless person, and that person really is our sinful self giving warning.
[My re-interpretation of the story. 🙂 ]
Yet humankind does try to spiritually exist without its head! It’s Head (or Lord) is God.

I like the reference in Colossians 1 about God’s Headship being offered in Christ Jesus, to bring life to our body.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” (Colossians 1:15-19)

Pentecost Ponderings of the Spirit, II

More Definitive Ways of the Spirit.

Let’s continue from last time…

Here is another Definitive Way of the Spirit:
The Holy Spirit blesses and anoints to life the physical world.

In the Genesis story it explains how He hovered over the waters to breathe life into it, and all then came to life. He is the One of Whom gave breath to humankind, on that sixth day, when the world was ready for humankind.
Apply it to today, (not back to Creation) we live in the realm of the Spirit. The world has physical life, but God in Christ raises us mortal humans to experience the physical life being brought into blessing into sanctified life by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives the blessings for physical sacredness. The Sacraments of the Church have depended upon His blessing. He breathes or descends upon us through signs and power. God consecrates and woos us by holy Sacraments to be joined into divine participation, even to our bodies, as well as our souls. Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Anointing, and special lifelong covenant ministries of heart and body in Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders: These come by the Spirit. These are all ways to meet God in the physical world, as God did become incarnate, the man/God. He will meet us in the physical ever more. His Incarnation Mystery continues among us.

The Holy Spirit is Love and Life in the Family.

When love and fertility occur between a husband and a wife, the Holy Spirit is the love and life in the marriage act. When two persons are in covenant to be in relationship for their lives, the Spirit affords the gift of life in their sexuality to give children to them. While some misuse God’s sacred gifts for sexuality, they are meant to be a blessing to those meeting God in love and life. Always.

The Holy Spirit is Passion for Life.

We are meant to have a dignity in life in our relational association with God. We are a special creation as humanity. We are created in God’s image. We are His workmanship created for good works in that God can be greatly pleased in us. Once this becomes realized by any person or persons, it is meant to arouse a renewal in them, a give a new strength and purpose to have in life, in passionate love for God/self/others in Passion (the Holy Spirit is that fire and passion), with commonality with all others in Christ as we are being brought together in truth and the unity of God (Spirit is the Communion of the Father and Son) and into a worship and life that is the ecstatic experience of the God who made and loved us and wants us freely back to Himself. God is love, therefore we are meant to live in that great blessing. It is said that the Love between the Father and the Son IS the Spirit. The love is so great between Two Persons of God that it IS another Person of God, and it makes for a wholeness, called the Trinity.
This Trinity had a plan for humanity to be the Bride to Christ, the Incarnate Word. Jesus, God’s Son, revealed this plan and love, meant to stir the sinner out of their complacency, and to repentance, and a whole fantastic response of love back to God.

The Holy Spirit is Help for the Bride to Christ to be the loved one in passionate engagement to the Beloved, embracing her invitation to become the eternal beloved to Christ. .

One More…

The Holy Spirit is Judge of Us in the end.

We are warned in Scripture to “not blaspheme the Holy Spirit.” If God in Christ the Son comes to save us and also gives His Spirit to rouse us and lead us, but then we ignore it all and we forsake God, then the Spirit executes the consequences of our choices. To choose not to act with God nor obey Him nor openly accept our salvation in Christ—this brings on the unpardonable sin. Matthew 12 is the chapter that speaks of this unpardonable sin. When a person’s utter stubbornness sets them finally apart from God’s love.

It is foolish to wait to be convicted by this Person of God, and branded as an opponent or as one that doesn’t want to know God. That end is to be greatly feared. There’s no kidding around about it.

The Holy Spirit wants to fill our lives with Life and Love. He doesn’t want to deny us the fullness of life, but only for the sake that we insist on it and have been given the freedom to do so. Yet we are meant to receive the Water of Life. He is the flow of all blessings, the holiness and help that comes to those born anew in Christ. Christ in His Mercy comes to heal the brokenness and woundedness of our sins, and creates in us a new heart that can receive His love and fresh goodness and new life.

As the Bible ends, it makes this appeal: THE SPIRIT AND THE BRIDE SAY COME.
(Revelations 22). It means that the Spirit will help us (the Church) to be the Body of Christ, to be the Bride of Christ who enters heaven to be the love of the Lord forever. Let us ask for help for this wedding ahead, for “blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb, the Wedding Banquet.” “Lord, we are not worthy that we would come under that roof, that Hall of Heaven, but only say the Word of invitation and our fears shall be healed. You want us. I accept. We accept!”