Miracles of Jesus, 3

The Raising of Lazarus – God has power over death & darkness

​So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father,* I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” John 11:38-44

How this miracle can inspire us:

In the story of Lazarus, Jesus told his disciples that his dear friend Lazarus had died and that it was time to visit his tomb. In the midst of the mourning crowd and disbelieving people, Jesus called out to Lazarus and brought him back to life.

We live in a world filled with death and suffering. People discriminate against one another. We destroy our bodies with excess alcohol, food, drugs and even work. Acts of terrorism annihilate entire towns and there are so many more depressing realities.

Despite all of this, the story of Lazarus being resurrected reminds us that God has power over death and darkness. This miracle lets us see that death is not the end and that there is more to life than pain and suffering but true life can only come from God. We must surrender our lives to our Lord and have faith that he will give us eternal life.

Miracles of Jesus, 2

Calming of the Storm at Sea – Have trust in God

He got into a boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm* came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”* Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?”           Matthew 8:23-27

In this story, the disciples are gripped by fear because of a violent storm developing around them. In the midst of the fearsome situation, Jesus wakes up from his sleep and commands the waves and winds to calm down. He also rebuked his followers for having “little faith”.

Just like Jesus’s disciples, we are sometimes vulnerable to our human weakness. During life’s storms, we might find ourselves faltering and failing. We become afraid and we rely on earthly solutions instead of spiritual answers to fix our problems.

The miracle of Jesus calming the storm at sea reminds us to grow faith in God. As long as we believe in the power of God and his unwavering love for us, we can weather any storm and overcome upheavals that come our way.

This story is similar to the one when the disciples are in another storm on the lake, but Jesus isn’t in the boat.   He is far offshore.   Yet, Jesus comes to them walking on the sea.    The story ends with a sea calmed, too, but then an added walking out in faith lesson for Peter and the other apostles.

Nones at Christmas and Non-divine Christmases for Christ.

There are those who dare say that they are “Nones” today.  In that, their faith or church affiliation officially is “none.”   We speak of moral people who may believe in God but they have no ties to an official faith or church.

In the blog the other day I talked on this.  But I had more to say.  Here we go. 

When I visited a Christmas holiday decoration this past season, I realized that some church people that claim an affiliation to Jesus actually are no better than a “none” at Christmas.     They actually are much worse off.   

How are some other Christian churches doing at Christmas, in comparison to “nones?”

Well, the one’s who are a cult or who are a church believing Jesus-isn’t-divine are in a mess.

  imag0868imag0866_1   I went along with someone who wanted to see Christmas lights. In December we visited a place with the most LED lights on a church property on USA’s East Coast. It was the Mormon church right off the DC Beltway. I include some photos here. It was all very pretty there. Yet as I was leaving, I told my friend: ‘Sadly, these people don’t even believe that Christmas is about God coming to the earth in the Blessed Eternal Son, Jesus Christ. They deny Jesus’ divinity. They re-interpret His claim as “I AM the Light of the World” as not a divine claim (as being the I AM person Who spoke to Moses, which He claimed so to be, even so being the same God, now appearing as the God/man), but they see Him in a reduced role– as a blessed person to which we can all be, as equal sons of god with Jesus (provided one becomes a Mormon)…. Even in the Name of Religion, they have no surrender to a Divine Savior to their hearts,  but much less!  In sum, they have all these lights, but won’t accept Jesus as Lord God to save them, as Light of the World. Their faith is still all about them, and what they get.

Perhaps the emergence of the Mormon Church explains how a people could still form in a congregation and still not believe in Jesus as Savior/God.   It ‘s about as bad as a “None.”  No, wait a second, I think it’s worse. 

The “None” has no connection, but the Mormons (or other so-called churches that do not accept the divinity of Jesus) want to have their Christmas but keep Jesus the Lord out of it.  That’s blasphemy.   The old Christmas song exults: “O Come Let Us Adore HIM, CHRIST THE LORD.”  Christ the Babe is Christ the Lord come.   No less!  

“O Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!”  goes the song.  But where is the triumph if Jesus of Christmas is not Savior God, but something different.  Than what are all these Christmas lights for at the Mormon Temple?    

Maybe Mormons (and Christian Scientists and Jehovah Witnesses and some Unitarians) are really religious versions of the Nones.   All don’t really welcome Jesus for Who He is at Christmas, now do they?   It is not a thing for them that God was born a child among us.  Christmas has not its core meaning for them.  No true celebration.

I really am sad for people who miss the Savior at Christmas, and choose some other style of celebration or non- celebration of it.

Consider how, with all the hoopla going on for the Christmas holidays, Jesus doesn’t have all the attention on Christmas, or the kind of attention He is due and looking for.

Thus– He really must value the people (of whom I hope are in our Catholic Faith) who do follow Him because of Who He Is, and who truly live Christmas.

It may be waning in popularity to celebrate a Holy Christmas in Christ’ Mass, but I pause to consider the great love God would have for us in remaining with Him in His co-eternal Son Whom He sent as Savior and Redeemer to humankind.  We want to make a big deal of Jesus’ coming.   His Birth to the world is our hope.  The calendar changed to “A.D.” because something/Someone spectacular happened to our world and its people in His Coming.

Yet numbers say that a Holy Christmas (and with Jesus as Savior God in His Birth) is falling in popularity.   Could we ever walk away from Christmas and our Catholic faith and its holy expressions, due to waning popularity for it in the culture? Would we get weary of the challenges Catholic Faith and Jesus as Lord Faith poses upon its followers, to imitate Jesus in a way matching His revelation and calling upon us?

Some Catholics have the right answer for that, in using Peter’s words from the Gospel: ‘No, we are not leaving Thee! You, Lord, are Savior and Everlasting Life! Why would we part from You and of all You have shared to us? We need to eat the Bread of Mercy and Life! We need to become one in You! We need You in our souls to transform us every day.’ That text is from John chapter 6, the chapter describing the large departure from Jesus at that stage of His ministry on earth.

The popularity/ non-popularity of Christmas matters to us.  How do priests and laity handle the loss of numbers and the waning popularity in our society/culture for the Church? I have some comment.

Firstly, Faith is not about what public opinion decides, as if in a majority poll. The Church remains who she is— no matter if crowded or not.  At Christmas or any time. And Faith says that it is not about how we happen to be feeling about ourselves or what our “likes” are—which determines things. We are led by the Holy Spirit, and Christ has established Himself as Head of the Body, the Church. So we are being brought on a journey, and that is what Faith is. Faith, then, is the response people make to what presents itself as a reality – a reality which makes claims on your person.

Here is something so extraordinary that it interrupts our world; here is something that (like Moses in the story of the Burning Bush) which makes you ‘turn aside to see’, that stops you short.’ ‘Faith begins in that moment of stopping, you could say: the moment when you can’t just walk on as you did before. Jesus and His Life, ever present, just gets to you.’ That’s what it’s about.

Secondly, (on doubts and questions raised in today’s culture for Christ or the Christmas story) we are to ask simply:  Am I changed in a Faith experience of Jesus? Hopefully, you have affirmative answers.

Are there still questions or things to wonder about? Sure. Take, for example, something from literature. In “The Journey of the Magi,” a T. S. Eliot Christmas poem, he imagined the wise men back at home after their journey to Bethlehem, ‘no longer at ease here in the old dispensation’, but wondering whether what they had witnessed was birth or death. ” …I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.”

Eliot says:  The wise men have witnessed the Rebirth of humankind, and they can’t deny that they’ve seen what they’ve seen.  They really made the journey and they really saw something that persuaded them it had been worthwhile. It was an experience of faith: a claim, a shock, a death*, a life.   (I take those words from his poem.  For Eliot, faith as death means, I think, death to falsehoods, and death to their former way of life.)

Eliot has the Magi sum up their trip.  (Of the Journey) ‘It was, you may say, satisfactory’, Eliot’s wise man sums up things in a masterpiece understatement.   It’s Eliot’s way of saying:  It was great!  xbeforecommunion-jpg-pagespeed-ic-mx_zzldrsp

The wise men found what they were looking for – and it was not at all what they thought they had been looking for.   And what of us?  What are we Jesus-is-Divine believers saying?  Is Jesus Great?   Or just a man that stirred things up– as Mormons, JW’s, and others would say of Jesus and Christmas?!   Hmm, JW’s don’t even acknowledge Jesus’ birthday, because they teach that keeping birthdays is a form of idolatry.  So, they say, we Catholics are in idolatry at Christmas Mass!   Isn’t that interesting?!

We as Catholics not only acknowledge Jesus as God and Who had a birthday, but we also confirm that Jesus gave Himself to us at the Last Supper as Eucharist to encounter.  The Mass at Christmas or on any day of the year gives us an encounter with Jesus as profound as that of the Magi in the original meeting with Jesus to the world.   The little sign of a baby is now also the little sign of Holy Communion to us.

As a take-away thought from here, I give you two more things to ponder.

The Christian gospel firmly declares two equally necessary truths. One: Jesus is the hope of the nations, and Two: Jesus is an utter surprise.

Jesus is the Hope of Nations, so we Catholics believe.  Jesus is what the entire human race really longs for (or Who they truly long for).  In the last post-blog, I was considering the numbers at Christmas Mass, and how some figures today show for a drop in attendance, in general, to Catholic and other Christian churches on the Birthday of Our Lord.

One reason for it is the growth of NONE’s in society, those people who do not identify into a practice of religion in their lives.  Thus, the check “none” in the box for religion.

Now I think another reason is because of these replacement Christmas celebrations. The Mormons have the big choir and the bright lights, but they replace Jesus as Savior and make Him more of an angel come to earth to show us how all of us can be god-like or angels.  That’s wrong.  That’s not Christmas faith.

Also, they have all these bright lights at Christmas but do not see Jesus as Divine as being “the Light of the World” as He claimed.  We have a whole lot of people who have been duped to some downsizing of Jesus as not who He was.  Thus, Christmas is not really Christmas.

And some of these missing people at Christmas Masses and services last Dec. 25th might have been them.

Now, in the second Gospel truth, Jesus is an utter surprise in the way He came to us as the Lord of Heaven.  People still totally miss it about Him.  God came to earth!  But they don’t get it!  Jesus is so foreign or perhaps unconventional that He is unrecognizable to those who might have been expected to welcome Him. “He made the world,” says St John’s Gospel opening, “but the world had no room for him and the experts in revelation and religious purity turned from him in disgust (John 1.10—11).”

We Catholics are meant to be the changed response.  We now know Who Jesus is and we look to make a whole lot of room for Him.   We live and we die in the Revelation of Jesus.  We know we are meant to be stopped in our tracks by all of what Christ’ Birth means.   We know Christmas is true and real, and that it happened in history and that it impacts us today immensely.   Jesus is true, and He brings the truth.

This truth of God is the most comforting and joyful presence we could ever imagine; and also the most disorienting and demanding. That is just how it is. What a paradox.

God is revealing Himself to us, in the special manner of Jesus, and wouldn’t that be both filled with simplicities and complexities? If Jesus poses some difficulty to us, then we need to realize that He is looking to help us by faith recognize His obvious Person that has been so missed by people only looking on limited eye sight and senses. He will be seen by the soul. Charles Causley started a poem with the line: ‘I am the great sun, but you do not see me.’

Jesus is so obvious and not, that we see Him and we don’t see Him.

How would we best see Him? The Psalmist provides the answer: let us “be still and know that He is God.”

We may not ever figure Him out.   We don’t have to.   We just need to accept Him into our hearts and to have His place as Head of the body, the Church.

Happy Year of Grace to you.IMAG0557_2

More thoughts on Sunday’s Bible Study…

Second Sunday of Christmas– More Thoughts.

So, Christmas is so much about a Merciful God coming to us, or as John the Baptist names Jesus as “Lamb of God,” it celebrates THE atoning sacrifice of God for humankind in the Savior come, Who by Glory now brings us the Spirit.

That sacrifice of His was meant to get us started in a new life–that rebirth He gave was to lead us on to a renewal by the Holy Spirit.  How much of a renewal was needed for our human journey?  It was a very rich amount.  We needed the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to get it.  Let’s find our riches in The Spirit this year.

So, we were started in new life, but next we are then asked to continue more deeply into it.   In the homily on Sunday I mentioned how Titus 3 has much to add on to what 1 Corinthians 1 was starting on.   We need grace and peace from God in Christ, so says the second reading today to the Corinthian church.  For what?  Titus 3 teaches that we need a rebirth and a renewal of life, so to help us forward (as a Church On The Move) to be justified in God’s grace so as to become heirs onto the kingdom of God.  That’s why!  It’s a huge thing!

The planned turnaround of our lives by God’s work is so extensive; it is to do away with all our sins of selfishness and replace it with godliness.  The Lamb of God takes away all our sin, so says Sunday’s Gospel proclamation.   As it is, God can restore us to a state of grace, just as if one never sinned, or ever fallen from grace.   That’s a quick and easy explanation of what the Bible means by our being baptized and our then being justified.  God plans on fixing us up totally, so as to be ready for perfection in Heaven, and to get back into the original design for humanity.  Wow.  In our Year of Grace, that’s an impressive Word from God on the importance of understanding what Grace is and what Grace does.

This is the start of the Christmas Mystery.  Rebirth and Renewal is our call.  God gets things started for us, and asks us to delve deeply into relationship with Him.   It will involve living into a new humanity, or new way of being human.  It will involve letting grace in our souls and over our bodies to restore us and build us up.

So many people think that humanity is fine as it is– ignoring just how broken we all are.  God’s gift of Himself at Christmas, in the Christ, and of His Spirit, at Pentecost, is a Gift for a full renewal of the human person and of the human family.    We have a lot of work in the Spirit to be re-newed (or made into a new humanity).

I now want to take you to three more verses from Titus to reveal what God wants to do and to where He hopes to take us.

Titus 2, verses 11 to 13, will tell us how the Christmas Mystery is to lead to a full embrace of God now into our living.  Why so? To lead us to Heaven.  As Paul and Sosthenes stated in Titus 3, so they say also in chapter 2 that Christmas can be described as the Grace of God appearing, so to prepare us for more of His Coming (that being His Glorious appearance to us).  Hear/read the text: “…For the grace of God has appeared… training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the Glory of Christ.”

That right there is our Christmas Mystery with its living and lasting hope in new life, which is a blessed and eternal hope.  Grace has come in Jesus– this incredible undeserved favor from God to love us, even while we have been sinners– and God will come inside us in mystery (by that bath of rebirth and renewal in the Spirit).

 

 

Bible Study Homily Jan 14/15 Church On The Move

Christmas season hopefully was a blessing for you, and now you ought to take the Christmas momentum of faith and move forward in holiness…into Ordinary Time.

On that subject, let’s do a Bible reflection with today’s second reading, and hear how St. Paul began to address the Corinth church and of how they were doing after he moved on from pasturing them.  It was all about their momentum (or non-momentum) of faith of why he wrote back to that church community.

As today’s epistle starts, Paul with Sosthenes were writing in hopes that the Corinthians would be  experiencing more deeply the sanctification given them by Jesus Christ.  Paul writes the letter because he is hearing reports that this Greek church was not staying united and motivated by the Spirit, but rather falling back into carnal-led living with factions and divisions. He does not want them to lose out from all the blessings they started with.

The report leads Paul to start off by saying he is writing to them as their bishop and shepherd, as “an apostle of Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:1) so he is speaking seriously and pastorally to them.   In other words– the epistle is starting to say:  ‘Your apostle speaks to you.  Why aren’t you letting the Spirit move you forward?  I hear of factions now, and some of you slipping back into carnal-only living.’   So, the bishop, their teacher, wants to teach them some more about keeping in the Faith and moving forward in it as a “Church on the move.”   Hello, it’s your pastor speaking…

In 1 Cor. 1:verses 2 and 7  Paul gets to the heart of the epistle’s message:  ‘You have been sanctified and made holy in Christ Jesus.  You are not lacking in any spiritual gift at your disposal.  So, grow brothers and sisters, grow in faith!

That is his opening.  Such an epistle does apply to us, too.  Even looking back to our own Christmas time just past, the Lord says that Christmas called us into sanctification in Christ, and now how are we doing in mid-January?    Is the effect of a Holy Christmas now giving us a start of a holy, sanctified year?

Let me comment on Paul’s words:  He is saying in Corinthians, in its start, and throughout the letter, how this gift of God in Christ presented to us is not just a past thing– our sanctification in Christ (or of Christmas) is meant to call us into further growth of holiness for right now–for we are the Church on the move.

Paul says to his church community– you need to keep growing beyond your start and foundation level, as it was when I, apostle Paul, pastored there for 18 months.   What about your growth NOW?  The call of holiness is beckoning you.  Become all the child of God you are mean to be.  As it says in verse 2: “you are called to be holy” and “with all those everywhere who call upon…Jesus Christ.”    You individually are called to be holy.   We communally are called to be holy, with all those calling on Jesus Christ.

A Church on the move… that’s the title of a book your parish staff is reading and discussing now. Are we such a parish?

In 1 Cor. 1: verse 2b takes our study further in today’s Word.  Paul says that believers are people who “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  There are two things there to point out–the Calling Out, AND the precious Name of the One called.

We are to call out for Him, asking for our continued growth.  We call out to God.  We are saying:  ‘Look, God!  I am open to You.   I am truly Your possession.  Please live in and through me.’

Perhaps the phrase “cry out” would say it better, for it puts some passion to the prayer.  “Help me, Lord.  I need You.  I cry out– help me not to just live alone, as in relying just on me.  You are in my life, so I am open to You, Lord, to live in me.  We’re partners!”

So, first we cry out. Then there is Who we cry out to.  We cry out not to an empty sky, nor to an unknown God.  We use the Name of Jesus.   He’s known. He is a Person.  It is He who lives in us, personally. We say His Name, and make it personal back to Him. Our relationship is about a  personal exchange with God.  And, He is not just your God, He is personally our God.  Our God.  The Corinthians were getting selfish again and forgetting that aspect.

So can we Bowieans or St. Edwardians forget how we are a saved community and fellow pilgrims, who are on the move, into sanctified life.

What is our common bond?  We belong to God now.  We long to be inhabited by God more deeply and meaningfully in our souls, for God to come as life to each of our being, and corporately so, and so for us all to be on a first-name basis with God and fellow believers here. That is what “church” is.

As we move on in our Bible reflection, we go to verse 3, which says next: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”

So the first two verses were of hearing of our calling to sanctification (the ongoing work past the foundational work of salvation) and then crying out the Name of the Lord together, which thirdly now provides steps of our being led on to  grow in grace and peace in Christ.  Look at verse 3 again and what it says.  Notice how sometimes those very words are in the greeting at Sunday Mass, as in “The Grace and Peace of our LORD be with you all.”

We have a 2017 theme of a Year of Grace in the Church.   What is grace?  How does it lead to peace?  A-ha! Guess what our church theme is for 2017?  It is understanding Grace and living in it under God.

There is sanctifying grace and actual grace.   There is Grace in the Sacraments with Our Lord.   There is a simple grace in any prayer we make.   There is living in grace, as in accepting Jesus.  There are virtues to live out for to be graceful.   Many virtues.  We can explore it all this Year of Grace 2017.

If we can understand and accept how God favors us, then we can give in, by humbling ourselves, to receive it (grace)–and so let the inner life of us have its fill of The Lord and His Light.  God so much wants us for His possession, as we say “yes” to Him.   He does not force things, but looks for us to accept things trustingly and lovingly from Him.  We progress in the Lord gracefully!

Knowing Jesus and living in relationship with Him together, by grace, leads to us knowing the Father.  As we come into deeper holiness, we delight in what is going on.  We are being transferred and transformed from this carnal and temporal world into the life of the kingdom, that is, in Christ Jesus, with He in us and we in Him.

Amazing.   Amazing is Grace.

To be in grace is to celebrate living in holiness and favor of God.  Just to offer a peak at where 1 Corinthians 1 was going onto today–Verse 8 of the chapter says that, by this plan, ‘He will keep you firm to the end,” to our fulfillment into Glory.  Verse 9 reminds us the key lesson of grace, in that “God is faithful, and by Him you were called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The Lordship part of that verse is important.  Jesus must reign in us.   The flag of God’s possession must wave freely and reverently over our hearts in the Church.

May I just add on another Bible verse that Paul wrote that backs up this sanctification thing and this renewal and grow thing to our Catholic faith?  In Titus 3, a text proclaimed on Christmas Dawn Mass, it says this:“….when the kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Whom He richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might become justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life…”

The text brings up that word again of “grace” and it speaks of a persons progress in justification to live it fully, and then it says how grace helps us “become heirs” to eternal life.   That’s big.   And how does it happen?   It says that Jesus saved us “through a bath of rebirth” (that’s the sanctification that 1 Cor. 1 spoke of) AND then by a “renewal in the Spirit (which 1 Cor. 1 also refers to, as in our way to grow in holiness, or grace.

Grace will have much to remind us of how Christ’ Gift in us and of His working Holy Spirit will lead us as His “Church On The Move.”  In our context of the Christmas Mystery, our celebration of Jesus is that He is come and He has sanctified us.

Next is God’s plan to call us into holiness. It is called the bath of renewal, which means, Life In The Spirit.  The Gospel today has John the Baptist say, “He is the One Who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”

I hope you are ready for that kind of work in 2017 in your soul.

To be a people on the move, a Church On The Move in the Spirit.

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Photo One: Singers at one of our Samba Gabi Christmas Novena Masses.

img953712Photo Two: Singers at another one of our Christmas Novena Masses.

Lectio Divina Homily 11/13/16

“Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” From Malachi 3: 19-20 1st reading, 33rd Sun. of Ordinary Time

Today’s Old Testament reading from Malachi lends itself to a Bible meditation method called “Lectio Divina.” I would like to briefly review this method with you. The Malachi text works well for meditation because it is short enough in length, yet packed with images and messages, and it applies easily enough to our modern situation. The reading is about handling the sure Coming of the Lord in a proper way. thel4hlo0o

The first of the four steps of Lectio Divina is Lectio. You simply start by reading the passage aloud slowly. Then, when done, notice what phrase or image or feeling captures your attention and be attentive to its meaning. Then, take a good pause.

For example, for me, what captured my attention was the line blazing like an oven. I was feeling like the Scripture painted a scorching-hot scene. I remembered that someone that day had been sharing with me how iron ore is melted down by intense heat. That process is called smelting, in intense ovens.

The second of the four steps of Lectio Divina is Meditatio. In this step, you read the passage again, even a bit more slowly and deeply, while being reflective about it. Maybe here you would look over a part of the text over and over. Allow God to speak to you through this exam or perusing of the Scripture. Pause and wait a bit, think, and wonder.

For example, for me, I thought about that scorching hot blaze, and how the text sounded as a warning about its danger. I then thought about how it was saying that one should not be getting too near the fire. But, who would want to be near the fire? The iron ore workers are extremely cautious. Then, I thought of that proverbial phrase: “like a moth to a flame burned by the fire…” and of how that silly moth flies right into the danger, wanting the light but getting burnt by it. Perhaps, I thought, that is a sinner too in love with sin, and their lust for it puts them into some helplessness, so they fly right into the flame of a serious threat to the free human life, and see their ‘wings’ burn up.
Then, I noticed that there was a contrast in this Scripture of the bad flame to the good rays from the sun in this passage. Maybe I could develop that investigation into why the passage gives the contrast…

The third of the four steps of Lectio Divina is Oratio. In this step, you will return now to the text, and slowly read it as in a prayerful way, either praying some point of it or part of it, with any insight you gathered by your study so far. Or you may read the Scripture as a response to God’s gift of insight to you. (If you’ve had no insight in your Lectio Divina yet, then perhaps it would be good to have a back up study Bible (like the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible) or a commentary (as the Collegeville Commentary) for to get a reliable interpretation of the text.

For example, for me, in praying the text with some insights, I thought some more about the passage’s pointing to the good sun with its healing rays as a positive image of Malachi 3:20, that was much better to receive the healing rays than the scorching heat, which is a negative image, in verse 19. What was different between the two of them? Well, I surmised, the blaze is mentioned as “the Day” and it comes fiercely versus the proud evildoers. The day of reckoning is what I suppose the prophet is telling about, and the roots and branches are dry and too easily catch fire. The roots and branches seem to symbolize the material, passing things or foolish lustful pleasures of life that were practiced by someone, only to be ashes in judgment, and to be gone. I pondered in prayer what I need for not to be led up to a reckoning, but to have a healing embrace by God. As I prayed, I thought of all of us, and I remembered the messages of the two different speakers we had in October here for the Year of Mercy, who spoke on Forgiveness and letting go, and who spoke on our common need to see and deal with our own brokenness so to take a honest, healing path from there to blessedness and freedom. They urged people to not put this process off, for the Day will come, when it could be too late, for the change we need. A verse they shared was “unless a man humble himself, take up his cross, and follow Me–he cannot be my disciple.”

In that great positive message of Malachi 3, the sun of justice with His healing light, and rays of hope and deliverance, is the prophecy of Jesus Christ to come. We Catholics know this “sun of justice” and I figure Him to be the person of Jesus Christ to heal us. Lord, only say the Word, and I shall be healed. Meet me in Sacrament today.

The fourth of the four steps of Lectio Divina is Contemplatio. In this final step, you pause silently, close your eyes, try to remember the text in your mind, and a message coming from God by it, then open your eyes and read it once more, slowly, and then rest in God’s Word. Close the session with some conclusions or applications of the Scripture.

For my own example, I saw that the difference of getting the healing rays was in whether I (or anyone) would be to be fearing (i.e. respecting/honoring/revering God’s Name) by my thoughts and actions. Revere God and see the healing sun arise. Oh my Jesus, help me and others out of any darkness, even shadows and shades of it, we might have. On the other hand, I noted that to be proud was to test how close we can fly near the flame of breaking God’s commands and revealed ways. That’s a bad strategy. I prayed for myself and all of us not to be so obstinate to test God in that way.

In application ahead, I realize that Advent Season is nearing, even Christ the King Sunday next weekend, as the Church ponders the Second Coming more closely. I realize that this prophet Malachi is the author of the last book listed in the Old Testament. Malachi is speaking of God’s coming, and we who are Christians see that Jesus is come as the Sun of Justice. He is Present to me/us now, as in Salvation and Eucharist and in the heart, but also true Glory arrives in Him when He returns. He is coming again. As Malachi says: “He IS the Lord of hosts.” As we also pray our Holy/Holy (Sanctus) prayer as “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts.”

Lesson: The use of Lectio Divina today sums up the message: If you draw near to God, then He will present Himself as near to you. He calls for a healing intimacy. Yet a warning is given to the proud to be wary of getting too close to the fire: The thing that you desire most could be the blessing of your life, or it could be end of you. The moth is attracted to the bright light and will kill him/it when he gets too close. I choose not worldliness but the Way of the Lord of Hosts come in the Healing rays of His Word and Eucharist today.
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That is a Lectio Divina exercise with today’s first reading.

Skyscraper building. Homily. 9-4.

IMAG0604Chicago buildings along Riverwalk–the light pole isn’t 70 stories, it was near the cameraman! IMAG0605
Would one start building a great tower, with a rag-tag combo of materials, workers and monies– in the risk of not ever completing it and/or doing a scrappy job? Wouldn’t an unfinished, abandoned tower be the great humiliation–if that happened–and led by you? A question like that was once posed by Jesus, as heard in today’s gospel. You would have thought that He was saying it today in some modern city. Like Dubai. Shanghai. Chicago. New York. Or Kuala Lupur (where the Petronas Twin Towers stand). Would He add on and comment: What are you constructing on earth?

I know Chicago and New York City for their tall buildings, even their many “skyscrapers.” Chicago has the Willis Tower and Trump Tower, Aon Center and John Hancock Buildings, all 1,100 feet high or more. Those Chicago towers rival New York’s Empire State Building, One World Tower, and 432 Park Avenue’s high skyscrapers. These buildings are all actually finished ones and bring wonder to many observers. (A new skyscraper is going up in Chicago in 2017).

But what was Jesus getting at about towers, as He spoke in Israel? Was it about some real undone structure there in the land? Was it any reference to the Temple building, or of the lately-fallen small tower of Siloam? Or what?

We think Jesus was here negatively referring to humankind’s own tower of vanity, the piled-up vain attempts to try and do things without God and yet exalt the kingdom of self. Like the Genesis story and temple of self-glory, when God gave the confusion of tongues and languages, the world was not doing much better when God’s Son Jesus came upon it. Neither has it fared better 2000 years later, right now. And, while something like the Willis Center may not be the symbol, man’s exalted self could never be bolder than it is presently. Bold as in meaning he/she acts as if God doesn’t care or watch over His world. Or– bold as if man could do a better job than God.

But God’s Son on the planet, as one of us, and now as “Head of the Body, the Church” (Colossians 1:18) does show that He truly does care, and even wants to give us Himself as the foundation of a relationship and eternal dwelling. Meanwhile, the world acting apart from God continues in the folly of building up in what will a confused, unsafe, unfair and unfinished work of idolatry, greed, deceit, lust, power, and so forth, all in the name of ungodly pride.

As you heard from all the Summer Gospels, God’s Word speaks of choosing humility and the better part of intimacy with the Divine, over accumulation of things, wanton sin, and the dismissing of the spiritual realm. We are called to knowingly pray the Lord’s Prayer and for God’s Kingdom to come and be done among us and within us. Last Sunday I highlighted Saint Augustine’s message to the world of calling her to conversion, by Love, so to build The City of God. It alone will last.

Yet the world and the flesh and the devil go versus this Temple in the Spirit. It’s sad, too, how many Christians in name aren’t won over to Jesus’ Lordship, and into deeper membership into His Body and Blood, as seen by how they invest far more attention, money and time to what is the advancement of a worldly agenda. Many of the rich and powerful play and manipulate the world and society, in what will all one day be a passing thing and “the greedy will go away empty,” as to quote Mary (from this same Gospel of Luke, ch.1, v.53).

As by this Gospel portrait of things, Jesus exposes the world’s sinful end as a big, unfinished, what-a-waste enterprise: It’s an unfinished tower like that of Babel.

Meanwhile, there IS our work to be done in His Name and Body in getting stronger, deeper, and wiser in our Catholic faith. Currently, Pope Francis has asked us to be deeper in God’s Mercy and looking to practice it (to build up the Divine Mercy in us).

I think of Jesus and words about His ongoing work- “The Father is working to this very day and I AM too still working.” (John 5:17). How IS He at work in you and through you? In us and through us?

This Temple of His Body has been given great extra help, for the work to be finished. Jesus said: “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter (Helper), that He may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16)

Oh yes, since it’s a Labor Day holiday weekend, I will add in that it’s not all work and no play for the believer. All humankind IS welcome to experience some enjoyment in this life and world. Jesus isn’t speaking that all should be about austerity and denial of pleasures, for He is all about our happiness, and He gave us this world for that. We need our leisure, too, to compliment our work. And we need our rest.

Jesus IS speaking here in Luke of the fundamental option of whether we live and serve to God’s glory or man’s. Are we living in Him and for serving His kingdom?

For those exalting Self, there is a piled-up mess of the ages by fallen humanity, that God sees us as having accomplished so far, with no high goal or point of life or future hope. The code of this realm is (to)be selfish and then die.(As so put by a Scripture this Summer.)

God has His own agenda, and it is given to His Church. It is quite a lot of unfinished work of Thy Kingdom come, such like world peace, harmony of peoples, unity, justice for all, dignity of work, and establishing true liberty– just to name a few. And—of course, salvation of people is a key work– and in 2016 for the Church: Living in God’s Mercy.

God has been reminding us all Summer long of our need to fully join His counter-kingdom– the One in the Lord Jesus Christ– and to detach from the kingdom of the world with its deadly sins and division from God. He is calling for your investment in Him and with His Church. Are you aboard?

Jesus tells you the facts, as He sees them. The kingdom of the world builds no lasting structure, nor something that will ever “get done.” Jesus is providing His Body and Kingdom and Kingship for a mission of success. He has said it in the Bible in many places and many ways. “The one who believes in Me has eternal life.” “Apart from Me, you can do nothing… I Am the Vine, you the branches.” “What benefit is it if one gains the whole world but loses their soul meanwhile?”

So we need the live and keep on with the priority of living, trusting, believing in, and growing in the Savior and His Salvation and Possession. And what might be the works of mercy or acts of mercy going on in your life in this Year of Mercy? Or what is the mindful growth in compassionate in your day-to-day view of life?

The Year of Mercy continues through November. Mercy is saving, while selfishness is killing people away slowly and in disguise with the wrong that it does.

God is leading His Body of believers to become a new creation (2 Cor.5:17), away from the old ways of sin that are so tired and worn and which have never worked for man.

While we have a few exalted buildings at up to 2,717 feet up to the sky, let us give up on the world’s taller towers of prideful self! Rather, let us build up (or be built up into) Christ and His Body and reign. To God be the Glory!
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Tower Facts:
USA
One World Trade Center 1776 ft
Wills Tower. 1451 ft.
432 Park. Ave. 1396 ft.
Empire State 1250 ft.
Trump Tower Chicago. 1389 ft.
Aon Center Chicago 1136 ft.
John Hancock Center 1128 ft.

WORLD
Burj Khalifa. Dubai 2717 ft.
Shanghai Tower 2073 ft.
Makkah Royal Clock Tower. 1972 ft.
Taipei 101. Tower. 1667 ft.
Petronas Twin Towers. Kuala Lumpur. 1483 ft.
IMAG0608_1IMAG0613_1. Skyscrapers.

The Bible Books and How to Pronounce Them

IMAG0212_1
I have heard some mispronunciations by people lately of the various 73 Sacred Scripture books, so I have taken the time to review how to say each one of them, as to help some interested parties out…

The more humorous versions I have heard is Job being pronounced as in a rhyme with rob or lob, or Luke somehow coming out verbally as lucky. (As in we’re so lucky to have this good news,?! :). ) Once in a blue moon, Philippians comes out as the letter of St. Paul to the Filipinos, too. (Wow, that Paul really got around on the missionary trails!)
Plus, if one were to ask Paul himself about his community called the Eff-Ess-Eee-see-uns, he would say: Who??

Other mistakes or slips of the mouth form with readings which are enunciation problems, like in select readings from the Asks of the Apostles 🙂 or from the Book of Root:) or from the Palms! ( How do you like that?! Palm readings in the Holy Bible! I thought palm readings were bogus stuff of psychics… Heh heh.)
Yes, indeed. And funny.

In New England, the Gospel of Mark also somehows becomes Mock (or thah Gaawwhhhs-pull of Maaahhkk). As in— Mahhk 9:9–Jesus pocks the donkey in a pocking or paw-king lot. (Right?!)

Enough of the silly fun: Now onto the pronunciations and enunciations!

New Testament

Matthew
Mark
Luke (Lewk)
John

The Acts of the Apostles
Romans
1st & 2nd Corinthians (Core-IN-thee-uns)
Galatians (Gal-AY-shuns)
Ephesians (Ee-FEE-shuns)
Philippians (Fill-IP-pee-uns)
Colossians (Coe-LOSH-uns)
1st & 2nd Thessalonians (Thess-uh-LONE-ee-uns)
1st & 2nd Timothy
Titus (TIE-tuss)
Philemon (FILL-uh-mon)
Hebrews (HEE-brews)
James
1st & 2nd Peter (1 Peter and 2 Peter is said as 1st Peter, 2nd Peter– a Presidential candidate didn’t know this in particular, so note how it’s true for all epistles with 1 or 2 in front)
1st & 2nd John
Jude
Revelation (Rev-ell-EY-shun)

Old Testament
Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus (Luh-VIT-ih-cuss)
Numbers
Deuteronomy (Due-turr-ON-oh-me)
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1st and 2nd Samuel
1st and 2nd Kings
1st and 2nd Chronicles
Ezra (EZZ-ruh)
Nehemiah (Neh-eh-MY-uh or Nee-uh-MY-uh)
Tobit (TOE-bit)
Judith
Esther
1st and 2nd Maccabees (MACK-uh-bees)
Job (Jobe)
Psalms (SAW-mms)
Proverbs (PRAW-verbs)
Ecclesiastes (Eee-clee-see-AZZ-tees)
Song of Songs/ Song of Solomon
Wisdom
Sirach (SEER-ack)
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Baruch (Bar-UKE)
Ezekiel (Eee-ZEKE-ee-el)
Daniel
Hosea (HOE-say-uh)
Joel (JOE-el)
Amos (AY-muss)
Obadiah (Oh-bad-EYE-uh)
Jonah
Micah (MY-cuh)
Nahum (NAH-hume)
Habakkuk (HABB-uh-cook)
Zephaniah (Zeff-ann-NYE-uh)
Haggai (HAGG-guy)
Zechariah (Zeck-ur-RYE-uh)
Malachi (MAL-uh-kuy)

NOW, you are ready to properly say each book. If I ever catch you saying Proverbs as in pro verbs (like pro football), I might have to throw the flag at you and pace off fifteen yards in penalty and a loss of down!

A Gospel in Lent (Weekday–3/8/16) John 5:2-15

Jesus heals a Paralyzed Man near the Pool of Bethesda. John 5:2-15.
Or, also known as Jesus heals an Impotent Man at The Pool of Bethesda.
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You will need to read the gospel. It starts like this: Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep (market or gate) a pool, which is called in the Hebrew as “Bethesda,” having five porches; and in these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, paralyzed, withered, waiting for the famous but unpredictable movement of the waters there for medicinal healings…

As you complete the reading, you see that it focuses on Jesus and His power to heal and save us, as well as on a paralyzed man or man of inability/impotence of action who is laid low. Note the painting above and its representation of the Bible story.

A Q & A on the reading.

Q. WHAT do we understand by this situation and these words used to describe it and the man’s part in it?

A. These words have both a literal and spiritual meanings. Bethesda has acted as a sheep-market, with a sheep-gate. Spiritually, people are sheep and Christ is the Gate. Bethesda is a place of porticos and a pool of water for refreshment. This pool sometimes is a stirred hot spring bubbling up. There is a pool that cannot be controlled. It is a physical spot of hot springs for healing, with unpredictable times when the water is stirred up. Whimsically, the people describe the hot springs times as that as when ‘the angels come by.’
While the pool brings some people a physical healing, it may symbolize the baptismal pool near at hand, but by which Christ must come and baptize us into it, for physical aid but even more for spiritual birth and new life.

Q: Why the odd question by Jesus? Doesn’t everyone there want to be made whole/ healed? Doesn’t this long-time suffering man?

A: Jesus offers to His people the healing we need. We need to choose and accept the power of Christ to remedy our lives. We need to give consent to God. He waits for it in many cases. He wants to bring us into a pool of spiritual water, even to the eternal truth of the Word of God, which is called a pool by reason of the knowledges of good and truth which it contains. The Word of God is sometimes called a pool, sometimes a fountain, sometimes a well, and sometimes a river, and all in relation to the several states of its reception in the human mind, being called a pool, when it is received merely in the knowledge of what is good and true; and being called a fountain, when it is received together with the life and love of knowledge; and being called a well, when it is admitted in a state of less purity; and lastly, being called a river, when it is seen in connection with its divine source, or with the fountain of living waters, in The Holy Spirit.

Q: What is the significance of this pool of Bethesda?

A: in the Hebrew tongue, because by Bethesda is meant the house of mercy, God wants to pour renewal on us of his forgiving love. The people gathering by it know they need a healing. Could we admit that we need more of the Word of God in us for healing our soul? Without the Word, we are impotent folk, not acting fully in the promptings of The Lord. With Jesus coming, He asks if we will get up, find His strength in us, and go serve Him. So many fall short of their healing, so Jesus comes to help, and He will send a representative and servant for those purposes of getting others to the Spirit’s refreshment and baptism’s new life.

Q. And what do you here understand by the moving of the water?

A. Angels can help us get into healing moments, and even act through natural means of blessing. Christians can let Christ live in them and become human means to helping a person be healed. The Spirit is the movement in the water and in the soul. We can help stir the Spirit by invoking Him and depending on Him and using His power for our sanctification. By moving waters, The Spirit vivifies.

Q. And how do we understand the words about this certain man and his infirmity of thirty-eight years?

A. According to the sense of the letter, these words relate to a man who had a bodily infirmity, though it does not appear of what nature it was, and who had been waiting a long time in one of the porches for a cure; but according to the spiritual sense of this history, the infirm man here spoken of is to be regarded as a representative figure of all those in the Church, who labour under spiritual infirmity, and especially under that particular one, which prevents their deriving from the Word of God or the Sacraments that spiritual strength and support which they are instituted by Christ to bolster us.

This spiritual infirmity is self-described by the man as his being unable to get to the source of life. It could be interpreted for modern application as any person today who are finding themselves out of Word and Life of The Sacraments. “I have no one to move me” says the man. Sometimes Christians are inert or inactive (impotent spiritually) and need conversion.
thus, the intervention of Jesus is needed. The Church and her alive members need to be servants to others to be nourished in The Word and Sacraments. The Church needs dedicated ones to living daily on the Scriptures and The Eucharist.

Jesus wills that people be made whole. He says to those underfed– stand up and live in Me for your nourishment and strength.
Jesus says to the man in the story and to us: Rise, take up your bed, and walk. Get up into a dynamic existence in Me. Take up the bed of relaxed and tepid or lazy faith, and don’t lie down as such anymore.
Walk by faith now.

Q. What of the very end of the story, when Jesus finds him in the temple, and says to him, Behold you are made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing come to you — what does one make of that?

A. It was a sin to be so lazy in the faith for some of us. (If that is the meaning we derive of our being asked to rise up in The Word and Sacraments), and The Lord is glad to see us now in the Temple of His Body. So we are to keep moving forward in conversion. We are still capable of the sloth of before. By the divine injunction to sin no more, JESUS exhorts us to really live now according to the divine order and to seek freedom of sin. There are people who get started in a renewal, only to slide back to a place worse than before. Jesus has seen this happen in His people, and He hopes it not for us. What Jesus is saying here is “keep listening to Me.” I will keep coming to you to move you to the greater things of the Kingdom of God and the realm of The Spirit.

Q: So, finally–what does the Pool of Bethesda story mean to you now?

A: I have lived twice in the city of Maryland called Bethesda, most lately at Our Lady of Lourdes parish (1998-99). The pool in Bethesda could be at the Hyatt Regency! They have a nice indoor one there!
But seriously, I see every parish and its ministries (whether at Our Lady of Lourdes or St. Edward or St. Matthew the Evangelist cathedral) as a pool of new life in Jesus, where He comes to nourish us in Word and Sacrament, personally, via Himself to us, to His Body, the Church.
This John 5 story can happen any day at one of our parishes.
The question is: who will help that happen? Who are the apostles/disciples with Jesus to serve Him today in healing the lame?

Homily: Jan. 24 3rd Week Ord. “Let’s get it started… or re-started”

As I share a homily today about Scripture reading and praying, I begin with a Bible joke.

A religion teacher of sixth graders gave three straight lessons about the general Bible story of the Jews. At the end of the third lesson, he asked them if they had any questions. The student Joey said he was confused, and asked: “You taught us a lesson that the Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, right?” The teacher nodded. Joey continued: “And that the Children of Israel strengthened and elected a king and build the Great Temple, right?” The teacher nodded, and Joey finished: “You said then that the Children of Israel sinned and were exiled to Babylon for their loss of faith, too, right?” The teacher was pleased how much Joey had been following the lessons. He said: “Very good, Joey, you seemed to get it all, but what’s your confusion?” Joey said, “With all these lessons about the Children of Israel, I just want to know where were all the adult Jews during all that time? Everything is about the kids!”
IMAG0165_1. the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me to bring good news…
We are twenty four days into 2016. Did you make any resolutions for ’16? If so, are you keeping any? If not, then here’s a resolution worth making and keeping. Read and pray the Word of God (more).

Consume the Word! Consume it as a hungry person for righteousness! Take it in for communion with God and for nourishment. Don’t let your Bible collect dust or stay in mint condition. Use it and live more by it.

We take in some much trivial information and so much news and communication–which shows our capacity is great for storing knowledge–so we know we have room for it. So enrich your diet (for better mind and heart food) and receive the Word.

Reading and praying the Word: Let’s get it started…or re-started.

This Sunday gives us two of the four Scripture readings which are about hearing and receiving the Word. Let’s probe the Gospel lines first. We go to Luke 1: verse 1 through 4, and then verses 14-21. Luke tells Theophilus (the circulator of the gospel) that here is the eyewitness narrative of the events of Jesus and it contains His certain teachings. In this big Lukan opening, it tells of Jesus holding a Scripture scroll in his home synagogue and (by paraphrase) saying: ‘This Scripture from Isaiah about a future moment of God being among you has become fulfilled. It’s about Me.’ In summation, Jesus is announcing here that He is the Living Word, and that all Scripture is from Him or about Him. He is God among us. He is the Anointed One to speak to our need and help and save us by His Word. (that is what is meant by His saying The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me). Or, to put it in a modern phrase, Jesus is proclaiming: “Let’s get it started!” He is saying The Word is Alive because it is a Person Who is Alive, and it is Me, the Blessed Son of the Trinity. Luke is saying that The Bible is the Person of Jesus who “taught in our synagogues” and out on the street level to people: God’ Word is come.

So, think of it, the Person of Jesus is the Word among us and He teaches in our churches and He speaks to us one-on-one to us for knowledge and wisdom and guidance for full human living: We have the Bible to afford His meeting with us. Let’s get it started! Luke starts the Good News with Jesus holding the Scripture scroll and saying: This Word is alive! I am its story.

And it can be a story in us.

Do we have a love for the Word?

The first reading today is about the time of return for the Jews to Jerusalem after a time of forced exile. Nehemiah and Ezra gather the returnees home in the middle of a rebuilt holy city and they have all-morning service of the Word. There were tears and emotion and deep feeling and spirit in this gathering, because the Jews thought they had lost it all. They thought their faith was done, but it was not. Some hidden scrolls of the Word had surfaced (after being hidden for years during the Babylonian exile) and the people delight in hearing them, and they really want to live by them again.

This Scripture of Nehemiah 8 is a very dramatic one of the Old Testament, and I hear a big phrase in the midst of that rebuilding-the-faith crowd: It is let’s get it re-started! They will live again by the Word.

These two readings send us the messages: Let’s get it started or let’s get it re-started. What is “it?” A love for the Word of God.

Closing comment: Do you think in all this snowed-in time right now that many Catholics will say to themselves: Oh good, here is some obvious free time made for me to read and pray the Word.

There is probably time for some to read and pray the whole book of Nehemiah–when is the last time you read the whole story of it?