Posts tagged: Jesus

Sunday of the Resurrection…Do We Believe?

By , April 19, 2014 4:50 am

Everyone loves Easter! Spring has arrived, the flowers are blooming, the grass is green, the heat of summer has not fallen upon us yet, people put on their best clothes and greet each other with exuberance – “Happy Easter, happy Easter, happy Easter.” There is nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, it is all very delightful but it is not the reality of what Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection, is all about.

Spiritually, each one of us needs to transport ourselves back to that hillside outside Jerusalem, stand silently before that open tomb, a tomb now empty, and ask ourselves if we really do believe in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead!

This is the heart of the Christian message. This is the ultimate test as to whether or not we are really followers of Jesus. In the following 2,000, countless numbers have died because they answered “yes” to that question. They believed in the Resurrection, were committed to Jesus and they would allow nothing to turn them away from that faith and commitment. Happily, most of us are not asked to die for our faith but it would be perfectly valid to ask ourselves would we be willing to do so?

Let us thank God for his infinite love for us. Let us walk into the future with confidence knowing that we are a redeemed people. Let us continue to celebrate the great feast of the Resurrection.

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Paul Proclaims Christ’s Divinity

By , April 12, 2014 5:49 am

April 13th, Palm Sunday

In discussing last week’s scriptures, I described that text from St. John’s Gospel as one of my favorites in the entire New Testament. Well, I am going to say that again because today’s text from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is able to put in front of us a statement about Jesus of Nazareth that, in one or two sentences, summarizes the totality of salvation and the reality that we see and experience from our faith in our Divine Lord. Paul is writing to the Church in Philippi and they have had their problems. That is why he needed to write the letter. But in the second chapter, he uses words that are startling, clear and definitive.

He tells you and me that we should have an attitude in life like Christ. Christ, of course, loved his Heavenly Father and was willing to make any sacrifice necessary in order to redeem the human family. Then these words leap out at us:
(Jesus Christ) “Though he was by nature God
Did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to
But emptied himself taking the nature of a slave.”

What an awesome statement. We should say it over and over in our morning or evening prayers. Paul is telling us what is the overwhelming reality of our spiritual journey. God has been here. God has come to us. God has been one with us. And God invites us to pass via the salvific life and work of Jesus to share eternal life with him forever and ever.

In this Holy Week, we will have a great deal of time to think about our own lives, the status of our own souls and the eternal reward that is awaiting us as we approach our own death and resurrection.

We are to be one with Jesus forever and ever.

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The Importance of Water; The Symbolism of Water

By , March 22, 2014 4:49 am

Image: Grimes

March 23rd, Third Sunday of Lent

If you live in the Southwestern part of the United States, you seldom see an issue of the local newspaper that does not have a story in the first section about water. California is not panicking but it is very, very concerned. Here in Central Texas many of us report to each other on the levels of the Highland Lakes. After all, that is OUR water.

Water is one of the most crucial aspects of life on this planet. We can get by with limited clothing, pathetic roofing and live without food for several weeks. But water is essential to our wellbeing and it manifests that fact within a couple of hours without it. That is one of the reasons that in our history, especially Judeo-Christian history, that water appears in story after story. Moses is plucked from the river. Moses leads God’s people through walls of water. Jesus begins his public life by being baptized in the Jordan River. The Church will use water for its fundamental sacramental thrust, namely baptism, which carries us through the waters of salvation to being brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

It is such a beautiful symbol. Are your hands filthy? Water will change them. In today’s first reading, we see that wonderful story of Jesus and the lady at the well. I know this is going too long but I can’t control myself. What a story of history, faith and God’s revelation of Himself. It was to that woman who challenged his ability to produce water without a bucket that:

Everyone who drinks this water
will be thirsty again
but whoever drinks the water that I give him
will never be thirsty again.
No, the water I give him
shall become a fountain within him
leaping up to provide eternal life.

What a proclamation! Thinking like this is one of the reasons that Lent is really so joyful. Every reader of this text today should remember that each of us has a fountain of water within us that is providing eternal life. What a joy. Thanks be to God.

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Faith, Courage and Joy

By , March 21, 2014 5:17 am

The other day I wrote about the question as to whether or not sadness and joy can co-exist. The answer is that they certainly do. Sadness is an emotional response or reaction to one or more of life’s difficulties and usually when those problems are solved, sadness evaporates. But joy is a permanent relationship. I am of course referring to Christian joy.
Several weeks ago, Father James Martin S.J., editor of America magazine, wrote an excellent article on the subject. It is particularly important for understanding Christian joy.

“First let me distinguish joy from happiness. Unlike happiness, joy is not simply a fleeting fleeing or an evanescent emotion. It is a permanent result of one’s connection to God. While the more secular definition of joy may be simply an intense form of happiness, religious joy is always about a relationship. Joy has an object and that object is God. The ultimate response to the Good News is joy, one that is lasting and endures even in the midst of difficulties.”

And who does not have difficulties? We all have problems. We all face crises at one time or another, we all get tired and occasionally at least discouraged. The Gospels clearly tell us that Jesus experienced overwhelming sorrow. When he learned of the death of his friend he broke down and cried. Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions and so we must assume that Jesus laughed. The Gospel of Luke, speaking of the Garden experience, used the word agonia and says that Jesus’ tears fell on the ground as in drops of blood.

For successful living, adults require a wonderful blend of faith, courage and strength. We should not attempt to avoid every possible problem. Sometimes it is easier to address them face on rather than wishing that they would go away.
Back to Lent! This is a time to evaluate our efforts to develop in these necessary virtues. We need to deepen our awareness of our faith in the presence of Jesus, and we certainly need courage and strength to move forward. Good Friday is coming but beyond that is the Resurrection. Let us go forward.

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Can Sadness and Joy Co-exist?

By , March 20, 2014 5:11 am

Well, we are nearly halfway through the Holy Season of Lent and this is a good time to ask ourselves how are we doing? Lent is not just a name for part of the liturgical calendar. Lent is a program, a spiritual program. In Lent, we are asked to set aside a very small portion of the Church year, roughly six weeks, and to use that time to systematically endeavor to improve and strengthen the quality of our spiritual lives.

This is a serious undertaking and it does not happen automatically. One must set goals and in daily prayer ask ourselves, did we do better yesterday? Am I really trying to improve at least a little bit today?

Lent should be a time of joy because we can become more conscious of our closeness to God. We can see more clearly that this awesome historical figure, the carpenter from Nazareth, did not just live 2,000 years ago, but is alive today within us and around us. Lent is a time when we can grasp more clearly that the Holy Spirit is a reality, is within us and around us, strengthening us. With our minds and hearts clearly focused on God’s love for us, everything else falls into place. Has sometime in the family developed cancer? Is your brother-in-law still out of work after 14 months? Does that distant aunt still seem to reject the rest of the family? And is the crisis in Crimea threatening world peace? All of these things are problems and all of them give us concern but if we are steadfast in our relationship to our Divine Lord, each of them will ultimately be resolved as we continue towards eternal life.

Lent is a time of joy not of sadness.

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Adam and Jesus

By , March 8, 2014 4:01 am

March 9th, First Sunday of Lent
It started last Wednesday where those of us who went to Church on that day, were marked by and reminded that life on this planet is limited, very limited. Today’s readings go beyond symbols and confront us with profound ideas about reality, about our relationship with God and the reality of temptation and sin. In St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he reminds us that sin entered into the human story at the very beginning where Adam turned away and severed the relationship with his loving Creator.

Sinfulness has marked the human story from the very beginning. It was a depressing story, except for a thin line of hope that, through the prophets, Yahweh had promised that a Savior would come. Just as through Adam’s sin we were all damaged, when that Savior arrived the damage would be undone, redemption would be achieved.

Today’s text frames Adam and Jesus together each producing awesome results – Adam’s sinfulness and Jesus’ redemption. The Church calls upon us to meditate on this reality and to embrace it. The Church encourages us to look at the fact that when divinity stepped into the human story and dealt with us through a very real human nature, that Jesus was one with us, not in sinfulness, but in experiencing temptations. Jesus goes into the desert to prepare for the beginning of his public life. Time after time, he is tempted to commit the sin of pride but he pushes temptation to do evil aside and confronts with the devil a steadfast commitment and faithfulness to Yahweh.

“You should do homage to your Lord, your God and him alone should you adore.”

The text says that when the devil left, the angels came and waited upon him. We are invited to do the same thing during the next six weeks.

Lent is here, let us utilize this spiritual gift.

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Popular Misconceptions Regarding Baptism and Marriage

By , February 21, 2014 4:44 am

The Catholic faith is centered on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Catholics strive to center their lives on the teachings of Jesus and their faith is buoyed up by their belief that they are in frequent contact with him through the mysterious reality of the Sacraments. The Sacraments are seven gifts that Jesus gave to the Church in order that he might remain close – close – close with his followers. In baptism, we become the adopted brothers and sisters of the Lord. In marriage, the bond between husband and wife is made strong and permanent. There are, of course, five other Sacraments which are sources of grace and ongoing contact with Jesus. Let me touch briefly on baptism and marriage because there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about each of them.

The Catholic Church sees baptism as a potentially great unifying force of all the Christians of the world. The Church recognizes all of the Sacraments of the Orthodox Churches as well as the baptisms of the great majority of Christian Churches. Many people fail to understand this and they may not realize how close we actually are in terms of union with our Divine Lord.

There are many more misconceptions about marriage. The Church teaches that for a valid sacramental marriage, the couple must be baptized (in any Christian church), must clearly know what they are doing at the time of the marriage, must be entering into the union freely, intend a permanent union until death and be open to the possibility of having children. Each one of these conditions is essential and if any one of them is missing, a Church matrimonial court can grant the petitioner a Declaration of Nullity. Such a decision relates to the sacramentality of the marriage and not to any civil aspects of it. A Declaration of Nullity by a church court gives the couple the freedom to remarry but says nothing about the legitimacy of the children. That legitimacy flows from civil law which has jurisdiction in this regard.

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Neighbors in Need

By , February 8, 2014 5:52 am

February 9th, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I frequently refer to the three Scripture readings that the Church presents to us each Sunday as forming a mosaic or a collage, which should tie together and unfold before us a very special message that we ought to study, meditate upon and practice in the week that is before us. Today’s readings are a perfect example of this and the message is that Almighty God expects us to do good things and to be especially sensitive to our neighbors who are in need.

Sometimes we followers of Jesus think that the essence of a good life is avoiding sin. That is important, but God expects much more of us than that. Listen to the message presented in the first reading on this Sunday. Read it in the context that Isaiah is preaching to the people in a terrible time of oppression and poverty. Even with this circumstance, Isaiah challenges God’s people when he proclaims:

Thus says the Lord
Share your bread with the hungry
Shelter the oppressed and homeless
Clothe the naked when you see them
Do not turn your back on your own

Wow! Isn’t it true that sometime we do not see people who are hungry, homeless and naked? Modern American cities are designed to get you through the slums on fast freeways and out to the comfortable world of suburbia. However, the Church never stops calling us to be concerned about those in need, and this wonderful new Pope Francis is making that the main thrust of his pontificate. Just look at these words that appear earlier in his exhortation to the whole world about the joy of proclaiming the Gospel.

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘Thou shall not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not news when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

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The Church Learns in History!

By , February 3, 2014 5:18 am

It has been nearly a year since Pope Francis got the attention of the entire world with his election as Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Universal Church. Beginning from the moment of his acceptance remarks he has unveiled an approach to living out the faith of Jesus which seems dramatically different from the face that the Church had been presenting to the world for the most part over recent decades. Does the face of the Church change? That is, of course, a figure of speech but arguments can be made that some of the difficulty blocking a rapid spread of the message of Jesus Christ is caused by the leaders in the Church, whether they be theologians, priests, nuns or bishops, who are harsh and rigid. That is a harsh statement. Can it be justified? Is raising the issue valid? I think that it is.

Church leaders have occasionally placed obstacles in the way of people who want to follow the simple loving message of Jesus of Nazareth. The leaders themselves are influenced not solely by Christ’s teachings but by the culture and customs in which these leaders have lived through in their own lives and have internally absorbed with the passage of years. Let me give you a few examples.

When I was a kid in the 1930’s it was perfectly justifiable for a pastor to refuse to bury a person who had committed suicide. Thankfully, that cruel policy was beginning to give way as pastors became more sensitive to the complexities of human psychology but the policy was still on the books and it could still happen. The same was true of a person who died in what the Church considered an invalid marriage. How sad. How sad. Not giving Christian burial to a deceased person who died under an ecclesiastical cloud did not hurt that person in any way but it generated tremendous pain for the family. Why did the Church have a policy that would inflict so much pain without any theological justification whatsoever? Simply put – it was the custom. It was the tradition. It was the way we did it!

Slavery! I am thrilled to note that many Catholic institutions are beginning to generate real concern and energy for the tragic issue of continued slavery in our society. My friends, even today it is widespread. While you are watching the evening TV news, some victims are being trafficked up and down IH-35. A splendid organization opposing human trafficking is called End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, ECPAT-USA, asserted that 1.2 million children are trafficked annually and hotels are the common spot for commercial sexual exploitation of children. It is wonderful to see an alliance of forty Roman Catholic institutions located in the New York metro area working together to help eliminate trafficking. Their work is headed by Dominican Sister Patricia Daily who is also Executive Director of the New Jersey based Tri-state Coalition for
Responsible Investment.

All of this is leading up to the tragic historical reality that there were many times in its history when the Church was not comfortable with slavery but chose to live with it. Once again, the culture, the tradition and the customs! It was the way we did it.

And then there is racism. The Church did commendable work in communities of the South long before 1964 with the first major piece of human rights legislation to be passed by the Johnson administration. The fact is, however, that the Church lived with it! We lived with a cruel and unjust system. Catholic schools were segregated, Catholic hospitals would not accept African-American patients and Catholic seminaries would not accept Black applicants. That was true of my own seminary in Houston in the 1950’s. Why? Because that was the system formed by the hateful culture of the Old South and, to a great extent, the whole nation. It was just the way we did it! May God forgive us!

There are terrible things out there, many are still going on, but I am proud of the fact that today the Church really is trying to utilize its Christian values more effectively and with greater energy than we have done in the past. Now our society is dealing with the issue of homosexuality which has long been at odds with the dominant custom and culture but we are beginning to see dramatic changes and adaptations in this area. More on that tomorrow.

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This Is A Big One!

By , January 4, 2014 5:01 am

Many times over the past couple of years I have referred in this spot as to how much I love what the Church calls the liturgical year. It is the whole story of salvation from creation to the end of time centering, of course, on Christ’s coming and redeeming us.

The year is speckled with a wide variety of feasts and celebrations. While naturally we are all conscious of Christmas, I am delighted to see that the great feast of the Epiphany is upon us this weekend. It has everything! We have mysterious wisemen from strange countries, awesomely valuable gifts being presented to a newborn child, we have a stable stocked by the proper animals with angels providing backup. We have seen the shepherds, those humble, Jewish herders, but in a spectacular sense the spotlight leaves the Valley of Bethlehem and illuminates these men, by their coming, representing in a very effective way the rest of the human family. What a story – what a story!

In some respects, I think that the Epiphany is more symbolic than the Christmas story. Jesus came for the whole world. At Christmas we see Jesus, the Holy Family, the shepherds and the angels. Most of us are not there! Let’s hear it for the mysterious men from the East. They have brought us along with them.

Happy Epiphany and if it is not too late, Happy New Year!

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