Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A St Anselm prayer

Yesterday the Church honored St Anselm.  The following reflection prayer is wonderful.  I pray this and my heart cries yes, yes, yes....

From the Proslogion by Saint Anselm, bishop

My soul, have you found what you are looking for? You were looking for God, and you have discovered that he is the supreme being, and that you could not possibly imagine anything more perfect. You have discovered that this supreme being is life itself, light, wisdom, goodness, eternal blessedness and blessed eternity. He is everywhere, and he is timeless.

Lord my God, you gave me life and restored it when I lost it. Tell my soul that so longs for you what else you are besides what it has already understood, so that it may see you clearly. It stands on tiptoe to see more, but apart from what it has seen already, it sees nothing but darkness. Of course it does not really see darkness, because there is no darkness in you, but it sees that it can see no further because of the darkness in itself.

Surely, Lord, inaccessible light is your dwelling place, for no one apart from yourself can enter into it and fully comprehend you. If I fail to see this light it is simply because it is too bright for me. Still, it is by this light that I do see all that I can, even as weak eyes, unable to look straight at the sun, see all that they can by the sun’s light.

The light in which you dwell, Lord, is beyond my understanding. It is so brilliant that I cannot bear it, I cannot turn my mind’s eye toward it for any length of time. I am dazzled by its brightness, amazed by its grandeur, overwhelmed by its immensity, bewildered by its abundance.

O supreme and inaccessible light, O complete and blessed truth, how far you are from me, even though I am so near to you! How remote you are from my sight, even though I am present to yours! You are everywhere in your entirety, and yet I do not see you; in you I move and have my being, and yet I cannot approach you; you are within me and around me, and yet I do not perceive you.

O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find my joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude. While I am here on earth let me learn to know you better, so that in heaven I may know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully. On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in the fulfillment of my hope.

O Lord, through your Son you command us, no, you counsel us to ask, and you promise that you will hear us so that our joy may be complete. Lord, I am making the request that you urge us to make through your Wonder-Counsellor. Give me then what you promise to give through your Truth. You, O God, are faithful; grant that I may receive my request, so that my joy may be complete.

Meanwhile, let this hope of mine be in my thoughts and on my tongue; let my heart be filled with it, my voice speak of it; let my soul hunger for it, my body thirst for it, my whole being yearn for it, until I enter into the joy of the Lord, who is Three in One, blessed for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Bread of Life

Tuesday: April 21, 2015 –– Third Week of Easter
John 6:30-35
The Bread of Life

Rationality is one of the ways humans are “special” creation in the image of God. Because of sin, rationality is now both a strength and weakness. Human rationality has given us the scientific method with the resulting technological marvels which so enhance our lives today. On the other hand, our gift of rationality brings a distortion to our broken spirits so that we tend to make explanation and understanding the dominant criteria for total acceptance.

This even effects the Christian community. An otherwise good desire for understanding can become an autonomous spirit that demands “where is that in the Bible?” or, even worse, denying elements of the supernatural because secular conditioning has become so pervasive in our culture. Many people who desire to be known as Christians are spiritually crippled because the pride of human reason is stronger in them than a hungry humility to be shaped by the Spirit of God.

A short-circuit has developed that causes a disconnect between what we confess and what we truly (practically) believe in day-to-day life. As an example, I offer the following little exercise in Christian reasoning….

The essence of Christian Faith depends on the Incarnation––the belief that Almighty God entered our world and lived as a single human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This is the explicit confession of earliest Christianity. St Paul says it like this in his letter to the Colossians:

He is the image of the invisible God.
the first-born of all creatures.
In him everything in heaven and on earth was created,
things visible and invisible.

All were created through him,
all were created for him.
He is before all else that is.
In him everything continues in being. (1:15, 16a, 17)

This is not irrational (granting the total supremacy of God), but it does go beyond human rationality. Even as human rationality has opened modernity to an awareness of the immensity of the universe and the intricacies of molecular structure, Christians believe that the God who created everything in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, was able to “condense” himself and live on earth in the visible embodiment of one human being! And so St Paul, still writing to the Colossians, says it again: In Christ, the fullness of deity resides in bodily form (2:9).

All of this is foundational for what we find Jesus saying today in the Gospel: The bread of God is that which comes down from the heaven and gives life to the world…. I am the bread of life.

Human rationality wants to argue that Jesus is speaking figuratively. The Church, from the beginning, has taught that Jesus is speaking literally (as he himself emphasizes in the concluding words of this sixth chapter of John’s Gospel).

As a Christian who was formed in deep faith outside of the Catholic tradition, I had always embraced the truth of the Incarnation. My journey into what I believe is the fullness of the Faith (which is one way to describe the Catholic Church) brought me to the place of considering what Jesus meant when he said I am the bread of life. I needed some way to process what was becoming more and more clear: that the Church, from the beginning, has taught that Jesus is speaking literally.

At some point I had a personal epiphany: If the God who created everything in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, was able to “condense” himself and live on earth in the visible embodiment of one human being, then is it any more far-fetched to believe that the physical Jesus is able to “condense” himself again and again into what appears to be a mere wafer of bread?

We in the Church have been given a gift that goes beyond rationality. That is the nature of our Faith. (If “god” is no more than what makes sense to our human reason, then we do not believe in God; we only believe in ourselves.)

The bread of God is that which comes down from the heaven and gives life to the world.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Judgment and Mercy

April 12, 2015: 2nd Sunday of Easter––Sunday of Divine Mercy
Acts 4:32–35 / 1 John 5:1–6 / John 20:19–31
Judgment and Mercy

On this Sunday of Divine Mercy we are drawn into the heart of God that is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. The beloved apostle John writes in his first letter: God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1Jn 4:9,10). 

We look at the cross and see the justice of God. The cross is a picture of what happens when disobedience (sin) comes against the righteousness of God. But even more, look at the cross and see the mercy of God––the water and the blood flowing from the heart of Jesus. God chose to let the repercussion of evil fall upon himself instead of letting righteous judgment fall on us.

With this, two things become very significant. First, the righteous judgment of God is a reality. God is a righteous judge simply because he is God. This is inherent in God’s very character and being. Second, there is a mercy that rises above judgment. Just as the law of aerodynamics supersedes the law of gravity so that a huge jet plane can fly thousands of feet in the air and come down without crashing, God provides a mercy that supersedes judgment falling on us. But, if we choose to reject God’s mercy (because the nature of love involves a true choice), then just as the law of gravity is still in force alongside the law of aerodynamics, God’s righteous judgment remains. Understanding this part of Truth is the reason that the reality of Mercy is so incredible.

In itself, the righteous judgment of God is a good thing. It is the basis for true goodness and order. Humans have been created to hunger for goodness and order. There is a problem, though, that is our fault. Disobedience undermines goodness and order, and in our brokenness we have distorted views of what is truly good. (This perspective is mostly missing from the issues popularly discussed by mainstream media.)

Still, we look at some things and say “How awful!” Our world gives us such prompts almost every day; our news is filled with shootings, terrorism, child abuse…. When we say How awful! we are confessing our desire for true goodness and order. We are also passing judgment that something is horribly wrong. When G. K. Chesterton was asked what was wrong with the world, he replied “I am.” Each of us is broken, and when all our brokenness gets stirred into the pot we find ourselves living in a truly broken world.

The only way out is through mercy. We need mercy. Because we are broken––and because all that is right and good and true is rooted in God––there are only two ultimate options for us. Each one of us is on a path either to judgment or to healing. Our healing (and our holiness––our sainthood) is possible because Jesus took upon himself the righteous judgment of God. This is Divine Mercy.

When we are truly honest with ourselves––in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do––we know that we need mercy. Apart from mercy we cannot escape the righteous judgment of God. When we truly believe that God has given us mercy in Jesus Christ, we see ourselves and our world differently.

I often look at a crucifix and think, “He took my place.” We are invited to hear Jesus still say, at least figuratively, Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.

I look at a world filled with hate and evil, pain and death, and think, “This is what happens when God’s ways are ignored and rejected.”

Then I hear that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. I recognize that what is proclaimed about Jesus came from eyewitnesses whose lives were transformed, and they were willing to die for what they had seen and experienced. So we have John ending his Gospel by saying, Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

We are not told everything we would like to know. Yet we have been given enough to understand the difference between mercy and judgment. This is what mercy desires: that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. 

On this Sunday of Divine Mercy, turn away from the evil lies that bring judgment to our world. Keep your heart open to the mercy of our Lord and hear his welcoming words: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. They shall obtain mercy. May each of us be numbered among them.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


"....when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward" C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

O grave, where is your victory? St Paul to the Corinthians

Friday, April 3, 2015

One more Good Friday thought...

Every year on Good Friday I watch The Passion of the Christ. The crucifixion of Jesus lets us see how the effects of rebellion against God tear the fabric of the whole creation. Sacrificial love is the one thing that can heal our world, but true love means vulnerability, and in this world vulnerability means suffering. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Yes, It is finished, but God forces his love on no one. Follow Jesus in suffering love and find the healing that turns the world upside down.

Good Friday – The Passion of the Cross

When we willingly choose any disobedience to the truth of God, we join the voices of those who cried "Crucify him!"

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