Who is Jesus? Come and Kneel Before Him Now.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

It’s been a while since I posted this. I think it deserves another look.

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… and this one from Downey, California.

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… and Market Square in Knoxville, Tennessee

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The Reason Why I Am a Catholic

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Robert Cheaib https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Robert Cheaib https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

2.000 years ago, a man gave his life for me, for you, for all of us. This man was the Son of God: Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Saviour and Messiah. Join the Catholic Church! http://catholicscomehome.org/ From YouTube posting.

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Divine Mercy Novena: Praying for Unbelievers

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by brett jordan https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by brett jordan https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/

Jesus told us that when a lost soul repents, there is abounding joy in heaven.

I experienced this joy when I found Christ. I was driving to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. I felt — actually felt — an Other. I felt ecstatic love and joy rushing into me. I’ve tried to describe this joy and love, but I can’t do it.  Our language does not have the words.

Human language is inadequate to describe true encounters with God. The reason for this is simple and obvious, and yet we forget what it means.

God is not us. God is the I Am. The standards by which we measure reality do not apply to Him because He made what we call reality. Without Him, there is nothing. Not a vacuum, not non-existence, not oblivion: Without Him, there is nothing.

The concept of nothing in this eternal and absolute sense defies both our understanding and our imaging. We can not describe it any more than we can describe Him.

God is not an idea or an intellectual construct that we can manipulate and bring down to our understanding. God is a Being, a Personality, with a will and emotions of His own.

I did not convert to an idea. I was not embraced by a concept. I met another Being and this Other, even though He is transcendent, reached into my finiteness and loved me from death to life. The Way by which He did this is Jesus Christ.

Unlike those who lived before Christ, we can see the face of God and live. All we have to do is look at Jesus. He, and He alone, is the Way that leads to eternal life.

The idea that all faiths are equal is nonsense. There is only one empty tomb, only one Way out of the abyss of our sins. No one will ever approach the throne of God and live unless he or she is marked by the shed blood of the Lamb of God.

The Church teaches that it is possible for those of other faiths and those who have not heard His name to be welcomed to heaven, but they must come by way of their works and their sinlessness. They have to earn heaven.

Even then, the only entry, the only Way, is through Jesus. His grace and His mercy are the only hope that any one, anywhere, has. Without Him, we are damned, every one of us, by our own sinful and rebellious natures.

Jesus told St Faustina that unbelievers and those who had never heard His name were in His thoughts as He suffered and died two thousand years ago. He didn’t die only for you and me. He died for everyone, everywhere, for all time. He ransomed lost humanity with His blood — all of humanity.

All anyone has to do is choose Him over the world. Just as He did with the Israelites, God places before us Life and Death and lets us choose between them. Eternal hell is not a punishment. It is a choice that we make as free human beings clothed in radical freedom.

We are called to do more than glory in our salvation. We are called to be the Light in a dark world.

God has set us free, and now we must free others. The universal Christian vocation is the conversion of the world. We must offer Him to those who are perishing right in front of us, even if they rebuff us and shriek with the agony of devils touched by grace when we do it.

We Christians of the laity are conduits of the informal graces of life and love to the larger world. Our lives are the testimony and witness to our faith. We are the ones who go out from the churches, who step away from the altar and enter the fray of bashing and bloodletting that is modern society.

We go into the hospitals, schools, legislative chambers, court houses, construction sites, grocery stores, gyms and on-line com boxes. We go into all the places where ordinary life is lived and we enter them without the confining otherness of the collar. We are part of this larger world and we move inside it with the intimacy of fellow travelers.

Our priesthood is the priesthood of the laity. It is the priesthood that will either convert the world, or leave the world to die in its sins.

We are the People of God. We are the Easter people. We serve a Risen Lord. Our home is in heaven. We are, all of us, wayfaring strangers in this world of woe.

Even though you die, you will live. Jesus told us. Where I go, you will follow, he said.

We are going to die. I don’t write that to upset you, but to free you and comfort you. I want you to understand that there is nothing in this world for a follower of Christ to fear. You and I are just passing through this life. We are going to die. But when we die, we will live. Because of His Mercy.

So what should we do about those unbelievers who attack Christians? What should we do for those who have never heard His name?

Jesus says bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me.

He tells us that He was thinking about them when He suffered and died. His love for them is the unfathomable longing of God Who is love.

I don’t know which ones they are, but I believe that future evangelists for Christ are hiding among today’s Christian-bashing unbelievers. One day, they will say “yes” to Him, and He will fill them with the same love and joy that He poured into my soul and into yours. He will lift them up to testify to Him with all the fervor of someone who understands what it means to be rescued from eternal death.

I also know that among those who have not been told about Him there are people who will one day carry the news of His love to others who have not heard of him. Jesus is the Way, and that way is open to everyone.

But on this Easter Monday, they are still lost. They wander in the acrid bitterness of their unbelief, the noisy silence of their lack of knowledge. They are lost.

Christ’s mercy is the living water that enlivens our souls. Christ’s mercy is beyond our understanding, greater than our ability to reckon. It, like Him, is infinite. His mercy transcends time and place. It is available to everyone.

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Bring the lost souls of the world to Him and His mercy. He can change hearts that you and I think are beyond reaching.

I know.

I was once such a person myself.

Fourth Day

Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me, 

I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.”  

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

*Our Lord’s original words here were “the pagans.” Since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, the Church has seen fit to replace this term with clearer and more appropriate terminology.

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Pope Francis: We Cannot Privatize Salvation

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

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The Teachings of Jesus Christ

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

What our Savior taught us. What we believe. Who we are.

This video is dedicated by its author to persecuted Christians, everywhere.

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What is the Most Perfect Prayer?

Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Created by Tito and Eva Marie Balangue. https://www.flickr.com/photos/titobalangue/

Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Created by Tito and Eva Marie Balangue. https://www.flickr.com/photos/titobalangue/

In keeping with my longstanding tradition of kicking over hornet’s nests, I’m going to ask a question.

What is the most perfect prayer?

Over on the Facebook page of a friend of mine, a commenter who identified himself as a priest said that the Holy Mass is the “most perfect prayer.” A Deacon of the Church responded that yes, it was.

I’ve been rolling that one around in my mind ever since I read it.

Mass is, from beginning to end, one long prayer. It is also the sacrifice of Calvary, brought into our daily lives. More than that, it brings that Sacrifice and the Lord Himself into a reliable, supremely accessible form under the guise of bread and wine.

As we would say in Oklahoma, that’s pretty stout.

But is it the most perfect prayer? Is there such a thing as a perfect prayer?

I can’t answer that, even though I raised the question myself. Instead, I will tell you what I know and why I ask the question in the first place.

I know that my personal conversion experience was a sort of eucharist. Let me describe it and explain what I mean.

I was driving in my car, on my way to make a speech. I was deeply troubled and sore at heart because of a sin I had committed against another person. Almost from nowhere, I said aloud, “Forgive me.”

The moment I said that, I felt the long years of sinfulness lift off me. It as an actual physical sensation. I also felt this Other, a Being, respond with such joy and love that words fail to describe it. In the same moment, I felt this joy and love, filling me up.

What was all this? I didn’t know at the time. It was a while into the future before I figured out that the Being I met that day and Who has never left me since was the Holy Spirit.

I never, until I read that exchange on Facebook, considered the possibility that in that moment, I became a form of Eucharist. What I mean by that is that I now believe without doubt that what I experienced was what Protestants call “the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” and what I’ve seen described in other places as the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”

In fact, even though I didn’t know it when it happened to me, Scripture has quite a lot to say about the Holy Spirit, dwelling within us. That Scripture is not describing a theological concept. It is talking about an absolute reality of Christian life. I suppose that what I am also describing might be what Catholics call “a state of grace.”

All I know is that God reached down into that car and loved me back to life in an instant, He came to live within me and me with Him and He has walked with me since that moment. All this happened because of a two-word prayer that I didn’t know was a prayer: “Forgive me.”

I read the comment that the mass is the most perfect prayer, and I agreed with it. But I also know that God can and does create individual Eucharists in people’s hearts every day. I was not unusual or even especially blessed by what happened to me. The reason is that God answers sincere prayers. And He can make a Eucharist, a communion, of any person, at any time.

I know of a young woman who was kidnapped off the street on her way to school. She was put in a brothel and sold over and over as a victim of human trafficking. She lived in India. She had never heard the name of Jesus, knew nothing about Him.

One day, He came to her in the tiny room where she was held when she was not being sold. She saw a light, then a vision of a man. “I am Jesus,” He told her. “I will take care of you.” This young woman now attends a Christian university here in Oklahoma in preparation for returning to India to work among trafficked women.

Her prayer was no prayer at all, at least not as we normally understand it. Her prayer was the desperation and suffering of a young girl, sold into sex slavery. It was the wounded cry of one of His children, reaching up to heaven. Her prayer was not of her own initiative. Her prayer was His love, and it came from Him to her, not the other way around.

And that is the crux of it.

I did not deserve forgiveness. I did not deserve the love and joy that He gave to me.

The goodness was all His. The need and unworthiness was all mine.

The young girl, held prisoner in a brothel, did not even know His name; she did not call to Him because she did not know Him. He came to her. Because He loved her.

I have a friend who spent years trapped in the sins of prostitution, drug dealing,  alcoholism and addiction. For a long time, she would visit one of our Catholic churches here in Oklahoma City. She didn’t go there during mass. She sat at the back of the sanctuary alone, when it was empty. Her reason for being there was that Christ in the Eucharist was calling her to Him. She went there because He called her to Himself.

Her prayer was shame and a sense of unworthiness. It was isolation and alienation and aloneness. It was believing that the good people of the parish would never have her there, but knowing, because He called her, that she had to be there. With Him.

The perfect prayer is a mother, sitting up at night in a steamy bathroom with a croupy baby. The perfect prayer is a father, going to a job he hates and taking all manner of humiliation in order to support his family. It is the rape victim who chooses life for her baby and the cop who follows the evidence rather than just cooking up a case against the most likely.

The perfect prayer is to look at insurmountable problems and terrible insults, to stare in the face of your deepest terror and say, “Lord Jesus, I trust You.”

The mass is a gift, but it is not a gift we give to Him. It, along with the Church, is a gift that He gives to us. The Eucharist is a gift, a covenant, a bond and a promise that He is, as St Paul said, able to keep that which we have entrusted to Him against that day.

The Eucharist heals, gives life, and assures us that at the other end of this earthly passage, in the words of Julian of Norwich, all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

The Eucharist comes from Him, to us. Not the other way around. In like manner the perfect prayer is always His prayer in us. The mass is prayer. A simple forgive me is prayer. Desperation and fear are prayers. Shame and sin sickness are prayers. Love, fidelity, courage are prayers.

Grace is a gift. Mercy is a gift. Salvation is a gift. The Eucharist is a gift. Life is a gift.

They are gifts to us from Him.

The only gift we have to give Him is our love. Everything else, including obedience, comes from that.

What is the most perfect prayer? I think it is to take the whole of our selves, including the pits and stains, welts and scars, lay them down in peace, and say with the confidence of a child talking to her Daddy, “Lord Jesus, I trust in you.”

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and Jesus said I Am. What do you think He meant?

640px Christ Pantocrator Deesis mosaic Hagia Sophia

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

And Jesus said

I AM the way.

I AM the bread of life.

I AM the light of the world. 

I AM the good shepherd.

I AM the door.

I AM the way, the truth and the life. 

I AM the true vine.

I AM the resurrection and the life.

Before Abraham was, I AM.

What do you think He meant? 

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The epiphany of the Epiphany: The Wise Men r Us

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Copyright: Wonderlane used with permission.

The wise men r us.

By that I mean they are that vast reach of overlooked humanity that had no part in God’s Covenant with Abraham. The wise men are you and me, who will be, at long last and as St Paul put it, “grafted” onto the original tree of life that God planted when He raised up first a man and his wife, then their family, and finally, a people, to be the flame of flickering light in the darkness of fallen humanity.

We sorta know the story of the Wise Men. We’ve seen it acted out in Christmas pageants when, at the end of the story of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the manger, three little boys walk in to the tune of We Three Kings. They are wearing bathrobes made of shiny fabric and carrying three boxes marked “gold,” “frankincense” and “myrrh.”

The little boys put their boxes next to a makeshift manger which holds a doll wrapped in a baby blanket. Meanwhile a little girl, dressed in a her mother’s bathrobe and a little boy dressed in his dad’s, look on. The shepherds are already there, along with a couple of little girl angels.

It’s Christmas and the people rise to sing Joy to the World with the gusto of those who know in their hearts that this story, however simply it is told, is true.

These Christmas pageants are simple, fun and they do tell the essential story. But the layers upon layers of meaning that the story holds are not touched. That’s to the good, of course, since belief lies not in layers of understanding but in the simplicity of ultimate truth.

Christmas is about the end of the endless night of ultimate hopelessness. It is the story of The Light breaking into human history. As such, the simplicity of small-church Christmas pageants are all we need to tell the story.

But for those who want to look past the dust jacket on the story, the questions and the answers are there. Before Jesus, God’s direct work with humanity had been limited to this smallish family turned nation that He had settled smack along the most important trade route of the ancient world. The bread basket of Egypt, the spices and riches of the East, traveled along this narrow way near the sea on their journey to Europe.

Rome fed off this route, as had numerous empires before it. Of all the places in the ancient world, the one most likely to be fought over, invaded, battered and beaten, was this one. Why did God put His people here?

My guess is that it was because the story of the Jews is not just the story of the Jews. It is the story of Jesus’ family. The Bible itself is, from the first page to the last, the story of Jesus, of God’s redemption of us, all of us, everywhere. He chose to send His redemption first through a man and his wife, then through a family and finally through a single nation.

When Jesus was born, He repeated the story and went back, once again, to a man and woman, a husband and wife. It seems that God always begins His beginnings with humanity with family.

The Chosen people were chosen, as God told Abraham, “to be a blessing.” They job was to bring that first flickering point of light to the world at large. The nation of Israel was in the one best place best situated for sending the message of redemption to the whole world. The location that made it a perilous location of great political and economic interest, also made it the perfect jumping-off place for spreading the Good News outward until it met itself circling the globe.

Thus Jesus, when He finally came, was a Jew, born to Jews in a vassal Jewish nation residing in the crook of the elbow of the ancient economy.

He was, from the beginning, the Light of the World. Not, notice, the light of the Jews. Jesus, a Jew, born of Jews, came for every person who walked the planet. Salvation came from the Jews, but it was for us all.

That is the meaning of the Epiphany. It is the underlying message of God calling three wise men to, as the hymn says, “traverse afar” in their quest to find Him. These men were not Jews. They were us, the unsaved sea of humanity that had been, up until then, standing outside the door.

The epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are part of the story now. Salvation came from the Jews, but it is no longer theirs alone. From the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, He called all humanity to Himself. It began with three men who followed a star and it is unfolding to this day.

Pope Francis surprised the pundits this week by raising up cardinals from far-flung locations about the world, many of which are places where Christians suffer desperate persecution. The mustard seed is just being planted in some of these lands. Those cardinals are the successors to the wise men.

… the Gospel must be preached to all nations, Jesus told us.

And it will be.

And it is.

Like every other story of humankind, the story of our salvation begins with a man, a woman, and a baby. It begins with a family, and it ends with eternal life.

Mixed into this story is the tale of three wise men who “traversed afar” to pay homage to a newborn king laid in a manger in a stable. They visited the Romans’ vassal king of that land, King Herod, on their way to Him. In doing so, they alerted a ruthless and insecure man to a potential threat. Their indiscretion cost the lives of innocent children, executed by King Herod in a drive to safeguard his throne against prophecy. They were the trigger that sent Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus into exile in Egypt.

Their part in the story of salvation, was germinal in every way. But the most important part of it is also the most often overlooked. The wise men were not Jews, they were not of the Chosen people. The blood of Abraham did not flow in their veins. But God called them and guided them and over a long journey led them … to Him.

In this way, the epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are welcome at the table now. The doors to God’s salvation opened wide on that night when He was born, allowing any who will take the step to enter in. It began with a star, a journey and a baby.

Because the wise men r us.

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How Do We Know Christianity is the One True Worldview?

 

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Immaculate Conception: A Person’s a Person, No Matter How Small

 

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It is one of my favorite days in the Church year because it commemorates the first turn of the prophetic wheel that led to our salvation. God blessed Mary with the Immaculate Conception, meaning that He removed from her soul the stain of Original Sin at that first moment when she existed.

There is meaning, wrapped inside meaning, in this event. For the moment, I want to focus on one meaning that is especially pertinent to Catholics who are trying to follow Our Lord in this Advent over 2,000 years after Our Lady was conceived.

The many meanings of the Immaculate Conception almost have no limit, applying as they do to the nature of the woman who was to become the Mother of God and Our Mother, as well. But one meaning that can get lost in the tinsel and Christmas carols that decorate this season of Advent is the simplest and most obvious.

Mary was Mary from the moment of her conception. God is not remove the stain of original sin from a little girl. The Angel Gabriel did not announce it to a young woman at the Annunciation. Christ did not endow his mother with it from the cross.

The meaning and the reality of the Immaculate Conception were woven into Mary’s biological and spiritual being from the precise moment that she began to exist as herself; a separate, entire, unique, individual, human person.

God did not remove the stain of original sin from a pile of chromosomes wrapped around one another. He did not deign to honor an anonymous cell that would shortly begin dividing and taking on the outward shape of what we have learned to identify as a human being.

The Immaculate Conception was God’s gift to Mary, the Mother of the Christ, the contributor of all that is human in our Lord and Savior from her first moment of life. Mary was conceived without sin in a silent miracle that would eventually bear the fruit that would become the I Am made human. Mary was, as parents always are, the co-creator, along with God, of the child that she birthed.

Her assent at the Annunciation was the same assent every woman gives today when she chooses to give her child life. Mary, like every other woman, was one of the life bearers of humanity. God recognized this great gift of maternity, not in the young woman whose fiat changed all of history, but in the single cell, the conceptus, that was Mary at her beginning.

If ever a believing Christian needs proof that a person’s a person, no matter how small, this is it.

The grisly deaths of human embryos, slaughtered for their body parts and used in embryonic stem cell research, can never be justified by any cure of benefit obtained from their executions at the hands of a society gone totally mad. Embryonic stem cell research is a form of cannibalism. It is the ultimate version of the biggest and meanest, making all the rules to their benefit.

Abortion was its door-opener, just as the Immaculate Conception was the door opener to our salvation. One door leads to the destruction and murder of innocents for the benefit of scientific industry and commercialized medicine. The other door, the one that the Immaculate Conception opened, leads to love, forgiveness and eternal life.

If you are a Christian, and most especially if you are a Catholic and have the benefit of the full understanding of Mary’s conception and her maternity, of who she is and what she means, you can not support embryonic stem cell research. You can not follow Jesus and go through that door both. You have to choose. The door of embryonic stem cell research is an evil wrong turn that leads away from the cross, away from salvation, away from eternal life and straight into eternal death.

The human person is made in the image and likeness of God, and you may not kill an innocent human person.

Because, as Doctor Seuss wrote, a person’s a person, no matter how small.

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