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.
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 was once such a person myself.
“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.
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?
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.
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.
The Immaculate Conception is the door opening on our salvation.
It is God the Father, preparing the way for the birth of God the Son by first preparing a holy mother for Him.
The idea that God chose to enter the world as a helpless baby, born to a young girl and her carpenter husband in a backwater province of a conquered nation goes against everything we know and believe about what makes a person important.
We live in a world where might makes right and the biggest and meanest get to make all the rules. This disregard for the little people of the world was even more pronounced in that long-ago day when Our Lady was conceived. This tiny spark of humanity, who was destined to become the bearer of the hope of all humankind, was, if possible, even less important to the worldly world than her baby son would be at His beginning.
She was, after all, a girl in a world that to this day regards little girls as less than worthless. She was that half of humanity which was often exposed at birth and left to rot.
Even today in large swaths of what we call civilization, baby girls are aborted because they are girls, and if they are born, killed shortly afterwards. Girls in these cultures often get less food, little education and almost no support in their development as people. They are subjected to brutalities ranging from female genital mutilation, to child marriages, rape and battering.
And yet, God chose, with every possibility possible at His disposal, to come into our world through the motherhood of a young woman. God entrusted Himself to a mother from His conception to His eventual death on the cross. It was a woman who gave Him life and who nurtured, shaped and reared Him into young manhood.
This does not take anything away from Joseph’s contribution. Fathers are just as important as mothers. But today we are considering the one person who was with Jesus from conception to grave, and who then was there at Pentecost when the Church was born.
Mary is the mother of us all, the essential human contribution to the undoing of the curse of the Fall. She was prophesied at the Fall and she will be there at the real end when Jesus comes again.
And it began with her conception, when God re-created the lost innocence of Eden in a new Eve who would give birth to the salvific Child to undo our transgressions. This great re-wind started then, in her Immaculate Conception. It was the long-awaited door opening.
This feast day is our chance to go back and re-learn what has been given to us by a young girl who, conceived without sin as the original Eve had been, did not falter in her mission as that earlier Eve did, but remained sinless until her own death. God gave us Mary, and Mary, through her obedience and faith, gave us His son.
She is not, as some traditions try to treat her, a mindless incubator we bring out for Christmas pageants and then forget the rest of the year. Our Lady is woven into the story of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation.
Everything that is wholly human about Our Lord comes from and through her. She gave us her Son, first at His birth and then later at Calvary; and He in turn, gave us His mother.
The Immaculate Conception is a door opening on the end of hopelessness and death. It is a cell-sized point of light shining in the darkness of our own devices.
Mary, Our Mother, began the way we all did, as a single cell made in the image and likeness of God. Christ’s humanity is her humanity. Her dignity is our dignity. She is our mother for the ages.
If you do not eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, you will no have life within you. Jesus Christ
The Eucharist was a scandal. Many of Jesus’ followers left Him when He explicitly told them I am the bread of life.
It is popular today to cast Jesus as a Casper Milquetoast god thingy of our devising. According to popular cant, Jesus’ sole purpose in becoming human was to tell us that, hey, I’m ok and you’re ok. Do what feels good and so long as it doesn’t kill somebody else — unless of course it’s euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research or abortion, in which case, it’s a “human right” to kill somebody else — so long as it doesn’t kill somebody else that you’ve decided it is a denial of human rights not to kill, it’s fine by me.
Jesus’ living teaching about the mercy of God toward the weak and helpless, in particular women, when He said let him who is without sin cast the first stone has been transmuted to mean I can commit any sin I want and the Church is sinning if it says my sin is a sin.
The Eucharist was a hard teaching, a scandalizing teaching, on that day when Jesus first taught it. Many people left Him because of it.
But Jesus didn’t follow after them and try to smooth things over. He didn’t say C’mon back. I didn’t mean it that way.
His reaction — if you have deluded yourself into believing in the Casper Milquetoast Jesus of modern pop theology — was downright unChristlike.
Stop grumbling among yourselves. He said. It is written, They will all be taught by God.
Then, he doubled down on his teaching about the Eucharist: My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink … Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.
Finally, He turned to His disciples and said, Are you going to leave me too?
Not, notice, please, please don’t leave me; I was only speaking metaphorically.
He looked at them and without equivocation acknowledged that they were as scandalized by this teaching as those in the crowd, but, again, without wavering one inch on that hard teaching, asked them the real question that He asks each of us: Are you going to leave me, too?
It was a line in the proverbial sand. Stay or go, He was saying, but the teaching will not change.
He asks us, all of us, including our cardinals and bishops, this same question today. Are you going to leave me, too?
Will the hard teachings of our Christ Jesus, Who was anything but a Casper Milquetoast, be too much for you?
Today’s Catholics wuss right by the hard teaching of the Eucharist. We’ve got that one down.
But the other hard teachings about the sanctity of marriage and human life, about the reality of hell and the fact that yes, Virginia, there is a satan, are too difficult, too embarrassing, too demanding of us in this post-Christian world.
We want to whittle Jesus down, to wear away His rough edges like a bar of soap, until we have a slippery little g god who won’t make things so tough on us. We want our silly addlepated little wimp of a self-made god who won’t trouble us in our desire to be accepted and loved by everybody, including those who are unknowingly following satan when they attack Him.
We want Christ without the cross, eternal life and salvation without redemption and conversion.
It hurts me! Sinners cry. It hurts to be “judged” a sinner just because I break these eternal rules. It rankles and angers me that anyone would think that the things I want to do are wrong. So, stop saying that. In fact, tell me that what I want — whatever I want — is good and virtuous.
If the Church obliges, it will condemn these people to hell.
It will also condemn itself to inconsequence.
It is one thing to teach that this Church of ours is the cornerstone, that it was built on Peter the rock and that Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against it. It is quite another to arrogantly assume that the Church may change the basic teachings of the faith and teach that which is contrary to what Christ taught and that it will be A-Ok because Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against us.
The first is faith. The second is presumption.
Jesus did not mean whatever this Church does is holy because the Church does it. His great Apostle, St Paul, said quite clearly, God is not mocked.
John the Baptist told the Pharisees, when they went into the wilderness to refute him for his preaching, that everyone — including them — was in need of redemption. He then smashed their self-justifying claims of exemption from following the laws of God. Do not say we are sons of Abraham, he told them. God can raise up sons of Abraham from these very stones.
Jesus said it best, of course, when He said, A servant is not greater than his master.
That applies to those who wear the mitre just as it does to the rest of us.
Perhaps the hardest teaching in that day of hard teachings when Christ the Lord made clear beyond misunderstanding what the Eucharist really meant, was the answer He gave to those who walked away. It is written, they will all be taught by God.
We have been taught by God made flesh. This is not some wimpy, politically correct little g god of our devising. This is a God who was reviled and attacked, mocked and betrayed and yet did not yield. This is a God who consented to be beaten, tortured, mocked, and horribly murdered; Who took on the bottomless alienation of all sin, Who became Sin, in order to buy us back from our perdition.
Are you going to leave me too?
That is the question.
It’s up to each one of us to decide what we will answer.
Christians, unlike their critics, build hospitals and schools, go on missions to help those in need where help is needed. Christians donate massive amounts of money to aid those in need. They run toward disasters, rather than away from them, to give aid and comfort.
When Moore Oklahoma was devastated by a tornado a couple of years ago, a carful of Christian women in New Jersey took up a donation of money, food and other aid and drove to Oklahoma to deliver it. I know about this because they came to our church to find a way to connect with victims. The gym at our parish was “home” to Christian young people who came to help with the clean-up and stayed all summer working on it.
These people were not paid for their efforts. No one asked them to do it. They simply responded to need because that is what Our Lord told them to do.
In all these things, the difference is Jesus.