Musing on 1 Cor 9:24-27

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. –1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Cinderella.

Every March in the United States, this word gets thrown around continually and casually.

We all know what it means — the “Cinderella” team — the underdogs who proved themselves to everyone; the team no one believed in; the ones whom no one gave a second thought to; the team that everyone glazed over while filling out their brackets. “Oh an 11-seed? They’re going down in the first round, for sure.”

This year, I’ve had the privilege to watch my hometown team, the Wichita State Shockers, become the Cinderella of the 2013 NCAA Championship Tournament. A nine-seeded team that beat four teams — including the two best in its region — on its way to the Final Four.

Yes, we all love those underdog stories, don’t we? We latch on to movies like Seabiscuit, Glory Road, We Are Marshall, Cinderella Man, Miracle, and Cool Runnings (which are all based on true stories, by the way). Why? Because we love to see those teams, those players who weren’t the best still succeed, even when all the odds were stacked against them.

They take a stand for themselves — they prove to everyone that they’re worth something, that they shouldn’t be underestimated, that they shouldn’t be counted out.

We love underdog stories, because the idea of an ‘underdog’ is based on prejudice. “Oh, this team has more money, a better coach, more talented players, a tougher schedule — so, they’re definitely going to beat this second-rate team of schmucks, no problem. Right?”

The idea of an underdog also is based on empathy — we don’t like it when other people underestimate us, and count us out. So, when we see another underdog succeed, it gives us hope. The ‘little guy’ can win, even when the world is stacked against him. David can beat Goliath, and he does.

So life is for us Christians. We are the underdogs; we have the disadvantage, seemingly, against all that we try to combat — the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Think about it.

Everyday, we wake up to our ongoing struggles against all of our erring brothers and sisters, who pressure us (sometimes with good intentions) into joining their escapades with “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” — of rejecting our religion, our relationship with God simply to do what everyone is doing. We wake up to our own bodily desires, which were created good, but have been deformed through our own sinful nature, our predisposition to sin. We continue to pervert those gifts which God created good, because we believe that they will give us pleasure. And, lastly, and most frighteningly, we wake up everyday to combat all the demons of Hell, who have retained their angelic powers and use them to tempt us away from God — to give into our societal pressures, to give in to our own bodily desires, etc.

So, not only is the world against us, but the flesh and the devil, too!

How then — you might ask — can we possibly win?

And I would reply: How can we possibly lose?

We’re the underdogs! Our life as Christians is a classic underdog story. We win as any other longshot, counted-out team does: through Faith.

For athletes, it is faith in themselves, in their coach, in their teammates. For us, it is Faith in Our God, in our Church, in the Lord’s plan for us.

Train yourself for devotion; for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. For this we toil and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the savior of all, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. –1 Timothy 4:7-11

So, like those athletes — those dark horses, who find themselves down at halftime to the best team in the league — we draw on four components of our Christian faith to “run the race so as to win” so that we might win our “imperishable crown” :

HEART

We could also call this passion or desire. Think of those athletes when they say they give “110%” to their sport, to their team, etc. Let us think of HEART as that ability to give of yourself for your Teammates, for your Coach — in good times, in bad; in everyday practice, in a clutch championship game; always. I often see athletes use the Twitter hashtag #NoDaysOff.

Our Faith, our life of training for devotion, must be the same way. These athlete have such commitment and passion for their sport, their team, their way of life. Why can’t we do the same? We must have HEART — passion in our Faith, desire to live for Christ — to “win” in our lives of Faith.

SKILL

No basketball team is going to win in any game, let alone against the overall No. 1 seed, unless the players know the fundamentals. Many coaches describe this as “Basketball IQ.” Sure, sometimes a victory comes down to talent and talent disparity between one team and its opponent; but, as any basketball fan knows, talent doesn’t count for much if the talented players don’t have a high Basketball IQ — if they make bad passes, if they commit stupid fools, if they travel or carry the ball.

In our faith lives, we have something similar: we have four gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, and Knowledge.You can be a good Christian — you can have all the passion to be like Christ in the world — but how can you be like Him if you don’t know Him? If you’re not open to the Holy Spirit? If you have no fundamental knowledge of the Faith — of sin, of right and wrong?

Just as an athlete has to know his sport — know its rules, its strategies, its speed, its techniques, its competition — so, too, do we have to know our Faith. But, beyond that, we have to live it out. We cannot simply draw up the plays, but we must execute them as well. As St. Paul says to the Corinthians, No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1Cor 9:27)

FOCUS

I didn’t know what better word to sum up this idea. I see those athletes who, in a critical game, do something wrong — they do something really stupid: commit a bad foul, turn over the ball, drop the baton, miss a block, etc.

And we sports fans scream and holler at our televisions “What the heck was that? How could you be so stupid?” But, then later, and sometimes not even one minute later, that same player does something awesome — intercepts the ball, breaks a record, or makes a huge shot. And you wonder “How can he be so bad one minute, and so good the next?” Because of focus — of that ability to “shake off” the bad and focus on the good. We Christians must do the same.

Sometimes we mess up. We sin; we fall away from God; we stumble in our lives of prayer and/or ministry. We do something stupid. But, we cannot be discouraged. Because, like that player, if we only focus on the bad, we cannot move forward and do the good. We will be stuck in an endless mental loop of “What if?” We will be focused on the past, instead of on the present and the future.

Yes, we need to correct our mistakes, but we also need to forgive ourselves (and our Teammates) when we mess up, when we do something stupid. We must have that persevering mercy for ourselves and others — we must have that resolution to forgive our mistakes, to sin no more, and to continue on our journey of Faith.

To be good Christians — to be like Christ– we must correct our faults, and focus on our ongoing mission of sharing Christ’s Gospel with others through our prayer and our example.

Think of it this way: at the end of a game, do people remember that you had 29 points, or that you committed four fouls?

SPIRIT

Lastly, a true underdog has to have spirit. Again, I don’t know how else to describe this idea of a ‘spirited’ competitor in one word. But, I recognize those dark horse athletes who look their much bigger, more talented, better coached opponents in the eyes and (through their body language) tell them: “I am not afraid of you.”

That indomitable spirit, that courage, to never back down and to never give up. That spunk, that grit, that determination to keep fighting — and to keep fighting with everything you’ve got until the clock expires. To fight nobly; to compete with dignity.

Win with humility, and lose with dignity, as my bishop once told my high school’s football team.

And, so we as Christians must do the same.

We should not be afraid to go toe-to-toe with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Because, weak though we are, we have the Grace of the Father, the Strength of the Son, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to fuel us for our daily bouts against our three challenging opponents.

But, we cannot back down. We must have courage, fortitude, to keep running the race with faith in God and in His Love and Faith in us. We Christians must recognize that Christ’s grace is sufficient enough for us — He will get us through any fight, so long as we have faith in Him.

Remember St. Paul and his struggles, as he describes them in 2 Corinthians:

Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. –2Cor 12:7-10

IN CONCLUSION

“…the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize… They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”

So, brothers and sisters, we must allow the Spirit of God — the Spirit of Courageous ‘Spunk,’ shall we say — to dwell within us.

These four things — Heart, Skill, Focus, and Spirit — are the four qualities, the four ‘virtues’ that any true underdog must have to succeed in his endeavors, no matter how insurmountable they may seem.

Whether in sports or our lives of Faith, we underdogs must hold fast to these four things to win — we must hold fast to these gifts that God has given us. We must strengthen our passion for Him (Heart); we must learn about Him (Skill); we must learn to forgive like Him (Focus); and we must have the courage to face our enemies head-on (Spirit).

For, while our enemies might scoff and underestimate us and our Gifts — Our Faith in God — we should not. Because we are the underdogs, and God willing, we will be victorious in our struggles. We will “run so as to win.”

After all, what better underdog story is there than the seemingly ordinary Man Who died… only to conquer Sin and Death, and rise Victorious from the grave?

Amen. Alleluia, Alleluia!
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Musing on the Resurrection

UPDATE ON “NOT IN INK” : The Lord is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia! Truly, He is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia! I hope everyone is having a wonderful Easter Monday, or as it is called in Italy, “Pasqueta” — or “Little Easter.” I apologize that I wasn’t able to update you all with too many meditations/musings during Holy Week, but I hope you all liked the Good Friday meditation on the Centurion. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.

Because these (somewhat daily) meditations/musings were part of my Lenten regiment, I won’t be updating the blog as often. But, I would like to continue updating it with musings and meditations. My goal right now is to post something for you lovely readers maybe once or twice a week.

Please continue to read the blog, and pray for me and my family. I am praying for all of you, and I wish you the greatest and most blessed joys of the Easter season! Thanks!

A Musing on the Resurrection

As He was going [to Jerusalem]… the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” –Luke 19:36-40

Yesterday, on my way home from Easter Sunday Mass, I was — as is my Easter tradition — jammin’ out to Ron Kenoly, a 90s Christian/Gospel artist. The last song on the album is called “Ain’t Gonna Let No Rock.”

Of course, as it is Easter, I thought of the story of the women disciples finding the tomb empty on the first day of the week:

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. –Matthew 28:1-4

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. –Mark 16:1-5

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. –Luke 24:1-3

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. –John 20:1

All four Gospels speak of a body-less tomb, and each four remark that the stone was rolled away — the tomb was unsealed. Death was conquered! Christ was victorious!

Now remember Jesus’ words on His entrance to Jerusalem: “If (my disciples) keep quiet, even the stones will cry out!”

After Jesus’ death and burial on Good Friday, the disciples were silent. Judas had killed himself; Peter had denied Jesus; all of the 12 Apostles except John had abandoned Him after He was arrested in the Garden. Their Master and Teacher was dead — cold, executed, and defeated. They did not remember what He had told them. They were in mourning.

But, while they kept their silence, even the stones — or at least, one large stone in particular, cried out. Maybe its voice was not heard. But, its presence was known all the same, because every Christian knows the story of the stone that was rolled away, of the tomb that was empty.

Can you imagine what that stone would have said, if it could cry out? What mysteries it would have told?

The stone was, in an essence, the first to see and hear the Gospel, the Good News — that Christ is risen from the grave! It was, alongside the angel, the first herald of His Resurrection!

That stone, if it had a soul, if it had a voice, would have proclaimed the Gospel message to those women who came weeping and mourning to the tomb that Sunday morning. It would have told them immediately Who Had Risen; it would have turned their tears into shouts of joy!

And, so we must do the same. We are an Easter people, and “Alleluia” is our song! Our God Lives! He has conquered sin and death, and has risen from the grave!

God did not give that stone a voice, yet it proclaimed the Good News all the same!

Shouldn’t we then proclaim the Good News — the Joy of the Resurrected Lord — all the louder? All the more clearly? For indeed, God has given us tongues to proclaim, and hands to share the Good News with our Brothers and Sisters in the Lord!

For while the stone in front of the tomb may have been the first herald of the Resurrection, we should not let it be the last! We cannot be quiet and timid like the disciples; we should not be afraid or unbelieving of the Easter message, as they were at first.

For, if we do, even the stones will cry out instead. And, as Ron Kenoly says, “I ain’t gonna let no rock out-praise me!”

Let us continue our Christian mission of proclaiming the Gospel — the Good News — so that we may make Christ’s presence among us known throughout all the world.

For, we are an Easter people, and “Alleluia” is our song!

THE LORD IS RISEN, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA! TRULY HE IS RISEN, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA!

Musing on God the Holy Spirit

Author’s Note: This is the third of a three-part series of musings on Each Person of the Holy Trinity. This musing is on God The Holy Spirit. Read the Musing on God The Father and the Musing on God The Son.

Musing on God The Holy Spirit

Last night I prayed – ironically enough – to the Holy Spirit for some guidance on what to muse on in today’s post.

I flipped through the Bible, especially the Epistles of St. Paul, because – let’s face it – when (my man!) St. Paul wasn’t writing about Jesus Christ, he was writing about the Holy Spirit. Seriously.

Then, I’d like to think I got my inspiration, because I began to wonder at the term “Spirit” (as opposed to “Ghost”) and what it means for us when we call someone, or something, “spirited.”

A spirited person, according to the dictionary, is one who is courageous, energetic, animated and lively. We call them “spirited” because they have an unusual – or extraordinary – amount of “spirit.” They’re passionate and zealous – they have an unusual sense of freedom and preciousness of life.

There is one example of such a “spirited” person that immediately came to mind: St. Peter, giving the post-Pentecost evangelization speech. Full of the Holy Spirit, he stands on the rooftops and speaks to the masses, full of life – no longer doubting, afraid, or indifferent. He is passionate, courageous, and animated in his manner and his speech. And the people notice.

He is a spirited individual, in this instance, because he is filled with the Holy Spirit.

An individual is called “spirited” because they are lively – they are full of “life. And, as we hear in the Scriptures, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us this life. (See Romans 8)

…for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. –2 Cor 3:6

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. –John 6:63

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace… But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. –Rom 8:6, 11

Yes, the Spirit gives life, and gives it in abundance. But, I say we should ask the question: “How? How does the Spirit give us life?” (Again, I would argue) He gives life by:

  • Creating and sustaining us
  • Moving us
  • Uniting us

After all, there’s a reason we call the Holy Spirit the “Author of Life.”

CREATING AND SUSTAINING US

Tradition tells us the Holy Spirit, with the Other Two Persons, took part in creation of the Universe and Humanity.

Let Us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness… –Genesis 1:26

And, some theologians have interpreted the “mighty wind that swept over the waters” in Genesis 1:2 as the Holy Spirit and His First Movements of Creation.

But, as we tend to attribute Creation to The Father, let us focus more on Spirit as the Sustainer of Life.

In the Scriptures and the liturgies, the Holy Spirit is connected with or manifested as things in nature that sustain life – fire, wind/breath, water, and clouds. We realize how important any of these things are in the natural cycle: clouds bring shade and rain; water quenches our thirst; fire keeps us warm in the cold; and wind is what we inhale and exhale daily.

But, whereas these things sustain physical life, the Spirit sustains our spiritual life – our relationship with The Triune God.

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him… So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. –Romans 8:9, 12-14

When we sin mortally, we no longer have the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Thus, we must beg for God to restore the Spirit to us through our repentance and by confessing our sins.

But when the Spirit dwells in us, which we pray it always does, we recognize ourselves as Temples of the Holy Spirit. We must ensure our spiritual and physical well-being, because the Spirit of God is in us – and that is a precious gift. If we do not take care of ourselves (again, spiritually or physically) we may lose that gift.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are… Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. — 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19-20

We must continue to see the Spirit of God dwelling in us – sustaining us and all our brothers and sisters. Let us take care to treat ourselves and others with dignity, and to act as Temples of the Holy Spirit; for we “have been bought [for] a price,” so let us rightfully glorify the Lord as such. Let us glorify the Spirit, Who is within us.

MOVING US

In a very over-simplified analogy, if we are like a car or some other vehicle, the Holy Spirit is not only our fuel tank – which sustains our travel – but it also our engine. It is what enables us to move. While we might decide which direction we want to take, it is the Spirit dwelling within us that enables us to move. But, when we take our hands off the wheel, and let Him take over, He will guide us where we need to go.

My pastor put it in a different way: when you bike against the wind, it’s strenuous, difficult, and exhausting. When you bike with the wind, it’s a breeze (ha, pun intended). You feel relieved, because the wind is doing half of the work for you. So it is with the Holy Spirit. You will still have trials – there will be hills to bike up – but with the Wind at your back, it’s always so much easier than going against It.

(Side note: That’s why I’m so thankful to live in a windy state. The Holy Spirit is constantly working around us and with us!)

The Chair of St. Peter in the Vatican, above which is a large stain-glass window of the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not only the fire that keeps us warm, but the furnace – the boiler – that fills our souls with a Divine Heat and propels us closer to God by doing His Will. I like to think of the Spirit as a driving wind – it drives, leads, guides, pushes, propels, fills, accelerates, and moves simultaneously.

For any number of Biblical examples of being led or guided by the Spirit, you need only to look at the prophets, Kings David and Solomon, the Apostles (post-Pentecost), and Jesus Christ Himself.

Truly, the Spirit is not only within us, He is around us. He tugs at our hearts from inside our beings – He leads us onward from His Inner Presence.

In Him we live and move and have our being. –Acts 17:28

Read more on Movements of the Spirit from this blog.

UNITING US

A closer look at the stained glass above the Chair of St. Peter.

And, because the Holy Spirit is within us, His Presence enables a grand union: between God (The Father and The Son) and His children.

Only think: the Spirit that is within you is the same Spirit that proceeds from God The Father and God The Son – from Their Eternal Love for One Another.

For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. –Mt 10:20

Yet, even as the Spirit unites us to the First and Second Persons of the Trinity, the Spirit also unites us to all our brothers and sisters – whether on Earth or in Heaven. For, as (my man) St. Paul writes:

To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. –1 Cor 12:7,11-13

As discussed earlier, we must recognize the Spirit of God in others and treat them as Temples of the Holy Spirit. Also, we must recognize that our brothers and sisters are our spiritual family because the same Spirit that dwells in them dwells in us also.

As science recognizes that all humans are connected and related because we descend from common ancestors, we Christians know that we are spiritually related because we have The Same Father, The Same Savior, and The Same Sanctifier all dwelling in us.

Generally, we treat our family differently than other people. We look out for them; we help them, even if we are ashamed of them; we sometimes think “If they weren’t my family, I don’t know if I would do this for them.” Hopefully, we don’t, but sometimes that is the case. We take special care of our family members because they’re family – and sometimes for no other reason.

Whether they’ve abused our generosity, disowned us, or hurt us (and themselves) repeatedly, we still care for them, even if we don’t love them.

But, we should do this for all people – because we are One Family in Christ. We are the Church. We are all sanctified by the One Holy Spirit of God.

Shouldn’t we take care to make sure that those in whom the Spirit dwells are loved and cared for? Shouldn’t we go out of our way to help them and forgive them, despite all they’ve done?

We shouldn’t help someone only because they’re family. We should help, love, and guide all people because God asks us to be One Body – One Spirit in Christ.

But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary… But God has so composed the body… so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. –1 Cor 12:20-26

So, let us pray to God The Holy Spirit, that He may continue to sustain, move, and unite us in Christ and His Church. Amen. +CHS

Musing on God the Son

Author’s Note: This is the second of a three-part series of musings on Each Person of the Holy Trinity. This musing is on God The Son. Read the Musing on God The Father and the Musing on God The Holy Spirit.

Once again, how to begin?

Knowing, loving, and serving God The Son is the ongoing journey of Christianity: to (attempt to) understand Christ’s relationship with us as His Church, and to love and serve Him as members of His Body – as His adopted brothers and sisters.

But, let us muse instead on the relationship between The Father and The Son, for how can we ponder The First Person without thinking of The Second? The Two Persons are infinitely connected by Their Eternal Love, which begets the Third Person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ identity as The “Son” (as He as revealed to us, and inasmuch as we understand the word in our modern culture) is inherently derived from His Relationship to The “Father” (again, inasmuch as we understand the word):

Love creates our identity (who we are) and binds us inseparably with our beloved, to the point that we would not exist without the beloved. A husband without a wife does not exist. A wife without a husband is a nonentity. Thus a husband and a wife could look in each other’s eyes and say “Thank you for creating me” without fear of idiocy. Husbands are created by wives. Love makes our identity dependent on another.

All identity is created by love. The identities of “husband” and “wife” are merely good examples of this fact. The truth is actually all-encompassing. Consider how the identity of everyone in a family is created by their loving relation to one another:

You cannot be a father or a mother without a child. Thus, in a typical paradox of love, the child creates his mother, for prior to the existence of the child the “mother” did not exist. The child creates his father in the same way, and none would deny that it is the mother and father who create the child in the physical act of love. — “Love Creates Us”

Again, the terms “Father” and “Son” have been revealed to us, because through their use, we can begin to understand the Mystery of the Trinity, though we will never be able to comprehend it fully (in this life).

So, why would God use the terms “Father” and “Son” to describe the relationship between The First and The Second Persons of the Trinity?

Because, the relationship between a father and a son, either Divine or human, I would argue, is based on three points:

  • Inheritance
  • Reflection
  • Love

There obviously are other aspects, but these three all tie in with each other. And, again, this is a crude way to define human and Divine relationships, but we must work with what we can.

INHERITANCE

Because a son inherits from his father. Historically, the firstborn son inherits his father’s property, title, and so on. More modernly, he might inherit his father’s business, debts, etc. Whatever belongs to a father will belong to his son. Across the ages, though, the eldest son inherits the father’s responsibilities at his death. He must become the head of the household; he must look after his widowed mother and fatherless siblings; he must look after whatever his father has left him (property, debts, instructions in his will).

Likewise, Jesus inherits many duties from His Father: He is sent by the Father, as He tells us many times in the Scriptures.

I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father [Satan]… If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. — John 8:38, 42

He also ‘inherits’ His Divine Authority from The Father: “He (The Father) gave Him (Jesus) authority to execute judgment, because [Jesus] is the Son of Man” (John 5:27); and “But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me.” (John 8:16)

Thus, because The Son inherits His Authority from The Father, He is able to act as a proxy for The Father.

Recall the Parable of the Wicked Stewards: When the harvest time approached, [the landowner] sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. He sent another group of slaves; and they did the same. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. –Matthew 21:33-40

REFLECTION

Consider the idea of the proxy – someone whom you send on your behalf to complete a task which you cannot. In an essence, this person is able to speak and act for you – with your equal authority. He (or she) is allowed to act as you, seemingly, – as a ‘second you,’ as it were.

Jesus – God The Son Incarnate – is able to act as The Father’s “proxy” not only because He is Equally God, as The Father is; but, because He is a reflection of the Father – His Second Self, as it were.

Today, we might say that The Son is the “spitting image” of His Father.

Jesus does not simply do things for His Father – He does things like His Father.

A few years ago, my theology teacher used me and my dad as an analogy of this Divine Resemblance. My dad and I have similar mannerisms, similar personalities, similar senses of humor. So, when my theology teacher met my dad at a parent-teacher conference, she could definitely see the resemblance between us. Using this as an example to the class, she said she could see my father in me, and me in my father; and that by knowing one, she knew the other.

So it is with The Son and The Father (although on a Divine and humanly incomprehensible level):

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? —John 14:7-10

LOVE

As discussed above, our identities as “parent” and “child” come from love. Similarly, Jesus’ relationship with His Father is also characterized by Love – such a Love that we can only imitate in our limited human capacities, for it is a Love we cannot comprehend, though we see it working in our lives.

This Love between The Father and The Son is so powerful and immense, The Holy Spirit proceeds from it.

It is out of Love for His Father and for us that Jesus becomes man, dies for our sins, and rises again. It is out of Love for His Father and for us that Jesus continues to reveal Himself and make Himself present to us again each day – through prayer, through the liturgy, and so on.

But, here is the point we must take away: we are also called to share in this Love – to imitate it and reciprocate it as best as we can.

For Jesus tells His Apostles and us: “Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9)

But, then only three verses later, He says: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

So, Jesus is inviting us – asking us – challenging us to Love one other as The Father Loves Him, and as He Loves The Father.

This is an impossible challenge for us while we are in this life, but we must ask for God’s Grace to attempt, in every human way that we can, to share in this Mysterious, Divine Love by loving God and neighbor:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. –Luke 10:27

Musing on God the Father

Author’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series of musings on Each Person of the Holy Trinity. This musing is on God The Father. Read the musings on The Son and The Holy Spirit.

Musing on God The Father

Much can be said and written on Each Person of the Trinity, but ultimately it is a Mystery. All that we know of the Holy Trinity is what has been revealed to us by God, and what we can deduct from those revelations.

But, let us begin with God The Father.

Again, God is Infinite, and thus, if we completely understood Him (which we don’t), could be infinitely described, written about, etc. So, how and where can we even begin to muse, to ponder, to wonder about God The Father?

How about with His Name? The Father.

Jesus reveals His Relationship with His Father: “The Father and I are one,” and other similar passages found in the Scriptures. And, we as Christians accept that God The Father is Jesus’ (the Second Person of the Holy Trinity) Father, and ours also – just as we address Him in the “Our Father” prayer.

We attribute the title “Creator” to Him (as we do similarly with Jesus’ “Redeemer/Savior” and the Holy Spirit’s “Sanctifier”). We understand that He possesses, and is the source of, all the quintessential attributes of a father: loving, protective, caring, authoritative, and so on.

However – without forgetting the magnificence and importance of these above attributes – let us ponder on another attribute of God The Father: knowledge.

“God is a spirit, and the first act of a Spirit is to know and understand. God, knowing Himself from all eternity, brings forth the knowledge of Himself, His own image. This was not a mere thought, as our knowledge of ourselves would be, but a Living Person, of the same substance and one with the Father. This is God the Son. Thus the Father “begets” the Son, the Divine Word, the Wisdom of the Father.” — A Manual of Religion

Thus, we understand – through revelation and deduction – that God The Father’s Eternal Knowledge of Himself begets His Son, the Second Person of the Trinity.

Yet, why do we still call Him Father? Why do we not call Him “God The Knower,” or “God The Almighty” or some other such title?

Why is He The Father?

Because (I would contend) a principle function of a parent is to impart knowledge to his/her child. (This is not so much the case with Jesus, God The Son, as being Fully God, He is Omniscient.)

Think about what an earthly father does, ideally. (Mothers do these things too.)

Among many things, he teaches his children – how to walk, how to throw a ball, how to drive, how to stay away from dangerous things like hot stoves, strangers, and drugs.

But, even more importantly, he teaches his children about themselves.

For instance, my dad has shared stories about things I did as a baby or a toddler that I wouldn’t remember – how I was a fussy baby, but I was calmed by the sound of running water; how I would cry and plead to get a new pet each time we went to the pet store; how I had no scruples about sharing my very frank comments with my family members.

My father helps me know myself.

He is always ready to give me words of criticism or encouragement as the situation provides – “You’re being really negative today” or “You’re really smart, so you should try the advanced class.”

He helps me to see what I cannot see or do not wish to.

And because of that constant flow of (self) knowledge, I look to him for advice, for counsel, for guidance.

We do the same with Our Heavenly Father. For who knows us better than The One Who Created Us and Loves Us Best?

However, like our earthly parents, we can also rebel from Our Heavenly Father – “Oh, you don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m capable of. You don’t know what’s best for me.” But, while earthly parents can sometimes be wrong (but not very often, hopefully), Our Heavenly Father never is.

Another thing that our fathers (again, mothers too) also do is connect us to the past. They tell us stories about our grandparents, great-grandparents; how our family came from this place and settled in that place; and so on.

Happily, more often than not, we devour this (self) knowledge, because our culture has encouraged us to believe that our past will influence our future, for better or worse. Most times, we desire this knowledge, because we want to know where we (inasmuch as our family) came from.

We want to know who we are, and our parents help us in that task.

By learning about who we have been and who are families are, we want to figure out what we are ‘destined’ for – what the outcome of our lives will be.

But, we are created by God The Father out of Love. We are created to love and be loved by Him and our brothers and sisters. We have no need to search for our ‘destiny’ anywhere else, but with Him:

God is both our origin and, we pray, our outcome.

Yet, to be with Him, we must first know Him; then, love Him; and serve Him.

So, like an earthly parent, God The Father tries to impart all this (self) knowledge onto us, but it is up to us to decide what to do with it. Like our parents, He assists, protects, and guides us on our path, but we make our own choices. He just wants us to make the right ones, so that we can be with Him one day in Heaven.

Musing on Matt 5:27-30

You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. –Matthew 5:27-30

Musing on Personal Temptations from Mt 5:27-30

I know a man who drives a sports car. He loves it. He likes to drive it around the corners, and take the highways to work because he has more horsepower than other drivers. He feels invincible in his little roadster.

But, he also has a problem with the nerves in his arms. He had it before he got the car, but – although he likes to think that driving his car makes him happy – it actually makes the pain in his arms worse. Trying to handle his little roadster does him more harm than good at the end of the day, even though he will not admit it.

So is temptation and sin for many people. We like to think that we are invincible, that we can handle temptation – we like to think we have strong enough wills to master our desires and stop before crossing the threshold between temptation and sin.

But, truly, it does us more harm than good – like the man and his sports car.

For many of us, there is a particular sin (or multiple) that – for physical, familial, psychological, social, or political reasons – we, sadly, struggle with more so than others.

Jesus gives the example of a man who looks at a woman lustfully, because men – by their physical and physiological design – are attracted to a woman’s appearance. While God created us good, and those desires to be natural, it is when we dwell on them and with them that we lead ourselves into sin.

I would give the example of someone who grew up in a family (and society) where alcohol was not consumed temperately, but was abused, and its abuse had negative consequences. Alcohol is in and of itself a good thing. The Apostles drank wine at the Last Supper; Jesus turned water into wine for his first miracle. But, like a hammer or a car, it is a tool – it can be used wisely, but it can also be abused.

Just as, for most people, driving a sports car isn’t a painful task, it is for the man mentioned above. Similarly, some people are not (greatly) tempted by a certain thing; while, for others, it is a very serious, personal temptation.

Continuing the example, for someone who struggles with a history of alcohol abuse, being around alcohol or people drinking – even moderately – is a temptation that could lead him into sin. While his friends might goad him, or perhaps encourage him to overcome his temptations and drink, it would be wiser if he didn’t.

If your right hand makes you stumble [sin], cut it off and throw it from you. Jesus would say that, no, you shouldn’t even surround yourself with things that could lead you into sin.

Oftentimes we try to convince ourselves, “No, I’m strong enough. I can resist.” If we do, it is only through God’s Grace. And, while we might resist it the first time, are we willing to risk it a second, third, or fourth time?

And, while we’re in the midst of trying to shake off our own personal temptations, we might forget that our friends could struggle with them also. Maybe we mean well when we encourage our friends to overcome their temptations and join us in something they’re reluctant to do, because they’ve struggled with it before (or believe they could). And, if even if we have strong wills and can resist, what if our friends aren’t as strong as we believe we are?

However, a personal relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not something I would want jeopardized because I surrounded myself, or my friends, with our greatest personal temptations.

Yes, we can overcome our own personal demons, temptations, etc. But, only through Christ’s Grace and Strength. Will God provide if we ask Him? Yes. But, if we are being greatly tempted, we might not consider asking at all.

So, perhaps it is better to do as our Savior advises us: If your right hand makes you stumble [sin], cut it off and throw it from you.

If there is a thing, an event, a person (or people) that is causing us to sin, we should avoid that thing/event/person as much as possible. And, if we are forced into contact with it, we should ask for God’s Strength, Grace, and Mercy; and then get away from it as soon as we can.

Let us pray that we surround ourselves with good people, places, and things, so that we can avoid those personal temptations as much as we can. Preserving and strengthening our relationship with God is the greatest good; but sadly, we might be tempted to break that amazing bond for very stupid reasons – if we did, we would be trading our Heavenly Inheritance for fool’s gold.

Yet, praised be God for His Boundless Love and Mercy!

Musing on Matt 5:14-16

A Musing on “The Light of the World”

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5: 14-16

When I walk into a dark church, the first thing that catches my eye isn’t the Tabernacle, it’s the sanctuary candle. Most times it is the only thing that I can see, because the church is so dark.

The sanctuary candle’s presence reminds me that Christ is present – and that is all it needs to do. It does not serve any other function. It doesn’t need to smell nice, or look pretty. It’s not a decoration. It’s not practical. It is there, as a herald of Christ’s Presence in a church.

The sanctuary candle’s only purpose is to remain beside the Tabernacle, and remind us of God’s presence. And that is all.

My pastor told me to remember this idea of the sanctuary candle when I pray – that it does nothing except be with God. He said, that is what we are called to do in prayer, simply to be with God. (Or at least, in meditative prayer.)

As I meditated on this image of being like the sanctuary candle, and simply being with God, I noticed the sanctuary candle in the church and remembered the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world.”

Yes, we are. We are the light of the world – the ones who reveal Christ to others, by our ministry in the world – our serving others, teaching about the Faith, and so on. Yes, we are the Light of the World in that.

But, we are also the Light of the World in our prayer lives. Our purpose is to know, love, and serve God – but how can we accomplish that if we do not pray? If we do not talk to Him?

So, we are the Light of the World – that sanctuary candle that burns in the darkness of a church, that reminds all that Christ is present among us. We gain our strength, our confidence, our spiritual nourishment from remaining with God, as the candle does.

If we remain with God, He will enable our lights to be visible to others. Thus, prayer is all the more important in our lives of ministry. We must serve and teach others, as we have the responsibility to do. But, first we must pray – we must know the One Whom We Serve, in Whose Name we serve others.

So, as you and I go about our busy lives of work, ministry, play, rest, etc., we must be more than merely light in the world:

We must be the light that shines forth in the darkness of the world, because we bespeak the Presence of Christ within our minds and hearts – within our lives. Our very existence, like that of the sanctuary candle, should be to remind all that Christ is present within our world because He is in us and we are with Him.

I pray that, through our closeness with God, we continue to shine forth in the darkness, to give light before all men, so that they too may glorify God with us in prayer.