Begging God’s and your forgiveness and mine

44 How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? [1]

God brought me to an abrupt halt this morning.  God thought I really needed to be reminded that all inspiration of Truth and Goodness come from him and that to Him goes the glory…that these little thoughts of mine are not really mine at all, but His…that without Him I can, as it is rightly said, do nothing good…that I needed humbling lest my addictive hubris well up into overweening pride and drag me down into even worse sinfulness. Thank You, God, for trimming my sails, shortening my leash, using your crook and your staff to get me back in line.

Have mercy on me, Jesus, and forgive me my faults. I beg the forgiveness of my readers. It is a reminder to follow God, follow Jesus, follow the Spirit, do Not follow me…I may lead you astray as I wander off the Way in search of esoteric erudition instead of humble adoration and praise of He from whom, about whom, by whom Scripture is written. Simply standing in awe or kneeling in adoration before His revelation of Himself, His Word, His love, His overwhelming Mercy is much more efficacious, much more beneficial for your soul, much more redemptive, than wasting time pursuing my scribblings.

For reflections on John’s repetition of today’s verse in Ch. 12:43, let me instead refer you to the most excellent and comprehensive sermon by Bl. John Henry Newman, Sermon 4. The Praise of Men, They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John xii. 43.[2] It is so much better than I could ever do.

You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

 

I also beg myself forgiveness. I had put me on a pedestal, envisioned me, preened over me when I produced and gleaned praise to bolster my fragile ego, set ridiculous standards for me to reach and then chastised myself, berated myself, condoled myself when I fell below them…in other words, played god in making myself my god.

This is not the real me. It has little to do with me. This is not God’s image, the one He gave me, the one He wants me to become, in which I am made. It is a completely fabricated image of tinsel, papers and glue which has no semblance of relationship to the person I am who God loves, for whom God gave You, Jesus, His only begotten Son, so that, in Your great mercy, I might not eternally die because of my sins but that I might die to them and live in You.

Help me, Lord, to let go of myself as idol, my fabricated me, myself as worshipped and fawned over me and cling to You, and to the real me that You gave me at my birth, completely restored at my Baptism, returned to me pressed and clean at my First Confession, fed with Your very self at my First Communion, presented with the power of Your Spirit at Confirmation, lead me to know You through the Jesuits, showed me Your love in Marriage, awakened me to my addiction to myself in the Twelve Steps, identified Your special gifts to me in the Called and Gifted Workshop and Spiritual Gifts Inventory…and continue to put up with me, to love me, to show me Your Way each day in spite of my faults and failings. For all this, I am in awe, I revere You, I love You, I thank You, I worship You, I praise You, I beg Your Mercy and help. Amen. Alleluia!!!

I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. [Lk 15:7]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] http://www.newmanreader.org/works/parochial/volume7/ sermon4.html.

Jn 5:43 I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.[1]

“Name” is a volatile, a powerful, an awesome word in Scriptures when dealing with God. God puts great store by it, first revealing it to Moses, the Tetragrammaton, יהוה, YHWH, “I AM WHO AM.”[Exodus 3:14], and then making it the focus of the Second Commandment, You shall not invoke the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain. [Ex 20:7]

His Son inherited the family name, the family trait of knowing the importance in a name: you shall name Him Jesus. [Lk 1:31; Mt 1:21] from the Hebrew name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu’a) meaning “YAHWEH is salvation.”

Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name  that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Phil 2:5-11]

We claim to know You, Jesus…”Oh, You’re the carpenter’s son. Why, I know Mary, Your Mother and the whole family. But that’s as far as we go….none of this coming in the name of the God. We know God. God’s up there, You’re down here. How can You, a contractor, assume to take on airs and become a preacher-man? Where did You get all Your high sounding learning. Where do You come off, taking on these Pharisees? We may not agree with them, but we certainly respect them for what they stand for, the Law, Israel, the Torah!”

Jesus, You are right. I do not accept You on Your own terms. I do not want to believe You are whom You say…because if I did, that would mean a whole new ball game, a whole new take on God, a whole new perspective on life. I like my present “ball game,” the knock-about world in which I live, I am use to it…yeah, I have my foibles, but they’re my foibles and I’ve learned to live with them. And I like to keep God in His place, up on the mantle, hanging on the wall, to be brought out on Sundays and Holidays, enough already, I have to get on with my life. I have things to do, to achieve, to succeed. I can’t be bothered with an interfering God up there, let alone You right here in my face. Accept You, you kiddin’ me?

Anyway, I prefer someone who doesn’t hide behind somebody else’s skirts, who doesn’t claim that everything He does, He does because He hears God speaking to Him, He obeys God instead of thinking on His own. Yeah, if somebody comes in, says “I’m Joe Schmoo,” and tells it like it is…yeah, him I accept. Now that’s a real self-made man!

Jesus, how often am I sucked in by this type of thinking, this “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us”[Jn14:8] thinking, this myopic, insular, not seeing what’s in front of me thinking. You have laid out for us the witness of John, the witness of Your miracles, the witness of Scripture foretelling Your coming, Your life, even Your passion, Your death, Your coming in glory. I accept the rest of Scripture as true; can I not accept these passages, this saga of salvation, this plan of providence as true?

I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. [Mt 11:25] The proof is not in the message, which is there for all, believers and unbelievers to see.

“Rather, this God would invite humans to become living evidence (not conclusive proof) of a good God. This invitation could only be heard by those who are disposed to listen for that interior call. The challenge is that responding to God’s call requires a change of heart, such that people no longer live for themselves but for others. ‘Such non-coercive empowering of what we may call ‘agape transformation’ would aim for cooperative divine-human fellowship,’[2] that models, however imperfectly and briefly, God’s morally perfect character. Put simply: to our modern world, the most compelling evidence for God is a life well-lived by those who claim God.”[3]

The proof is in me, my attitude, my acceptance, my faith, my trust. The medium is, indeed the message. I am the medium, your medium, the man in the middle, between the reality and the revelation, the one affected, enlightened, inspired, encouraged, enlivened. The one who was a disciple, a learner, a follower, and still is, but is also an apostle, a missionary, a sent-one. Sent, not just by being called, by vocation, vocare, but by the impetus of the understanding, the fire within itself, which impels, drives, flings one into the world to be a light, part of Christ’s Light, to the nations, set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.[Mt 5:15-16]

Help me not forget in my haste that acceptance, proclamation of You, Your message, Your Word, that the good deeds I do, the words I say, the life I lead is not to bring me glory and praise, but to glorify your heavenly Father from whom all good things come in heaven and earth. [Ps 1] For the grace to humbly serve, I pray to the Lord, Lord hear my prayer. Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] (Paul Moser, “Evidence for God,” 215)

[3] Moved to Greater Love, Sunday, April 27,Today’s Gracehttp://www.jesuits.org/story-details?TN=PROJECT-20140128033207&MTN=1DDC7F19-BE75-4EBC-807C-0C817EEBBD98

Excursus on Becoming Holy

[Please excuse these digressions from meditations on John.  They reflect the Holy Spirit’s marvelous freedom and generous gifts of insights wherever and whenever He likes.  The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. [Jn 3:8][1] They are flowers picked in the Garden of Paradise as we wander about holding his hand.  They are also a reminder to me that we are not in a hurry to “accomplish,” to “complete the task,” to “finish the job.”  We have all eternity to sit back and enjoy the ride.]

From the beginning, God destined us and calls us to be holy.  This is iterated in the Hebrew Scriptures where God identifies himself as our God and as holy, which He gives as the reason we should keep ourselves holy: For I, the LORD, am your God. You shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy. [Lev 11:44; 20:7,26]

Jesus himself rephrases the command: So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Mt 5:48][2]  Peter echoes his Master in his first letter: As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy.” [1 Pet 1:16]

However, simultaneously Paul bluntly points out that we are not holy.  On the contrary, we are all sinners: there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. [Rom 3:22-23]  Indeed, he admits that this is his own condition: So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. [Rom 7:17-19]

So how to reconcile God’s direct command, iterated by Jesus, that we are to be holy, perfect, totally effectively merciful when we are caught in the web of sin, the maelstrom of evil in our world.  Paul points out two stages to this metamorphosis.

First, God sent his Son to die for us, the ungodly, the unholy: For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly…But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. [Rom 5:6,8]

Second, God himself makes us perfectly holy.  All that is required on our part is to cooperate, to ask Him in, to pray that He works his miracle on us.  For this, Paul prays with perfect faith and confidence: May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Thes 5: 23]

This is another echo of Mary’s unto me [Lk 1:38] of Jesus’ not my will but Yours be done [Lk 22:42 Mt 6:10]. I need to learn to Let Go and Let God.  I need to believe that He truly loves me, has had active mercy on me from the moment of my conception, wishes me to evolve into being truly in His image, after His likeness [Gen 1:26], which He has described as Holy.

With Paul, therefore, I affirm my belief, my faith, my trust in God that He will do what He says: The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it. [1 Thes 5: 24]  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Luke’s version of the same phrases substitutes “merciful” for “perfect;” this substantiates Thomas’ position that “God’s mercy is ‘effective,’ not ‘affective.’ In other words, His mercy is expressed in the positive action that His love takes to remedy the miseries and meet the needs of His creatures, communicating to them a share in His own perfections….Aquinas writes (ST I.21.3): “To feel sad about another’s misery is no attribute of God, but to drive it out is supremely His, and by misery here we mean any sort of defect. Defects are not done away with save by an achievement of goodness, and as we have said, God is the first source of goodness.” Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Nov 11, 2005), “Aquinas Defines Divine Mercy,” DM 101: Week 19, Divine Mercy Library, The Divine Mercy, http://thedivinemercy.org/library/article.php?NID=2213

 

John 5:41 “I do not accept human praise. [1]

While Jesus may receive human praise, He does not accept it.  Little wonder, the word for “praise” here is the same as the word translated as glory in we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. [Jn 1:14]  It is the same word that is used in the Septuagint to describe the Glory of the Lord in the Hebrew Scriptures [e.g. Ex 40:34]  Human praise or glory pales in comparison with these.

But this is not the reason that Jesus does not accept human praise. Human praise is very, very, very fickle. Today’s viral celeb, tomorrow’s unknown:  He will give them bread and fish to eat in the next chapter and what do we human’s do:  Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone. [Jn 6:15] Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. [Jn 6:26].

On Sunday, when the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, [even] the king of Israel.” [Jn 12:12-13]

On Friday, they cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” [Jn 19:15].

The evidence is clear….human praise is not worth hearing….

And yet I wallow in it, relish it, crave it, am addicted to it.  What’s wrong with this picture… does this show a follower of Jesus, one whose life is suppose to give witness to the existence of God, to trust in the Father, to the love of the Son, to the power of the Holy Spirit?  Do I really, really depend such a worn, frayed, gossamer life-line to bolster my sagging, emaciated ego?  Is this the sand upon which I build my house?  Well, then, I deserve to have depression, devastation, darkness when the tide turns and the praise becomes jeers; I am indeed the fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” [Mt 7:26-27]

Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [ἐκ τοῦ σώματος τοῦ θανάτου τούτου]. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Rom 7:24-25] Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

John 5:40 But you do not want to come to me to have life.[1]

Let’s be realistic.  Following Jesus is no walk in the park,…it is accepting the worst that the world has to give, taking it unto myself, and stumbling up the path, the Way, to Calvary, following Jesus.  It is the inevitable dying with, in and for Jesus, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  It is completely letting go, riding the roller-coaster of life without holding on, trying to control it, but leaving our safety, our security, our lives, our very selves totally in the hands of the Father.

So, while Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, as well as the local bystanders, the gawkers, the thrill-seekers who were there for the side-show, the “magic,” the miracles, the free bread, the entertainment, watching the game of one-upmanship by someone who always seemed to get the better of those “righteous” hypocrites, the Pharisees and Sadducees, who always looked down on everyone, he was and is also talking to me, right here, right now…no holds barred.  He sees right into my soul, my reluctant, timid, tepid soul, hanging back, never really fully committing myself, never really letting go of my “lifeline” to the world, which, if I ever took the time to really look at it, is the chain that binds me to my addictions, my obsessions, my cruelty, my evil negativity, my rejection, my solipsism, my self-centeredness, my idolatry of the crumbling, frail, feeble, aging façade I call my “precious,” my inflated ego who gets popped and has to be continually repaired, excused, hidden, exposed, refurbished…and which, when I really take a hard look at myself, I hate, despise, am disgusted by, am revolted by, and would discard, disavow, dismiss, even destroy that who aspect of me if I could.

The interesting, the wondrous, the amazing, the incredible thing about Jesus is….that He sees all of my junk, all my baggage, all my warts and blemishes, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, and He still loves me…He really, actually loves ME!

St. Paul puts it this way: What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom 8:35, 38-39]  He could have just as easily said addictions, obsessions, cruelty, evil, negativity, rejection, solipsism, self-centeredness, idolatry for Jesus was referring to me when he said:“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”[Mk 2:17; Mt 9:13; Lk 5:32; 1 Tim 1:12]

Jesus, I am so sick I don’t even recognize that I am sick.  I have become so use to my addictions, my obsessions, cruelty, evilness, negativity, rejections, solipsism, self-centeredness, self-idolatry that it is my modus operandi, my de rigueur, my self-installed life-coach which, instead of listening to You, Holy Spirit, and to my conscience, I am controlled by Pavlovian responses programmed to react to the world.  I am hooked up to “life-monitoring” machines alright…but they’re the wrong machines, dripping the drugs of my addiction, stimulating the I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want [Rom 7:19] response.

Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin. [Rom 7:24-25]

Fortunately, God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, YOU ALL love me…Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ [Jesus] who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. [Rom 8:33-34]  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Jn 5:39 You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf.[1]

There seem to be two messages here.  One is that Scriptures tell us of the Jesus but they are not Jesus, they are the way we know about Jesus, but atheists and the devil can read and know scripture and do not believe in, do not have faith in Jesus.  Eternal life comes through faith in Jesus, in His redemptive cross, in His resurrection.

The NABRE note on this verse states: this may be an imperative: “Search the scriptures, because you think that you have eternal life through them.”  Here is the same message with a stronger emphasis on urging them, encouraging them to actually use their devotion, their belief in the Scriptures which contain the message of eternal life to find that they do testify to Jesus and in this way, come to believe in Him.

I personally can testify that daily searching the Scriptures does truly testify to You, Jesus, to all You are, to all You said, to all You did, to Your life lived for me, to show me how to live my life, how to follow You, how to take up my cross daily and trudge up Calvary, how to love even my enemies, how to forgive, how to show mercy and compassion, how to manifest anger and frustration so that these do not consume me and lead me to sin, how to witness to the truth even unto death, how to let our Father do unto me whatever He deems best, how to do whatever He tells You, even if that means drinking the cup that You drank, Jesus. Scriptures unroll for me the panorama of God’s Love over time and space, in the lives of individuals and of His people, from the Garden of Eden to the establishment of His Church and the spreading of his word throughout the world.

But in the end, I must rely on Your gift, Your precious gift of faith, of hope, of Your witness of love in my life to bring me closer to You each day.  Only in this way can I get to know You on a personal basis, become Your friend, Your companion, Your ally, Your disciple, Your apostle, Your witness, Your martyr…and thus, from reading testimony, I become testimony.  God invites me to become living evidence (not conclusive proof) of a good God.  Put simply: to our modern world, the most compelling evidence for God is a life well-lived by those who claim God. (Paul Moser, Evidence for God, 215).

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

“The Back of the World” – A Commentary by Scripture

“Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world?  It is that we have only know the back of the world.  We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal.  That is not a tree, but the back of a tree.  That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud.  Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a fact?  If we could only get round in front—–.” [1]

Then Moses said, “Please let me see your glory!” The LORD answered: I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim my name, “LORD,” before you; I who show favor to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will.  But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live. Here, continued the LORD, is a place near me where you shall station yourself on the rock. When my glory passes I will set you in the cleft of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but my face may not be seen.[2] Ex 33:18-23.

The back of the world is the back of God’s Glory, God’s presence among us…

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?… Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? Mt 6:26-30

We fail to see the interaction of the Father with His creations, feeding and clothing even the least of them

Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Mt 10:29-31

Indeed, he has intimate knowledge of each, watches over each and has a plan and an hour for each.

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.  Mt 6:31-34

It all comes back to “unto,” “Be it done unto me according to Your will.” Lk 1:38  To fulfill all righteousness is to submit to the plan of God for the salvation of the human race.[3]

Inspiration comes more truthfully and naturally when it comes “unto” me rather than me being in restless and relentless pursuit of it, trying to gain it artificially, as it were….there is a poverty of my spirit and a recognition of the gifts of The Spirit that interplay and are reciprocal, one preparing to receive and the other being ready to give.  Even this gift is given for giving, not for owning or hording or retaining.  We must hold all things, material and spiritual gifts from God, loosely, for I am but a steward for a brief time and must watch over, care for and give forth as the Owner directs me.

[1] G. K. Chesterton, “The Man Who Was Thursday (New York, Worldview/Perigee Books, 1908/1935), 176.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[3] Note, Mt 3:14-15