Tag Archives: Faith

Distractions: Blessings in Peculiar Packages #2

Another peculiar package of God’s blessings are distractions in my “prayer life.”[1] How can I conceive of such a thing? Distractions, after all, take you away from prayer! Nonetheless, I am convinced that, in some way, distractions are a blessing. Like the previous package of pride, distractions are something with which I am plagued and at the same time, through God’s grace, by which I find another path to faith.

I am convinced that, without God’s help, I cannot get rid of distractions in prayer. I used all the techniques in the world: from anxiously waiting for them to pop up so that I can banish them from my thoughts [a useless exercise in futility; they only become the focus of my attention] to sitting on the riverside, letting them float off into the oblivion. I have prayed until I am blue in the face for God to set me free of them…but normally, in everyday ordinary prayer, be it my own or during the Eucharist, the recitation of the Hours or the rosary, etc., distractions arise from every point of the compass, flights of fancy, starting piously innocent but ending up far afield.

On special occasions God grants me the blessings of focus and concentration.[2] But the majority of the time that I am plagued by distractions about everything under, and even beyond, the sun.

Are these simply the floating garbage of life washing up on the beaches of my prayer? To regard them as such would be to somehow fall into the trap of separating my body, mind and emotions from my soul, my spiritual life from my “normal, everyday” life, the sacred from the secular. Since this is the opposite of what I know to be true, the oneness and unity beneath the structure of the analytical categories into which I box reality, how should I re-evaluate these distractions in light of God’s providence? How do I refocus my vision to bring into alignment God’s knowledge of these distractions with their seemingly ungodly purpose of taking me away from prayer, from talking with Him, from praising and reverencing Him, that is my purpose in life? His constant answer: “I am here, learn from it. My grace is sufficient for you.[3][2Cor 12:9]” I must understand why this answer to my pleas are part and parcel of His unconditional love and desire for my greatest happiness, when in fact, these torture me constantly.

This is not an “either/or,” but, like many of God’s mysteries a “both/and.” I also find there are many intertwining answers: (a) growth in faith and humility, (b) seeing God in all things, even the most mundane and seemingly unimportant things in life, and (c) acceptance of my vocation to live the life of the ordinary Sunday-go-to-Church Catholic with all its joys and sorrows, ups and downs, desolations and consolations, nothing out of the ordinary, and with great need to find God right there in the midst of all that clutter of life, chaos of family and job.

I am what is to be a sheep of which Pope Francis wants the clergy is to smell. I am one of the millions and billions who live lives trying to bridge the gap between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, between doctrine and dogma and the lived reality in God’s world. I am only one very small part of this Church in the Modern World, this Body of the Cosmic Christ. I am a beneficiary with all of the blessed mercy and forgiveness necessary to transform the world into God’s Kingdom. And if I do my part of that right here in W. Pawlet, Vermont, and you do your part in San Francisco, Tokyo, San Paulo, Seoul, Beijing, Mumbai, then, not by our individual or even combined efforts, but by the power and providence of the Father working through the Holy Spirit to bring the world to His Son, this ultimate transformation will happen.

Distractions are a microcosms, the evidences of this life and, if I, by realizing that they too are God’s reflection, can use them to come to Him,[4] then I will have brought one more microscopic portion of the Kingdom into focus. I don’t always achieve this; in fact, it is a rarity that I even am conscious of this. But, like Merton, “I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” [5] And, in that, I am comforted.

Finally, one of the blessings that You, God, have brought about with distractions is my confrontation with “You.” By constantly realizing that I am off the track again, that I have wandered, I then find you searching for me even there. You are indeed the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to find this one lone straggler and bring me home on Your shoulders. You exude the smell You wish Your sheep to have, the odor of humility and faith, “of sanctity” as it use to be known. By humbling Yourself in constant service to us, Your brothers and sisters, Your creatures no less, You provide an example for us to follow…You walk the walk, not just talk the talk. By having faith in me as a person, that I am someone for whom it is worth Your time and energy to go out and search, You extend to me the hand of fellowship, of love, of caring; You hope that I will return. And by setting me on Your shoulders with great joy, You show me by your emotions that the joy of the Gospel is a lived joy, a joy of deep friendship, of love, of the bonding of Shepherd and sheep, of God and man. Your actions make clear that there is really and truly more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. [Lk 15:5,7]

So I keep fighting the distractions, shooing them away, to come to You. But at least I know that You are with me anyway and that I am beloved by You, even when distracted. Would that I were not distracted in prayer with You, in conversation with You, in communion with You! But I am and probably will continue to be. I thank You for coming to find me and for our bonding each time after Your rescuing me once again. That is truly such a blessing. Amen. Alleluia!!!


[1] “Prayer life” is somewhat of a misnomer. It is normally used to designate that time or portion of one’s life which is set aside specifically for talking with God. While Jesus Himself taught us by example that there are times each day you need to go up to your mountain alone and pray, particularly before making important decisions, He also modeled praising God and speaking about God and calling on Him throughout his normal day. Finding God in all things, in the world around me, is not a separate special investigation I undertake only when I put my mind to it. It is a constant habit that I enjoy, finding, seeing, talking to God wherever I am, whatever I am doing, with whomever I am.   Thus, prayer life is all life seen from the perspective of living in God’s presence and carrying on conversations with Him as you do with family and friends throughout your busy day.

[2] One of the reasons I pray at my computer, typing what comes up between God and myself, is that I am not so distracted, I am forced to concentrate, I can listen to the Spirit for the next inspiration, for His reading on the topic, for what is true and what is false, what is on target and what is not….and raise my mind and my heart to Him in thanksgiving and praise as I relish and record to the best of ability His wondrous view of reality, a feeble attempt at recording a grand masterpiece.

[3] 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. Hereafter, NABRE.

[4] Not “back” to Him; He is, somehow in some manner which may be totally unrecognizable to me, present in all things, people, and places; so my realization is just an awareness of Whom is already there.

[5] Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton > Quotes > Quotable Quote, Good Reads, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/80913-my-lord-god-i-have-no-idea-where-i-am

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O Happy Fault[1]: Blessings in Peculiar Packages #1

God’s blessings sometimes come in very peculiar packages. In my works of charity, it is pride. How can I conceive of such a thing? Pride is a sin! Nonetheless I repeat that God uses this blight on my character as an avenue down which grace can flow.

By allowing me to preen and puff over the trifles I do, Jesus has handed me a branding iron and has me stamp “No Reward” all over each of my actions. Jesus compares me to the hypocrites He berates three times in succession in Matthew 6: first for blowing trumpets to win the praise of others [2][Mt 6:2a] when giving alms; second for showing off while praying so that others may see them [Mt 6:5a]; and finally for looking gloomy and disheveled so that they may appear to others to be fasting.[Mt 6:16a] In all three instances, Jesus denunciation and condemnation of such public show is the same: Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. [Mt 6:2b,5b,16b]

I may attempt to fool myself into thinking that I do not show off externally, thus gloating over my superiority over such hypocrites…an utter charade. I may pretend to “swallow my pride” and play at false humility, pride’s foulest ludicrous and pitiable mockery. I may simply pat myself on my proverbial back and present myself with pseudo-kudos for being “such a good boy” in helping others, when, in truth, I have used them by my actions, my charity sanctimonious lies. I may even play at such right here and now with a display of verbal dexterity.

And all for naught….For Jesus turns to me each time I pretend and says in no uncertain terms: Amen, I say to you,…[you] have received…[your] reward. And the insane aspect of it all is that I know in my heart of hearts that He judges me with this O, so cruel yet truth-filled condemnation every time…and yet I keep on doing it again and again and again, in never ceasing stupidity. I am just like my namesake, St. Paul: What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hateThe willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. [Rom 7:15,18] I am truly insane, according to Albert Einstein, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.[3]Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? [Rom 7:24]

And if you think this is an addiction, it is. Any sin that becomes a habit is probably addictive. Let’s face it: it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, then, by Jove, it’s a duck! Fortunately, thanks to the grace God gave Bill W. and others, we have a program that fights addiction. Since my life is unmanageable and I have concluded that I am insane, I must join all the other addicts, in this case, sinners of the world, and come “to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” and then make “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”[4]

In case I think that if I get rid of pride, I have it made…think again. In this, Bill W echoes Jesus’ “No way!” Jesus says: All who depend on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law.the law does not depend on faith; rather, “the one who does these things will live by them.” [Gal 3:10,12] Whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it. [James 2:10] Therefore, any trip up, any slight deviation, any “venial” sinful act and I am cursed. If I try to follow the law, I will fall. And the law has no safety net…one fall, I am guilty, I am cursed. That no one is justified before God by the law is clear, for “the one who is righteous by faith will live.” [Gal 3:11]

Without Divine intervention, we are caught in a Catch 22, a vortex that inevitably leads to condemnation, death, and eternal punishment. For only God [Mark 2:7] and those to whom God has given the power [Jn 20:22-23] can forgive sin. But, thanks be to God, the Father, who for our sake…made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. [2 Cor 5:21] Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,”…so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.[Gal 3:13,14b]

I can be thankful for the fact that, though I am judged guilty of sin, God says to me, “I so loved the world that...[I] gave…[my] only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For…[I] did not send…[my] Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [Jn 3:16-17] Believe in me, believe in my Son, believe that Jesus took your guilt for those sins of yours, your condemnation of Him, your blows as you scourged him, your taunting as you crowned Him with thorns, your betrayal as you denied him, your hatred as you screamed “Crucify Him, crucify Him”…He endured all these things for Your sake, took them with Him to the Cross and there forgave you for you did not know what you were doing. [Lk 23:34] For every time you sin, you in effect reenact the entire passion, re-betraying, re-arresting, re-judging, re-interrogating, re-scourging, re-crowning, re-condemning my Son. And each time, each and every time, He forgives you and asks Me to forgive you. And, since He forgives you, neither do I condemn you. And I say to you: Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more. [Jn 8:11] You are no longer forever guilty of your sin; everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin;..[but] if a son frees you, then you will truly be free. [Jn 8:34,36] My Son freed you and My mercy triumphs over judgment.” [James 2:13b]

Thank You, Father, for turning all things, including pride, to work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. [Rom 8:28] Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] From the Exultet, the Proclamation that is sung during the Easter Vigil Liturgy. http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/p-30-exultet.html

[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. Hereafter, NABRE.

[3] Albert Einstein Quotes, Brainy quote, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/ a/alberteins133991.html#yQWHIbTCt6MDpevx.99

[4] Steps One, Two and Three, The Twelve Steps Of Alcoholics Anonymous, Service Material from the General Service Office, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-121_en.pdf

Cana Update[1]

I am always brought up short by the strange encounter between Jesus and his mother at Cana. Jesus has already begun His public ministry, He’s been baptized, been to the desert, and is traveling around the country preaching with an entourage of His first disciples. He and his followers arrive at the wedding of friends and as the party is getting going, one of those “Opps” of life happens to the groom, the guests have imbibed all his wine. Mary gets wind of the embarrassment via the guest grape vine and informs Jesus.

Perhaps that all she intended to do, inform Him. Perhaps she hadn’t thought beyond that except that something needed to be done to help her friends. If this is the case, then Jesus enigmatic reply could be interpreted as an invitation to greater belief, to faith: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come. [2] [Jn 2:4] In other words, “Does your concern about the embarrassing situation of our friends affect the Kingdom which I have come to establish? Does it pertain to the Father’s will? There is a time and a place Providence has assigned for all things. The hour of my revelation of myself as the Messiah is not now.”

The response He invites from Mary is one of complete faith in God and trust in His guidance of Her. Perhaps this is a Mother-Son moment when He is sincerely asking for Her guidance. Her lesson to Him is that this concern does actually affect Him, as Elizabeth’s need affected her and as the concerns of all affect each of us. She may realize, though perhaps only peripherally, that all concerns need to be His concerns, all needs His needs, not just on a human level, but on His Savior level, His Kingship level, His Divine level. Perhaps this is the “Ah-Ha” moment when she knows He must realize the full import of His being connected with every other human being by virtue of His very Incarnation. Perhaps this is what He later would formulate in His parable on the Last Judgment: whatever you…[do] for one of these least brothers of mine, you…[do] for me. [Mt 25:40] Perhaps He needed to grok the depth and the encompassing reality of the 2nd Great Commandment: Do to others as you would have them do to you, [Lk 6:31] and that this included Him on the Divine level as well as the human level.

Mary’s answer: “Yes, this does affect You both as my Son, a fellow human being, one who is truly empathetic to all the vagaries and vicissitudes of live, the manifestations of the effect of sin in the world, of which lack and need, deprivation, running out of things, is always a sign. Your Father so loved this crazy, mixed up world with all its foibles that He gave us You so that we might believe in You and not perish but have eternal life, [Jn 3:16] Of Him, You will tell us do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’… 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. [Mt 6:31-33] You and the Father are one. [Jn 10:30] Show us the Father’s love here and now. You will talk the talk later, now walk the walk.”

How does she join Him in bringing about His first miracle? This is same way every believer who has ever “preformed” a miracle joins Him. No human actually “performs” a miracle. God does the performing; humans only express their explicit faith and trust in God to do so and thus are instruments through which God chooses to work. Every miracle not performed directly by Jesus is performed through the faith and instrumentality of a person requesting Jesus intercession and believing absolutely that He will intercede. The human person gives him/herself up to God and invites God to work through him/her; she/he transforms her/his self into God’s instrument.

Mary is not trying to override His or the Father’s timing of His hour, but, as with the Finding so many years before, she has explicit faith that, given her explanation, Jesus will do “the right thing.” She doesn’t press Him. She doesn’t define what He is to do, but she has an explicit faith that He will know what to do. Thus, when she says to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you,”[Jn 2:5] she lets go and lets God. Her statement is another way of saying what she says with her whole life, in her dormition, her assumption and even as she is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth: May it be done to me according to your word. [Lk 1:38]

Obedience, then, comes back to its root meaning, “to listen to.” It’s not so much doing as being, as listening, as following, as joining in the yolk next to Jesus. To hear and let it be done to me, to have faith and trust in God, in whatever His eternal Now brings for my next step. It is to pick up one’s cross daily and to follow the Word, strap on His burden, take on His yolk and walk the world’s roads to the Calvaries of today with Him. It is to listen and hear the Spirit’s whispers of guidance and inspiration, to follow the promptings of one’s true heart, to the love of God and our fellow man to which we are called by our very nature as familial members, not just of the human family but of the very familial Body of Christ. We would not be here if it were not for God’s creation and we would not be human without accepting our place in the family of humankind and thus our relationship to all others.

Jesus obeys, Mary obeys, we obey, I obey. Listen, listen, listen and allow it to be done onto me. This is our calling, this is our “vocation,” this is our purpose in life. Amen. Alleluia!!!


[1] As with all my writings, I explain things in the way they make sense to me. In doing so, I often blindly wander into minefields of explanation into which scholars, saints and angels wisely do not venture. Therefore, take all I write not just with a grain of salt but with a whole mine of it. Please, please, please consider that I am just me, one very finite, very myopic, often very confused and mistaken man. I am often wrong. However, God guarantees the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Thus, if anything that I write contradicts or in any way conflicts with what the One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church has stated or defined, I profoundly apologize to my readers for misleading them, to the Church for contradicting our infallible Faith, Scripture and Tradition, and I beg God to have mercy on me, forgive me and write straight the crooked lines your wayward servant has written. I beg the forgiveness of all and ask for your prayers that I might have the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to see aright once again.

[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. Hereafter, NABRE.

Reciprocal Faithfulness

I don’t know about you, but the last line of this snippet from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy always bothered me: This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere, we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. [2Tim 2:11-13] [1]

The first part reads like Contract 101; we do this, God does that. We have two positives with Him: if we die, we live and, if we persevere, we reign. These are followed by a negative, but still within the realm of reciprocal logic: if we deny Him, He denies us…all this Jesus had said Himself. [See Mt 24:9,13; 10:33] So far, so good. I mean, I have to die, persevere to the end and not deny Him but the reward is life eternal and reigning with Him in heaven. Tit for tat, right….?

But then we come to the final phrase in which God throws us a curve ball. Contractually, poetically and linguistically, it does not follow the nice pattern set by the others: If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. [2Tim 2:13] God just doesn’t want to fit into our nice mold!   He is what He is and that’s that…and we can like it or lump it, it ain’t gonna change.

So what are we dealing with here? What is this faithfulness and why is it so intrinsic, so essential, to God that He cannot deny it, cannot separate His very nature from it. I mean, when we are dealing with God, we are dealing with He who is all-powerful, all-knowing, who created everything from absolutely nothing, simply by thinking and willing. I mean, He’s God, after all; “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” [Gen 18:14] We assume the phrase: “I can’t” doesn’t exist in God’s vocabulary.

Yet, in spite of fact that most mysteries with which God confronts us are resolved by being both/and, by folding one opposite into the other, by making a circle of the spectrum, e.g. Divine and human, died and lives, bread and body, there are the opposites to God’s very essence as God which, though they can be stated, like a round square, cannot be true. For example, God cannot have an end, either dimensionally or temporally. Other examples, fortunately for us, God cannot be un-loving, unjust or un-merciful; it is against his nature as God. He cannot be what He is not.

So, according to St. Paul, we have to throw faithfulness into that impossible list. According to him, God would have to deny, go against His very nature to be unfaithful. His very Being demands that He is ever faithful, that He is His Word. He not only stands by the Truth, He is Truth itself. He is unchangeable, immutable. Truth is truth, what is, what was, what will be, always and forever; you neither change nor have an end. [Ps 102:27] Thus, like it or not, it is He who keeps faith forever. [Ps 146:6]

Paul expands on this in Romans: What if some were unfaithful? Will their infidelity nullify the fidelity of God? Of course not! God must be true, though every human being is a liar, as it is written: “That you may be justified in your words, and conquer when you are judged.”[2] [Rom 3:3-4] Again, he ties it into Truth, truth in His judgment of you and me. We will judge Him, evaluate whether or not He is a God of His Word, and, in the end, we will have to concede that He always abides by the Truth, is the Truth, judges by the Truth. There is no getting around it.

So, to what is God faithful? He is faithful, He abides by, adheres to everything He ever said to me. We witness this from the beginning, from his first order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die. [Gen 2:16-17]

God does not threaten; He promises. And when He promises, He states facts. When He utters this curse: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel, [Gen 3:15] this will happen.

When Jesus’ promises: Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life, [Jn 5:24] if we listen to Him and believe in Him, we definitely, positively, will have eternal life, guaranteed. The same with all Jesus’ other statements: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. [Jn 6:54]

It is this hope of eternal life that God, who does not lie, promised before time began. [Titus 1:2] It is this to which The LORD is righteous [just/lawful] in all his ways, and faithful [truthful] in all his works. [Ps 145:17]

I mean, let’s face it: Is God one to speak and not act, to decree and not bring it to pass? [Num 23:19] If He is, then we’re in BIG trouble. But, the testimony of witnesses throughout the whole of Salvation History adamantly shout: “NO WAY!” Even creation itself, by the fact that He brought it into being, sustains it, nourishes it, encourages it to flourish, even creation declares with every wisp of cloud and bellow of bull, “NO WAY!”

God, in Jesus, is not only a “man of His Word,” but the Father is a God of His Word. So You, God, not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. Your Word surrounds us with reality. You both tell us in what we are to believe, but also You are Him in whom we are to believe. The author of Hebrews stated: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen[3]. [Heb 11:1] You are the substance, the Being, the Reality we hope for. You provide creation as Your own proof, though unseen. You say to us: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound, [1Kgs 19:11-12] mysterious, ungraspable, contradictory, a both/and: a silent sound, before whom we, like Elijah must hide our faces in our cloaks and go out and stand at the entrance of the cave of the world before You, LORD. [See 1Kgs 19:13]

In turn, You call me to walk the walk, to walk by faith, not by sight.[2Cor 5:7] But you know me! you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar….with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all.[Ps 139:2-4] That’s what makes me afraid. You know my vacillating commitment to You, God! On and off…hot and cold…Yes and no. I turn my will and my life over to You because I know that I am addicted to control and that You are in charge and have a plan for me and care for me and love me and want me to be with You and reach my greatest happiness…but in the next breath, I grab control back and go off and do what I want to do, when I want to do it, joining Sinatra in the chorus, belting out to the top of my lungs: “I’ll do it my way!”

That’s, of course, until I, like the Apostles get caught in the storms of life, so that my boat was being swamped by waves. I can’t believe You’re there, just calmly sleeping while I see the world is going to hell in a hand basket. I scream to the top of my lungs: “Lord, save me! I’m perishing!”

And what happens? You save me, and You rebuke me: Why are you terrified, O you of little faith? [Mt 8:24-26] What gives? Can’t You see I was frightened out of my wits? …But perhaps that is the very point. You do see that I was scared and You know, not just believe but know, that it is not necessary. You empathize with the adrenalin rush, the tax on my heart. You want me to know that the Father is always in charge, always knows what He is doing, always has my best interests at heart, always, always, always loves me with an unconditional love, the same love with which He loves the rest of the chaotic world and He would never, ever let anything happen to me or anybody else on the face of the earth, of which he was not aware, not caring, not concerned, not going to bring to a blessed conclusion.

You even tell us later that we can do it all: I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. [Mt 17:20]

Ok, ok, I hear you, unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm. [Is 7:9] You reassure me that You are faithful and will not let…[me] be tried beyond…[my] strength; but with the trial…[You] will also provide a way out, so that…[I] may be able to bear it. [1Cor 10:13] You assure us that we can hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. [Heb 10:23]

It isn’t easy…we are dealing with evidence of things unseen. [Heb 11:1] The same with hope: in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope….But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.[Rom 8:24-25] However, You know our weakness, our frailty, our finitude. You have given us a reason, proof of why we should believe: since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.[Heb 4:14] You gave us the rock on which the Church is built, and all the storms and violence and evil that Hell itself can throw against it will not budge it. [Mt 16:18] It is on this rock I will build my house, my faith, and I will listen to Your words and act on them and the rains will fall, the floods come, the winds blow and will try to tear my house down But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on the rock.[Mt 7:24-25] For me, the Lord will be my stronghold; my God will be the rock where I take refuge. [Ps 94:22] “Though storms may pound the securities and loves of our lives, we will not be vanquished. We will triumph through a reciprocal faithfulness.[4]

“Lord, we pray for the grace to feel your presence through our thoughts, circumstances, and moments of love that weave in and out of our day. We know that more times than not, the “feeling” is transitory. And that’s okay…Our life meaning is not advanced by a feeling, but it is anchored in the guarantee of your personal care for every aspect of our lives. To this claim we cling..[5]

“We will triumph through you being there for us and we being there for you.”[6]

[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] This echoes Ps 51: For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your eyes so that you are just in your word, and without reproach in your judgment. Behold, I was born in guilt, in sin my mother conceived me. [Ps 51:5-7]

[3] Faith is the realization…evidence: the author is not attempting a precise definition. There is dispute about the meaning of the Greek words hypostasis and elenchos, here translated realization and evidence, respectively. Hypostasis usually means “substance,” “being” (as translated in Heb 1:3), or “reality” (as translated in Heb 3:14); here it connotes something more subjective, and so realization has been chosen rather than “assurance” (RSV). Elenchos, usually “proof,” is used here in an objective sense and so translated evidence rather than the transferred sense of “(inner) conviction” (RSV). [NABRE note on Heb 11:1] (inner) conviction” (RSV).

[4] The Jesuit Prayer Team, Daily Inspiration: Mk 6: 30-34, JesuitPrayer.org July 19, 2015bid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Why One? Commentary on Eph 4: 1-6

Why One? A challenging question. Intuitively, mystics from all religions have come to the realization of our oneness with God, each other and creation. Does this mean we are somehow absorbed in a single amorphous entity and loose our identity? Obviously not. Nor are we God. Very obviously not.

But neither are we isolated, without relationships; we are members of various communities from the human race to our families and friendships. We are one humanity. We are dependent on one another from our conception, birth, and nurturing to our familial and social relationships. We become one body with our spouse [Gen 2:24;Mk 10:8] and form one family unit. Thus, we are faced with that continuously reoccurring phenomenon of both/and; the answer is that I am both me and simultaneously one with others.

As this stemmed from the reading: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to reserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.[1] [Eph 4:1-6] we’ll start there.

In looking at the reading, the rational reasons for oneness are start with the last [whereas the intuitive insight, as Paul states it, starts with the first.].

One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Our oneness begins with God, who is one, who is Creator of all, and is the one and only Father of the one family He created [which, when viewed this way, includes all creation, angels and men, spiritual and material]. Thus, He is certainly over all. And since He is all that is, oneness also stems from not only our being created in the image and likeness of God [Gen 1:26, 27] but everything else being a reflection of the One who is one. But He is also in all, continually creating and sustaining all being; He is existence itself. Finally, it is though all being, facets of His image and continuing creation that He makes Himself known: Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. [Rom 1:20]

One Lord, one faith, one baptism

Here I have to make the leap of faith that the Jews had to do with Jesus, from the One God to Jesus as One with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, the only begotten Son. I have to recognize Him and accept Him as the Messiah. He is Our One Lord, the same for you, for me, for everybody. In believing in Him, we share one Faith; “It follows that all men and women who are saved share, though differently, in the same mystery of salvation in Jesus Christ through his Spirit.”[2] And there is one Baptism, though in the forms of water, of blood, and of desire: “For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.”[3]

As you were also called to the one hope of your call

Israel’s hope rested in Yahweh: My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope. [Ps 62:6], it is realized in Jesus life, death and especially his resurrection: the hope of eternal life that God, who does not lie, promised before time began. [Titus 1:2] As Paul explains elsewhere: But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. [Titus 3:4-7] It is to this salvation that we have been called through the preaching of the Good News: God chose you as the firstfruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in truth. To this end he has [also] called you through our gospel to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. [2Thes 2:13-14]

One body and one Spirit

There is but one Spirit of God, one Holy Spirit. He who hovered over the waters during the creation is the same as He who lead the Israelites out of Egypt with a cloud and fire; who caused prophetic ecstasy in David, who came upon Mary, who filled Elizabeth, who inspired Simeon, who appeared as a Dove, who drove Jesus into the desert to be tempted, who blows where he wills, who appeared as a cloud, whom Jesus promised to send as our Advocate, whom Jesus breathed upon the Apostles, who came as wind and tongues of fire on Pentecost, who fell upon Cornelius and his household, who convicts the world of sin and righteousness and condemnation, who gives life and who has given different gifts to each one of us….why, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ. [Eph 4:12-13] For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. [Rom 12:4-5]

striving to reserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace

This unity, this oneness, was not lightly purchased. It took the Son of God to show us that we are one in Him, that He is our one and only Savior, that He suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God [1Pet 3:18] and that if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. [1Thes 4:14]

We retain this faith, this belief, as one Body, one Church. Contrary to what we witness in our Christian Community, all believing their own interpretation of Christ’s message and claiming that their interpretation is the true faith, they cannot all be right. There is only one church that has all the elements of the faith in it, the one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church, which possesses both the Scripture and Tradition since the beginning, which has one valid priesthood under bishops who trace their line back to Peter and the Apostles, which has seven cherished sacraments, which had the true Eucharist, the true presence in every tabernacle throughout the world and which can unequivocally claim to preach the truth as guaranteed by the unity of the spirit.

This unity was not only not lightly purchased by God, it is also not easily preserved by us, claiming the blood of martyrs, witnesses to validate its claims, insisting on belief in things unseen alluded to in written Scripture and mandating adherence to moral rectitude that the world deems ludicrous, stifling and archaic.

bearing with one another through love

As pointed out above, though the origin of our oneness is the family of God, this familial, brotherly and sisterly bond is constantly being tested, torn, ripped, shredded, violated through sin. By refusing to obey our one Father, we rebel against our very essence, our image and likeness, just as our first parents did. And we alienate ourselves from the rest of the family, our sisters and brothers in God, in Christ, in the human/divine family.

These ruptures, rivalry, jealousy, fury, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. [2Cor 12:20], these self-inflicted wounds, can only be healed through forgiveness. Even within our own community, there are disagreements, strife, contentions, and the bond of peace must constantly be striven for, purchased daily only at the cost of patience, understanding, acceptance and love, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. [1Cor 13:7]

with all humility and gentleness, with patience

In this passage, Paul outlines how Love is manifested in oneness: patience, humility, gentleness. Patience harkens back to bearing with one another, enduring all things. Patience comes from the same Latin root as passion, “to suffer, to endure.” Oneness requires a huge amount of patience on the part of each of us, of passion in both senses of that word, the fire of love enabling one to endure and to suffer the other. For life with the other is not a bed of roses, there will be misunderstandings, conflicts, confusion, rivalries, disagreements, anger, tempers. Love suffers, endures through, beyond and above all of these.

How does one take up that Cross, the other, and suffer in patience. By realizing one’s littleness and the continual unveiling of God’s providence. By humility, being precisely whom God made us to be, no less but no more. And by gentleness, by imitating God’s mercy and care of me, and doing to the other as was done to me by God.

live in a manner worthy of the call you have received

By do this, by love, patience, gentleness, humility, we will indeed live in a manner worthy of the call of God, not just to our baptism into the one faith, the one Church, the one Body of Christ, the one Spirit, but that vocation, that calling to be one with the One Lord, to be a temple of the Father, to be Christ’s hands, Christ’s feet, Christ’s voice, Christ’s touch in my unique and inimitable way, and to support and encourage you to be His hands, His feet, His voice, His touch, in your special way. For only by all of us being Christ each in our own way can we hope together with our head, to be one with Christ as He is.


Oneness in Scripture

From God’s point of view:

  • One God: Yhwh: I am who I am. [Ex 3:14]
  • One Father of all: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone: other possible translations are “the Lord our God is one Lord”; “the Lord our God, the Lord is one”; “the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. [4] [Deut 6:4]
  • One Source and Creator of all being, yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist. [1Cor 8:6]
  • One Son: one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist. [1Cor 8:6]
  • One Savior and Redeemer of all: For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all. [1Tim 2:5] And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. [Jn 12:32]
  • One Spirit For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. [1Cor 12:13]
  • One Way, one Truth, one Life: I am the way and the truthand the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [Jn 14:6]
  • One Love of all: God is love…In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. [1Jn 4:8b,10]
  • One Providence: We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. [Rom 8:28]
  • One Plan of Salvation for all This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. [1Tim 2:3-4]
  • One Body: We, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another [Rom 12:5]
  • One Faith …everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life [Jn 3:16
  • One Spirit, many Gifts: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; [1Cor 12:4]
  • One Lord, different service: there are different forms of service but the same Lord; [1Cor 12:5]
  • One God, different effects/manifestations of power: there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. [1Cor 12:6]
  • Father is in the Son; the Son in the Father: Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. [Jn 14:10,11]

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwell in me, in you; They are one with us and we, through Them, with each other.

  • The Father and the Son will live in me: Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. [Jn 14:23]
  • The Spirit in You: the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it….remains with you, and will be in you. [Jn 14:17]
  • I am in Jesus, Jesus is in me: On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. [Jn 14:20]
  • We are one with and in the Father and Jesus: they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. [Jn 17:21]

We are “brought to perfection as one” in Christ

  • We are brought to perfection as one: And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. [Jn 17:22-23]
  • Unity of mind, love, heart, thinking: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. [Phil 2:1-2]
  • Think in harmony and praise with one voice: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Rom 15:5-6]
  • Be of the same mind and purpose: I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. [1Cor 1:10]
  • Christ is one: For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? [1Cor 1:11-13]
  • We are one in Christ: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [Gal 3:28]
  • We have the same Lord: For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. [Rom 10:12]
  • We all have the same Spirit: For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. [1Cor 12:13]
  • Christ is all and in all: Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all. [Col 3:11]

We are all one Body

  • We are all one body: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also ChristNow you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. [1Cor 12:12,27] Col 1:18, 24.
  • Christ is head of the body, the Church: He is the head of the body, the church. [Col 1:18]
  • We are one body and individually parts of one another: For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. [Rom 12:4-5]
  • Together as one body, we support one another and the Church grows: Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love. [Eph 4:15-16]
  • The peace of perfection comes from being one: And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. [Col 3:15]
  • Different ministries but unity of faith and knowledge: And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ. [Eph 4:11-13]
  • Without unity and maturity of faith and knowledge, we are individual infants: infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. [Eph 4:14]
  • If we go off on our own, we are not connected with Christ in his body: Let no one disqualify you, delighting in self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, inflated without reason by his fleshly mind, and not holding closely to the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and bonds, achieves the growth that comes from God. [Col 2:18-19]

We are one because we all receive the same Jesus

  • The loaf is one; Jesus is one; we are one: Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. [1Cor 10:17]

Jesus is one with my neighbor.

  • The criteria of our judgment: ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ [Mt 25:40]
  • Jesus identifies himself with the persecuted: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. [Acts 9:4-5; 22:7-8; 26:14-15]
  • The Second Great Commandment: For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Gal 5:14; see Lev 19:18; Mt 19:19; 22:39; Mk 12:31; Lk 10:27; Rom 13:9; Jas 2:8]

[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] Pontifical Council For Inter-Religious Dialogue And The Congregation For The Evangelization Of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 29: AAS 84 (1992), 424.

[3] Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Pastoral Constitution On The Church In The Modern World, Gaudium Et Spes, December 7, 1965, Vatican, History of the Councils, Vatican II, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html, No. 22.

[4]NABRE note on Deut 6:4.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. [1] [1Thes 5:16-18]: A Summary of Ignatian Spirituality

I have this as my mantra at the bottom of all the emails I send. This statement summarizes Ignatian Spirituality. The Principle and Foundation, indeed the whole Spiritual Exercises, could be considered a meditation on and elaboration of this verse.

Rejoice always.

“All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.[2]” Neither Paul nor Ignatius limit their exuberance but include everything, not only includes “things” but “life” itself. “Health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one,…everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.”[3] Because these are given by God, they are designed by God to help me, are from the loving hand of God. For both Paul and Ignatius, everything, every happening, every moment, good or ill, everything is a cause for rejoicing.

Pray without ceasing.

This admonition of Paul finds its expression in the Exercises in multiple modes:

First, the conclusion of the Principle and Foundation is that that my only desire and choice should be that “I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening His life in me.” [4] Choosing, for Ignatius, involves discernment, “the interpretation of what St. Ignatius Loyola called the ‘motions of the soul.’ These interior movements consist of thoughts, imaginings, emotions, inclinations, desires, feelings, repulsions, and attractions. Spiritual discernment of spirits involves becoming sensitive to these movements, reflecting on them, and understanding where they come from and where they lead us.”[5] Constant monitoring of these movements requires my being in constant contact, aka prayer, with God and particularly the Holy Spirit. This ever present desire, a constant discernment, an ongoing choice, can only occur in a continual dialogue with God, aka prayer.

Second, the Ignatian Examen of Consciousness opens up our hearts and minds to God’s active presence in our world, to see messy details of our world transformed by the grandeur of God’s vision for creation in our lives. The triple Examen, a reminder in the morning and an Examen at noon and at night, is one of the first exercises that Ignatius recommends. This is not a complete Examination of Conscience but rather reviews our strengthening exercises done under the watchful eye of our Trainer, God, replacing a good habit for a bad one, how many repetitions we have made during the day, how many times we sloughed off and went back to our bad form. It ends with a renewed commitment to practice, practice, practice until, with God’s help, we get this right. It’s not so much a rag of ourselves as conditioning, as an update by our Trainer to keep ourselves in fit. As Paul says, Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. [1Cor 9:25] The Examen, therefore, is but one part of a whole fitness program monitored by a constant dialogue, aka “prayer”, with our Trainer, God.

Third, “Finding God in all things is at the core of Ignatian Spirituality and is rooted in our ever growing awareness that God can found in every person, in every place, in everything. When we learn to pay more attention to God, we become more thankful and reverent, and through this we become more devoted to God, more deeply in love with our Creator.[6]” Bringing to consciousness our awareness of God in all that we think, say and do, all that we encounter of people, places, things, events is praying always.

Fourth, “To live Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam is a way of being that permeates every thought, every deed, every action and inaction—all is contemplated and weighed, all for the greater glory of God. To live Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam is to lay claim to…a completely integrated other-ness that seeks to make all things whole, that approaches the liminal without hesitation, finds God in all things, finds the Good in all things, and seeks to proclaim His glory in all that we do…To seek Him and to find Him in all things, people, circumstances, and places, Unafraid to speak Truth to injustice To embrace the contradiction of Love Clothed in the power of the One who died naked and penniless. To be…called together at one table, unity in diversity, One family, working together to realize heaven on earth. Answering the call to serve and to glorify, in all ways, The Love that always finds a way.[7]So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. [1Cor 10:31] Such constant dialogue with God as to which option is for His greater glory is nothing other than constant prayer.

Finally, The Suscipe is a culmination of the last Exercise, the “Contemplation to Attain Divine Love”, a total giving of God everything that one has, turning our will and our life over to Him: “Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. I surrender it all to you to be disposed of wholly according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace. With these I will be rich enough and desire nothing more.”[8] By giving all I am to God, holding nothing back, and asking only for His Love and His Grace, which are sharings of Him Himself, we are asking to be continually united to Him in mind, body and soul, the ultimate everlasting prayer.

In all circumstances give thanks

This is the attitude accompanying active indifference, the posture Ignatius formulates in the Principle and Foundation from the beginning:

The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created. Hence, man is to make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him.

Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things.

Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.[9]

Having based this premise on the fact that man was created for a higher purpose: “to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul,”[10] Ignatius then classifies everything else as a given by God to man as means to that end. Everything, good or ill, is a gift for which we are to be thankful. And our thankfulness is not based on the categories of the world, i.e. good or “bad,” nice or not nice, windfall or disaster. Regardless of whether we have health or sickness, riches or poverty, honor or dishonor, a long life or a short life, each of these can be “conducive to the end for which we are created.”

When we have a choice between one or other of these alternatives, we may strongly prefer one or the other. Ignatius urges us “to rid…[ourselves] of the attachment,…in such a way that [we]… seek only to will and not will as God our Lord inspires them, and as seems better for the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.”[11]

But whether we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition or not, Paul urges us in all circumstances give thanks. “In a society which is focused on the next goal, the next success, the next whatever, gratitude is countercultural. In truth, gratitude is the first step on the pathway to true freedom in God.” [12] Such an attitude is actually a help and support to the freedom from the tyranny of selfishness, of the need to control, of things, of the world’s definition of good and bad, success and failure. It is the mantra of active indifference. It enables us to see that God has control of our lives and, in His providence, is providing us with that which is best for me. Thus, if God gives me health or sickness, riches or poverty, honor or dishonor, a long life or a short life, it is time to rejoice, for it is precisely what I need to attain my greatest happiness. The Venerable John Henry Newman summarized this in a meditation:

God has created all things for Good; all things for their greatest good; everything for its own good….God has determined, unless I interfere with His plan, that I should reach that which will be my greatest happiness. He looks on me individually, He calls me by my name, He knows what I can do, what I can best be, what is my greatest happiness, and He means to give it me.

God knows what is my greatest happiness, but I do not. There is no rule about what is happy and good; what suits one would not suit another. And the ways by which perfection is reached vary very much; the medicines necessary for our souls are very different from each other. Thus God leads us by strange ways; we know He wills our happiness, but we neither know what our happiness is, nor the way. We are blind; left to ourselves we should take the wrong way; we must leave it to Him.

Let us put ourselves into His hands, and not be startled though He leads us by a strange way; a mirabilis via, as the Church speaks. Let us be sure He will lead us right; that He will bring us to that which is, not indeed what we may think best, not what is best for another, but what is best for us.[13]

Thomas Merton, in his prayer of unknowing, voices similar trust in Divine presence and providence: “…you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”[14]

Thus, as St. Paul writes elsewhere, my life is a continual hymn, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. [Eph 5:20]

for this is the will of God for you

As stated above, viewing the world with the eyes of one who resides in the Eternal Now, I can continually rejoice and thank God for what surprises, gifts, tokens of His unconditional Love, which He is unveiling before, above, and around me at this moving moment of my life. “The person who knows that there is far more to the spiritual journey than she currently experiences but is content to let God lead the way…she may experience the desire for more, but… focuses on what she has.”[15] The past is done and the future is not yet. God is the God of Now, of Love, and He reveals Himself in His providence and love to me in His ever changing display of my presentness.

While providence is history from God’s point of view, whether I (a) recognize, (b) acknowledge, (c) embrace, and (d) react with joy and thanksgiving are my perspectives. To be able to discern providence in the ongoing turmoil of my life, the ever evolving agony of the world in birth requires the gift of faith. Whether I acknowledge God as the creative genius, the loving Father, the sacrificing Son, the inspiring Spirit, behind providence or view in horror as incomprehensible karma or fate the chaos of life and death’s drama is my call. Whether I embrace that providential chaos as Christ did on the Cross and with Him redeem it and remold it into the Kingdom by taking up my Cross daily and following Him is my choice. Here I remember the Psalmist’s words: It was good for me to be afflicted, in order to learn your will. [Ps 199:71] And finally, whether I have the hope and trust in God’s abiding love to know that what is happening is for the greatest happiness of me and every other person, because what is the best for me is the best for all around me, as the 12 Step program says,…all this is an embrace of God’s love, is a gift of God’s vision, God’s eyes, of Jesus viewing the world through me. I am called to continual willing acceptance, to repeat and live the refrain: your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. [Mt 6:10] God’s will is that His Eternal Now continually elicit my Everlasting Yes. 

in Christ Jesus

I am in Christ and Jesus is in me. I cannot rejoice, pray always, give thanks in all circumstances alone. I will be faced with trials, with sorrows, with crosses too great for me to even pretend to rejoice or give thanks in their midst. My only prayer will be for deliverance, for rescue. Humanly, I will be blind to the deep undying, unconditional love that surrounds me, that envelopes this tragedy, this meltdown, this death, without the abiding and sustaining presence and support of Jesus within, around, under and over me. Only by working through the denial, the anger, the frustration, the silence of God with Jesus at my side, joining my cry: My God, My God, why have You forsaken me, [Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46] only as He picks me up and carries me over the sand until I am ready to walk beside Him again,[16] will I leave my depression behind. Only with Jesus’ personal help will I again be able again to enter into God’s temple singing praise and thanksgiving with the joyful crowd. [see Ps 42:4]

But, in such times, I do not sit Shiva alone. Jesus arrives in the persons of family, friends, relatives neighbors, priests, pastors, children and adults. Sometimes sitting in silence with me is all I need or want, just being there is a comfort. I am not alone as I walk through my dark valleys, You are there in others. Your crook to bring me back when I stray to deep depression, Your staff wards off the evil that wishes to crowd in and take me even then.

Thus, it is in Jesus, through Jesus, with Jesus that I can fulfill the will of the Father whether in the sunshine of happiness or in the midst of misery, rejoicing that He is with me, praying for His will to be done, giving thanks that he “has vouchsafed me knowledge of his works; deep thanks that he has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to–a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.”[17]

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. As I said, the whole statement exudes Ignatian spirituality. God, grant that I may live it out to the fullest, discerning You in all things, following You into the More, choosing the Way of Your greater glory, offering all that I am and have to You, knowing that You will care for me in all circumstances. And whatever I do, in word or in deed, may I do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [Col 3:17] 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] David Fleming, SJ, A Contemporary Reading – St. Ignatius Loyola – First Principle and Foundation, Spiritual Exercises [23], http://www.xavierhs.org/s/717/ images/editor_documents/petrielloj/fp_f_3ver_.pdf

[3] Fleming, Contemporary, Ibid.

[4] Fleming, Contemporary, Ibid.

[5] Discernment of Spirits, Ignatian Spirituality, Loyola Press, http://www.ignatianspirituality.com /making-good-decisions/discernment-of-spirits#sthash.CGi90JEL.dpuf

[6] Finding God in All Things, Our Catholic Faith, Ignatian Spirituality, Loyola Press, http://www.loyolapress.com/ignatian-spirituality-finding-god-in-all-things.htm

[7] Rebecca Ruiz, Living “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,” July 22, 2015, Ignatian Spirituality, Loyola Press, http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/22204/living-ad-majorem-dei-gloriam#sthash.jbIJIP8v.dpuf

[8] Amy Welborn. Suscipe, the Radical Prayer, adapted from The Words We Pray, Ignatian Spirituality, Loyola Press, http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/prayers-by-st-ignatius-and-others/suscipe-the-radical-prayer

[9] Ignatius of Loyola. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph (Kindle Locations 179-183). Kindle Edition. Para. 23.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid. Para 155.

[12] Mags Blackie, The Centrality of Gratitude, Ignatian Spirituality, Loyola Press, Nov. 20, 2014. http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/20010/the-centrality-of-gratitude#sthash.2fHO4qbM.dpuf Subscribe to dotMagis, the blog of Ignatian Spirituality

[13] Venerable John Henry Newman, Meditations on Christian Doctrine, I. Hope in God—Creator March 6,1848, http://www.newmanreader.org/works/meditations/meditations9.html

[14] The Merton Prayer, Reflections, Yale University, Spring, 2012, http://reflections.yale.edu/ article/seize-day-vocation-calling-work/merton-prayer#sthash.Oh2wm0Je.dpuf

[15] Blackie, Gratitude, Ibid.

[16] See Mary Stevenson’s “Footprints in the Sand,” http://www.footprints-inthe-sand.com/index.php?page=Poem/Poem.php

[17] Helen Keller, Quotable Quote, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/3268-for-three-things-i-thank-god-every-day-of-my

Breadth and Length and Height and Depth, Conclusion

Prayer for the Readers Eph 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.[1]


So, I have explored a small fraction of what the Holy Spirit conveys in this passage and now we reach the concluding sentence.

Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine

The Father is He who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine: There are at least three parts to this statement: God’s omnipotence; our faith; and our hopes:

God’s omnipotence: The Father is He who is able to accomplish…All things are possible for God. [Mk 10:27; Mt 19:26]

I often forget the omnipotence of God because, being surrounded by it every moment of my life, I become inured, cloyed, deadened in the worst possible sense of that word, to the all surrounding, all embracing, all loving manifestation of God in creation. It’s sad, in a way, that I don’t appreciate the miracles popping up all around me every second of my existence, infinitesimal particles come into being and flash out of existence millions of times a second throughout this vast universe, the life conceived continuously and, through God’s providence and love, thrives into fullness, the light from unfathomably distant stars has not even reached me yet, though it started at the instant of creation in an expanding space that is literally faster than the speed of light. Give me the eyes to see…and slow me down to appreciate Your Greatness….

Even when I do ponder Your omnipotence, I am overwhelmed over by the incomprehensiveness of the very concept of Your omnipotence. What does it mean to be omnipotent? Children [and adults, like myself, who fool ourselves into thinking we can control the world around them] play at being omnipotent all the time, perhaps to both expand and define the boundaries of finitude in which we find ourselves enveloped. But Your omnipotence is so far greater than anything of which I can conceive, it literally blows my mind and I, like Job, must repent of my folly: I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have spoken but did not understand; things too marvelous for me, which I did not know…Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes. [Job 42: 2-3,6]

Finally, the reason I go about my daily life blasé to the truth of reality is that I am so entangled with my “me” and enthralled with my egocentric vision of the world that I miss the pageantry of Your love continuously performing the Ode to Love around me. I am a schmuck smothering beneath the immense bubble of my balloon of a world, a texting unobservant and distracted driver whose impact with Your reality has exploded my emergency air bag, temporarily burying my face in the face mold of my preening self and blinding me to Your awe-inspiring reality. Do I truly appreciate the fact that You are even aware of and count the hairs on my head? [Lk 12:7; Mt 10:30] Truly a major “duh?” moment.

Our Faith: far more than all we ask

Asking is a major theme of the Gospels. With each statement, there is a nuance of asking.

  • I have to ask: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.[Mt 7:7-8]
  • I ask in Jesus name; fulfillment glorifies the Father in the Son: And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. [Jn 14:13]
  • I will be answered because I am chosen and appointed to go and bear fruit: I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. [Jn 15:16]
  • I will be answered on the day I have complete faith: On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. [Jn 16:23]
  • I will receive what I ask for in prayer with faith: Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. [Mt 21:22] Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. [Mk 11:24]
  • The Father will grant what we pray for in common: Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. [Mt 18:19]
  • I will be answered if I remain in Jesus and live his words: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. [Jn 15:7]
  • We know God will answer us because we do what pleases Him: We have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.[1Jn 3:21-22]
  • God hears and grant us anything that is in accord with His will: And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours. [1Jn 5:14-15]
  • God will hear our prayers and right the wrongs done to us: Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. [Lk 18:7-8]

So, I have to ask, God expects us to ask, God is glorified by and enjoys answering our prayers, God will answer our prayers if we have faith and do His will and particularly when we “call out to him day and night” over injustices.

Why am I so timid about asking? So reluctant? Is it that I don’t have faith that He will answer our prayers? I don’t want to be disappointed that His answer may be “No,” or “Not now,” or something else I don’t want to hear?

I think it is all of the above and especially that I don’t trust God. When I pray, it should be with the openness of Mary that it be done to me according to Your word [Lk 1:38], of Jesus: Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but Yours be done. [Lk 22:42] But I don’t trust Your word; I don’t want Your will to be done, I want mine! Your will may indeed end up badly, involving me in unwed pregnancies like You did to Mary, or worse, in being arrested, tried, mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns, betrayed by my own people, condemned to a traitor’s death, forced to carry my cross and crucified like You did to Your own Son! When I pray: your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven [Mt 6:10], I hate to realize what I am getting myself into! I may have given up house or brothers or sisters or mother and all that stuff for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the gospel, but besides receiving a hundred times more now in this present age: including houses and brothers and sisters and mothers, etc., etc., there’s a zinger at the end…a bonus You, God, throw in for free: with persecutions. Granted, it’s followed by eternal life in the age to come, [Mk 10:29-30] but those persecutions! I signed up for the daily cross, but does it really have to go this far!

My one consolation [there are a myriad of others to which I am blind] is that your Scripture is replete with reminders that even in persecution, I’m in good company. Even if the world hates you, realize that it hated Me first. [Jn 15:18] You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. [Mt 10:22-23]

Indeed, it is the world reality and not a warped sense of humor that prompted You to make this another beatitude: Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. [Lk 6:22-23] Persecution is a sign that the Spirit of God is with me: If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. [1Pet 4:14] In fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. [Jn 26:2b-3] If this happens, I will indeed be in good company for You have sent prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah. [Lk 11:49b-51a]

But even in persecution, You will be with me: Call on Me on the day of distress; I will rescue you, and you shall honor Me”[Ps 50:15] Even when I think that You have forgotten how to show mercy, in anger withheld…[Your] compassion,[Ps 77:10; see 91:15] I know the answer: Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you….Even when your hair is gray I will carry you. {Is 49:15; 46:4]

Help me ask then, for You are overjoyed to give.

or imagine:

This addition, this phrase, strikes me as somewhat peculiar. Isn’t everything that we ask for something of which we first have an image in our mind, something we imagine us having?

I guess yes and no. Yes, we know for what we ask. No, this is actually an invitation to dream big, to push out the envelope, to wander outside the box with God in the Garden of Divine Delights.

Paul is making at least two points: first, that the miracles by which I am surrounded at present are so beyond my comprehension that, in and of themselves, they blow my mind beyond all boundaries. Who but God would have demonstrated the miracle of creation out of nothing, the perfection of the alignment of untold circumstances that enabled earth to form, the force of energy within matter that welds the universe together, the spark of divine essence we call “life,” the evolution of millions of varieties of fauna and flora, each uniquely adapted to its purpose in the cosmos, the unique ability of humankind to address the Divine, the divinizing of Human History, the humbling enfleshment of the Divine, the unwavering obedience of the Son of God, the resurrection to eternal immortality, Jesus fully present yet hidden in “bread and wine.” Try explaining those things in their entirety in science, philosophy or theology class.

The second point is that much of which is not revealed is a mystery beyond our finite comprehension. Who has directed the spirit of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did he consult to gain knowledge? Who taught him the path of judgment, or showed him the way of understanding? [Is 40:13-14] As God has inspire Isaiah to tell us: my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts. [Is 55: 8-9]

And thus, Paul exclaims: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. [Rom 11:33-36]

by the power at work within us

This power is the power of God the Father as Paul stated earlier in the quote: to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self. Do I truly appreciate this power, sense this power, acknowledge this power. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me, [Phil 4:13] or, as it is translated in the King James Version, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This is the power of the Holy Spirit that is within us.

This power is not only for our daily grind: I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me. [Col 1:29] It is also what enables me to face the extraordinary challenges in my life: But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength…The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. [2 Tim 4:17-18] And, since we know all things are possible for God [Mk 10:27], we should also realize that, since He answers all our prayers and is with us always, He has given us the same promise: if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. [Mt 17:20] Therefore, 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 12:9b-10]

to him be glory

To Him…again, the Father.

Be glory. There seem to be nine different Hebrew words for glory. It can be a verb or a noun. Here it is a verb, to give glory, to praise, to honor, to glorify.

In a sense, it seems rather absurd to think that I, a mortal creature, can give glory, praise and honor to You, my Creator, God. But, upon reflection, I actually do and can. So, too, each particle of Creation, including my self, by virtue of the magnificence of simply existing, even prior to it being a particular manifestation of, an emanation God, is worthy of notice. God is worthy of praise and glory because of its being and reflection of Him. Thus, I do give God glory simply by being me, even before I am aware of Him, even as the original cell in my mother’s womb.

This particular type of passive giving of glory by essence and existence we share with all the rest of Creation. This is why creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. [Rom 8:19-21]

But, since I not only exist, since I am not only a sensate being, but a reflective being, I can actively recognize God as my creator, as the Creator of all the beauty, all the grandeur, all the magnificence around me, and beyond that, witness to the fact that He revealed Himself to me, reached out to me, knows of my distress, my joys, my sorrows and even my sins, in which I purposely decide to go against the inner compass of the conscience He bestowed on me in His wisdom to lead me back to Him, and yet He still loves me, He loves me regardless, unconditionally. In this moment of realization, I can respond in awe, in reverence, in amazement, in incredulity, in joy, and fall in love once more with the One is Love and who has expressed His love for me unconditionally. For that, if nothing else, I will actively give Him glory, adoration and praise, now and forevermore. Glory be to You, Father, and to You, Son, and to You, Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning [passive by all creation], is now [active by all salvation] and ever shall be [active and passive by all re-creation], world without end. And let the people say: Amen!

in the church

Glory in the church. A bit of an odd phrase for Paul to insert here. He has been dealing with spiritually amazing and miraculous things, the breathe, length, height and depth of God’s love and the fullness of God, and all of a sudden, the church is given the responsibility of giving God the Father glory.

Upon reflection, perhaps it is just from the vantage point of my 21st century ecclesia where we seem to be so immersed in social action and world-wide poverty and upheaval in the church itself that it may seem difficult to perceive the glorification of God. But, again, this is just another wonder of God that we are able to work with Him to redeem from this social sin His world and, thus, give Him glory for His faithfulness to all His people, for His unconditional love for saints and sinners alike, for the evolutionary salvation of structures and street people simultaneously, and for the continuous unveiling over time of the wonders of His Kingdom on Earth. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen. [Rev. 7:12]

and in Christ Jesus

Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you.[Jn 17:1b] The Father gives glory to the Son by making Him the Christ, the Redeemer, the Risen One. In turn, Jesus glorifies the Father for having done great things for Him and He joins in His mother’s hymn: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. [Lk 1:46-47] When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own,…I always do what is pleasing to him.[Jn 8:28-29] He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him. [Phil 2:8-9] Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. [Jn 13:31b]

to all generations,

Paul ends this prayer with a request to God to continue this glorification of the Father not just at the moment he wrote this but always. He expresses this first in mortal, temporal terms, i.e. generations. This glory is a responsibility passed on from father to son, from mother to daughter, in perpetuity. As long as mortals continue to have children, as long as this world of humanity continues to exist on a temporal plane, it is our duty to glorify God, in the Church and in Christ, for the love and the power He has shown and expended for us.

forever and ever. Amen.

But not only will we glorify God on earth as mortals. When we are raised and join the heavenly Church Triumphant, there too we will raise our voices and acclaim the Father as our God. “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” [Rev. 7:12]

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. [Phil 1:9-11]

[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.