Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

The Ask

“The Ask” is a fundraising term meaning the moment when the fundraiser, gauging that the donor is sufficiently convinced in the efficacy and need of the cause that the donor is ready to actually make a financial commitment, makes the actual request for the person to make a contribution.

When “the ask” is of God, I find things seem complicated. On the one hand, Jesus assures us that the Donor will give: 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. [1] [Mt 7:7-8] Again, He says all we need is faith: whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. [Mt 21:22] According to Jesus, in dealing with God, it is always good if you’re not just being selfish, if this need is a communal need: 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][2]

With a non-profit here on earth, any donor wants to be certain, (a) that the cause is truly worthy of support, (b) that the need is great; (c) this organization is legit and actually does something to address this need, and (d) that the money will be used wisely and well for the purpose for which the donation is made, and not to pay exorbitant salaries or just to elicit more funds.

God is the same way. He (a) loves us unconditionally, (b) knows we need Him because He created us; (c) wants to be certain that we truly trust Him, and (d) that we show we believe in Him, and love Him by our actions: 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] And what pleases Him is that we love Him and show that love by loving everybody else: whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. [Mt 25:40]

When dealing with God, we have an “in” with the Donor; we go through the Donor’s Son. Jesus does “the ask” of the Father. “Jesus…[is] the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners. He is ‘able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.’ [Heb 7:25]”[3]

Our own fear and bumbling cause us to make inappropriate “asks.” You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. [James 4:2-3] However, the Divine Factotum, the Specialist in Everything, Love and Truth Himself, the Holy Spirit, not only teaches us what to say but even makes “the ask” for us when we are dumbstruck before the majesty of God, or fixated on the wrong thing, or can’t figure out what we really need: In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. [Rom 8:26]  And the Donor knows “the ask” is legit: The one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. [Rom 8:27]

As the deluge of continuous mail from the same organization asking for money even when I have had no contact with it for years attests, persistence is the name of the Donor game. If one “ask” does not do it, keep at it and wear down the Donor’s resistance. Jesus illustrated this explicitly in one of my favorite parables, a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. 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 18:1-8]

By my persistence, I show God I’m serious, I am truly in need, His people for whom I am praying are in need, we all need His help, His grace, His mercy. Our cause is just and worthy of His assistance.

But, like Job, I am fearful of the LORD: I put my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, I will not reply; twice, but I will do so no more. [Job 40:4-5] I know that I do not know for what I should ask: Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes. [Job 42:6] I am as fearful coming before God as Esther was coming before the King, but I desperately need God’s help: My Lord, you alone are our King. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my handdeliver me from my fear. [Esther Gk Version C: 14-30]

But, though His sacred word, God assures us of his love: But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and truth. [Ps 85:15, 103:8; 145:8; James 5:11] Therefore, we pray “Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.” [4] and “we dare to say: Our Father….”[5]


[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. Hereafter, NABRE.

[2] God’s answer to the prayer of two or three envisages a different situation from one that involves the entire congregation. In addition, the object of this prayer is expressed in most general terms as anything for which they are to pray….For where two or three…midst of them: the presence of Jesus guarantees the efficacy of the prayer. This saying is similar to one attributed to a rabbi executed in A.D. 135 at the time of the second Jewish revolt: “…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them” (Pirqê ’Abôt 3:3). NABRE Notes on Mt 18:19-20

[3] CCC 2634

[4] Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 88. CCC 1037

[5] CCC, Pt. 4; Sect. 2, Art.2, I.

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Jn 6:29: Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

[Prologue: This is a continuation of the Meditations on John’s Gospel one verse at a time.  While there is much on which to meditate, these are the center around which all the others orbit.]

Why the double “answered and said”? Either answered or said alone would have been sufficient. Is there a reason behind the author’s use of a double verb? Perhaps it is similar to Jesus frequent use of “Amen, Amen,” a device to bring attention to the importance of the words? But in this instance, it is not Jesus who is doubling up his introduction to his statement. It is the author who is doubling the narrative words. But the author is under the influence of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So, was it the intent of the Holy Spirit to draw attention to the answer? This seems to be the case. This combination is frequently used to bring attention to the pivotal statements which follow stated or implied questions:[2]

  • Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. [Jn 2:19]
  • Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. [Jn 3:3]
  • If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. [Jn 4:10]
  • What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later. [Jn 13:7]
  • I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [Jn 14:6]

These are major teachings of Jesus on the resurrection, baptism into new life, living water, servant leadership, Himself as the Way to God, the Truth of God and the Life of God.

They are not only answers to questions. They are also statements of profound importance, not only as part of the narrative, not only to the specific individuals to who they were address when Jesus spoke them, but also, and perhaps equally, to all of us who hear them repeated years and centuries later.

This is the same here, Jesus defines the work of God that we are given: belief in Him. Here the crowd has just asked: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”[Jn 6:28] This is an eternal question. This was not only this crowd’s question. It is also our question today.

Jesus responds clearly, simply, precisely:“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” This is His response then and now.

To put this in context, what had the crowd then been told they had to do to accomplish the works of God…keep the 613 Mitzvot or Commandments plus all the other “man’s laws” the Pharisees have imposed.[See Mk 7:2-15; Mt 15:1-20] No wonder Paul ranted and raved against the law: 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”[Gal 3:10]…for the law does not depend on faith; rather, “the one who does these things will live by them.”[Gal 3:12]

Not keeping the law means sinning; Paul goes do far as to say: I did not know sin except through the lawwhen the commandment came, sin became alive; then I died, and the commandment that was for life turned out to be death for me. [Rom 7:7.9-10]

Paul realized, he experienced the undeniable fact that it is virtually impossible for anyone to perfectly keep all 613 Mitzvot and all the man’s laws. We are frail, weak, one slip and we fail, we sin. And that is the Catch 22; you have to keep them perfectly or you are cursed and die, but you can’t keep them perfectly, so inevitably you are cursed and die. The point being that it is impossible for sin-prone man to correctly fulfill all the things written in the book of the law.” Living, not being cursed, is based on doing and doing perfectly, an impossibility for imperfect man. For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.[Rom 11:32]

But Jesus says: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” With this one phrase, this one declaration, Jesus 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.”[Gal 3:13] The work of God, He says, is not the perfect keeping of the law; the law is to help us experience our absolute need for faith, for mercy, for forgiveness, for love. What you must do is believe in the one he sent,” believe in Me, Jesus said. Indeed, this is the reason why we have all the eye-witness reports of His miracles, that we might believe in Him: Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. [Jn 14:11]

Why the one he sent? Why did not Jesus just refer back to himself as Me? This is the ultimate mystery of the relations of Jesus as the Son with His Father, a relationship based on obedience, grounded in humility, fueled by love. Jesus refers all glory, all power, all that He himself is able to accomplish to the Father.

As Jesus explained to Nicodemus: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [Jn 3:16-17] Here it is very clear: the work of God is the sending of the Son; my response is to believe in His Son that I might not perish but might have eternal life.

Belief in Jesus is our task on earth. No less, no more.[3]

  • It is a discerning task: See that you not be deceived; many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! [Lk 21:8]
  • It is a difficult task: If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. [Lk 9:23]
  • It is a dangerous task: But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. [Mt 10:17-18] The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.[Jn 16:2]
  • It is a deadly task: For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. [Lk 9:24]
  • It is a dedicated task: The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.[1Jn 3:16]
  • It is a glorious task: Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. [Mt 19:29]

So I have my marching orders, simple, clear, direct. The work of God is to believe in the one He sent, Jesus, as the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. Such a message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith…We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God….I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. [1Cor 1:18,21,23-24; 2:2] Everything else stems from that.


[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] Matthew also uses this device [Mt 17:11; 24:4].

[3] While “no less” is the task of a lifetime, “no more” is a very bold statement. It means that such a belief in the one he sent is active, not passive. It subsumes within itself all that Jesus taught, all that He lived, all that He suffered and died for, all that He rose for, all that is the message of Jesus, the message of the Kingdom, all that Jesus meant when he said: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. [Mt 28: 19-20a] It requires a total response, a commitment, a life. This “no more” reminds one of Augustine’s audacious statement: “Love and do what you will.” [Homily 7 on 1 John 4:4-12, Sect 8. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/170207.htm%5D

Success and Failure…the Wrong Criteria

Spiritual Unfreedom can get all tied up in my life with success and failure when, in reality, these are the wrong criteria, the wrong labels. The right labels are love and all that advances the Kingdom vs self centeredness and all that inhibits the growth of the Kingdom. Using these labels, one can easily see that some worldly successes, from Roe vs Wade to corporate mergers that displace workers and hurt the environment, are self-centered, and some “failures,” e.g. the Cross, advance the Kingdom.

I can’t really relate to the virtues which enable me to distinguish on the fly between the two. Therefore, the grace for which I ask is the “prayerful pause,” the “stop and look both ways before makin’ that decision” grace which will allow me to disengage my buttons which have been pushed and are hurling me headlong into a recipe for disaster and engage silence and a meditative reflective pause to make a more reflective prayerful decision. It allows me to change gears from judging by the world’s standards of success and failure to judging by the Kingdom’s and God’s standards of advancement or harm.

The Standard Expected of Me

“Living God, stand by me. Hold me up. Be my strength when I am tired, my inspiration when I am bored, my life when I am listless. Living God, I cannot always meet the standard expected of me, cannot always be the personality I am known for. Abba when I fail, Abba when I stumble, I will rest in your presence.”

—Edwina Gately[1]

This is a lovely prayer. I certainly relate to calling on the Lord to “be my strength when I am tired, my inspiration when I am bored, my life when I am listless”… and to calling to my Divine Dad when I no longer can hold myself up as an adult “when I fail…,when I stumble,” and I need to crawl up and rest in His lap.

However, the sentence that caught my attention was: “Living God, I cannot always meet the standard expected of me, cannot always be the personality I am known for.” Am I always playing up to “the standard expected of me,…the personality I am known for?” And who is doing the “expecting” and “knowing”?

Three possibilities present themselves: God, others and myself.

 

God:

The sentence starts by a petition to the “Living God.” Thus, one would expect that He was the one setting the standard, measuring the personality. But is this the case?

Certainly, Hebrew Scripture testifies that God knows us intimately:

  • Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. (Jer 1:5) [2]
  • It is you alone who know the heart of every human being. (1Kgs 8:39)
  • The One who fashioned together their hearts is the One who knows all their works. (Ps 33:15)
  • The LORD knows the plans of man; they are like a fleeting breath. (Ps 94:11)
  • He searches out the abyss and penetrates the heart; their secrets he understands. (Sir 42:18)
  • I, the LORD, explore the mind and test the heart, giving to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their deeds. (Jer 17:10)
  • LORD of hosts, you test the just, you see mind and heart. (Jer 20:12)

Jesus certainly did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. (Jn 2:24-25)

And, indeed, we know that God set standards for us to meet. Being created in His image and likeness, one of His most frequent analogies is you shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy. [Lev 11:44] In case we didn’t get the message, He repeats its it in the next sentence: you shall be holy; for I, the LORD, am holy [Lev 11:45] and later in the same book, when outlining the rules of conduct: The LORD said to Moses: Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy. [Lev 19:1-2] and, in case we missed it: you shall be holy; for I, the LORD, am holy [Lev 20:26] Finally, in case we don’t read Leviticus, the Holy Spirit has Peter in the New Testament state in his First Epistle: 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.” [1Pet 1:15-16]

More generally, He expected us to obey Him because we love Him. Love the LORD, your God, therefore, and keep his charge, statutes, ordinances, and commandments always. (Deut 11:1)[3]

So, God knows me intimately and sets standards for me…Is He the one to which the author of our prayer refers? Certainly a viable candidate. But before answering that question, we ought to at least look at the other two candidates: myself and you.

 

You:

The you is really the “we,” the society in general. We certainly set standards…for just about everything, from how green and weed free my lawn can and, by implication, should be, to what insurance I should carry if I am smart and wish to save money. Everything from the underwear I “should” be putting on in the morning to the pill I “should” be taking at night to be better in bed is standardized, set out for us to admire and approve. Note that in each advertisement to which we are subjected, the implication is that if I don’t choose this particular product, I am behind the times, not in with the in crowd, certainly not too swift and definitely, definitely not to be invited to the next do, whatever that is.

We even package the news so that I will (a) hear only about certain events we consider important and shaping the future of the world in which the “we” have determined that they do, and by implication, everyone else should, want to live and (b) hear only the interpretation or spin on those events which we deem to be the “right” or “left” one, depending on our political persuasion. Of course, by implication, if I do not listen to the formatted news, believe without question the highly edited edition they dole out, follow their norm, the guidelines set by the majority of society or at least a “non-discriminated against minority” of society, I will, forefend, not “always meet the standard expected of me.” Horrors!!! How much different than the freedom of conscience, of will, of choice, of action, preached by the Pope…[4]

The same, of course, goes for “the personality I am known for.” If, according to you, I can’t quite make the grade, ah, too bad, I guess I’m just not quite with it, not texting with the in crowd, not surfing the “in” sites, not smiling with perfectly aligned ivories. Of course, coming up to this standard personality is what society doles out pills for, either to ease into the grade or to escape from the reality that imposes such stringent models to mimic. Little depressed, need something to take that cutting edge off of society’s scalpel for a while. We have an Rx for that. Aren’t quite jolly enough, high enough, enjoying yourself enough, we’ve got something for that too…not quite legal, but hey, everybody’s doing it…so how about me? Is that the personality I wish to be known for?

 

Me:

Well, society certainly has standards it expects me to reach, keep, whatever. But does it truly know me…do you truly know me. “Indeed I do!” comes the indignant reply, “I can pigeon-hole you precisely: you are one of 7.325 billion people on this planet, of 320.09 live in the United States, and of 625,741 in Vermont. Of these, you are one of the 596,292 that are Caucasian, and of the 293,649 that are male. You are one of the 9,391 who are between 70 and 74,…etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum…”until society and you come down to “You are Paul who live at this address with this wife and these dogs and you do such and such….” But do all these statistics, individually or combined, define me? Would the equivalent define you? My point exactly! So, you haven’t walked a mile in my moccasins or circled my earth in my capsule…been through all my sorrows and joys, all my sins and all those guilt driven repentances, etc.

But this is not the exterior that you may imagine you see.

“I give you the impression that I’m secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without, that confidence is my name and coolness my game, that the water’s calm and I’m in command and that I need no one, but don’t believe me. My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask, ever-varying and ever-concealing. Beneath lies no complacence. Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness….I’m afraid you’ll think less of me, that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me. I’m afraid that deep-down I’m nothing and that you will see this and reject me. So I play my game, my desperate pretending game, with a facade of assurance without and a trembling child within…A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls….Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well. For I am every man you meet and I am every woman you meet.”[5]

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to know me. As Finn points out in his poem, your “glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope, and I know it. That is, if it’s followed by acceptance, if it’s followed by love. It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself, from my own self-built prison walls, from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.”

 

You and Me….

Of course, part of my problem is that the very standards to which you and society expect me to adhere are the ones that I assimilate, acknowledge and attempt to abide by. You and I set them up and therefore you and I are both the judge and the judged.

But if, simultaneously, you are “my only hope” and I am yours, we are caught between a rock and a hard place…you will judge or accept me and ditto for me judging or accepting you, and we may scorn one another when we “cannot always be the personality…[we are] known for” or we may love each other as we are which is what we do to our family, friends and relatives, but not necessarily or at least not automatically to anyone else, especially our enemies.

Realistically, being human, we will probably do both, accept and reject each other, love and scorn each other. But as Jesus points out, this is a cop out: if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. [Lk 6:32-33] Since we are sinners, He has our modus operandi pegged perfectly. From Cain and Abel onward, even blood brother has turned against brother. You and I do not always love each other as neighbor as ourselves. But that’s nothing new. Neither do I love myself as I should nor probably do you love yourself unreservedly. And that is something with which we will have to live. “Following God’s commands is rarely a cakewalk. Love my neighbor? Has God met the guy next door?”[6] This doesn’t mean we can’t strive against judging and for loving. Just means that the striving doesn’t always win out.

The problem is that our personal striving is also played out in society, between the right wingers and the left wingers, conservatives and radicals, coal miners and conservationists, legals and illegals, white and black. And on the international stage between Palestinians and Israelis, Russians and Ukrainians, ISIS and anti-ISIS, USA and Russia, the insurgents and the entrenched, the rebels and the governments.

So, we seem to have exhausted the possibilities without coming up with a satisfactory solution. “We often do not know why God brings certain events into our lives. When circumstances are tough to bear or people are hard to love, we might ask whether God has our best interests at heart.”[7]

 

St. Paul’s answers

So, how can we answer whether God has our best interests at heart. And more to the point, do those best interests can address this stupid, unrealistic, unattainable standard expected of me, this personality for which I am known but which is, in reality, not really me?…St. Paul offers two answers to this conundrum: weakness and faith.

Weakness:

We know from Paul’s writings that he continually battles the temptation of pride: And I know that this person (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter. About this person I will boast, but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses. Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. [2Cor 12:3-7] He is dealing with the reality of his blessings, the “revelations” which are the “truth,” and he knows he himself is “this person” about which he might “boast.” But he knows deep down in his heart that equally real is the fact that these are not truly “his” accomplishments, but God’s, that he did nothing to merit them, that they were a completely gratuitous gift which were given from God’s Providence, not earned by him.

God, however, helped him cope with this temptation, again through His Providence: Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh[8] was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me. [2Cor 12:7-8] This bears reflection that the bad things that happen in my life are probably there through God’s Providence, for a purpose.

And God even explains to Paul why He is leaving the affliction: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Two reasons: (a) God never asks us to do anything for which He does not give us sufficient grace to accomplish, Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God [2Cor 3:5] and (b) the second part of the sentence makes more sense if we add identifiers to “power,” and “weakness”: for God’s power is made perfect in my weakness.”[9] The Greek is: “for My, i.e. God’s, power is being perfected in [your, i.e. Paul’s] infirmity with the greatest relish[10].” Paul says the same thing slightly differently in another famous verse: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. [Phil 4:13]

I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. [2Cor 12:9] Thus, for Paul and for us, weakness, failure, the ever present lack, the emptiness, is what is glorious, it is in what he exalts, he relishes, he boasts about. Why? Because, then whatever good is shown forth, whatever love is demonstrated for all to see, whatever wisdom, charity, humility is on display in his words, his actions, his life, is not from fumbling feeble, finite Paul but the direct result, a potent witness to the power, the grace, the justice and peace of Christ dwelling in him shining forth.

He can then say without being completely nuts, over the top or irrational: Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ. [2Cor 12:10] Why? Because in all these seeming failures, these inabilities, these setbacks, these obstacles, his own finiteness is blazingly evident; but the fact that they all ultimately lead to advancing the cause of Christ, spreading the Kingdom, witnessing that there is more at work here than just mortal powers, means they were indeed done for the sake of Christ, His Kingdom, His Word, His Glory, for they were done by His power, the power of His Spirit working out the salvation of the world through, with and in the limitations of mankind. Thus, Paul can say without hesitation, without need for explanation or interpretation, as a statement of reality: for when I am weak, then I am strong. [2Cor 12:10]   As he says in another place: But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. [2Cor 4:7]

Thus, that “standard by which I am to be judged,” both by myself and by God, if not by the world/society, is not success, glistening teeth and a plastic smile, but weakness, obedience to the best of my limited and finite ability, regardless of the outcome, regardless of whether either what I undertake or I myself am a success or failure, remembering that even God’s only begotten Son’s crucifixion was evidence of the greatest failure in history before the resurrection. I will therefore trust in God that He has the outcome which is most loving, most caring, and ultimately will lead to my greatest happiness. That personality for which I am known, the persona I drag around with me and haul out whenever I am confronted with the same “society,” that stage mask I flip on in public, is no longer necessary, can be junked, and I can just let all of the real me hang out…for that is who God lovingly created, who God cherished and died for, I am who God loves.

Faith

What about faith as an answer to false standards and pseudo personalities? Perhaps the answer is at least hinted at in the last line of the prayer: Abba when I fail, Abba when I stumble, I will rest in your presence. Weakness certainly has to do with failing, with stumbling, but how about faith…is that resting in Your presence, God?

Let’s look at faith as freedom from the law[11]. Paul dealt with this conundrum in Romans. He first points out, using the example of covetousness, that the law is what identifies, defines, makes explicit, what thoughts, words and deeds are sinful: What then can we say? That the law is sin? Of course not! Yet I did not know sin except through the law, and I did not know what it is to covet except that the law said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, finding an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetousness. [Rom 7:7-8a] He even goes so far as to say that apart from the law sin is dead, [Rom 7:8b] that is, sin requires the law to define itself, to give it existence, potency, essence.

While normally when Paul speaks of the law, he is usually referring to the Mosaic Law, he does not let those who did not know that particular form of the Law off the hook: For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus. [Rom 2:14-16, see also Heb 10:16; Jer 31:33]

Thus, Jews and Greeks, Judeo or Christian, Believer or non-Believer, we all are hard-wired to know right and wrong through the law that is written in our hearts and conscience.

So, how are we to get out of this conundrum? As soon as I recognize the law within and/or without, I become subject to it and, if I transgress it, I sin. I once lived outside the law, but when the commandment came, sin became alive; then I died, and the commandment that was for life turned out to be death for me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it put me to death. [Rom 7:9-11]

I am then caught up in a moral Catch-22: We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin. What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. [Rom 7:14-17] I know that the Law is spiritual, that the Law is Good, that I want to follow the Law. But somehow the signals get bollixed up inside me and I do the opposite. I am just like a teenager, if there is a curfew, it gnaws at me until I test it; a boundary I am not “allowed” to cross is like a red flag waiving in front of a bull, it is there to be charged. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.[12] [Rom 7:22-23]

But there is hope and that hope is in our faith, our belief in Jesus Christ, that He is our salvation, our justification. Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have achieved it, that is, righteousness that comes from faith; but that Israel, who pursued the law of righteousness, did not attain to that law?[Rom 9:30-31] Christ is the end of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith. [Rom 10:4]

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. [Eph 2:8-9] It is not the works of the Law, the keeping of the Law, that we will be saved; for as we have seen, that is impossible, since Law revealed the boundary which we transgressed, the sin in which we are mired. However, if we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. [1Jn 1:9]

On the other hand, faith as shown in works, not of the Law, but of the Lord, the works of charity: If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. [James 2:15-17] Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. [1Cor 15:58]

So the standard expected of me is not the standard of the world, it is not the standard even of myself, it is Jesus’ standard of charity by which we will be judged: Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. [Mt 25:34-36] For whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. [1Jn 4:20]

For if Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith, [Eph 3:17] if I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me, [Gal 2:20], then truly whatever I did for one of these least brothers of mine, I did for Jesus, Himself. [Mt 25:40] This is the standard that, unfortunately, I cannot always meet.

And what about “the personality I am [suppose to be] known for:” if Christ has made his home in me, if I am crucified with Christ, that is, if I have died to self and I no longer live but He lives in me, then it is His personality which I should be known: I have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator…heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. [Col 3:10, 12-14]

Unfortunately, as Mahatma Gandhi said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” So I “cannot always be the personality I am known for.” It is at that juncture, that oft occurring fall from grace that we must continually pray the rest of Edwina Gately prayer: “Abba when I fail, Abba when I stumble, I will rest in your presence.” Have mercy on me. Amen.

_______________________________

[1] Quoted from “Prayer,” “First Martyrs of the Church of Rome, Mt 8: 23-27,” Daily Inspiration from JesuitPrayer.org, June 30, 2015

[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] The Hebrew Scriptures are replete with this if/then refrain, i.e. in return for loving and obeying Him, God will… Dt 7:12–14; 10:12–13; 28:1–14; Lv 26:3–5; Jer 5:24; Ps 104:14, is but a sample.

[4] “Be free people! What do I mean? Perhaps it is thought that freedom means doing everything one likes, or seeing how far one can go…. This is not freedom. Freedom means being able to think about what we do, being able to assess what is good and what is bad, these are the types of conduct that lead to development; it means always opting for the good. Let us be free for goodness. And in this do not be afraid to go against the tide, even if it is not easy! Always being free to choose goodness is demanding, but it will make you into people with a backbone who can face life, people with courage and patience…. Be men and women with others and for others: true champions at the service of others.” – Pope Francis, “The Culture of Good,” The Church of Mercy: His First Major Book: A Message of Hope for All People, 135-136

[5] Charles C. Finn, “Please Hear What I’m Not Saying,” September 1966; poetrybycharlescfinn.com/pages/please-hear-what-im-not-saying

[6] Brian Harper, “God’s Good Grace,” “The Lord will provide.” Gn 22:14; Daily Inspiration from JesuitPrayer.org, July 2, 2015

[7] Ibid. “That said, most of us can also recall instances that, while painful, led to unforeseen blessings. In Abraham’s case, a demonstrated willingness to follow God at all costs brought new depth to his faith.”

[8] “Variously interpreted as a sickness or physical disability, a temptation, or a handicap connected with his apostolic activity. But since Hebrew “thorn in the flesh,” like English “thorn in my side,” refers to persons (cf. Nm 33:55; Ez 28:24), Paul may be referring to some especially persistent and obnoxious opponent. The language of 2 Cor 12:7–8 permits this interpretation.” Note on 2Cor: 12:7 New American Bible, revised edition [NABRE] (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C., 2010), as posted on the USCCB site: http://www.usccb.org/bible/2corinthians/12#55012007-1

[9] See Ps 28:7-8; Is 12:2; 33:2; 40:29-31; 41:10; Hab 3:9; 2Tim 1:7; Acts 1:8; Heb 4:16, etc.

[10] “with the greatest relish” is normally seen to modify Paul’s boasting in the next sentence and is translated most gladly. However, while I do not know Greek, at least the juxtaposition of the adverb to “is being perfected” may raise the wonderful possibility, if remote, that it is to God’s enjoyment of perfecting us that ἥδιστα refers. To me, this makes more sense, for it seems more in keeping with God’s love and concern shown in His explanation to Paul.

[11] Note that the “law” can also be the mores of society, those written, but especially those unwritten codes by which we navigate our way in our world.

[12] And we are all in the same boat: All have gone astray; all alike are perverse. Not one does what is good, not even one. [Ps 14:1–3; Rom 3:10–11; Ps 53:2–4; Eccl 7:20.] John puts the nail in our coffin when he says: If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [1Jn 1:8]

Breadth and Length and Height and Depth, Part 4

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]

and to know the love of Christ

γινώσκω, to know, is used 246 times in the New Testament to mean everything from “come to know” and “feel” to the Biblical sense of “carnal knowledge between a man and woman.” Thus Paul is praying that we come to understand this love that Christ has for us intimately, fully, personally, familiarly, lovingly, and the previous dimensional phrase of breadth and length and height and depth emphasizes just how closely we are to scrutinize, relish and adore this most precious gift of the Father.

How do we know Christ’s love: The way we came to know Christ’s love was that he laid down his life for us. [1Jn 3:16] That life, that Love, we see exhibited throughout His public ministry on both a very personal individual basis as well as for the multitude: healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, preaching the Kingdom; casting out demons, and praying for his disciples and us [Mt 14:14; Jn 11:35,38; Mt 15:32; Mk 6:34; Mt 8:16; Jn 17:20-21].

His words also conveyed his love, for example: Jerusalem, Jerusalem,…how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! [Mt 28:37]; As the Father loves me, so I also love you. [Jn 15:9]; As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. [Jn 13:34]; This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. [Jn 15:34]

Even his looks conveyed love: Jesus, looking at him,[and] loved him. [Mk 10:21]; and Jesus’ looks of love at Peter when he was remorseful after the Resurrection [John 21:15-19], but even when He was denying Him: the Lord turned and looked at Peter and Peter remembered the word of the Lord… went out and began to weep bitterly. [Lk 22: 61-62], I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers. [Lk 22:32]

But how about here and now, in my own life: The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. [1Jn 2:3-4]. This is the second part of the proof: The way we came to know Christ’s love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. [1Jn 3:16]

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,

The Holy Spirit does not desert anyone who is open to Him, to His love, to His grace. However, being open to Him, His love, His grace, is different than being inspired by Him. When I begin to think that I am owed inspiration, that inspiration is the only way to pray, that inspiration is somehow necessary for me to talk to God, then hubris, pride, self-aggrandizement, selfish ego trips have taken over and gotten in the way of learning from Jesus and being meek and humble of heart, of being still and knowing that God is God; of doing what is right, loving mercy and humbly walking with my God. [Mt 11:29; Ps 46:10; Mi 6:8] It is time to do just that.

What knowledge I have is paltry, miniscule, so much straw, as Thomas put it, compared with the experience, the living of Your love, Jesus. Knowledge is not what comprises holiness, righteousness, humility, being meek and humble of heart. God is Love and no matter what else we may think we know about God, no matter how much we may write about Your revelation, no matter how much we want to think we have a handle on You, God, and “understand” You, we are totally blind and ignorant if we do not first experience love.

St. Paul said it best: If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. [1Cor 13:1-3] To have love, to love, one must first experience love, one must allow oneself to be loved, not cut myself off from love. I must open myself to the experience of love, I must be willing to suffer the pain of love as well as the ecstasy, the depth as well as the height. I must find love in the length and breadth of the earth, in places where I never thought it existed, in the barrios of Brazil, in the bullet torn streets of Fallujah, in the pitiable prisons of China, wherever Jesus has moved hearts to reach out beyond the frightened, frail, finitude of one’s humanity and embrace another human being with one’s heart, there is love. That is what surpasses intellectual knowledge, book knowledge, conjecture knowledge.

so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The purpose of this exercise, this experience journey of exploring the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding, is not just for the experience itself, albeit amazing, wonderful, joy filled, awesome, inciting adoration. The purpose is so that we may be filled with all the fullness of You, God.

At first blush, this may seem impossible, a finite, miniscule part of the universe, of creation, to be filled with the immensity, the grandeur, the awesomeness of God. But for a God who became man, a God who transformed his body and blood into bread and wine, a God who raised His Son from the dead to everlasting life, filling you and me with His fullness is just a run-of-the-mill miracle. As inlet may be filled from the ocean without diminishing the latter, so I may be filled with God. Better, when the waves of the ocean wash up on the sand, they leave water in the depressions of God’s footprints. I am a footprint of God, there to witness to His presence, to make known His walking among us, to be a sign of His passing by, and then I disappear into the infinitude of His Love.

It is not that I can contain the completeness of God, though hubris and pride may entice me to take over His role and think that I am God. The folly of all sin there lies. But that you and I are each one facet of the infinite diamond that is God, His image and likeness imprinted in flesh. Look around you and reach out and touch the face of God.

With what may we be filled? With God: God is and that “is-ness” is love; so by virtue of our very being, God and love are an integral part of all that is, including me. That is an awesome understanding…that everything not just participates in but is an actual occasion of the love of God, one tiny glimpse of what God is and has in store for us. A blade of grass, a amazing living factory taking the riches of the earth and refashioning them into fiber and chlorophyll, recycling carbon dioxide as clean, fresh oxygen…literally fantastic, and it has been going on and on for millions and billions of years without a single moment of assistance, direction, oversight, management, control or even encouragement from me or any human being. It is this God, who populates the cosmos with being, whose fullness we have all received, [Jn 1:16] this very fullness with which we are filled.

With whom may we be filled: Jesus explained that all three Persons of the Trinity wish to abide in me…in ME! For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: “I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” [2Cor 6:16; Ez 36:27; Jer 32:38] Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. [1Jn 4:15] 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]

It is amazing how often we are reassured that the Spirit dwells in us; through these, we know the Spirit of God is:

  • He is Life itself: Hasten to answer me, LORD; for my spirit fails me.[Ps 143:7]
  • He is God’s very presence, Holiness itself: Where is the one who placed in their midst his holy spirit. [Is 63:11]; Do not drive me from before your face, nor take from me your holy spirit. [Ps 51:13]
  • He enables us to obey God: I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them. [Ez 36:27]
  • He is the proof we are adopted by God: As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” [Gal 4:6]
  • That we are living temples of God: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?[1Cor 3:16]
  • We have this Gift of the Spirit by which we are God’s: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?[1Cor 6:19]
  • It is our duty and privilege to keep this sacred trust safe: Guard this rich trust with the help of the holy Spirit that dwells within us.[2Tim 1:14]
  • It is our proof that we live in You, God, as You live in us: This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. [1 Jn 4:13]
  • Thus, we are not just mortal, just body, but eternal, spirit: But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. [Rom 8:9]
  • We are anointed as holy, priests, prophets and kings, set apart and taught by the Spirit: As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him. [1Jn 2:27]
  • If we remain holy through the Spirit dwelling in us throughout our life and unto death, the Father will give us eternal life through the same Spirit: If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. [Rom 8:11]

And that is the fullness of God dwelling in us.

[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.

Breadth and Length and Height and Depth, Part 2

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]

that he may grant you

I don’t often stop to consider how much God grants me in the course of a single day, a single minute. Consider existence, life itself, creation, breath, blood, vision, hearing, mobility, the grass, the sky, the cattle, the sunrise, the plants, the clock, the computer, hands. And then there is thought, faith, hope, unconditional love, angels, devils, Christ in me, being a temple of the Holy Spirit, having God as my Father, the communion of saints.

Jesus tried to remind us of this many times:

  • Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. [Mt 6:26]
  • 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. [Mt 6:28-29]
  • The eyes of all look hopefully to you; you give them their food in due season. You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. [Ps 145:15-16]
  • Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. [Mt 10:29]
  • Even all the hairs of your head are counted. [Mt 10:30]
  • But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. [Mt 6:33]
  • Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. [Mt 6:34]

His conclusion to all these reassurances? Follow me![2] Take up your cross daily and follow me! [Lk 9:23] Indeed, Jesus says don’t worry about His plan for others: “What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” [Jn 21:22]

May:

not probability with only possibility of fulfillment but likelihood by removing obstacles. Paul kneels to intercede for us, to act as our advocate, to plead for us, to increase the assurance that God will answer his prayer and grant us that for which Paul prays.

in accord with the riches of his glory

Paul uses the exact same phrase two other times:

  • My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen. [Phil 4:19-20] Here, again, God is fulfilling a need in accord with the riches of his glory.
  • This was to make known the riches of his glory to the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared previously for glory, namely, us whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.[Rom 9:23-24] Here the riches are equated with that which is made known to us.

Jesus is the refulgence of his glory. [Heb 1:3] For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of [Jesus] Christ. [2Cor 4:6] This is iterated in Jesus prayer to the Father in John: “Father, glorify your name.” And the Father answers Him is John’s Theophany: Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” [John 12:28]

What are the riches of God’s glory? The question is better posed: Who is the riches of God’s Glory: Jesus: For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.[Rom 11:36]

To be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self.

This is what He grants: that we be strengthened, κραταιόω, “strong in spirit” from the root meaning “the mighty power of God.” This same word is used by Luke to describe the maturation of John the Baptist: The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel, [Lk 1:80] and Jesus: The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.[Lk 2:40] Paul wishes to emphasize the fact that it is a spiritual strengthening, so he adds with power through his Spirit in the inner self, but, in one sense, he has said it all in κραταιόω.

Not that we should give short shrift to the Holy Spirit. To put this in context, the entire Scripture and particularly the New Testament covertly, but overtly from Pentecost on, is a narration, a testament to the works of the Holy Spirit in individuals and in the Church. Here Paul prays for that to continue in the faithful in Ephesus as it has in the whole Church.[3]

Finally, note that the power through his Spirit is directed to and located in the inner self. This iterates the emphasis of Jesus on avoiding external power, lording it over other, and making one’s authority over them felt, a particularly poignant point in this time of social, corporate, political and military pressure, coercion and intimidation. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. [Mk 10:42-44]

and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;

We don’t really notice it, but in all Scripture, where you find Jesus, you find the Spirit; from His conception to His baptism to His temptations to His ministry to His last words on the Cross to His first blessing after His Resurrection to Pentecost, their ministries, their missions from the Father are intertwined, complimenting and manifesting the other.

So here also, Paul first prays that we be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Notice the parallels, not only Spirit and Christ but also the inner self and in your hearts and power and faith. Complimentary and cooperating by combining into forming a true redeemed one, an adopted child of the Father.

The indwelling of Christ in the inner self of the Spirit is an experience of which I only recently became aware, the fact that Jesus is in me and I am in Him, not just metaphorically, not just theologically, not just theoretically, but actually, really, and continuously.

It took me aback to realize that the Divine Son of God actually wants to spend time with me, be with me, walk with me, be yoked with me [Mt 11:30]. My first reaction is to panic, run around inside myself like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to clean up my mess, to be tidy and ship-shape for my Guest. That phase paralleled my life…the external conformity stage which lasted at least 40 years, give or take. It’s the “Doing” phase; the “I have to” phase; the “Law” phase. If I didn’t get it right, He won’t come, I’m sunk, that’s the end.

Only recently am I gradually, with the prompting of my Spiritual Director, my Confessor and particularly the Holy Spirit, entering the internal faith and love stage: graduating into the “Being” phase, the “Do unto me” phase, the “Prophets” phase.[4]

It in interesting that, in this stage, one’s perception of sin is changed. Whereas in the conformity stage, I battled sin and bad habits endlessly and without much success. It is somewhat like trying to denying the fact that all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. [Rom 3:23] If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. [1Jn 1:8,10] I did not accept the fact that, while I could be cleansed of sin and reconciled with God through Confession, I was still a sinner.

This “new” phase incorporates that acceptance and the realization that Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, love me anyway unconditionally, particularly without my ill conceived lies of which I tried to convince myself that (a) I was not a sinner; and (b) I could only be lovable if I was not a sinner. For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodlyBut God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us… Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. [Rom 5:6,8,10] Indeed, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [Jn 3:17]

So now I just say “Hi” to Jesus each morning, pick up my cross with all my sins hanging off it in glorious array, for He has forgiven them and trudge with Him, after Him, following Him. We are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed, through the forbearance of God—to prove his righteousness in the present time, that he might be righteous and justify the one who has faith in Jesus. [Rom 3:24-26]

[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] Indeed, this seems to be a favorite expression: Mt 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21; Mk 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Lk 5:27; 9:23; 9:59; 18:22; Jn 1:43; 10:27; 12:26; 13:36; 21:19,22.

[3] An exegetical conjecture without backing or proof: The fact that the whole first section of this letter, Chapters 1-3, is a prayer [“which was begun in 1:15-20, taken up again in 3:1 only to be interrupted in 3:2-13 by the description of Paul’s role in revelation” Kobelski, Note on Eph 3:15, TNJBC, 888] of which this section is the conclusion interrupted by exposition at least hints at the possibility that this was a prayer of the Church which Paul knew and may have been adapted to apply especially to the Ephesians at this time a la the Christological Hymns he incorporated in Philippians 2:6-11 and Colossians 1:15-20. For a substantiated exegetical interpretation, see Kobelski, Note on “Thanksgiving and Prayer of Intercession (1:14-23), THJBC, 887.

[4] While the prophets certainly upheld the Law, they also urged its Spirit including a spirit of repentance and redemption after being unable to keep the law perfectly: My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn. Ps 51:19] See also Ps 40:7; 50:8; Am 5:21–22; Hos 6:6; Is 1:11–15.

A Decade a Day, Life Mary’s Way

In my Sept 3, 2014 blog here, “The Father And The Rosary,” I explained the rosary as an act of worship of the Father, each decade being an occurrence that begins with the Father’s will, is known and planned from all eternity, and, after examining it in detail for the length of ten Hail Mary’s, an appropriate vehicle since Mary is human, like us, and, like her, we need time to ponder these treasures in our heart, as they come to a close, we respond to God’s wisdom, power and love by joining with all creation in giving Him Glory, to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Today, I would like to go one step farther and propose that the decade of the rosary may be used as a template for my day. Each day in each of our lives is a day which has been filed from eternity in the providence of God and today is brought out into the light, unveiled for the first time to all creation. Thus, while it may seem to be a “normal” day to me, to the Father it is as sacred and holy as the first day of Creation, the day of the Annunciation, of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension and Pentecost. Blasphemy? Exaggeration? Spiritual hyperbole…and fantasy, at that?

But consider, this is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.[1] [Ps 118:24] There was never one like it and there never will be another. Some of his children will be born, some will die, some will get married, some will find God,…and all will be given another chance to listen to Him, to do His will, to refuse the apple and to walk in the Garden with Him. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. [2Pet 3:9] God wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. [1Tim 2:4] And today is a gift, another chance.

You protest? This is simply another day, an ordinary day? Well, neither are all the “mysteries” of the Rosary are momentous miracles, e.g. the finding in the Temple, the announcement of the kingdom, and, at least from the perspective of the human condition of Jesus [though such separation of the natures can be dicey] all of the Sorrowful Mysteries. But the Church looks at them as “mysteries.” Why? Because, though they may seem to be “normal” in human terms on the surface, since they involve the Son of God, Jesus, our Christ, there are infinite layers of substrata awaiting our spiritual archeological investigation, exploration and ultimately, adoration.

And the same is true of every day. It is a “hidden” miracle waiting to be revealed, explored, and its Creator, He who has gifted us with this infinitely precious prize, awaits our recognition, our love, our appreciation and our adoration. So looking at today as a “mystery” to unfold in God’s providence is our ultimate reality.

Unfortunately, because it’s a miracle that “hidden in plain sight,” we can allow ourselves to be blind to its beauty, its uniqueness, its overwhelming simplicity. Our nonchalant attitude is because we do not see in the blazing up of the sun, the transfiguration of the Son. We overlook, ignore, or even sometimes recognize but refuse to take into account the miracle of the morrow.

But today, let’s take it into account. Let’s start with the Our Father as our acknowledgement of His control of my life, of the obedience I owe him, of His total and unconditional love of me, of His eternal plans for my greatest happiness. And today, just today, let me hold His name holy, let me work for His Kingdom, let me do His will with the alacrity, joy and enthusiasm that the saints and angels do it in heaven…and, on His part, He will give me today not just daily but eternal Bread from heaven, He will forgive me my sins in the measure with which I measure, and still more will be given to me. [See Mk 4:24]. Just today, I beg Him not to lead me into the desert to be tempted, for I am weak and fickle and easily swayed. But in particular, I pray that He not have me confront Evil, for it rules the kingdoms of the earth until His Son’s second coming.

As we proceed with our day, just as we contemplated the mystery of the Rosary with the murmuring of Hail Marys in the background, so having an ongoing conversation with our heavenly mother is not only a prudent way to keep us heading towards the narrow gate, but is a radar to warn us against incoming temptations, whether of our own making or generated from the evil in God’s wonderful world around us.

Finally, from the perspective of the rosary decade as a template of life, each decade, whether it extend for a literal decade of years, of days, of hours, of minutes, is enclosed, encapsulated by the love and understanding of God who sets it out on its course, His ruah hovers over it intently [Gen 1:2; Jn 3:8] as it wends its way through our life, and brings it to a successful conclusion, for, as we know from the Cross, success in God’s terms may seem like total meaningless failure in human terms. For this reason, at the end of each day, God deserves all credit, honor, praise and glory be given to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning of all Creation, is at this very conclusion of this moment in time, and will continue to be forever and ever. 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.”