Tag Archives: judgment

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

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The Perspective of Perfection

Only non-divine entities define perfection. Perfection, by its very nature, is a matter of comparison, if only with a Platonic image in the mind. From God’s perspective, He simply is, without comparison, perfection, and what He “speaks” in creation, each and every leaf, rock, tsunami, fire, hydrocephalic child is perfect, unique, as He knows it, loves it into being.

Not only is each creation perfect in itself, but also somehow, within the perspective of creation as God sees creation, it fits perfectly with all the rest.

It is only when we, with our finite minds, our one location viewpoint, our limited historical vantage, view an individual, that we begin to categorize and lump together and define (from the Latin words for “completely” and “limit or boundary”), that we begin to compare with other similar creations, to contrast with them, to place value judgments based, again, on our limited perspective. We don’t see the whole picture, i.e., the forest is perfect, each tree fitting a unique and irreplaceable niche, even if from our perspective, we may not be able to comprehend the whole picture. We don’t and won’t get it. We don’t and can’t take the infinity necessary to understand the uniqueness of this individual, the myriad of relationships within which this creation rests and the precision of love that placed that creation here and now.

Maybe, then, from our perspective, we should reserve value judgments,….forever.

Amen. Alleluia!!!

Have mercy on me, a sinner![Lk 18:13] [1] Reconciliation Part II: Who Forgives

Definitely, all my sinfulness starts with my basic disobedience to You, God. Since Adam’s time, this is the way I have been: Behold, I was born in guilt, in sin my mother conceived me. [Ps 51:6] I have been mortally afflicted since youth. [Ps 88:16] So, of course, I must beg your forgiveness. With the Psalmist I must cry: Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me. For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me. [Ps 51:3-5] Just as in the time of the Temple, You do not desire sacrifice or I would give it; a burnt offering you would not accept. Instead you want obedience, contrition, humility: My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn. [Ps 51:18,19] Thus it was and is still absolutely necessary for me to plead for Your forgiveness, God. All sin is against You and only You can forgive me.

Indeed, those who argue for God-only forgiveness will insist: “What about the first three commandments?” Those are strictly God’s, right? Wrong. Just as You, God, are hurt, are disobeyed, are sinned against in all the other commandments, so I harm you, my sisters and brothers, every time I worship an idol instead of God, particularly if that idol is me; I both give you bad example, but also somehow I draw the human collective a little farther from God, I opt out of the Body of Christ and thus weaken it, I say to the world, God is wrong, follow me, follow my example instead. That’s part of social sin, tearing the seamless garment of Christ, tearing me apart from you, my brothers and sisters and rupturing my link with You, Jesus, through whom I can either participate in and build up Your body or tear it down.

The same is true every time I desecrate Your name, God. God, You must be horribly hurt that we constantly use Your name “in vain,” saying without thought, without reflection as to its meaning, its import, “O God!” when surprised, when angry, as an expletive, in flippant disregard for Who You are. Yet You make it very clear that is absolutely wrong; indeed, You, Yourself, Jesus, taught us to pray: hallowed be Your Name [Mt 6:9; Lk 11:2], but I have become so use to saying that, that I don’t ever think about what it means, what it implies, what it requires. And so, if I use Your name in anger, in frustration, in amazement, in any context where it is obvious that I just am using it to say something, I have hurt you, my brothers and sisters, by indicating by my irreverence, my callous disregard of its meaning, that it’s ok…see, I wasn’t zapped by a lightening bolt. Get your kicks and do it too! That’s how I sin against you, my friends.

Finally, my blatant disregard for the sanctity of You Sabbath, Your Day, God, my shopping, conducting my affairs, my business as if it were like any other day of the week, conveys that same message, that same scandalous, irreverent, disobedient behavior which says to all who see: “Forget God. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t pay attention to my little foibles. Why should He pay attention to yours. I can set up my own rules, so can you, my and your own schedule, my and your own sacred days. We don’t have to follow something set up centuries ago..” And the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom [Mt 27:51], God exposes Himself to me to console, to comfort, to gather us in and what do I do, I scream: Crucify Him, Crucify Him [Lk 23:21; Mk 15:13] and hang the abomination of desolation [Dan 12:11; Mt 24:15] in God’s place. That’s why I must as for your forgiveness, my friends; I have killed your God.

As God Himself has showed me, all sins against You, God, and therefore, I need Your forgiveness; I have pushed You away and I must be reconciled with You. But, at the same time, all sins against you, my brothers and sisters of our God family. To think that God let’s me off the hook when I blatantly dishonor, kill, steal, abuse, lie, slander, and cheat you, brother and sister, is nonsensical, idiotic, does not compute.

And this goes not only for these photo negative, active sin caught on the film of history, but also for neglect of the positive print of love, passive sin, believing I can just have faith without good works, without becoming involved in making the world a better place, in helping those who need my help: 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] Both active and passive sin are here and now, involve me with you, my neighbor. The passive sin neglects the corporal [bodily] works of mercy, of kindness, of goodness, the cup of water works, the providing of food, clothing, care, concern type of works.

Active sin hasn’t even gotten to neglecting…I actively attempt to deceive, crush, obliterate, exterminate you, your rights, your possessions, your reputation, your very self. That’s why I have to start with the works required by the commandments. Maybe that’s what Jesus was pointing to when he knocked my namesake off his horse and asked him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Notice that, while Jesus completely identifies with the Christians Saul is persecuting, these Christians were the ones being persecuted: Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment. [Acts 8:3; 22:4; 26:9–11]. Thus, though You, God, are always the injured party when I sin, that injury is also to the person effected by my sin. Persecuting violates the commandments,…it doesn’t even get to service.

Most obvious is physical injury, the person I wound is you; you are injured; you are killed, you are dead. But the same holds true of mistreatment of you, my parents, of you others whose integrity before You, God, I abuse in casual sex, in depriving you of what you own, of your good name, even of coveting what you have [a slap in Your face who have given me all I need]. In all these, I chose not only myself over You, God, not only following my own will instead of willing to obeying Your commandments, I have also chosen myself, my way, my comfort, my ego-centric world that I imagine revolves around me over you, everybody but me. I over look, ignore, refuse to recognize the situation from your point of view. I refuse, therefore, to do exactly what You, God, ordered me to do: to do to you, my neighbor, what I would want done to me in the same situation, to treat you as I would want to be treated. I have not loved but ignored, brushed aside, trampled over you.

The fact that I am not alone since all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God, [Rom 3:23] and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned, [Rom 5:12], that is, the fact that you, my brother, my sister, sinned against me, owe me a debt, have trespassed on me, does not “balance my books,” obviate the need for me seeking your forgiveness. I cannot think that since you have done evil to me, I can do evil to you with impunity, to “even up the score;” that somehow what I do is not held against me because it is “an eye for an eye.” Do not repay anyone evil for evil…“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord….” Indeed, that way leads to hatred, violence, murder, war, annihilation; that path is that path of terrorists and tyrants. Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good. [Rom 12:17, 19, 21].

This is not fantasy. This is not fairytales or goody two-shoes. Forgiving you is absolutely necessary if I expect to be forgiven by God. Jesus placed the scales of justice squarely in my own tainted, sin filled and guilt-ridden hands: forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors [Mt 6:12]. I must forgive you your sins, your trespasses, your walking over me, if I expect to be forgiven by God. Jesus made this point again and again. And I need to do this not just once, but 70 x 7 times [Mt 18:22]. Which means, in turn, that I must seek forgiveness 70 x 7 times [Mt 18:22]. I’ve noticed that, while I have a pension for ignoring, downplaying, brushing aside my sins against you, I am super quick to take offense at any little peccadillo of yours against me, harboring black and dire thoughts of eyes for an eye and teeth for a tooth, Edmond Dantès, John McClane type revenge.

And I certainly do not come up to Your standard Jesus: Love one another as I have loved you. [Jn 13:34] As You pointed out to me in a previous reflection, while most will identify this as simply a iteration of Lv 19:18, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I think this takes loving you others to a new level. While in my better moments, I may come up to the standard You set, I have many moments when I do not love myself…to various degrees. I may be just miffed at my blowing something or I may be really angry at myself for “not living up to my standards,” regardless of whether these standards are Yours or simply my ego’s projection. In any event, love one another as You loved us not only purifies such extraneous egoisms, but maintains a constant level of love, a gold standard by which I can measure my love, my agape, my outreach.

Thus, if I apply this gold standard to my actions, I not only recognize when I fall short of treating others as You would treat them, but I am constantly reminded that You identify Yourself with each and every one of “them,” the omnipresent, easy tag for distancing myself from you as my God-family, as I love you, and thus, when I fall short of loving “them,” I fall short of loving You. If I would see You, Christ, in every one of you I meet, I would know that I cannot pretend to serve You, Jesus, directly, whom I do not see, and ignore serving you, my least of these, whose want and need are blatant before me.

Therefore, it is not enough that I set myself straight with You, God. For every sin I commit, I need the forgiveness of both God and you, my brothers and sisters; I need to seek reconciliation of both God and you for our community to be a community, a people of God. I need to seek your forgiveness, my brothers and sisters. Justice demands I make things right with you, I make adequate amends for having wronged you, hurt you, ignored you, deprived you, debased you, demoralized you. And I need your and your and your forgiveness for the times I have personally sinned against you.

Forgiveness, thus, is an absolutely necessary, often forgotten, ignored, even despised as weakness, lubricant of our social structure, of any relationship, be it God and me, you and me, your family and my family, your “hood” and my “hood,” your wealth and my poverty, your sex and my sex, you race and my race, your religion and my religion, your nation and my nation, your world and my world. It is the realization that there truly 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] It is a bi-lateral, mutual, common-ground understanding, an agreement, a wisdom revealed, that we are unique and that’s ok, that we share more than we differ, that we, save God[2], are all human and fallible and make mistakes.

No, forgiveness can’t be limited to just God and me as the authorities then and many people now seem to think. Yes, I must seek forgiveness from You, God, I must also seek forgiveness from you, my friends.

[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 does not mean that I don’t have to “forgive” God…when He takes a loved one home and leaves me abandoned, inconsolable, enraged, frantic, freaked out, depressed unto despair, when I rant and rave against heaven and cannot see the light of morning, He carries his tantrum traumatized child until my tears flow and my wracked convulsed psyche comes to the peace of the heart, of the soul, that passes all understanding…and I can “forgive” God His wisdom and love.

Eucharist, Part II: The Reality of the Sacrifice

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. [1] [1Cor 11:26]

One aspect of the reality of the Eucharist is the reality of the sacrifice, the offering, the oblation, new and eternal covenant in Jesus whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, [Rom 3:25] blood which He gave in obedience to His Father in reparation for my sins. I couldn’t do it; I am a sinner. God couldn’t do it; He is the sinned against. The God-Man, Jesus, needed to do it, taking upon himself our sins and becoming our divine/human oblation expressing our sorrow for sin, and God’s acceptance of our sacrifice, our “making holy” of ourselves.

It is very clear that, instead of holocausts and sin offerings, Jesus offers the Father what He wants, what He wanted from the beginning, from Eden: Behold, I come to do your will. His perfect obedience, even to drinking the cup of death, is the one sacrifice for sins; it not only counterbalances but completely obliterates sin which, at its root, each and every one of which stems from disobedience to God. [Heb 10:8-9,12]

In order to take part in His sacrifice, His “making holy,” I need to join Him in some way; it is my sin, it therefore must be a sacrifice on my part. But even if I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over to be martyred, I gain nothing [1Cor 13:3] if I am not connected, not part of Christ, not part of Love incarnate, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.[1Jn 4:8-9] That word life rings a bell… Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. [Jn 6:53, 57]

But that’s not the end of the story: 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 4:10] Through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh [Heb 19-20]. I must become part of His sacrifice, partake in His real flesh and blood, which He offered to the Father once for all on the Cross and which is perpetuated forever in the sharing of Himself at the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Without His real presence, His body and blood which we partake, all this remembering becomes just a mime, a play, a pious but literally unsubstantial, i.e. without the substance of Jesus present, reenactment of a script instead of what truly happened, what truly happens and truly will happen until the end of time, Jesus eternal sacrifice to the Father in which He invites us to join, He blesses, breaks and gives to me to eat, gives to me to drink.

Neither the author of Hebrews, Paul, or the Church would put such emphasis into our attitude, our reverence, our self-cleansing for an unsubstantial reenactment: Let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. [Heb 10:22] Nor would there be such emphasis on participation: We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near. [Heb 10:25]

Nor would participating in a memory unworthily be cause for condemnation. But if I receive the true body, the true blood and then sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, my joining with Christ no longer remains a sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries. As Hebrews points out by comparison: Anyone who rejects the law of Moses is put to death without pity on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Do you not think that a much worse punishment is due the one who has contempt for the Son of God, considers unclean the covenant-blood by which he was consecrated, and insults the spirit of grace?[Heb 10:26-29] Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.[1Cor 11:27,29]…Without discerning the body, without believing that Jesus is really present, that this bread is His Body, this wine His blood…You have to believe or answer for your unbelief. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.[1Cor 11:28] It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. [Heb 10:31]

I do not pretend to understand the total picture. I do know that in order for this sacrifice to be real, here, today, He has enabled us, through the priesthood handed down from the Apostles, to do this in His memory, to call again on the Spirit, to enact His Sacrifice and to invite me to join Him in offering to the Father myself, to transubstantiate again bread and wine into His body and blood and offer them again on our altar in West Pawlet, in Moscow, in Johannesburg, in Beijing, yesterday, today, tomorrow until the end of time.

[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.

On second thought…

Jn 6:19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. [1]

A lot happens in this verse, rowing, walking, coming, and being afraid.

Rowing….Lord, I often feel that I am rowing across a stormy sea and You are not there…everything, even nature is against me. Even if I am with others, we are alone against the elements. We’ve been in this situation before, we don’t flinch, we charge on, oblivious of our peril…we’ve gotten so use to our world and its sin, we don’t even register that we are part of it. We aren’t even afraid at this point, we’re at home on this sea of life…we aren’t afraid until we see You appearing miraculously on our horizon. You introduce an element we try to forget, we try to ignore, we try to live as if it doesn’t exist…You represent a scary aspect of reality with which we don’t want to cope, because we can’t cope, we can’t control it, we can’t even schedule it, it just happens, it is, and there is nothing that we can do about it. Wish we could, wish we could just amortize it over the course of a couple of centuries, taking death/eternity/Truth/ Reality/God/Jesus/Judgment in little chunks might not be so bad…I could ignore them under the illusion that I would live forever right here on earth, right in my “cozy little home” living my “cozy little life,” oblivious of the horror, the carnage, the destruction, the avarice, the lust for domination, power, control which, bestial with its seven heads and ten horns [Rev 13:1], ravages the world. Unfortunately, both death/eternity/Truth/Reality/God/ Jesus/Judgment and the ten horned monster exist in our temporal time zone, evolve in our ever ticking world. Why do You invade my serenity, my “security,” my “comfort zone,” and shake me up, shake me to my very boot-straps, my very soul. I was so complacently blazé about the world, my neighbor, my soul until You came traipsing across the waters of my world, holding up Truth in all its gory glory, bloody brilliance, ravaged radiance. I don’t care to see that, thank You very much! Why can’t You just “walk on by” [Mk 6:48] and we’ll survive somehow.

On second thought….

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

The Precipice of “No God”

I am taking a MOOC on the New Atheism. This takes me back to a point in my philosophical studies, or maybe that was only the setting, not the reason behind the personal debate, when I came to the conclusion that the existence of God, on one level, can neither be proven nor disproven. The choice was mine. I was Prometheus holding fire, choosing either to engulf my creedal universe in flame or to let the flames of incense burn more brightly before the Divine Altar.

I say, “on one level,” for it seems that only on the human plain can this fact can be debated. “Below,” on the level of creation, God’s existence is a given, indeed, a sine qua non, upon which the mountains, the seas, the earth, the stars, the universe itself rests, the He IS who IS, before opening his hands and releasing the first matter, the first energy, and history began. “Above,” on the level of the spirit, God is encountered, perceived, “in one’s face,” a fact, a reality to which even the evil spirits whom Jesus exorcised attested.

Thus, it is only on the level of the human mind, the human will, that we can contest the “existence” of God,…that we can dismiss Him is fairly easy, as easy as it was for the serpent to convince Eve that evil was good and good was evil, that disobedience meant divinity and that God wishes us not to become like him. Now, if we can so easily redefine good and evil, it is but one small analogous “step for mankind” to make God disappear from my horizon of reality, a step which many in our world have seemed to stride continuously with aplomb.

The ability to do such is strictly individualized; one cannot impose disbelief on another, no matter how hard one tries…as is attested to artistically in Myles Connolly’s Mr. Blue, and humanisticly by the shedding of blood with the martyrs in the Middle East. Thus, on that day long ago, in the Jesuit Philosophate in Aurora, Ill., I faced my crisis of faith alone, to believe or not to believe, that was the question.

Hubris would prompt me to fabricate a fantastic faith experience that rescued me from the precipice of disbelief, but, regretfully and realistically, while the realization of the alternatives are indelibly etched itself on my memory mother board, the willful act of choosing is nowhere to be found. Perhaps, like so many of us today, the lethargy of inertia, acedia personified, languidly poured itself over my aboulia, congealed, and I simply continued on in my present state of affairs, that of a Jesuit Scholastic, not oblivious to but without reference to the question and selection a course of action.

Thank you, God, for we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.[1][Rom 8:28] I may not have been loving you at that time as I should, but, out of Your love and mercy, you seem to have called me according to Your purpose. Thus, while it was not a faith experience on my part that motivated the ersatz “choice,” it was another in the endless manifestations of Your love, Your mercy, Your tolerance, Your patience, Your exasperated, chortling curtailing of my wayward steps to lead me by Your path, Your Way, back home to You.

Regardless of my lack of true involvement in the decision, both the confrontation of the alternatives and the sin-tainted nature of my lack of attentiveness to the magnitude of the moment underlies my empathy and, indeed, agape for self-professed atheists today. Note that I direct myself to the underlying persons and not the fallacy, however tenaciously they attach themselves to it. Before God, we all stand naked of our beliefs, clothed only by our deeds.[2] Before Jesus, all sinners are equally loved and stand in need of redemption.

Does this exonerate me from propounding the Truth, from exposing falsehood, from inviting understanding, from encouraging wisdom? Absolutely not. With rigor and fortitude, I must proclaim the Gospel in season and out of season. However, as the Church has pointed out, today, people are more persuaded by the personal witness of one’s life that the persuasion of one’s doctrine. They must go hand-in-hand. My witness must substantiate the credibility of my doctrine and my doctrine must inspire the reality of my witness.

I guess it comes down to the fact that I’ve been there and done that. There, but literally for the grace of God, sit I. And from thence derives my empathy and agape. I thank You, God, for Your gift of my faith; help me to cherish it both now and until the end of time. 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] Note that this includes faith as manifested by deeds.