Tag Archives: mystery

Distractions: Blessings in Peculiar Packages #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Breadth and Length and Height and Depth, Part 3

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 you, rooted and grounded in love

We are rooted and grounded in love through the love of the Father who strengthened us in the Spirit and His Son who dwell in our hearts through faith. Rooted in the Holy Spirit, grounded in Christ.

Why both rooted and grounded? The first is a reference from nature: to be rooted, to have established firm roots. This implies that the love which is rooted has grown and become firmly established in the Spirit, who is known by his appearances in the guise of nature, a dove, fire, wind.

Grounded, on the other hand, refers to having laid a firm foundation, make stable, establish. If, indeed, Paul wished to align this with Jesus, it echoes of Jesus own parable of the two houses: Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined. [Mt 7: 24-27] If we have a true love of Jesus and have experienced His unconditional love of us, we, indeed, have a firm foundation upon which to build our lives.

may have strength to comprehend

Here we come to the crux of the matter; all Paul’s prayers that we be strengthened in the Spirit and have Christ dwell within us have been in order that we may have the strength to comprehend. This raises at least two questions: why do we need strength and why just comprehension?

Comprehension, at least as we normally experience it, is a fairly non-taxing activity; we look at something, figure it out and understand it. No biggie. But here, it seems that Paul is in awe of the undertaking, albeit mental, on which we are about to embark. He calls on the big guns, the Spirit and Jesus, to help us in this matter. He foresees that this exploration is an expedition of enormous proportion, covering the breadth and length and height and depth of all reality, of the entire cosmos, and not just spatially, but temporally, encompassing a panoramic view of creation as a manifestation of God’s gift of love to us from the Big Bang through all of Incarnational History down to the present moment.

Not only that but we will be viewing God, God at work in His universe, His creation, His cosmos. If we hearken back to the vistas of the Hebrew Bible, the encounters with God are not only awe-inspiring, they are fear-filled. From Noah, who moved by fear prepared an ark [Heb 11:7] in the middle of nowhere and was thus saved, to Abraham, who realizes he is only dust and ashes but presumes to plead with God not to be angry with him for asking God to spare Sodom. [Gen 18:16-33] Even Moses who cannot look on God’s face and live [Ex 33:20] and Elijah who braved raging wind, earthquake and fire and yet at the sound of the still small sound of God, hid his face in his cloak. [1Kgs 19:13] It seems that Paul anticipates God hurling at us the same challenge with which He met Job’s folly: Gird up your loins now, like a man. I will question you, and you tell me the answers![Job 40:7] After this little jaunt, Paul expects us to be saying with Job: By hearsay I had heard of you, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes. [Job 42:5-6] More dust and ashes. Obviously, a journey of a lifetime, and literally, we will definitely need strength!

But why only comprehension? Why not grokking through involvement? Experience? Immersion? Maybe it does include all of these. καταλαμβάνω, here translated “to comprehend,” is used by Paul in a number of places: to seize the prize in the race [1Cor 9:24]; to achieve a goal [Rom 9:30]; to possess/be possessed by Christ [Phil 3:12]; to be overtaken by [1Thes 5:4]. Thus, at least in his mind, there is a through grasping, mentally and physically, of the object in question. Our English “comprehension” alludes to this totality, to completely lay hold of, seize, engulf. To be so tenacious, we must indeed be strengthened, since the object we are attempting to grasp is the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s Love, which is coextensive with God Himself, for God is, as we know, Love.

with all the holy ones

This is an interesting phrase to throw in the middle of this preparation for the examination of God. It reflects Paul’s ever present consciousness of the community, the Body of Christ, the unity of Christians into one family of adopted sons and daughters of God, the Father. And, unlike the connotation of holy ones today to refer specifically and only to those who are in heaven, Paul refers to the members of the Church as the saints, the holy ones, and he uses it in every letter except 1Thes and Galatians.

This indicates that all the holy ones are to contemplate this mystery; it is a requisite. It reminds me of the sensus fidei, the infallible sense of the faithful referred to in the Vatican II documents and some of the Papal documents which followed. It is a type of group discernment of Truth, of the absoluteness of the reality under examination.

Finally, it discards as ridiculous it passing hubris that I, in my finitude, with my limited mental capacity, my temporally and spatially confined experience, would think that I could achieve even a modicum of comprehension of this mystery on my own! Absurd!!! It is as if I, standing in my back yard in Vermont and looking up at the sky, had the chutzpah to think that I could not only see the entire universe, some, if not much of the light from which may not even have arrived here yet, but could understand it in all its physical immensity, complexity, infinitude. Ah, the revelries of a fool. Better, with Francis, to stick with Brother Sun and Sister Moon and pray with them to Father God.

what is the breadth and length and height and depth

We come to the centerpiece of our meditation, the puzzlement of the ages. Paul does not specify what we are intended to measure. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch comment, “Many connect these dimensions with the limitless scope of Christ’s love, which [in the next phrase, Paul notes] surpasses understanding.[3:19] Others see a reference to the untraceable vastness of God and his wisdom (Job 11:7-9) or to the cubic proportions of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:16) St. Gregory of Nyssa, in On the Three Days, states: ‘The four dimensions are the four extensions of the Cross. By height is meant heaven, by depth the underworld, by length and breadth the cosmic order in between. In each of these realms, devotion to the Lord is rendered.’”[2] Other scholars agrees that the reference is unclear. One points out other possibilities, the Jerusalem Temple (Ezek 42, 47, 48) or God plan for salvation, but all seem to agree that the more likely is the love of Christ.[3]

While giving a nod to other possibilities, the probability of the love of Christ seems substantiated not only by the immediate subsequent reference in the following phrase, but also in Paul’s iteration of a very similar theme in his Letter to the Romans: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom 8: 38-39] Here he is more specific in his references, but again, all with reference to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. In Ephesians, we were just to comprehend with all the holy ones; here we are invited to share Paul’s certainty that none of these extremes will be able to separate us from the love of God.  

Having said that, I feel cheated somewhat if I am not able to reflect on these enigmas myself, so, with your indulgence, I will venture where angels and exegetes do not offer clear conclusions.

First, while height and depth certainly bring to mind heaven and hell, length and breadth has been subsumed into popular parlance and attached to measuring “the land.” In a sense, not only is God’s reality found in creation, but creation is tangible evidence of God’s love. Thus, the length and breadth can be seen to measure “the actual world itself, a sacramental universe that is right in front of you and everywhere, as opposed to the ideal, the churchy, or the mental.”[4]

Second, by giving us four dimensions, Paul seems to want us to confront a measurable object, yet both God and God as Love are immeasurable. On the other hand, the cross, as pointed out in the text and footnotes, conveniently has four extensions corresponding to the four measurements. But the cross, in and of itself, is an instrument of torture; it is lovable only by reference to Jesus who hung on it; alone it horrifies and repulses. Thus, we come to something we can all get our arms around, Jesus, our Christ, our Leader, our Shepherd. It is He who is ultimately and intimately lovable, it is He to whom we can all relate, He who made the immeasurable measurable, He whom encapsulates and focuses all the other possibilities of interpretation, even the Temple by which He meant His Body, the True Temple of God, and the Heavenly Jerusalem, His Father’s house, yet as created, which seems likely since it is to hold creations like ourselves, brings us back to Christ since all things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. [Jn 1:3]

Third, Paul gives us another clue on that “measurable object” a few chapters later in Romans, where he exclaims: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! [Rom 11:33] In the Ephesians’ quote, he applies depth to the love of Christ; here he applies depth to the riches, wisdom and knowledge of God. Since, in God, all attributes are interrelated and united in the One, we conclude that we are always dealing with Love, here under the aspect of being known in His various judgments and…ways.

Again, depth is often applied to feeling or commitment. We “measure” our attachment to another person by our depth of feeling for that person. The same is true of God: “Every time we make the Sign of the Cross, we are reminded of the depth of love Jesus demonstrated and to which we are called.”[5] Of course, simply stating it is a far cry from truly experiencing God’s love and responding to it. That is the ultimate goal of any life.

Indeed, fourth, even the approach to that goal, in climbing the far flung foothills of God’s Love is to attain a great height. Like a mountain, ascending this peak is arduous, challenging, exhausting, fraught with chasms of sin which seem to lure us to our spiritual death with their false promises, hypnotically mesmerizing us to take just one more step towards our ultimate eternal demise. We must rely on Jesus and the Holy Spirit as our guides to show us the Way to the Father.

It is, if we be honest, the greatest high to which we can aspire and achieve. To know, to experience that I have reached “out and touched the face of God,”[6] that in turn I have been touched by God’s love is the ultimate hope, the ultimate dream of existence. All other pseudo highs are just that, pseudo, imitation, fake, limited, not going anywhere, without substance. They might effect us physically, even alter our mental state, but when we have been grounded in God’s love, nothing compares, nothing can touch that experience which, unlike our induced euphoric states, lasts forever.

[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 for Eph 3:18, The New Testament: The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible RSV 2nd Catholic Edt (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2010), 349.

[3] Paul Kobelski, Note on Eph 3:18 width and length… The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Edts. R. Brown, J. Fitzmyer, and R. Murphy (Upper Saddle River, Prentice Hall, 1990), 888. See also: Ephesians 3:18, “The Letters of St. Paul,” The Navarre Bible, Reader’s Edition (New York, Scribners, 2003), 388: “St Paul asks God to give Christians understanding of the ‘mystery of Christ’, which essentially is the outcome of his love. In referring to the vast dimensions of this mystery he uses an enigmatic phrase—‘the breadth and length and height and depth’. These and similar terms were used by Stoic philosophy to designate the cosmos as a whole. Here they express the immense scale of the ‘mystery’ which embraces the entire plan of salvation, the actions of Christ and the activity of the Church. St Augustine interpreted these words as referring to the cross, the instrument of salvation which Christ used to show the full extent of his love (cf. De doctrina Christiana, 2,41). St Paul may indeed be trying to sum up all the richness of the “mystery” of Christ in a graphic way—in terms of a cross whose extremities reach out in all four directions seeking to embrace the whole world. The blood which our Lord shed on the cross brought about the Redemption, the forgiveness of sins (cf. Eph 1:7). It did away with hostility, reconciling all men and assembling them into one body (cf. Eph 2:15-16), the Church. Therefore the cross is an inexhaustible source of grace, the mark of the true Christian, the instrument of salvation for all. When, through the action of Christians, the cross of Christ is made present at all the crossroads of the world, then is that “mystery” implemented whose purpose it is to “unite all things in Christ” (cf. Eph 1:10).

[4] R. Rohr, Daily Meditation, Depth, Breadth, and Process, Sun, Jun 21, 2015

[5] Meditation text, “Being of Service,” 3 Minute Retreat for June 23, 2015, LoyolaPress.com.

[6] John Gillespie Magee, Jr, “High Flight,” Great Aviation Quotes: Quotable Flyer: Pilot and Flying Quotations, http://www.skygod.com/quotes/highflight.html

Breadth and Length and Height and Depth, Part 1

Breadth and Length and Height and Depth

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]

A puzzling paragraph….As one does with a masterpiece of art, examining each portion of the painting reveals depths never seen if one simply takes it all in at once and moves on.  This paragraph has spoken to me my whole life.  It needs examining, close examining phrase by phrase.  We can take our time, we have all eternity.  We can wander through the fields of wisdom the Holy Spirit has given us and enjoy the wonder of, the inspiration of, the glory of just these few words of Scripture.

For this reason: This seems to be referring to the previous paragraph where Paul gives this reason: to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light [for all] what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.

To preach,…to bring to light…the manifold wisdom of God. It reminds me of There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. There is nothing kept secret that will not come to light which all three Synoptics quote. [Mt 10:26; Lk 8:17; Mk 4:22] or of Jesus telling the disciples that the Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. [Jn 14:26]

I kneel before the Father: It would seem that, if we are preaching the inscrutable riches of Christ, it should be Christ before whom Paul is kneeling, a’la Thomas’ My Lord and my God. [Jn 20:28]. But it is the overwhelming realization that it is the Providence and plan of the Father, the God who created all things, this infinitely orchestrated plan of the mystery hidden from ages past, conceived in every minute detail before Creation itself, that brings Paul to his knees. It is manifold wisdom of the Father, this 360° reality of Salvation unfolding in real time and space known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time [1Pet 1:20] that will now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.

From whom every family[2] in heaven and on earth is named: Naming plays an important role in Scripture and in the lives of the ancients. Naming something gave one some control, some power over that thing. “God, the creator of all the families of beings, established his power and control over all creation in the act of naming them (He numbers the stars, and gives to all of them their names. [Ps 147:4]; Lift up your eyes on high and see who created these: He leads out their army and numbers them, calling them all by name. [Isa 40:26]; cf. Gen 2:19-20).”[3]

This is borne out also in the first days of creation when God names those things that are beyond the immediate use by and control of man, the Cosmos, the sky, the earth, the sea: God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” God called the dome “sky.” God called the dry land “earth,” and the basin of water he called “sea.” (Gen 1:5, 8, 10) However, then, in both the Elohim (Gen 1-2:3) and the Yahweh (Gen 2:4-3:24) versions of Creation, there is a distinct break where the LORD stops naming things and, in both versions, gives that responsibility over to man:

  • Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. [Gen 1:26]
  • So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name. (Gen 2:19)

Thus, God gives man power over the creatures with which he would interact, use and control, at least to some degree. And in the latter version, this power is established by man naming the creatures.

How does this relate to God from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named? One could point to God’s renaming of the first Patriarch and his wife: No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations….As for Sarai your wife, do not call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. (Genesis 17:5,15) But this renaming, while symbolic, doesn’t seem to come up to Paul’s every family, particularly since the meaning of the names did not change.[4]

The more plausible explanations are (a) that the Father is the ultimate father, i.e. of the Trinity, His eternal family, and the archetype of all families, and (b) that the same Father both providentially foreordained each family and then created them, thus exhibiting his power over or naming every family in heaven and on earth.

In passing, it is interesting to note that Paul includes families in heaven. Since Jesus pointed out that human, at the resurrection…neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven [Mt 22:30], one must look for a different definition of family. Jesus provides that when asked about his family: For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother. [Mk 3:35; Mt 12:49; Lk 8:21] Here, our heavenly Father is tied directly in to all families, beyond the ties of blood and heritage to the ties of the Kingdom and obedience and love. It is perhaps in this context that every family in heaven and on earth is named by God as his adopted sons and daughters: I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. [2 Cor 6:18; cf. Eph 1:5].

(To be continued)

[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] “The term (Gk. patria) refers to a group of related individuals who trace their origin to a common father or forefather and is linguistically related to the word Father (Gk. pater) in the preceding verse. Because God is the supreme Father of men and angels, his life-giving paternity is the reality of which created fatherhood and family life are only a reflection. (CCC 239, 2214)” Note for Eph 3:15, Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, The New Testament: The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible RSV 2nd Catholic Edt (San Frncisco, Ignatius Press, 2010), 349

[3] Note on Eph 3:15, Paul Kobelski, “The Letter to the Ephesians,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Edts. R. Brown, J. Fitzmyer, and R. Murphy (Upper Saddle River, Prentic Hall, 1990), 888.

[4]“Abram and Abraham are merely two forms of the same name, both meaning, “the father is exalted”; another variant form is Abiram (Nm 16:1; 1 Kgs 16:34). The additional -ha- in the form Abraham is explained by popular etymology as coming from ab-hamon goyim, ‘father of a multitude of nations.’”…“Sarai and Sarah are variant forms of the same name, both meaning ‘princess.’” NABRE Notes on Gen 17:5 and 17:15.

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.”

Testing – 1 – 2 – 3

Jn 6:5-6 He said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. [1]

Why Philip? Jesus seems to have a soft spot in His heart for Philip.  Phil is a regular in John’s Gospel.  So why test Philip…why ask the question if He knew what He was going to do?

According to His question, we need to get food…the “real” question seemed to be “where?” All this with the crowd of 5000 hurrying up the mountain. Where is Hebrew National Catering when you need them?

Jesus, do You test me in the same way? Do You pose questions in my life which are so overwhelming, so mind-boggling, so infinite in their complexity and implications that I cannot possibly answer them? I think you do!!!..in fact, I know You do! What is life? Why am I here? Why Death? Why did Robin Williams commit suicide and Lauren Bacall die? Why don’t you answer me, God? Why all the killings, the violence, the insanity? Why the natural disasters if You are a good God? Why? Why? Why? These are the in-your-face questions that hit me ever time I power-up my computer, get a text or turn on the TV.  And what is terribly, horribly, agonizingly missing is any ability to understand the reason behind these realities…to understand what we, as a species, have, for the most part, given up understanding and euphemistically call these “mysteries of life.”

“Why do You do this to me?” I am tempted to ask. “What have I ever done to You to deserve this….this emotional anguish…this mental impotence?”

There are no words to answer these questions. Of this You were aware from all eternity. Of this You foretold time and again. Your only answer is YOU!  Right here, right now, in the flesh.

The answer is not a theological dogma, not a philosophical platitude, not a beautiful artistic artifice. The answer is a rough hewn, wooden  upright pillar and a cross-piece laying notched on the top…and You, nailed hands and feet to it… bloody, scourged, crowned, trembling, dehydrated, gasping of breath as your lungs fill with fluid, dying…and the question WHY…therein is the ultimate WHY, screamed to the heavens, splintering the cedars of Lebanon, roaring with fiery flame, shaking the desert of Kadesh. [Ps 29: 5,7,8] and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.[Lk 23:44]

You point to Yourself there and say: That’s why…not screaming, not raving, but praying: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”[Lk 23:34] Be still and know that I am God. [Ps 46:10]

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]

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, forgive me, for I know not what I have done. 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.