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The Holy Spirit - Look to and rely on for your next steps

10/09/2018 02:54 PM
On Sacramental Marriage...
The publication of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia” has resulted in a lot of theological discussion about a very important doctrinal issue; that of Catholic divorce and civil remarriage and how to relate these couples to the Church and to the Eucharist. Pre-marriage cohabitation, and post-marriage divorce is rampant today, and endorsed and promoted by a culture that is both anti-God, and anti-marriage. As a result, people holding various positions on these questions would probably agree on one thing -- there is the need to help reduce the number of divorces taking place in our society.

It should be no surprise that marriage is under attack in our society, for out of all of life’s relationships Jesus chose marriage as the image that best illustrates his relationship with those he died to redeem. And, in a very real sense Christian marriage is an icon of Jesus Christ. (An icon is a visible representation of an eternal truth.) Consequently, when a Christian couple’s marriage is constant and true, despite life’s difficulties and storms, people may see their example and conclude that Jesus’ love is also constant and true. Conversely, when someone gives up on their partner, either out of selfishness or from despair and dissolves their marriage, people may look at them and conclude that Jesus’ love is also dissolvable. That is why we must stem the tide of failed marriages, even while we extend arms of grace and love to those who have experienced divorce.

To stem this tide, we must begin by changing the cultural mores regarding marriage and divorce prior to dating, engagement, and marriage. Someone has said, “healthy people make healthy marriages.” This simple statement strikes at the heart of the problem. Marriage unites two imperfect individuals, who bring into their marriage not only their assets and gifts but also their faults, flaws, and woundedness. Only Christianity provides the values, principles, and the power to live in a godly relationship between two imperfect people. Therefore, unless each individual in the marriage partnership, is independently committed to following Jesus Christ at all cost, and committed to life-long growth in Christ and practical application of his truths and character to their life, it is doubtful that a healthy Christian marriage will ensue.

This is where Sacramental marriage differs from civil marriage. For Christians, marriage like all of life, is not simply concerned with what we personally gain from the relationship but should be concerned with re-configuring our beliefs and behavior to conform to what is Christ’s good and perfect will, rather than our own wishes and desires. The best preparation for being a godly spouse is to be the kind of person to whom God would gladly entrust, in marriage, the life of one of his sons or daughters.

08/27/2018 02:54 PM
The Bread of Life

In the first three weeks of August the Gospel readings explored John 6 and Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life. We read of the promise that by partaking of him we will receive real life.

St. Thomas à Kempis said, “This most high and venerable Sacrament is the health of soul and body, the cure of every spiritual malady. By it our vices are cured, our passions restrained, temptations are lessened, grace is given in fuller measure, and virtue once established is fostered; faith is confirmed, hope is strengthened, and love kindled and deepened.”2 Jesus is the source of life and when he comes to us in the Eucharist he comes to make a difference in us.

If you have ever tried feeding a toddler who doesn’t know what they want to eat you know how difficult it is to satisfy an unidentified desire. Though they are offered numerous and diverse lunch choices they push them away with dissatisfaction. Usually the issue is not one of hunger for food but of a general attitude of dissatisfaction and hunger of spirit.

The crowds who followed Jesus evidenced a similar hunger of spirit. Like a child’s question, “Mom, what is there to eat?” those who followed Jesus were also asking legitimate questions due to their spiritual hunger. But in a similar way to a child’s boredom and rejection of the choices, these seekers of Jesus rejected and were unwilling to receive the Bread of Life which the Father put before them to satisfy their hunger. Though they responded, “Lord give us this bread always,” by the end of the day they abandoned Jesus and the Bread of Life which the Father sent from heaven.

Dissatisfaction of spirit is often manifest in many ways. Some people have an uneasy restlessness that seeks satisfaction for spiritual hunger in the pursuit of one thing after another. This spiritual hunger often drives people to pursue the latest toy, the latest philosophy, or the latest experience. Like a universal remote control, they are haphazardly flipping through the options of life but never able to settle on anything that fully satisfies their inner hunger. We would do well to heed Jesus’ advice to them to reevaluate their lives and to not continue to expend their energies on things which do not satisfy.

Even as we cannot live without food, so the spirit of man cannot survive and thrive without the spiritual nourishment which is Jesus himself. Jesus is the source of life and when he comes to us in the Eucharist he comes to make a difference in us.

One difference we can expect to see in our life is that our hunger of spirit will be satisfied. Jesus fully intends to reveal himself to us through Sacred Scripture also. It is through the Scriptures that he brings about renewal of our mind, and enables us to know him; his values, his character, his nature, his truths in an intimate way, and so “learn Christ.” It is this relationship of knowing him that removes the hunger of spirit.

     1.      Source document is Reflecting on Sunday’s Readings, August 5, 2018, by Richard A. Cleveland.
     2.      The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, “Book 4, Chapter 4”.

07/31/2018 03:00 PM
Christian Life Involves Transformation

The process of living a Christian life involves on-going transformation as we follow Jesus. This implies that our destination is fundamentally changed; from the life-path we determine, to discovering the life-map God intends for us as part of his creation.

The word “transformation” recalls the image of a caterpillar as it forms its larval cocoon.  After some time passes and underlying processes do their work, a beautiful butterfly emerges.  In the spiritual realm Holy Scripture, community, and the Sacraments are fundamental tools that God uses in our spiritual transformation process to unveil the beloved saint he intends us to be.

Gazing into a mirror, using the lens of Holy Scripture, allows us to examine our spiritual condition and to open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit transforming our very souls!  To fundamentally see and understand what God intends as fruit from our lives. Our growth in spiritual understanding when acted upon, shifts our very life-path from that which I solely determine to embracing the life-maps of God.

This concept is captured in the book of James, 1:23-25 (NABRE) “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does.”

As does Jacques Philippe in this quote from Called to Life;

“God’s Word is something like a mirror by which we can truly know ourselves, good as well as bad. It passes judgment on our compromises with sin, our attempts to have it both ways and say yes as well as no, but it also highlights and encourages what is best in us.”1

It is natural that our desires and self-interests drive our default perspective. As a follower of Jesus, our orientation shifts with openness to the transforming action of the Holy Spirit. The transformation takes place not in isolation, but as we live our life in community with other Christians and in service to those around us

Now we are empowered for this journey, anchored, transcending our time-bound reality through the Sacraments, channels of God’s grace. Through the Eucharist, we are strengthened, recognize God’s presence, and return to tell those around us. We are transformed into an extension of Jesus himself operating out of love to those in our world.  Thus, we see this process in Luke 24:30-31, And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him…

With the Holy Scriptures, in community with one another, and in the Sacraments, transformation is possible, and like the butterfly each of us is unveiled in beauty as loved by God.

1. From Called to Life, Jacques Philippe, page 37.

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