This is a blog that I post to several times a week although not necessarily daily. These reflections are triggered by the scripture found in the lectionary used by many Christian denominations. While I am part of the Catholic tradition, these posts are not --or rarely--sectarian. I try to put myself in the space of a of Jesus Christ and listen to words that come to me as I read and pray the scriptures. Each post also includes a photograph. These rarely have any connection to the content of the post but are simply pleasing images that I capture as I make my pilgrimage through life.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Born from above

Pelicans off Port Everglades
"Amen, amen, I say to you,unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." John 3:3
When Nicodemus came to Jesus at night seeking clarification of his mission and purpose, he hears these words from Jesus.  Nicodemus is confused and perplexed.  He asks how it can be that one who is born can be born again.  Do you have to re-enter your mother's womb?  Jesus answers with words that raise more questions than provide answers.
"Amen, amen, I say to you,unless one is born of water and Spirithe cannot enter the Kingdom of God.What is born of flesh is fleshand what is born of spirit is spirit.Do not be amazed that I told you,'You must be born from above.'The wind blows where it wills,and you can hear the sound it makes,but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."  John 3:5-8
If you live your life purely and solely "in the flesh"--purely and solely on a human level--you will be unaware of the principle of life that is in and energizes all life including all human life.  There is another way of seeing reality if you live your life "in the spirit."  If you are in the spirit, if you have been born of water and the spirit, you enter into a different realm of being.  In a real sense, you become a different being.  The life of the flesh continues, for now, but it is no longer the ultimate reality of human existence.

The fundamental value of the life of the flesh is self interest and appropriately so.  The prime directive is to preserve your life and to enrich it.  You may well see your self interest involving the welfare of others and thus we might say that your self interest is enlightened.  But the bed rock is still the self.

The fundamental value of the life of the spirit is love, spending yourself in the service of others.  Jesus came not to fulfill an important role in the world of the flesh but to spend himself in the service of others, especially those whom the world ignores and those who saw him as an enemy.  "Do to others as you would have them do to you" especially your enemies and those whom the world discounts.

This is the different world that Jesus invites me to enter through water and the spirit.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The key issue: Resurrection

Vizcaya, Miami FL
Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?And why do questions arise in your hearts?Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bonesas you can see I have."And as he said this,he showed them his hands and his feet.  Luke 24:38-40
After several weeks of scripture readings containing the teachings of Jesus, Easter brings us directly into the narrative of his last days, death and resurrection.  For me, it is relatively easy and even comforting to reflect on the teachings of Jesus and their meaning for my life.  I feel a bit in control because I can understand the teachings and I can use them to evaluate my life:  where I live up to them and where I don't.

But the resurrection demands that I lay all that aside and enter a world in which human understanding does not apply.  My faith and belief in the resurrection cannot rest on my somehow understanding the resurrection because it violates all norms of rational thought.  Once you are dead, you are dead.  Yet here is someone who really and truly died and yet appeared somehow alive to his followers after his humiliating and public execution.  How can this be?

I know Jesus spoke about the "ways of the Divine One" and the "ways of humanity."  He urged his followers to think like the Divine One, not the way the world thinks.  But still I seek to understand, to explain, to place in context, to normalize something as unexplainable as the resurrection of Jesus.  I know this is the missing piece.  Without the resurrection, the life of Jesus becomes a set of ethical norms that lead to a fuller and more complete human life, but a lot of other masters of living have done the same thing with just about the same message...except for the resurrection.

The resurrection and the triune nature of the Divine One are the defining characteristics of Christianity.  I cannot penetrate either of these with my human reason and yet, without any evidence, I believe.  Somehow I set aside my human need to know, explain and thus control and try to enter into a level of being that is beyond me.

Easter brings this central issue into my consciousness in an unavoidable, even uncomfortable, way.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Glorification: right here, right now!

Sun Rise on South Beach

"Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,and he will glorify him at once.My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you."  John 13:31-33
These words are spoken by Jesus to his small group of people who will carrying his message to the entire world after his death.  Judas, the betrayer, has just left the group after Jesus identifies him to John.  So now it is just those who are closest to him.  This begins the great discourse to the apostles at what has become known as "The Last Supper."  These are the final words of Jesus as he begins his journey to the Divine One of whom he is an integral member.

He begins with these almost mysterious words.  I have often puzzled over the meaning here.  What follows is only my humble understanding at this time and place.  I know that it deepens my relationship with Jesus.  Whether it would pass any scholarly test or not I do not know.  For me, "glory" is the life of the Divine One, the very principle that is at the core of its being, which animates the being of the Divine One and emanates from it.

Now as Jesus begins the journey of his crucifixion and resurrection, it is as though time became irrelevant; it was as though past, present and future collapse into a deep reality, a different level of being.  Jesus as the Messiah enters into that reality which has always been his life and always will be.  The triune Divine One is three persons interpenetrating the life of each other in a way that is beyond human comprehension.

In today's gospel for the Tuesday of the week before Easter, the next two verses are left out.  I suppose the Church wants to save these for the reading on Holy Thursday where John's complete version is read.  However, these verses are the ones that provide us with the insight Jesus was communicating about the Divine and about each of us.

"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  John 13:34-35.
We are called to enter into the glorification of Jesus, the glorification that mutually exists between Jesus and the Divine One.  We do that by entering into the deepest reality of divine life, love.  We are to love each other in the same way that Jesus loved his apostles and in the same way that the Divine One loves Jesus.

Just as the Divine One glorifies Jesus, it glorifies each of us.  Time that seems so important to us is irrelevant in this process.  Glorification is here and now, in the past, and in the future in a way that defies human understanding.

Can I let go of my need to understand (and thus control) so that I can enter into this mystery?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Faith is not transactional

Sunrise on South Beach
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar,"There is no need for us to defend ourselves before youin this matter.If our God, whom we serve,can save us from the white-hot furnaceand from your hands, O king, may he save us!But even if he will not, know, O king,that we will not serve your godor worship the golden statue that you set up." Daniel 3:16-18
Many of you may remember this story, as I do, from my religious education in grade school.  It is the dramatic story of the three young men thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to worship the idol created by the King.  However I had never really heard the message of their words to the king.  Their faith in Yahweh was not based on any saving action of Yahweh.  It turns outs in the story that Yahweh did save them.  They walked about in the flames of white hot furnace with a divine person.  Nebuchadnezzar converts on the spot.  This nicely framed ending of the story can easily divert us from the fundamental meaning.

The three do not refuse to worship the king's idol because they know that Yahweh will save them.  In fact, they don't really know as they admit to the king.  But even if Yahweh will not or cannot save them, their faith is strong and unyielding.  It is strong because it is not based on any saving action by Yahweh but on a relationship which has developed between them and Yahweh.

Faith is not transactional.  In other words, there is not quid pro quo bout our relationship with the Divine One, at least not in the way that the world understands.  Faith is not based on what the Divine One can do for me or does for me.  This is true as long as I think as the world thinks.  But if I think as the Divine One thinks, as Jesus says, I will have eternal and abundant life in the only way that matters.