Divine Intimacy

Jesus said to them “When you pray, say: Father”  Lk. 11:2

The invitation stands.  You are invited to intimacy; divine intimacy.  Intimacy with God means knowing that you are love first, freely and forever by the Father.  It means that you are deeply familiar with God’s life and way of relating.  What is most real in life is God’s love for you.  How can you plummet the depth of this reality?  Divine intimacy is only possible through prayer.

Jesus taught us to call God, “Father”.  Surely, Christ shocked the Jewish world with this teaching.  In Old Testament Theology, absolutely no one was allowed to say God’s name except the high priest, in the temple before the holy of holies, once a year.  Yahweh was to be feared, venerated and respected for his greatness.  This theology leads towards a chasm between God and his people.  Separation, distance and fear settle in.  But, when Jesus teaches us to call God, “Father”, we are invited to a warm closeness and personal experience of the Father’s love.  Father means “Abba, “daddy”.  When we, as children, come before God and call him “Abba”, “daddy”, we open ourselves up to the most marvelous love relationship in the world.  When we run and jump into our daddy’s arms, just like little children do when they see their mommy or daddy has come home, then the fear and separation are replaced by love and belonging.

You belong to a most loving Father.  Abba is perfect in his love for you.  Do you trust your daddy?  He can only love you.  His embrace is unconditional.  The invitation stands.  Do you believe that daddy is perfect in his love for you?  Isn’t the deepest desire of your heart to live in the reality of that love?  What is holding you back from calling God, “daddy”?  What is keeping you from being a child and abandoning your whole self to Abba by jumping into his loving arms?  The invitation stands.

Shared Weakness

How many times do we find ourselves saying “I’m fine”, “I’m O.K.” or “Everything is fine” when someone asks us how we are doing.  If we find ourselves too often responding that all is “fine” when, in fact, it isn’t, then we very might well have a connection with the Pharisees that we read about in the Bible.  The Pharisees, or “separated ones”, were the teachers of God’s laws.  The Pharisees felt that as long as they were scrupulously following the law and fulfilling it faithfully that they would be in good standing with God. With this mindset, it seems that these experts of religion and the things of God may have been carrying the attitude that everything would be “fine” as long as they obeyed the numerous laws prescribed in the Old Testament.

What did Jesus have to say to the experts of the law who were the religious leaders?

Woe to you Pharisees, you frauds! You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, and leave the inside filled with loot and lust! Blind Pharisees! First cleanse the inside of the cup so that its outside may be clean.  Mt. 23:25,26

Jesus knew that the emptiness in their hearts was not being touched by love.  Following tons and tons of laws was not the answer to their heart’s cry for love, healing and meaning.  Jesus knew that everything wasn’t “fine”.  Our Lord knew that what they wanted most was the Father’s love to help them with the loneliness and pain of living.

When everything is always “fine” we are operating out of strength and we really don’t need God.  As Christians, we are invited to celebrate the Father’s love in our weakness.  How can we do this?  We are challenged by the example of Christ to operate out of weakness instead of strength.  In operating out of weakness we are challenged not to lie and say everything is “fine” when it isn’t.  We are given the freedom to say we are hurting, lonely or fearful if that is truly where we are at.  Unfortunately, I think many of us can deceive ourselves and others by lying about our true selves and saying things are “fine” when the contrary is true.  There is no love in deception.  How many times do we say we are fine when we aren’t?

The Father’s power reached perfection in Christ’ absolute weakness on the cross.  Likewise, we can be perfected in the power of Christ’s love in our weakness.  In 2 Cor. 12:9 St Paul says that is in our weakness that the power of Christ The key to experiencing the reality of God’s power and love is to become weak before God and the key way to become weak before God is to be weak before each other.  By the way, how are you doing today?

The Fork

A woman got the news from her doctor that she had three months to live.  She met with her pastor to plan the funeral.  She asked to be buried with a Bible and a fork.  The pastor asked the reason for the fork and she explained that throughout her life anytime they told you to keep the fork at the end of the meal she knew that more was coming.  Actually, she knew the best was yet to come because the fork meant desert.  The pastor was deeply inspired because he knew this woman was living in the power and hope of heaven.

The woman died and it was funeral day.  Smiling, the pastor heard many people ask why she had a fork in her hand as they passed the open casket.  During the sermon he was able to relay how the fork was a sign of her faith.  She wanted all people to know that there was more and the best was yet to come.  Her security was born by believing that there is much more to the mystery of life than just our time here on earth.  She knew that heaven was going to be the best.

Yes, hay mas (there is more).  Through the power of the Holy Spirit coming to us this Pentecost, we can have more.  In the Spirit, Jesus Christ is available to us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year.  Forever standing at full attention before us, he is ready to give us more power, healing and hope.  Whether we are at home, work, school, church, a game, shopping or on vacation, Jesus Christ is there waiting to give us more and more.  Even if we are saturated with love and feeling blessed beyond belief, hay mas.  There is no way there is not more with God.  There will always be more love and power for us, forever and ever.  We will continually grow in the presence of God.  Yes, the best is yet to come.  Hay mas.  The Holy Spirit, the gift of Pentecost, teaches us hay mas and the best is yet to come.

Come Holy Spirit, in all your power, Come!  All we have to do is ask.

Why The Womb?

Why did God choose for us to spend the first 9 months of our lives in the womb?  What can our life in the womb tell us about how God is for us?

The womb is warm and a place of safety.  Our mother physically feeds us that we might be born into a world where we can love and be loved.  While we are in the womb of food, warmth and safety, we don’t have to do anything other than receive the gifts of love outpoured by our mother’s generous self-donation.  From day one of our lives we are surrounded by the love, thought and prayer of the one we depend on to live.  If we think about it, how could our mother be more intimately present to us than by carrying us in her womb?  In all of our human relationships could we name a greater love than the love a woman has for the child she carries in her womb?  WOW!  This is where life starts out for us- in the safety of knowing our mother’s ever present, unconditional and intimate love.

Assuming a normal pregnancy, after approximately 9 months we are then born out of the womb into the world.  In light of such disasters as Columbine High School and Kosovo, this world can be a very dangerous and loveless place.  Can we imagine how unsafe we would feel if we were the hated target of ethnic cleansing?  As we journey through our violent world we may feel like we are a million miles away from our womb experience.  However, in the midst of malicious acts that surround us in our day and age, I think God wants us to live in the womb.  But, we may say, how can we live in the womb once our mothers give birth to us?  We cannot physically go back into our mother’s stomach but we can, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, be born again.  Jesus was referring to being born in a love that saves us from death and assures us that we will live forever.  This love is in our hearts and fills the world.   Actually, we can be born again and again by grabbing hold of the vision that each of us and all of creation are held within the womb of God.  Each moment of our lives on earth God surrounds us with love like a child who lives in its mother’s womb.

Life in our mother’s womb can teach us about the safety of living in God’s womb.  Our mother’s did whatever it took- they sacrificed comfort and sleep, suffered great pain- that we might have life.  If they were not unconditional in their love for us, we would not be reading this today.  Our mother’s, then, teach us about the safety of living in the womb of God’s love.  The safety of living in God’s womb is the knowledge that God will love us through it all and bring us to life.  So, regardless of how crazy and unsafe the world becomes, we can always live in the refuge of God’s womb.

Just as a mother surrounds her child in the womb with ever-present, unconditional, and intimate love, so our God surrounds us now.  The big question we have to ask is “Are we safe in God’s love?”  Safety means that we do not fear anything because we know in our hearts that we will live forever in the joy and love of Jesus.  Safety comes when we invite Jesus in to take away all fear.  Safety is real when we receive the gift of Jesus’ love like we received our mother’s love in the womb.  If we are born again in his love, we need not be the least bit threatened by such things as war, bombs or the world ending in 2000.   We have no worries because we are safe in God’s love.  Nothing or no one can take everlasting life away from us!  With God’s love, we will endure all things on earth to live forever and ever.

In the midst of this oft-times crazy and violent world, we need to remember we are living in God’s womb.  Being in the womb, we are waiting to be born fully.  Out of the womb we are now in, we will be born into something.  And whatever we are born into will last forever.  What will life be like after our new birth?  Are we safe in love or do we have unresolved questions and fear?  Jesus, in his unconditional, ever present and intimate love for us, takes away all fear.  If we’ve got Jesus, we’ve got safety.  Got Jesus?

Why I Wanted To Be A Priest

I am a cradle Catholic and in terms of my faith practice I would describe the first two decades of my life as basically going through the motions.  Growing up I perceived the Church as somewhat legalistic, uninviting and something that would restrain my freedom if I became too involved.  Church and the sacraments were something I “had” to do.  God was boring.  I went to Sunday Mass because it was a requirement of God (and my parents) and I feared the wrath that would come if I failed to fulfill my obligation, With Confirmation I had the same “check-in-check-out” mentality.  I thought “OK, OK, OK, I”ll get confirmed because most of my other Catholic friends are going to do it.”  Now I think back on our Confirmation experience as if we were a flock of sheep going through the sacramental branding factory without really being committed to receiving anew the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.  At least for me, I know that at that point in my life I did not put my heart into God. I had invested my heart into such things as basketball and looking good but I had given little thought, time or love to God.  Later on I learned that I am always giving my heart over to someone or something and there are consequences to this giving over.

During my sophomore year in college my heart was, in many ways, empty and longing for happiness.   I thought that there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing.  Sports, friends, partying and trying on my own efforts to be a “decent and kind” human being weren’t cutting it.  I reflected on my investments; how much time, effort and love I had put into such things a sports, school and having a good image.  While these things were good, I did not invite God to be a part of them.  I was living according to my own authority and I found myself searching for meaning and love in my life.  We make investments in order to realize a return.  The investments that I made up to that point in my life left me in want of a greater and different return.  I felt like a dry, weary land without water.

The next year I transferred colleges and through the people I met at my new university I became attracted to God.  These people shared with me about a God who had become real to them in the person of Jesus.  They told me that Jesus had forgiven their sins and that the angels and saints in heaven celebrate with incredible joy when someone gives their heart to God for healing and forgiveness.  They gave me hope by saying that I, too, could know the fire of god’s love through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Yes, these people, enlivened by the Holy Spirit , had the meaning and the love I thirsted for.  I determined in my mind and heart that I wanted what they had.  I chose to invest in God; to give him, to the best of my ability, all that I was– the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Well, God embraced me with an embrace and love beyond containment.  Since that time, I have never regretted any investment I have made in God.  God always gives wonderful and awe-inspiring returns!!  I have found out that Jesus is a friend of sinners and people who don’t necessarily have it all together.  He forgives the sorrowful.  He is the healer of broken hearts and relationships.  He goes crazy with joy even over the thought of us.  It is not possible for him to reject, harm or withhold forgiveness.    I learned that as I invest my life with God, with all my sin, hope, disappointments and gifts, he has nothing but the blessing of love and healing for me.  What a God of faithfulness have we!!  This is the Good News!!  Why did I become a priest?  Because I do not want children and youth to wait two decades to invest in a love relationship with God.   I have a special place in my heart for youth and my deep desire is that NOW will be the time for them to say yes to the true love and freedom we have in Christ.  The Good News, however, is not just for the youth–it is for each one of us, regardless of our age and state in life.  God’s goodness is ever new.  NOW we can come to know our forever–faithful God whose passion is to set us free in his love and healing.  YOU ARE LOVED!

Silence

“Be still and know that I am God.” Ps. 46:11

I opened the homily at a high school mass by asking the youth what pressures they faced. A senior girl in the front row said, “What pressures don’t we face?” I thought her response was very provocative. Yes, life is full of pressure. Perhaps the greatest pressure we face is trying to find meaning through producing, performing and attaining. We can be so caught up in the doing. It is as if we have bought a bill of goods that says we will come to happiness through the active life.

Surely, who we are and where we are going are the burning questions of our existence. However, with pressures hitting us left and right we can quickly lose sight of who we are and what life is all about. There is so much pressure to do and not be. We must remember that we are much more than human doings, we are human beings. But as long as we only do, it is difficult to be in the comforting knowledge of the Father’s love. As long as we are running hard on the treadmill of life we can be blinded to the fact that we belong to God in an eternal bond of love. How do we come to know who we are and where we are going? What is the remedy to the dizziness of our doings?  SILENCE.

It is in silence that the deepest words of love are spoken to the heart. Without silence we cannot hear the Father speaking to each one of us personally. And what does the Father say? You are my beloved. You are my daughter. You are my son. You belong to me.

In his book,The Sign of Jonas,Thomas Merton writes, “Those who cannot be alone cannot find their true being and they are always something less than themselves.” Pressures to always do something can rob us from the fact that we are loved tenderly and relentlessly. And it is His love that defines how we are to live out our existence. It is in and through silence that we will proudly claim that we are children of the Father. We come to know who we are in silence. Let us not settle for being something less than who are—children of a Father who celebrates us forever. May we seek God in silence—it is probably the most practical thing we can do for the welfare of our families and ourselves.