If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Will it Ever Happen?


For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren . . . that there are quarrels among you . . . that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:11-13)

During the forty years –
has it really been forty years?  --
since I turned my life
over to Christ,
my wife and I have attended
numerous churches.
 
Baptist.
Pentecostal.
Nazarene.
Episcopal.
Presbyterian.
Anglican . . . .
 
And now,
Catholic.
 
And in each church,
there were those
who with great enthusiasm
told me how glad they were
to be Baptist.
Or Pentecostal.
Or Nazarene.
Or Anglican.
Or Catholic . . . .
 
And I always wondered,
as I still wonder,
why some seemed so determined
to make their point
about their church,
instead of saying
how glad they were
to be a Christian.
A child of God.
A member of Christ.
 
The labels
of course
highlight our differences.
“Christian” highlights
our same-ness.
 
But I realize the reason
for the division.
 
Satan knows
as well as Jesus knows,
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
 
So no wonder,
as happened to the Christians at Corinth,
where some boasted being “of Paul,”
some “of Apollos”
others of “Cephas”
Satan sustains the divisions
to this day.
For he knows
if we focus on our same-ness
and not our group-ness,
his work in our world
would collapse.
 
Will it ever happen
that the world for whom Christ died
will recognize Christians
by their love
one for another?
 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Heart of Our Faith


. . . if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)
 
The body has many components important to life. The spleen, kidneys, stomach, and lungs, are only a few. But without the heart, the body immediately dies. Christian faith has many components important to spiritual life. The virgin birth, Christ’s deity, the atonement, and His crucifixion, are only a few. But without the heart of Christian faith – the resurrection of Jesus – Christianity immediately dies.
That is why Christ’s enemies have for 2000 years tried to bring the reality of the resurrection into question. It is why Satan and his children promote lies and distortions about the resurrection at every opportunity. And it is why they try to keep the glorious truth of the resurrection from the forefront of the minds of Christians.

After I posted the last essay about my chat with that child about Jesus’ return from death (see my post here), I began to wonder how the very heart of our faith can be mentioned so rarely by Christians, and when we do speak of it we speak of it without much fervor.

I am as much an offender as the next person.

It’s as if the message of Christ’s resurrection is simply part of the background hum of the many things we believe, none of which is more important than the other. But after remembering how that child’s face lit up, how he pumped his fist and declared, “Yes!” I realized I need to become more like a little child.

And so, every day during my prayers -- every day --  I will ponder Jesus’ resurrection: What does it mean for my eternal soul that Jesus is alive? What difference does His resurrection make to how I live – or ought to live? What does the resurrection of Jesus from death have to do with whom I should fear, or stand boldly against?

And each time I consider those questions I plan to make a fist like that young child, pump it back and forward and declare “Yes!”

“Yes,” to the very heart of Christian faith.

Christ’s enemies want us to doubt the resurrection. Failing that, they want us to let it blend indistinguishably into our rituals and prayers. I am determined such a thing will not happen to me again.

------------------
Here is something by the Second Chapter of Acts you might enjoy:
The Easter Song (click here)

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Resurrection

This is an adaptation of an essay that appears in my first book of meditations around the Nicene Creed.
---------------
 
 
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Corinthians 15:20)


During the summer of 2005, I led a Children’s Liturgy of the Word. Each week I guided youngsters through the wonders of our Catholic faith. We studied Scripture and Church teaching about such holy mysteries as the Trinity, the Incarnation, Resurrection, Christ’s atonement, His miracles and His Presence in the Eucharist.

Where some adults who’ve heard the stories for decades might nod off to sleep, children’s eyes grow wide with wonder. Where some adults hesitate with doubt, children receive the ancient truths with uncomplicated faith.

I met one of those children during one of our liturgies. The second-grader had been told, “People killed Jesus, and He is dead.” He shared this information with me in a low, somber voice, glancing at me once or twice, and then dropping his gaze to the floor.

I bent and looked into his face. “Yes,” I said. “Some people killed Jesus. But three days later, He came back to life. He is alive. Right now. Today.” I emphasized the word, “Today.”

I hope to never forget the child’s face. His eyes suddenly brightened. His countenance lifted. He literally straightened his shoulders as if a weight had been removed. He pumped his arm and nearly shouted, “Yes!”

No wonder the Lord Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) That youngster’s faith is something every adult in the Church would do well to emulate.


St. Paul proclaimed, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14)

The apostle continued, “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We . . . will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed . . . [and] then the word that is written shall come about: "Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:50-55)

The bodily resurrection of Christ is the­ linchpin – the cornerstone -- of Christianity. No wonder liberal theologians, philosophers and teachers have, for two thousand years, attacked the Resurrection. Destroy it, and Christianity loses its authority to declare Christ alone is the door to eternal life, that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Destroy the Resurrection and we have no assurance of forgiveness of sin.

If Jesus died and that was the end of it, then the Communion of Saints, Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist, and our hope of heaven is all a farce.

Yet, this is the glorious truth you and I are privileged to proclaim each week when we profess our certainty that Christ died and was buried . . .

And on the third day, rose from the grave.

If that doesn’t stir something inside us to shout, “Hallelujah,” if that incredible reality doesn't move us to a holy awe -- then maybe we should check
our pulses.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, with child-like faith, I believe in Your resurrection. Have mercy on me and permit me to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, the apostles, and all the saints who have done Your will throughout the ages. Amen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Countdown


 When my family and I lived outside the United States while I was on active duty with the US Navy, we were sometimes (mercifully) left in the dark about the newest gadgets hitting the marketplace. One of those new gadgets was the Timisis clock. I learned of this "stop-watch for your life," from an article written by columnist Mike Royko of the Chicago Tribune*. By entering your age and sex the clock displays the remaining hours, minutes and seconds left of your life expectancy as based on standard insurance tables.
According to the Timisis advertisement, the digital clock "enables you to see time as a gift and motivates you to live your life to the fullest...to maximize the quality of each day."
Royko didn’t like the clock. It depressed him to be constantly reminded of how much time he had left to live – down to the very second. And I can't say I blamed him. There does seem to be something discomforting about looking at your clock at 10 PM with 232,448 hours left to live, and awakening to the alarm at 6 AM to learn you now have only 232,440 hours left to live.
By the end of the week that number has diminished by an astonishing 168 hours! By the end of a thirty day month, 720 hours!
But, while it may be troubling to watch one's life slip away second by second, for the Christian there is value in being made more aware of the time. "We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day," the Lord Jesus said. "Night is coming when no man can work" (John 9:4). The apostle Paul added his admonition, "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise . . . but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15,16).
I don't think the creators of the Timisis clock had working for Christ in mind when they advertised the chronometer as a means to "maximize the quality of each day." Nevertheless, that thought is worthy of serious consideration for everyone who names Jesus as his or her Lord.
Just what are we doing with our days?
God's "clock" is ticking down. Without regard to our plans, hopes or dreams, the night approaches. Even as you read this essay we are that many minutes closer to the Lord's return.  Or, to our death.
So, what shall we do with the time we have remaining?  As our seconds relentlessly move us toward the night, will we spend our time shoring up our temporary earthly existence, busily buying, selling and collecting? Or will we renew ourselves to the real task at hand, of winning the lost to Christ? If our families, friends and neighbors don't hear from us about Christ, from whom will they hear? If we do not bring the word of life to our co-workers, who will?
The creators of the Timisis clock correctly recognized time is a gift. But the Creator of time wants us to recognize we are each responsible to use that gift wisely.
And, observed Solomon, "He who is wise wins souls" (Proverbs 11:30).
 
*You can read Royko’s 1994 column here:  
http://articles.philly.com/1994-08-05/news/25842715_1_displays-digital-clock-precious-time

 

 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Nothing Could Be Worse

This essay appears in my book, Lessons Along the Journey.  I think it is an important essay. Perhaps you think so as well.
---------------

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? . . . . Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:39-42).

Each time I read that passage I think of the three men. They hung for hours between earth and sky, ravaged by thirst, and mocked by the mob.

And for hours, the two watched the One in the middle.

Nothing escaped their notice. They heard His groans, His agonized, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And they heard Him pray for those who hated Him: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Yet, despite what the two witnessed, only one was changed.

Sometimes as I read that text I feel as if I can see through the lens of eternity, and I watch the Lord hanging on that cross, bloodied and dying to purchase my reconciliation with the Father. It is that image – when I think to focus on it during Mass -- that makes Mass so meaningful for me. Each time the priest consecrates the bread and wine, eternity slips into our timeline. Christ steps into our presence through the readings, the hymns, the prayers. And we receive Him in the Eucharist.

It remains one of my greatest fears that, after meeting Him, I remain unchanged – or worse, I grow lukewarm; that I hear Him and receive Him – but become passionless about knowing Him, loving Him, imitating Him.

What could be worse than to see and hear the King during each Mass, and not be changed? What could be worse than to witness His love and sacrifice, and remain satisfied with tepid faith?

Nothing could be worse.

 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

He Will Come Again


 
At each Mass we recite the words of the Nicene Creed. Embedded within the Creed are these words: He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. This essay appears in my first book, We Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed. I am in the process of revising the book to reflect the current (2011) translation of the Creed. But for now, I thought to reproduce this essay from the book, since the revision did not change this section.

-----------------

He will come again


And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be. (John 14:3)

It shouldn’t have surprised me. For two weeks, the highway department had posted notices that they planned to resurface the asphalt, fill in the ten million potholes and smooth the roadway. They couldn’t fix the road soon enough. I’d slammed into the craters so many times my teeth were loose.

I suppose it’s because I saw the notices each day that I stopped paying attention to them. Before long, the signs disappeared into the background as I swerved down the street, trying not to crack the front axle. So when I left the house that morning and turned the corner, the unusually smooth ride startled me. For the first time in months, the mini-van didn’t rattle with each rotation of the tires. I didn’t have to dodge potholes or worry about losing my teeth. When I stopped for the traffic light at the next corner, I noticed even my palms were dry.

Asphalt highways are not the only places ravaged by potholes. Many of us slam into craters along life’s highway. Heartaches jar us to the roots of our teeth. Failures break our confidence. If you’re like me, you’ve had your share of troubles. Maybe more than your share.

Then one day we see notices posted along the path. One promises, The rough places will be made smooth (Isaiah 40) In the twinkling of an eye we shall be caught up to be with the Lord (1 Corinthians 15), says another. I will come again and receive you to Myself (John 14), declares a third.

There are so many declarations we have to slow down to read them all. Over and over, season after season, we hear them. We talk about them. We debate their meaning. Before long, they become old friends.

But, perhaps because they become so familiar, we stop paying attention. The signs get lost in the busy-ness of punching time clocks, fighting traffic, washing clothes, paying overdue bills . . . . We focus so much on dodging potholes, we no longer remember the promise that one day all who belong to Christ will leave the house, turn the corner -- and find the road paved.

When we recite the words of the Creed, “He will come again,” we remind ourselves to not become complacent or grow weary in waiting. We remind ourselves to focus instead on Scripture’s unshakable promise -- Christ will come again.

And when He returns for those who have placed their trust in Him, He will bind every shattered dream, broken heart and splintered life with His eternal love. Never again will we worry about rough roads.

Sometimes I think it can’t happen soon enough.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus. We long for Your appearance. Make us faithful in our journey that we may gather in Your presence with joy. Amen.


 

 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Jesus Did Not Come For Everyone



"It is not those who are healthy who need a physician,
but those who are sick;
I did not come to call the righteous,
but sinners." 
(Mark 2:17)

 
Many say
Jesus came for everyone.
Men.
Women.
Everyone.

But that is not true.

 
He Himself said
He did not come to call the healthy,
but the sick;
Not the righteous,
but the unrighteous.

 For those who say “I see”,
He did not come;
But for those aware
of their blindness.

 To the sated
and self-important,
He did not come;
But for those
who hunger for God.

 To those proud of their way,
He did not come;
But for those
who need a Shepherd.

For those who think themselves
“Good enough”,
He did not come;
But for those who beg,
“Be merciful to me, the sinner.”

 Jesus did not come
for everyone.

 Did He come for you?