Dew of Heavenly Truth

Mare and foal

Come, Holy Spirit! On our dryness pour your dew. [Spanish]

The Lord Jesus died on the cross. On the third day, He rose again. He remained on earth for forty days. He ascended into heaven. Our Lady and the Apostles prayed. Then Christ poured out the Holy Spirit.

Sunday we conclude the Easter season, which is the same thing as springtime. We Christians celebrate spring by celebrating the Lord Jesus’ Easter mysteries, over the course of fifty days.

The sequence of events that we remember every Easter season—it teaches us why the Lord Jesus became man and conquered human death. He did not do it for His own sake. After all, before He became man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, He already enjoyed undying life. From all eternity, He is true God from true God—one eternal God with the Father.

So Christ did not need to rise from the dead for His own sake. Rather, He rose from the dead for us. He rose from the dead to be the first-fruits of our resurrection.

So: two fundamental, unseen facts of life. 1. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The Apostles saw Him, and we believe the testimony the Apostles left behind. 2. We believe that, in the end, we will rise again, too, like Christ rose again.

El Greco PentecostUnseen truths of faith. We believe the fundamental facts of our lives; we do not see them. We believe in the final consummation of the world, the coming of Christ the Judge, eternal glory for the just, and eternal damnation for the unjust.

And we live by our faith in this as-yet-unseen future.  What we do see, however—what we see when springtime comes every year—it gives us a sign of the unseen consummation to come. The springtime we see gives us a sign of the eternity we do not yet see.

Let me explain. Every spring, the earth brings forth new life. What was dead rises again. What had gone down into the soil as a seed emerges as a living flower. The unseen power of nature brings about an annual resurrection of everything that is green and fragrant. The fauna, too, are renewed. Chicks hatch. Horses foal. All the species of the animal kingdom get resurrected by nature’s power.

Now, if we are going to try and understand Pentecost, we have to ask ourselves: What is the great secret ingredient of the annual resurrection of Mother Nature, of the earth? What makes spring spring?

The answer is, of course: Water. Water makes the springtime resurrection of nature’s life occur. The sky pours water onto the soil, and the moistening dew wakes the sleeping power of life. Water revives the earth.

Everybody with me so far? Now of course we are greater than all the plants. We are greater than all the animals. God made the other creatures for us. The other creatures sustain us; we cannot do without them. But they live small and fleeting lives, compared to ours.

We human beings need more than the water of the annual spring rains. Because God does not cultivate us nor breed us just for annual regeneration. We are not little creatures that cycle through simple annual routines in order to provide food for higher creatures. Tomato plants go through an annual cycle so that we can eat them. Worms go through an annual cycle so that we can bait fish hooks with them.

Holy Spirit dove sunWe, however, are not food for any other creature. No—we are the ultimate fruit of the earth. We are the reason why the earth exists. God cultivates us to bear our fruit once and for all. Our springtime is the eternal day, when everything is fulfilled, time is complete, the devil is altogether subdued, and eternal glory fills the earth. The fruit of the human race will be ripe when the new Jerusalem descends like a bride from heaven, and God is all-in-all.

To come out of the earth and flower on that day, we need water of an altogether different kind than the plants and animals need. Nature has her annual resurrection by water every spring. But for our eternal resurrection, we need the dew of truth. We live by the water of life which flows from the Heart of Christ in heaven. We are watered not just by H20 water, but by the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is the day of life-giving rain for Christian souls. So we pray.  Lord, rain down your holy dew on us! We are the seeds you have sewn in Your garden.  Turn on Your garden hose, and water us down with Your heavenly spiritual gifts—until the gullies and rivulets in our souls are gushing with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. We want puddles and puddles of Your dew in our hearts. Rain down Your grace on us, O God. Send Your Spirit.

fishing1

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PS. The Interfaith Council of Martinsville-Henry County invited me, along with other Jewish, Muslim, and other Christian leaders, to speak at a meeting on Sunday afternoon: The American Heritage of Religious Freedom: Are There Limits to Free Speech Regarding Other Faith Traditions?

I collected information from the Catechism, and from the documents of Vatican II, to prepare a little talk. If you’re interested, please come–3pm Sunday at the Islamic Center, 17125 Al Philpott Hwy, Martinsville.

Or you can read my notes by clicking HERE.

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Universal Mission, Grassroots Apostolate

El Greco St Peter keys

God has granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles, too. (Acts 11:18)

That message penetrated the minds of the first Christians during the lifetime of the original Apostles. The Messiah had come not just for the kosher-keeping Jews, but for everyone.

Apparently, St. Peter had as hard a head about this as he did about everything. A voice from heaven declared, regarding non-kosher foods: “Get up, Peter. Slaughter, and eat.” “Certainly not, sir. Nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”

You would think that a voice from heaven making this point once would suffice. But, as we read, in St. Peter’s case, it required three repetitions. Just like how he denied Christ three times, and then professed his love for Christ three times, after Jesus rose from the dead.

Anyway: We have a universal mission. God has revealed His love in Christ, and the message is meant for everyone. Every Christian must serve the apostolate, and our apostolate must, by God’s grace, reach everyone.

What do we have to do? Stay close to Christ through the sacraments, prayer, and the Scriptures. Love God and our neighbors. Hold the faith with clear consciences. Communicate the Gospel as best we can.

We can do these things, peacefully, until we die. God has a long-term plan for the future of His Church, which we don’t need to know. We just need to serve the grassroots apostolate of Christian love right here and now.

Good Shepherd: Priest, Prophet, King

goodshepherdMy sheep hear my voice, and they follow Me. [Spanish]

The Lord Jesus shepherds us. We talked about this two weeks ago.

Shepherds guide sheep, care for them, protect them, provide for them. Sheep cannot live without their shepherd. So the image of the shepherd and his sheep offers us an excellent metaphor for our relationship with Christ—a metaphor so excellent that He Himself employed it.

But we need to expand the metaphor in order to grasp its significance fully. Christ is the shepherd of our souls. And He shepherds us by being our priest, our prophet, and our king.

1. Our priest. We need a relationship with God Almighty, the mysterious, the awesome, the one omnipotent truth and beauty. Jesus shepherds us in that relationship.

On the cross, Christ acted as a priest, offering Himself to the Father, in order to reconcile all of creation with her Creator. All of us share in Christ’s priesthood when we offer ourselves to the Father along with the Body and Blood of Christ crucified. In the Holy Mass, Jesus joins our offering of ourselves to God with His offering of Himself to God.

Without Christ as our priest, we would not know how to offer ourselves honestly and well. We would have no real hope that any offering we made of ourselves would actually please the Father.

But when Christ our Good Shepherd unites our offering of ourselves with His offering of Himself—which is precisely what happens at Mass—then we can rest in the peace of knowing that God does accept the sacrifice.

He smiles on it. It pleases Him. Our sacrifice of ourselves to God does bring about peace and friendship; it harmonizes us with heaven. Because we share in the priesthood of our Good Shepherd and High Priest, Jesus of Nazareth.

Christ Good Shepherd

2. Our prophet. We need to know the truth. We need insight into the great mystery of life. We need to understand somehow why we exist and what we should do. We need to know what ultimate goal we can seek.

Our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ reveals all this to us. We have a Father in heaven Who loves everything that He made. He wills our growth, our fruitfulness, our ultimate happiness. He united Himself to us personally, so as to share His life with us. He has made us His adopted children and has prepared a heavenly inheritance for us. He forgives repentant sinners. He rewards self-sacrificing love.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. The Good News. The world does not know Him, but we know Him. And He has entrusted to us the message of God’s undying love.

He has given us ‘the key of knowledge,’ so to speak. Jesus Christ makes human life make sense. Jesus alone has spoken to the human race the truth about itself. With Him as our teacher and source of heavenly information, we can deal with anything. Without Him, we inevitably destroy ourselves, one way or the other.

Leo_Great3. Our king. Here’s a quote from Pope St. Leo the Great: What indeed is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God?

Jesus used the cross as His altar, as we remembered earlier. But He also used the cross as His throne. From the cross, He reigned over all things.

Now, worldly selfishness cannot conceive of the cross as a throne. But worldly selfishness has no true peace or happiness, either.

The true king does not subjugate us by coercion, by flattery, or by indulgence. He subjugates honest and free souls solely by the power of the truth. He sees all and knows all. He governs all things in accord with the loving plan of Providence.

On the cross, Christ revealed the greatest sovereignty. A human soul so self-possessed that nothing could detach it from God. No threat of violence, no recrimination, no false promise of passing comfort or fame could move the kingly soul from its true love.

The devil wants to subjugate us by dishonestly promising us all kinds of benefits—benefits that quickly turn into shackles. Christ liberates us from this by freely giving us the freedom to trust in our heavenly Father for everything. And to live only to please Him. Christ gave us this kingly gift from His cross.

Christ is the shepherd-king of the humble sheep who live for God and only God. Christ’s people quietly lead unremarkable lives of little, unnoticed kinknesses—all the while enjoying a kind of serenity and joyful hope that all the gold in Fort Knox could never give.

Our shepherd-priest. Our shepherd-prophet. Our shepherd-king. We follow Him to the altar to give ourselves to the Father. We heed His teachings, live by them, and share them with love. We follow Him gladly to the throne of the cross, because we know: That is where our King reigns over the whole universe.

Parable of the Tenants

sistine isaiahWhat did the vineyard owner do to deserve the tenants’ violent rebellion?

Which means: What did the good Lord do, to deserve the ancient Israelites violent rebellion? What did the ancient prophets say, which provoked the people to persecute and kill them?

Things like, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And your neighbor as yourself.” “You shall be holy as the Lord Himself is holy.” “Circumcise not just your foreskins, but your hearts.”

How about prophecies of the Messiah? “A virgin shall bear a son to be called Emmanuel.” “My servant shall not clamor or crush the bruised wick. He shall be pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins… We had all gone astray, but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.”

Or prophecies of the heavenly Jerusalem? “The gates of the city shall be the tribes of Israel, and the name of the city shall be: The Lord is there.” “Your dead will live; their bodies shall rise. Let those who live in the dust wake up and shout for joy. The dew shall be a dew of light.”

They prophesied, and bore witness to, the pure religion, the pure beauty, the pure self-sacrifice, and the pure divine triumph of the Christ. For this, the prophets suffered. At the hands of the complacent, the self-indulgent, the dishonest, the avaricious, the proud, and the desperately ego-centric.

But the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord Jesus can and will unite us with Himself, so that we can give to God our share of the produce, at the proper time. Then the prophecies of the new Jerusalem will come true, in us.

Christ, Desperately Hungry and Thirsty

christ-fasting

We read: “Jesus ate nothing for forty days, and He was hungry.” [Spanish]

Now, we can give up Snickers Bars for Lent, or drinking wine, or playing video games—it’s all good. The Lord rewards every little sacrifice we make for Him. But, if we really want to keep Holy Lent, we have to do something other than just a nifty little appropriate penance. We have to contemplate those words, long and hard. He was hungry.

A couple years ago I had a conversation with someone who had just had sudden heavy-duty brain surgery. He could not talk. He could not hold his head up. He vomited everything they tried to get down his gullet. He could not use his hands. His head hurt as if there were no other reality on the face of the earth.

Forty days of fasting had gotten Christ to a physical state like that.

One time when I was hiking, I encountered a dehydrated man who had not had water or any liquid for at least 48 hours. He literally was like Christ on the cross, Who—though He had spikes nailed through His hands and feet, and a crown of thorns pressing into His temples—had only one physical complaint. Jesus considered none of His bodily suffering on the cross worth mentioning, except the one desperate need that He articulated when He cried out… “I thirst.”

This lost hiker that I met suffered thirst like Christ suffered on the cross. But the cross wasn’t the first time the Lord thirsted like that. He also suffered it in the desert, during the first Lent.

snickersMy point is: It’s good to give up little things, like a second cup of coffee, or listening to music. But the real point of Holy Lent is: for us to encounter the reality of Christ’s human body in a state of desperation unto death. Forty days of fasting doesn’t just make you hungry. It makes you desperate. I’m not telling you to fast like this! Please don’t! But we must contemplate it.

The true physical desperation of the fasting Christ: It can be found in hospital rooms, in prisons, in rehabs, in the corners of the world where war and cruelty have desiccated the soil. In those places, a fast like Christ’s fast is actually underway right now.

Now, why must the Lord drag us into such unpleasantness as this? Does He despise or dislike us? No. To the contrary. He wants us to find the sure footing by which we can answer this question: Where do we stand, you and I, in the relationship that unites the divine Father with the divine Son?  Where do we belong, in that soberly syncopated everlasting festival dance of eternal triune love?

As we will read next Sunday, God the Father Almighty’s Word to us is: I love My Only-Begotten Son! The Son Who thirsted like a delirious lost desert hiker. The Son Who hungered for food with all the physical vehemence that can overtake a man trying to dry out in a drunk tank.

There is nothing dainty about the physical extremes that the Son of God suffered in His Body. He didn’t just feel like He was going to die of hunger and thirst during His fast in the wilderness. He knew He was going to die of asphyxiation, when His diaphragm ran out of cellular ATP and He could no longer distend His lungs to breathe, three years later.

The eternal Son has enjoyed the eternal love of the eternal Father from before the world began.  Neither the Father nor the Son lacked anything. But the triune God is generous, infinitely generous.

So the Son embraced our utter physical desperation. We human beings, desperate unto death–hungry, thirsty, sick, mortal. He embraced us, right there, in our desperation. Right at the moment where we cry out, Abba, Father!

And when we cry out to Him like the Son did, the Father replies—of you, and of me: “This is My chosen son. This is my chosen daughter. This is the one I live to love.”

Deuteronomy Choice

Qumran Deuteronomy

Choose life, says the Lord. Choose to believe in God Almighty. And in His Christ, sent into the world with infinite divine love.

Choose to pray. Choose to seek wisdom from God and His saints. Do good. Avoid evil. Study God’s laws, and obey them.

Love God’s people. The people first gathered as the sons and daughters of Abraham, and now gathered as all the faithful in communion with St. Peter’s successor. Love Holy Mother Church, in other words. Never betray her or do violence to her.

Humble yourself in order to exalt yourself. God didn’t make no dummies, and He didn’t make no trash. He has a plan for peace and true happiness for all of us. But we can only know that plan one little step at a time. We don’t have infinite, providential minds. We’re no dummies, but the smartest thing we can do is: obey God. Acknowledge Him; revere Him; kiss His earth for His sake; submit to Him.

…I have been reading one book after another about climbing Mount Everest. I bring this up because we have begun to climb spiritually, up the ‘mountain’ of Easter.

One lesson of the books I have read about climbing Everest: You can’t fight with the mountain. Mount Everest will win. You must submit completely to the entire reality determined by the mountain itself.

Which means: Even though you may have dumped tens of thousands of dollars in to your Everest expedition, you might get to the top. And you might not.

The weather might simply refuse to co-operate. Your own body might react to the thin atmosphere in such a way that summiting proves simply impossible for you. Your teammates might have health problems that make the final ascent impossible.

In other words: A greater power than you will determine whether or not you reach the top. Not you. If you become willful about summiting, what may very well happen to you? RIP.

So, dear brothers and sisters: Let’s kiss God’s earth at the bottom of the mountain of Easter. Let’s look up at God—the God-man, crucified and risen from the dead, ascended on high. Let’s look up at Him and say: Lord, Thy will be done.

Starting Fresh from Christ

He reigns in heaven. He sends out missionaries of divine love. Missionaries of His triumph over evil, ignorance, and death. Consecrated Christians who greet every person and every moment with the open Heart of Jesus Christ.

This is “the Church.” The Lord built His Church on a rock—that is, St. Peter, missionary apostle of Jesus’ divine love. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, in all its splendor, sits on top of the little bones of a relatively short man who took no money and no second tunic.

El Greco St Peter keysThe year 2019 rumbles along. When will we get any good Church news? Seems like the wheels just spin and spin, stuck in a mud patch.

But there is Good News. Christ still trains and sends missionaries of divine love. That still is what the Church essentially is.

Yes, our Church finds Herself in a massive land war against multiple formidable enemies, with colonels who can’t read a compass. We can’t be naïve about “the brass.” We can’t fantasize that they know how to organize the war effort. They clearly don’t.

But we can still gladly die on the battlefield, so to speak. As missionaries of the divine love of Jesus Christ.