Tag Archive: The Creed


love hate

When we hear the word exorcism, our mind thinks immediately to what we know about this rite. We can’t help but think of the movies that we have seen. In them was depicted all sorts of oddities, a young girls head turning around and around on her neck, objects flying across a room, vulgarities and condemnations being slung from a person’s mouth. Strange as all of this is, it is a film maker’s attempts at capturing in the film, the ultimate horror of evil, the degrading of sin, in short, the ugliness of being without love. This being without love is the cruelest torment of all. It is the fate of all who live lives that care for no one but themselves, who seek to take advantage of anyone or any moment to satisfy their own needs. Such is a life without love. It has sought no love, it has given no love, and so, in the end it receives no love.

The Church in her wisdom holds up a scrutiny for us to consider. Last week we addressed the Creed, the articles of faith that we believe. If we haven’t read through the Creed and tried to, at least, attempt an understanding of its contents, we are wasting precious time. Your Baptism declares that you do believe these articles of faith, even if you don’t understand how they can be.  It is not something that we can prove with philosophy, or logic, but that which our heart knows to be true, but doesn’t fully comprehend. This is really what faith is.

So, this Sunday, the Church speaks to us of exorcism. Why? Why the jump from Creed to Exorcism. All that we believe everything that is contained in the Creed, brings us to love.  In the Creed we speak of God, a God who loves and creates, of Jesus and what He said and did for us, and the love He has shown us. In it we pray to the Holy Spirit to surround us in love. We speak of the Church which is the gathering of all who love. Why is the Creed so important to us? Because, it leads us to all that is loving and beautiful in this world. Without this Creed, without this belief structure, we would be nothing but plotting, conniving individuals seeking only our own good and not caring for anyone else around us. So the horrors of exorcism, or rather the horrors, that necessitate exorcism, would be rampant without the Creed and a belief structure that the Church teaches and reminds us to follow.

Baptism brings us into the peace and love of God; we become adopted sons of God. We become part of the mystical Body of Christ, a group of loving individuals. The purpose of Christ, of Christianity, is to bring peace and concern for others into this world. Catholicism is not a club. It isn’t something that we have in our back pocket and pull it out when necessary. It is a living of life. It is an attempt to show God our love, by living lives that reflect His goodness, His love.

And so, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the scrutiny speaks about exorcism. It does this, not for us to focus our attention on it, but to help us realize the horrible lengths that living without the church will take us. We live Catholic Christian lives not out of fear of what may happen, of what condemnation we might endure. No, nothing like that. We live these lives because Christ, who we follow, who we believe in, has shown us how to live. Can we honestly call ourselves Catholic Christians if we don’t live lives that reflect the joy, the happiness, the love that comes with being at peace with ourselves?  This is what we are called to do, this Sunday and every day of our lives. We must recognize that Jesus is beside us, always.  And with Him, through Him, and in Him, we can live a life that presents joy and love to a world that needs it.

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Help My Unbelief

Today’s Gospel has one of the simplest and most beautiful prayers that we can utter. The Gospel is from Mark 9:14-19 and is the one about Jesus curing the boy possessed by a demon. The distraught father wants desperately for Jesus to cure his son, and literally begs Jesus to drive out the evil spirit. He tells Jesus, your disciples tried, but could not. “If you can do anything have pity on us and help us”. To which Jesus replies, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” He is telling the father, it is up to you and your belief. Immediately, the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe, help my unbelief”.

The father recognizes his own failings, his shortcomings. He needs assurance that God will make everything right. On being told that all things are possible to him who believes, the man cries out, using words such as: I believe, I believe, Oh God I want to believe. Help my lack of belief. I want my son to be cured.
Doesn’t this touch all of us? Deep within us, we know our faults, our short comings, our laziness, our pride. We don’t want the evils of the world to touch us, or our families. We want to be above all of those trials. “I know”, we think, “I will pray to God and He will make everything alright.” So we hurriedly rattle off a few prayers, maybe even from the depths of our souls… and then we look around. What has happened? What has God done for us? We prayed as we are supposed to do. What happened? “Nothing???, Nothing at all???” Dejected, we shuffle off, muttering to ourselves, “There is no God”. Or “God doesn’t care about me.” We move on to our next distraction to help us forget the pain that we feel.

Jesus alerted the man, and all the generations since, that belief in Him accomplishes the miracles we desperately crave. We pray the Creed, at Mass, “I believe in…” Say that prayer. Dissect every phrase. What does it mean? What does it call from us? Do we passionately believe that God created all things? The Earth? Sun? Moon? MAN? Do we REALLY believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do we really believe that He died and rose for all of mankind? These are not pretty phrases designed to fill a void. Our belief structure is being laid on the line. We are not saying we understand these things. But, we are saying we believe in them.

Belief is defined as the mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another, even when logic struggles. Trust, there’s that word again. Not my will, but Thine be done. I trust you, Lord. Yes, I trust and accept whatever you send my way, because you love me… but don’t let my house burn down… but let me be happy the rest of my life… but don’t make me give up everything I want and like. I will do your will, but not right now. This moment is for me.

These are all human exclamations. But they can be so much more. Jesus wants us to rise above ourselves. He wants us to blindly put ourselves in His hands, to trust him, and let Him raise us still higher. I believe Lord. I want to believe, Lord. Lord, help my unbelief.

You may wish to click here THE INDEX TO THE APOSTLES CREED This will branch you to a blog that was presented earlier. There you can go to any one of sixteen different topics on the Creed.

Amen

Amen to ALL

(16th and last, in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

When we apply for a loan, or a promise to be responsible for the use of a car, or anything of legal importance we sign our name at the end of the document.  By applying our name, our reputation so to speak, at the end we are showing our acceptance to the terms. The “Amen” that we use so often in religious prayers and actions dates back to the Old Testament. Its meaning is Yes, I believe, So be it, I accept. It is our verbal signature of what just happened, of what was just said.

We have just enumerated in the Creed all the articles of faith that a Catholic Christian believes. And just like all of the other prayers and significant actions, it too ends with an “amen”. This is not like a period at the end of a sentence. This is our TOTAL acceptance of what just happened. It is not to be taken lightly. It is our bond, our belief, it is who we are.

In keeping with this understanding, let’s take a look at the “Great Amen” within the Mass. It, too, means Yes, I believe, So be it, I accept. What then makes it great? In the Mass, the priest holds up, for all to see, the newly consecrated bread and wine, now the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Christ is present on our altar. The sacrifice of the cross is once more offered up for our sakes.  At this moment, the priest says, “Through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory are yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever.”  The implication is indisputable. Only through Christ can honor and glory be given to God. Why are we at Mass? Because of an obligation? To see our neighbors? We are there to give honor and glory to God. We are there to join ourselves, our lives to Christ through love. In this unity with Jesus, we sanctify our actions that we do for others, we make holy the sufferings and anxieties that we experience and willingly accept. Our lives and everything that they entail, we humbly associate with Christ. So that together with Christ, we can give our measure of honor and glory to God, as well. AMEN. AMEN. AMEN.

Welcome Home

(15th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

Man was created both body and soul, both physical and spiritual. He was placed on this earth to live and enjoy the beauties of this world, the beauty of God. God did not put man on earth to live for just a limited time and then die. No, man brought this on himself. “When did this happen”, you ask? It happened the moment man chose to follow his own wishes and not God’s. At that exact moment, the need for redemption was born. The sin happened in time, thus redemption must be completed in time, in the physical world. In the resurrection of Jesus, God’s original intent for mankind is fulfilled. We were created for a bodily existence. In a bodily existence we turned our back. And so, in Christ’s bodily existence, we are redeemed. His resurrection, a victory over death, told us we were back on track.

Our own resurrection would take place after our death. This is not speaking only to the soul, but rather to the whole person, as he had been created. Both body and soul will be re-united, trumpeting the victory over death, as God had intended it, all along. These are not just words. Man’s first sin brought sickness and death into this world. And so it is still today. We do grow old. We do get sick. We do die. But Christ has shown us, through His resurrection that belief in Him is to believe also in our own resurrection. “And every one that lives, and believes in me, shall not die for ever”-1   All of this is predicated on our living and believing in Jesus.

We cannot stop here, though. Our bodies rising and re-uniting with our souls is a pleasant enough thought….but then what? Tied closely to this is “Life everlasting”. We are coming close to speculation here. But what is heaven? We all can close our eyes and imagine what heaven might be like. Strumming on a harp and sitting on a cloud doesn’t really sound like something I could do for more than five minutes. Whatever we do imagine it to be, I know it will fall far short of reality. “…eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for them that love him”-2

My belief is that we are all made by God, with a potential and beauty that only God knows. We will finally be free of the effects of sin, either through a Purgatory required, or a life of suffering willingly endured, out of a love for Christ. When we attain that potential and beauty envisioned by God, and can feel the love of God pulsing within us and surrounding us then we are in Heaven, we are united with God. In that union with infinite Goodness, there is no time, there is no future, there is only now. The peace of being at one with our Maker will permeate us, and happiness and joy will be ours, forever.    goto next segment

-1 John 11:26
-2 1Cor 2:9

 

(14th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

The gift of free will enables man to rise to the heights of heaven, itself. But this same gift, when misused, will turn man away from God and focus inwardly on his own wants, desires and pleasures. We know what is to be done. We know what loving unity with God will result in when we act in accord with that unity. But we willingly choose to ignore this path. Rather, our thoughts flow out, “That path is too hard”, or “Just this time, I want to do this, experience that”. And so we move steadily away from God, as “this time”, happens again and again.

God in his infinite goodness recognizes the weakness of man. Would an infinitely loving God, allow man to wallow in this wretched state? Christ said to His Apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” -1 Christ’s references to the Holy Spirit are always a reference to the Spirit of God, of Truth, of Love. Receiving the Spirit, the Apostles, the known Church at that time, were given the power of forgiving or retaining sins. So, in addition to Baptism, “…He who believes and is baptized, will be saved”-2, Jesus provides still another way that man may be freed of his sins.

The words, “God loves us, not because we are good, but because He is good” should shake us out of our complacency, our smugness. Viewing our lives with their many false starts, with their fleeting promises to do better, we realize just how fickle and insincere we can be. And yet, in spite of our weakness, God loves us with a love incomprehensible. He saw our weakness and provided us a means to overcome even that. He says to each of us, “Just love Me in return. Love Me so thoroughly, so completely that your sole desire is to be always united with Me.” With such a love, our focus cannot be on our own petty wants.

And so, in the Creed, we proclaim yes, we believe in God and the Resurrection and the Ascension, and all the other articles of faith. But because of the love that God has for us, because of the words of Christ that ring down through the ages, we believe in the forgiveness of sins, as well. God created us in love. He redeemed us because of love. He promises His love to be with us for the remainder of time. And all He wants is for us to love Him back.

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-1   John 20: 22-23

-2   Mark 16:16

Intercession of Saints

(13th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

This phrase is really a continuation of the presentation on the Church. The Church, as was stated, flows directly from Christ. In this unity with Christ, the Church (all of us, not the building) is sanctified, is made holy. Christ ascends into Heaven, so that He may send to us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the binding love of God. It all blends together, think about it. From the start of time, God’s love is being bestowed on creation, on mankind. Christ’s entrance into this world, a result of God’s love; Jesus’ life and death, a fulfillment of God’s love; the sending of the Spirit to His people, a promise of love for all time. Christ establishes His church, a means to grow in love and at the same time attain fulfillment in love. All mankind is called to be part of this holiness. We are called to be holy, to be saints.

The holiness of Christ flows through to His Church. Christ then is the Head of this Mystical Body. We, the believing Church, make up the rest of the Mystical Body. Our belief in Christ, our desire to be one with Christ, these enable us to participate in this Mystical Body. We are the eyes, mouth, hands and feet of this Body. Through us, Christ will, if we let Him use us, see the world’s needs, speak out against wrongs, help the sick, the dying, the needy, and go to where help is needed. In short, what we become, whatever good we do, whatever level of love we attain will help bring Christ to the world. We are part of the Communion of Saints.

Saints? We don’t think of ourselves, very often, in that capacity. Yes, we are tainted, we have our shortcomings. But our belief in Jesus, our cooperation with the love that Jesus offers draws us into this Mystical Body. We are His disciples, here on earth, who continue to spread His word and work.

Those who have died and rest in Christ’s peace, but not yet dwelling in Heaven, they too are in this communion of saints. Their suffering, like ours, continues until such time that all vestige of sin has been removed.  They are as much a part of the Mystical Body of Christ, as we are. Our good works, our prayers, our sensitivity toward others can and does extend to these souls. And their good works flow to us, as well.

Those who are recognized on earth for living good and holy lives while they lived, these are the ones we usually think of when we refer to saints. Their holiness strengthens the church. Though in Heaven, they continually intercede for us either alive or dead. The merits of their good works on earth, they present, through Christ, for our benefit. So we, the Church on earth, are continually sanctified and strengthened.

This communion of saints is not some pretty poetry. It isn’t just some nice thoughts brought about by someone. This is, and has been, in the Divine Plan from the beginning. God’s intent for us, as gleaned from the Old Testament and New, from the writings of the Fathers, as handed down to us through Tradition, God’s intent has always been to be with us. His desire has always been that mankind should perceive, recognize, understand that His love has been and will be with us always. God will be with us always. What we see and call love is our limited view of God. To live our lives in love for others is to live in God.
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Our love touches one another

(12th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

If we hear the question asked, “Who or what is the Catholic Church?” What will our response be? Do we think of the church as just a building? Do we get lost in all the hierarchy and feel it is a gigantic organization? Or, maybe we feel that it is just a ploy to take our hard-earned dollars? How sad. How very sad that we are so willing to leave ourselves out in the cold. We overlook the very spirit of God that is to dwell in us, and push it off like so much lint on our sleeves. How often we hear comments like, “Oh, I can pray anywhere”, “I don’t need a church to pray in”, and “the sky’s canopy is my church”. They are all true, but sorely lacking in a fundamental truth. Let’s delve into what is the church.
First, let us put to rest that the word Catholic, as contained here, does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church. This word in the Creed simply means universal, that is: She is not limited by any one kingdom, or to any one group of peoples, but embraces all mankind with her love. This Holy entity, flowing from Christ, can be nothing but holy. And, flowing from Christ, who came to save every one, must be universal.

The church, “ecclesia”, means a gathering, an assemblage, a group of people, a congregation. Over time we have gotten used to calling the building “the church”. We may say, “Look at that great set of wheels”, referring to a good looking car (synecdoche). Common usage today says “church” but thinks of the building rather than the peoples who congregate there. It has confused the building with the people who are drawn there. The church is not brick and mortar, it is people. It is you and I. We are the church. God’s love brought mankind into existence. The same love brought Christ into the world. We know He walked among us, worked among us and died for us. His love for us prompted all of this. He sends the Holy Spirit to us. Why? To ensure the flow of love to all of us will continue forever. This love bonds us, joins us, and permeates us. It draws us to come together and flows through us. This love is really our God at work in the world.

Yes, we can pray anywhere. No, we don’t need a building to pray in. The sky is indeed beautiful, impressive and inspirational. But it is not a church. A church is people, people who feel the love bonding them with their God and each other. This love is God in us. We need this church just as we need our life’s blood.

The church is how we will build up our love for God and our fellow man, AND it is also the purpose of why man was put on this earth. God, love, permeates all of creation. We were created for one purpose and one purpose only. Man was given free will so that he could/would use it to freely allow himself to be drawn back to God, to choose God. This is man’s purpose to be united again with God…here on earth, not just in Heaven. This is the church!

How is this to be done? How can this be accomplished? Again, we must look to the church, the people of God. The church, through Christ, has been entrusted with all the necessary means for salvation. The Sacraments, the Mass, the Word of God all of these are to be found within the people of God. These are all designed to uplift us, to cleanse us, to strengthen us. In short, they are there because of God’s love. Their purpose is to build up our love for God and our fellow man.

So, we can understand the words, “The Church is both the means and the goal of God’s plan”-1. We may not like certain things about the building that we go into to pray. There may also be other things that may annoy us, or make us uneasy. But we cannot say, “We don’t need the church”. For to treat it as a piece of lint and flick it away, is to flick away salvation. We are the church, we are God’s people. We are bound and surrounded by His love. We are drawn to each other by His love. We are renewed by each other’s love. In this love is our salvation.              goto next segment

-1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, art. 778

Come Holy Spirit, Come

(11th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

Six words! In today’s world, they sound like something from the movie, “Ghost Busters”, or from a séance. They don’t sound real in today’s hectic, fast moving pace. But make no mistake, they are very real. The Holy Spirit is not only present in this world but is active in it, as well. In all honesty, I feel very insecure in trying to write something about the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, I will try to write what my feelings, my beliefs are.

There is so much to try to get our arms around, when we speak of one of the three Persons in God. Our belief immediately is called into play. How do we, finite persons, think we can adequately describe or attempt to explain the inexplicable? And yet, we try. Maybe it is pride on our part. Maybe it stems from our desire to understand, to behold, and to further adore.

My belief is this, we must first try to, in some way, try to explain what the Trinity means to ourselves. For some reason, those of us who believe in God, find it easier (or at least less difficult) to associate all of Creation to God the Father. Maybe this is so, because we think of Him as being the older one of the group. But, we believe, we know there is only one God, but three Persons. We can only shake our head in wonder. But the belief that we have been given is a grace. We don’t believe because we know, because we understand, because it seems very logical to us. No, we believe, because it is God’s gift to us.

So, we associate creation to the Father Almighty. Likewise, we attach salvation and redemption to the Son. All the while, we know that the two, together with the Holy Spirit, are the Triune God. As we said earlier, this is not something that can be easily said nor comprehended. What then is the task of the Holy Spirit? Keep in mind we are talking about the One God who created us, who loves us, and want us to be joined with Him forever in Heaven. God came to us, in the person of Jesus Christ, to save us, to show us what was necessary for salvation, to show us the importance of love for God, to show us the extent of the love of God. And so, we see Jesus saying to His disciples, “But I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you: but if I go, I will send him to you -3”. We begin to discern that Jesus saved us, redeemed us, and showed us how we must live. He died and rose for us. And now, when He ascends into Heaven, then and only then, will He send the Spirit. What work was left undone? What else is required?

The Holy Spirit has one task and continues to this day to have the same task. He, the Holy Spirit, will renew us with his spirit. He will remind us, daily, what our lives are all about. He will give us the strength to live and cope with the problems of the day. He will continually bolster our faith, repair our shaken faith, or freely give the seed of faith to mankind. It is the Sprit who breathes life into us. Not the life of living and dying, but the life that refreshes, renews and elevates us. We can call it grace. We can call it faith. We can call it good works. But however we look at it, it still remains the gift that our God continually bestows on us. For the Holy Spirit IS the spirit of God. He is our Paradise. In the Holy Spirit resides our Garden of Eden. Come Holy Spirit, come. Fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in us the fire of your love. Renew us, again and again. Help us to understand our role, our responsibilities in this world. Surround us. Flow through us. Permeate us with your love, which we know is the Love of our God for us.      goto next segment

-1 Each is distinct from the other two Persons, but of one Divine essence or substance.
-2 Catholic Encyclopedia, topic Holy Spirit: Synopsis of the Dogma
-3 John 16:7

Judge the Living and the Dead

(10th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

These are strange words. Anthropomorphic speech is the attributing to God the characteristics of man. So we might say, God weeps, or God suffers pain. In our Creed, God is portrayed as having hands. Jesus is portrayed as sitting down beside God. These words are not, intended to convey an actual fact, but rather they depict a place of highest honor. The right hand side has always been considered the place of highest regard, throughout the Old and New Testaments. Our frail human words limp when trying to represent what place Jesus, the God-Man, has with respect to God. Let me re-phrase that (my words limp even more so). God doesn’t sit beside God. But Jesus, the human nature of Jesus, holds such a high esteem that He is placed in the position of honor beside God, the Father Almighty.

We continue on with the phrase that He will judge the living and the dead. This is not to be watered down. There will be a judgment. It will not be a time when we can make excuses, or point to someone else. The judgment will be real. God is merciful, God is loving, and God is also just. Concerning Divine Mercy Sunday, Jesus says, “… this is a time for my Mercy, My Ocean of Mercy.” He goes on to say that the time is coming for His Justice. We dwell on these words, and we can feel our very blood chill. For we know ourselves, and so thoroughly depend on His Mercy.

In the book “Mist of Mercy”-1, in the section on Purgatory, April 26, 2006, it says, “The soul sees the truth in God’s presence. God’s light is so revealing, so complete and perfect, that there is no question of if or maybe. It is and that’s it…. There won’t be a lot of dialogue about why a soul did this or that. It will be there in front of the soul…” The soul sees itself as it is; is confronted with the tremendous beauty and goodness of God; accuses itself for what it has done; and seeks to be totally cleansed of all evil that it has done. In short, the judgment of the soul is not done by a vengeful God, is not carried out by an accountant checking off what has and has not been done. We will judge ourselves, so completely, so thoroughly, that we will not be able to withstand the Goodness of God. We will wish to not be in God’s presence, until we are totally clean, totally pure, totally devoid of all self-seeking and are acceptable to Him. OR, if we are living lives of self-indulgence, seeking wealth and luxury as our god, behaving with little concern for those around us, in short, rejecting any semblance of being God-fearing and trusting, then we are condemning ourselves already.

Yes, our God is Mighty, and Powerful. He is the Creator of all that is. Every good quality that we, as man, can envision, we know that God possesses it to an infinite degree. Forgiveness is a good quality, and God is infinitely forgiving. He is waiting for us to ask His forgiveness, to trust Him, to love Him. We can judge our lives now, or later. goto next segment

-1 by Anne, a lay apostle, page 163; Publisher: Direction for Our Times

He Ascended into Heaven

Ascension of Jesus

(9th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

He was crucified, died and was buried. On Easter morning, He rises from the dead, as had been prophesied, and as He had said. He was seen, and spoken to, a number of times; indeed He ate with them, as well-1.  He had truly conquered death.  For the next Forty Days, He continues His teaching of the Apostles. During this time He helps them understand that all that had happened had been foretold. He explains that His connection to the Father is a forerunner of their connection to Jesus.-2 it was during this time, that He gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose you shall retain, they are retained -3. Many other things are taught and discussed, during this time as well.

When this brief forty days was over, He and the disciples are next mentioned as being on Mount Olivet. Just before the Ascension, he tells them, “But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth”-4. He then ascends into heaven, in full view of the disciples. Men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, so shall he come as you have seen him going into heaven-5 .

The Apostles are next mentioned as gathering in a room, behind locked doors. Their humanity has overcome their belief, and they are afraid, alone and fearful of what will happen to them. They were only too happy to follow Jesus’ words and not depart from Jerusalem, and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Behind the locked doors was their added touch. These next nine days are construed to be the first novena. Nine days spent in prayer, trying to prepare for the coming of this Holy Ghost, this Spirit of God.

So what are we to make of all of this? The Ascension, of what importance is this to us? Why did Jesus choose to Ascend into Heaven? Heaven is not up, or over, or any other direction. Was He not showing us, that we, like Him, would also move from this life to the next? Once again, Jesus was using the moment, His Ascension this time, to show unmistakably that He would go before us and prepare the way for us. He had told His disciples that He would go and send the paraclete (the Holy Spirit) to them. Through the Holy Spirit, they would lose their fear; they would understand more completely all that Jesus had been teaching; they would realize, finally, their relationship to God was not one of legal teachings but rather of love. Through the Spirit of God, the words of Jesus, “….you shall be witnesses unto me…” bore fruit in them. They were able to go among their friends and acquaintances and speak to them of the goodness of Christ, without fear.

For us, it is no different. We have heard Christ speak. We know of His actions. We have heard the words of the Gospels, and the teachings of all the peoples down through the ages. We know and believe that Christ walked this earth, and died for us. And now, we have His Ascension to His Father in Heaven. It is laid out for us, just as it was for His disciples and Apostles. Like them, we hide ourselves in a room of doubts. We lock ourselves behind our fears of what will people think if we act this way, or that. How can I talk about Jesus, without sounding hypocritical? All of these fears and doubts are preventing us from letting people know about Christ. They are preventing us from letting people know the goodness and love that is Jesus. They are preventing us from knowing the goodness and love that is Jesus. Like the disciples, we too, need the Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit, Lord, and they shall be created. And thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
 
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-1 Acts 1:4 …And eating with them, he commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father (the Holy Ghost)
-2 John 2:21 As the Father hath sent me, I also send you
-3 John 2:23
-4 Acts 1:8
-5 Acts 1:11

On the Third Day, He Rose Again

The Resurrection from the Dead

(8th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

This is the cornerstone of our Christian beliefs. St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians ties the Resurrection of Jesus to the resurrection of all the dead. He says, “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching (in)-2 vain, and your faith is also (in) vain.”-1 The early church recognized the importance of this fact, for they saw, walked with and spoke with the risen Christ. They saw Him die on the cross, and three days later, they saw Him alive. They knew He rose from the dead, and so they knew that they too would rise as well. But underlying this belief, was the knowledge that their death and rising would be a daily ritual. It was not a “one and done” kind of event. They could not rise and be united with God, just for thinking nice things. Their lives had to change. Though they might be beaten and persecuted, their belief,  above all else, was paramount. Jesus is Divine. He rose from the dead. They too, would rise from the dead, because He said so. Such was their belief and trust in Him.

How pivotal is this to our belief structure? To be uninitiated, not baptized, and to deny the fact of the resurrection is understandable. How could anyone, who does not believe in the divinity of Jesus, be able to cite the resurrection of Jesus as fact? If they were to do so, they would be compelled to recognize His divinity. And, in so doing, this would call into doubt their own beliefs.
But to those of us who are Christians, who are Catholic Christians, this is the basis of our entire belief structure. Easter, the celebration of Christ’s rising from the dead, is not something to be relegated to a bunny delivering colored eggs. That which makes us strive to follow the path of love, to understand the importance of respecting others as well as ourselves, to recognize that sacrifice must not only be tolerated but willingly accepted, all of these make sense only if we accept and believe in the resurrection.

By His rising from the dead, Jesus spoke to all mankind right down to today, right now. His words and actions speak volumes to us.

I have risen to show you that my words are true. I have risen to prove my claim of being God’s Son. I can and do forgive you your sins, your unkindness’s, your self-seeking. I do all of this because I love you more than you can possibly imagine. All I ask in return is that you trust Me, really trust Me. Know that I am the reason you exist. Just as My Father loves me, I love you. Let your belief in me flow through your entire life and all of your actions. Realize that my love protects you and sustains you. All that you need is here in my heart. Trust me.

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-1 St. Paul Cor. 15: 13-14
-2 Inserted for readability, clarity

He died so we might live

(7th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

We touched earlier on Pontius Pilate, when we discussed the historical writings. The Jewish leaders brought Jesus to Pilate, so that they could have Jesus crucified and be rid of the upstart Messiah once and for all. But Jesus’ sufferings began shortly before His “trial”.

In Gethsemane, the human nature of Jesus knew that what was coming would be excruciating pain, would end in a horrible death. He cried. He was afraid. He asked that it not happen. His human nature responded just as ours does when we find out that we have an incurable illness, or a death in the family or of a friend. We cry, we wring our hands, we hurt, we cry out, “Please God, don’t let this be so.” Jesus knew that this was the reason, He came into this world. As a human, He could redeem mankind and once again, make it a holy people. So, He uttered the ultimate prayer, “…not my will, but Thine be done-1.”  And so, He was led away, taken to Pilate, and condemned to a horrible death.

His love for us shouts out with every torture inflicted upon Him, every pain He felt. Don’t lose sight of the fact that He has two natures, a Divine one and a human one. How this can be is not understood but is a belief we hold. We do know God does not suffer, and Jesus did. We also know that man cannot, of his own, suspend the laws of nature, but Jesus did. So everything that the Christ experienced during that time was felt by a man, allowed by God. Every time He was punched, struck with a stinging reed, whipped by a leather strap He felt with His human body. The thorns pressed into his scalp and forehead, falling onto the ground under the cross, being jolted by both the ground and the weight of the wooden cross, all of these His nerve endings, bones and muscles felt. We know that when we have a headache, or a back ache, our whole body seems to be out of whack, nothing seems right. How badly did Jesus feel, experiencing aches and pains in every part of His body?

We can wonder aloud, “Why did it have to be this bad?” That can be countered with the question, “How much would have been enough”? Man separated himself from God. In effect, man told God that He didn’t need Him. His actions shouted out that he could do what he wanted. He could choose what was good and what was not. He could be god. So what is necessary to repair this affront, this insult to God? Jesus gives up everything, his goods-2, his life-3 to regain the friendship that was lost. In so doing, His human act repairs, for all mankind, the relationship that man had forfeited.

You and I, now have something to do. Yes, we have been redeemed. Earlier, we spoke about how man separated himself from God. But, we continue to separate ourselves from God. We act as though we don’t need Him. We do what we want, boasting we know what is good for us, that we are self sufficient. We are not. We must recognize that Jesus did what He did, for us living in the here and now. He asks us to grow closer to Him, unite with Him, and follow His way of life.  “…let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.-4”  ……….. He died and was buried.      goto next segment

-1 Luke 22: 42-43
-2 Luke 9: 58 -Jesus said to him: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air, nests; but the Son of man hath no place to lay his head
-3 Mark 15: 37 And Jesus having cried out with a loud voice gave up the ghost.

-4 Luke 9: 23

The Holy Spirit will come upon you

(6th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

The Creed is everything we, as Catholics, believe in faith. Some which we have already dealt with can be “backed up”, as it were, with secular historical testimony. Some aspects, such as the one we deal with today, are not only impossible to prove, but difficult to even comprehend. We speak of Jesus, the Son of God, as being born of a woman. Mary is told when she asks how this could possibly happen, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you-1”.  The Lord, the Giver of Life sanctifies her womb and Mary becomes the Mother of God. ”Let it be done to me according to your word. . .-2  Mary responds to her calling, her vocation.

Let’s take a few steps backward, for a moment. Mary is greeted by the Angel, with the familiar words of “Hail, full of grace-3”.  Mary, being greeted in such fashion, leads the Catholic Church to realize and proclaim the dogma of the Immaculate Conception-4. How could Mary be full of grace? Was she not like every other son or daughter of Eve, tainted with original sin? No, she isn’t. The dogma proclaims that from the first moment of Mary’s own conception, because of her future role as Mother of God, she comes into this world free of original sin. So imbued with God’s grace, Mary gives her fiat, her acceptance to her role.

We try to get our arms around this portion of the Creed, but it seems to defy reality. It does not conform to the way things happen, here on earth. But then, neither does the curing of the sick, by word or touch; neither does the suspension of the law of gravity and thus walking on water; neither does the raising of the dead back to life. None of these conform to the way things happen on earth, but God, the Creator of these laws, can and does override them.

From this beautiful section of the Creed, we see the Divine Love that God has for mankind. We see through the eyes of faith that God was not about to abandon His people, when the first sin was committed. We speak in words that are restricted by time, so we can only say that when this happened, He did such and such. But God has no restrictions of time. The concept of time came with creation. Things are and then, after a period of time, are not, they cease to be. God IS. God exists. His intention is always to be involved with His creation. Such is His love for us.

This was a very difficult section to put on paper. Our faith, our beliefs are not something that we can go out and prove. If we could, they would not be beliefs but proven reality. I feel that this one section, however, is a critical part of our belief. This leads to everything else that we hold dear and sacred. A beautiful prayer to say many times during the day, is: Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.                    goto next segment 

 

-1 Luke 1:34-35
-2 Luke 1:28-38
-3 Luke 1:28
-4 Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma in 1854

…His only Son, Our Lord…

This is My beloved Son

(5th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

We addressed that Jesus was most assuredly a man living around the time, which we identify as circa 30 A.D. We only had to look at what the historians of the time had to say about Him, to show His existence. Now we look at the phrase, His only Son. We cannot look to a map or a book and expect to see solutions to this enigma. Well, we can, but it must be done through the eyes of faith.

In three of the Gospels, on the occasion of the baptism of Jesus by John, the authors write of a voice from the Heavens, heard to say, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” -1. The Spirit of God, in the form of a dove, is described as hovering over Jesus. (All the Fathers of the Church cite these verses for a proof of the Trinity: the testimony of the Father speaking, of the Son receiving the testimony, of the Holy Spirit descending in the shape of a dove.-2) What is going on here? If Jesus is the Son of God, why is here? For what purpose must He walk on earth as both man and God? “You see that Christ in one person has two natures, one by which he always was, the other by which he began to be, and always knew everything in his eternal essence but temporally experienced many things in his temporal essence.-3”

Here at the Jordan River, with the baptism by John, Jesus starts His public life. With the words of God raining down from the sky, Jesus’ divinity is revealed to the world. With our faith, as we read the scriptures, we see Jesus heal the lepers, help men reclaim the use of their legs, walk on water, show His dominion over the elements, raise people back to life. All the while He preaches love of God and love of neighbor, a unique message for that time as well as now. He informs His followers that He must suffer and die for the sins of mankind. Without this redemptive sacrifice mankind would be alienated from God, for all eternity, because of their original separation. But He allows the very people, who He has come to save, to torture, revile, shame and crucify Him. He hangs on the cross and with pain shooting through every nerve ending in this human body, He prays to His Father to forgive them. Three days after His death, He, Himself, rises from the dead, proving His divinity, His Sonship.

Through our faith, a precious gift that we must nurture and protect, we see the Divinity of the man Jesus. We realize that His message is for every one of us, for all-time. It is a way of living, of loving, of forgiving. Our lives take on a whole different dimension when we see the reality of Jesus and its implications on us. As both God and man, His sacrifice for us, His love for us, and His words of guidance for us are limitless in scope and have infinite worth. Everything He said and did was for us. With this realization, we cannot do anything but fall on our knees, bow our heads, and declare Him our Lord and our God.  goto next segment>>

-1 (Matt. 3 17, Mark 1 11, Luke 3 22)
-2 (Pastorini in Matt. iii. 17)
-3 (The Steps of HumilityTrans. by G. B. Burch, Loeb Classical Library)

I Believe in God…

God and Mankind

(1st in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

Looking out over my back yard, I can see my garden, trees, rooftops, the clouds in the sky. This panorama greets me every day, and I hardly take notice of the beauty. Usually, I am too busy with the “needs” of the day, to slow down and look at the beauty that God gives us on a daily basis.  If I pay closer attention, I might catch sight of a hawk or two gliding with the thermals, the constant jabber of smaller birds in the trees. Looking at my yard filled with multi colored flowers, I can see butterflies flitting from one flower to another, in search of what I don’t really know.  All of this and more exists every day for us, and it might, just might, get a casual glance from us.

We deceive ourselves very easily into thinking that this job, this project, this goal is what is necessary to make our lives complete. We allow ourselves to settle for this world’s offerings, as though they are why we are here on earth. Very early in our lives we were taught that to be happy, we must have financial security and we must satisfy our wants and needs, no matter the cost. Slowly, over our lives, these goals became paramount in our lives. So important are they that we teach them to our young, and the cycle begins anew.

IF you believe in God, then you must have thought at some time, why am I here? Why did God make me? I think it is safe to say that from God’s viewpoint, “The purpose of life, the purpose of our existence is not to gain financial freedom and not to satisfy our every want.”

My belief is that God, a loving god, could do nothing less than to share His goodness with His creations. His love demanded it. So in the creation of the world, God reveals His beauty, His artistry. Mankind was created, with the sole purpose of experiencing the goodness, the beauty, the joy of being united with their Creator. Every aspect of God’s creation has the sole objective of revealing a different part of Him.

God’s love gave us free will, too. What joy could we experience, if we were compelled to love God? The freedom of choice is the highest gift that God could give us. It elevated mankind above all of the rest of creation. Unfortunately, if we use this free will unwisely, we can forfeit our experience of the goodness, the beauty, the joy of being united with our Creator. Yet, our God saw this as the necessity it was, so that mankind could experience the dizzying heights of being united with our God, through their own choice.

We have allowed ourselves to dig the holes that we find ourselves in. As we try to emerge from these graves, we should, we must re-focus our gaze on God. He is a God of Love. He is not something, someone made up. He is not the confused ramblings of a madman. He is. He does exist. He created you for one purpose and that is to be united with Him. What is important to us, what we pursue is up to us. What is YOUR choice?   goto next segment>>