Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Expanding the Horizons a Little

I’m looking to expand the horizons of my blog.  For the most part, I have stuck to reflections on Scripture because the title of my blog is Sacra Pagina which is Latin for the Sacred Page.  In the medieval context, it referred to much more than Sacred Scripture.  The verses of the Bible were written in the center of the page surrounded by commentaries from the saints, doctors, Church Fathers, and theologians of the past.  The Sacred Page referred to reading the Bible in light of the lived faith of the body of Christ, Sacred Tradition, according to the words of the Apostle, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.  I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you” (1 Cor 11:1-2).  Holding on to the Traditions passed onto us by the saints who lived before us is NECESSARY for understanding the word of God.

I plan on continuing my normal Sunday reflections on the Liturgical cycle, but I also hope to expand into writing another weekly post on a theological topic.  I would like to start first with a series on discernment (I’ve spent quite a bit of the past year reflecting on discernment!).  I hope to make the posts deeply rooted in Scripture and Tradition because as Vatican II says, “There exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end” (DV 9).

Guided by the Word of God and with some help for the Spirit of Wisdom, I hope that I’ll be able to assist you readers in understanding how God personally speaks to us.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Glorify Him All You Peoples!

On Thursday, I accepted a job for the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis working in their marriage tribunal as an auditor and as an advocate.  As an auditor, I will interview witness, and as an advocate, I will help people seeking an annulment find their way through the process and argue their case.  I was excited to have a full time job that could possible lead to a career as a canon lawyer!  So what did I do?  I told my mom who was in the room right across the hall.  Then immediately I began texting friends.  I wanted everyone I knew and loved to share in the good that I received.

In the responsorial Psalm this Sunday, we all sing “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.”  From the beginning of God’s intervention in humanity, God has been preparing for his covenantal relationship to be spread to the whole world.  Consider the text from Isaiah,
“I will set a sign among the
m; from them I will send fugitives to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.”

The sign God set among us is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.  The fugitives God has sent into the world are the apostles and the Church who continues the apostolic mission to conquer the world for Christ the King.

Christians bring the name of Jesus to those who do not know Him.  In fact, evangelical zeal is a test for discerning those who know Jesus and the love He offers us in the Father.  If we have received Jesus into our heart and made Him the Lord of our life, if we have encountered the depths of His love and mercy, we can’t help but yearn for the whole world to know Him.  We will seek out our family and friends, telling them the Good News that Jesus has conquered sin and death in our life so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we might live in the fullness of life and truth, no longer bound to the hatred and despair of the world.

We need to examine our hearts.  Has the power of the resurrection transformed our life so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us?  If not, I suggest that we have some praying to do.  If Jesus and I are not speaking to each other often and frequently, then we’re not really friends.  We’re acquaintances.  We might know OF Him, but we do not KNOW him.  We might have gathered at His table every Sunday to eat and drink with Him and know that He taught us a lot of good things, but if our relationship ends there, we’re going to hear those chilling, haunting words of Jesus, “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!”

The Good News is that having a friendship with God has been made easy.  Jesus took our sins and put them to death on the Cross.  Then, He rose from the dead to share with us His own holy life.  What we need to do now is accept that life, that power to do good.  When we receive that gift—and God will grant it to us if we seek it with perseverance, then evangelizing the nations becomes easier because we will have Good News to share.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

From Now on a Household of Five will be Divided

It’s easy to simplify the person of Jesus, emphasizing one part to the exclusion of another.  The result is a caricature, a withered form of the true Jesus.  In our culture, we tend to so over emphasize the gentleness and mercy of Jesus that we forget that He is the judge who will punish wrong-doing.  A gentle, and merciful judge to be sure, but yet a judge.

Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”  The incarnation of the Son of God into the world initiates Christ’s conquering of it.  As God, Jesus will not tolerate evil to plague creation forever.  From the beginning, He has had a plan to do away with it, to destroy all injustice.  Jesus is clear that there are sides in this battle which will tear families apart.

Why must it be so?  We become like that which we love.  Consider Psalm 135,
The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.  They have mouths but do not speak; they have eyes but do not see; they have ears but do not hear; nor is there breath in their mouths.”

Those who love idols, become like their idols.  And consider its opposite, “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.”  Those who love God and His Image become like God because they are His sons.  Those who love their idols become part of the world while those who love God are taken up into His family.  Jesus came to conquer the world and to take those who love Him to Himself.  Necessarily, there must be a division between those who freely choose to follow Jesus (they are given life) and those who refuse (they are conquered).

Heaven is a place of life, of joy, of peace, truth, and love.  Those who love these things will love heaven.  Murders, cynics, war-mongers, liars, and haters have no place in Heaven.  The darkness hates what is light.  They do not know God and so do not want to be with Him.  Rather, the evil doers eat up God’s people (cf Ps 14).  Therefore, they are banished from God’s kingdom where they will be powerless to do harm.

Jesus, who from his infancy was known to be a sign to be contradicted, brings fire to the earth.  Fire, which itself has a double meaning.  It is both a tool of destruction and torment and a symbol of warmth and safety.  Jesus is a burning brand, setting fire to the earth.  The meaning of this fire rests on one’s disposition to Him.  Is it one of love or is it one of hate?  Love leads to life and glory.  Loves will encounter the gentle and merciful Jesus.  Hate leads to death and infamy.  Haters will not encounter such a gentle Jesus, even if He does tempter his punishment with mercy.  Jesus will divide the lovers and the haters.  Simeon says, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel.”

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pleased to Give You the Kingdom

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”
St. Thomas Aquinas reads in this passage from the Hebrews a definition of faith.  Faith is the realization of things hoped for because it is the beginning of the life of grace.  Faith contains within it the full flowering of the beatific vision in the same way that a seed contains within it a mature oak tree.  What we believe by faith is the first glimpse of what is promised to us in Heaven.  By faith we see that in Heaven, we will have “an inexhaustible treasure.”  Also, the Master “will gird himself, have [his servants] recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.”  Faith reveals to us that Heaven is a place where, because we have served God well, God will serve us.  He will lift us up with Himself and share with us His glory.

Faith is evidence of things not seen.  Other translations say that faith is the assurance of things unseen.  Faith brings certainty that it knows the truth.  St. Thomas writes, “the intellect of the believer is convinced by Divine authority, so as to assent to what it sees not” (ST II-II q4 a1).  Faith brings certainty to what is believed because it is not simply another human perspective, but the divine perspective.  The man of faith is like Abraham who “thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.”  Our faith doesn’t rest on human opinion or reasoning.  Despite being able to confirm the truths of the faith, we have certainty because we have the assurance of God Himself.

Of what has God assured us?  Jesus says, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for you Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”  We have been promised that the Kingdom of Heaven will be ours.  Jesus says, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.  Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.”  We have been promised that God Himself will provide a banquet for us in Heaven.  If here in this world, the Lord provides us a banquet of His body and blood, how much greater will be the feast in Heaven?  If here in this world, we commune with the Lord in faith, how much greater will be the communion in Heaven?  No longer will the object of our longing be unseen, but the Trinity dwelling within us by faith will be revealed in all His glory.  What will be given to us in Heaven, has already been given to us in its beginnings now.  Faith is the realization of things hoped for.  These beginnings like the Eucharist and faith are console us and are evidence of the future we eagerly anticipate.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Water Gushed out in Abundance

A substantial part of my intellectual formation happened at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC.  Outside their academic building, they have a statue of St. Dominic standing and at his side there’s a dog, carrying a torch in his mouth.  In the Dominican tradition there is a legend that on the advent of St. Dominic’s birth, his mother had a vision of a dog carrying a torch in its mouth.  This dog would be the Lord’s light to the world.  In Latin, you can make a play on words with Dominican/Domini canis, which translates into the Lord’s dog.  The Dominicans are the Lord’s hounds, bearing the light of truth into the world.

As Christians, the truth is absolutely critical.  Jesus is the way, the TRUTH, and the life.  If we don’t know the truth, we don’t know Jesus.  If we don’t know the truth, we can’t have a friendship with Him.  We can’t have a friendship with a God we don’t know!  This is a real problem in humanity.  We spend a lot time making up our own thoughts about who God is.  We all have our own personal perspectives, but they’re limited.  Flawed.  Contorted.  If we cling to these perspectives, we’re never going to know God as He really is.

This is what’s happening in the Gospel today.  Jesus asks “Who do people say that the Son of Man is.”  The disciples start sharing all the narrow perspectives that people have: John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah, but we know that they’re all wrong.  Peter gets it right.  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus is the Son of God who has come down from Heaven to wipe away our silly and distorted perspectives about God and to replace them with the divine perspective.  The wood of the Cross is like the staff in Moses’ hand which strikes the stone of our minds causing wisdom to gush out in abundance.  By believing what Jesus has revealed, we break down the limits of human reason and open ourselves to the farthest horizons of the truth.

In Psalm 51, King David prays, “Lord you love truth in the heart, then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.”  The Father loves a man or woman whose heart is full of the truth because His Son is the truth.  A person whose heart is full of the truth has a heart full of Jesus.  This is why it’s so important to study our faith: to know it, inside and out to the best of our ability.  That means reading our Bibles.  That means reading the Catechism or coming to adult formation.  Studying the faith is a real spiritual exercise which will expand our hearts, opening them up to receive the Father’s love.

To tie this back into St. Dominic, it was because of the truth that Dominic gave up his possessions and the pleasure and security of having a family.  He gave up everything he could for the possession of the Truth, and it was because the Truth loved him, that Dominic bore the truth in his mouth to the whole world.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Think of What is Above

Wisdom, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is knowledge of the highest causes.  By knowledge of the deepest truths about reality, we order our life to harmonize with the world sung into being by our creator.  Wisdom is about being rooted in reality, not fiction, and the deepest reality of the world is God Himself who is the uncaused-cause of creation.  This is why St. Paul exhorts us to “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Col 3:1).  What is above?  Christ, seated at the right hand of God.  Christ is the Word of God and the Wisdom of God.  He is the eternal Logos.  By thinking of what is above, we are conformed to Jesus Christ.  To know Jesus is to know wisdom.

Knowing this wisdom is possible because “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  By the waters of baptism, we have died with Christ in hope that we will rise with him (Rom 6:4).  The grace available to us in baptism is used to put to death our evil: greed, impurity, and lying.  By grace, we turn away from what is earthly, no longer conforming our ways to the world, but conforming our ways to what is above: Jesus at the right hand of the Father.

By God’s grace, we can harmonize our lives with the Father’s wisdom.  He directs us and calls us to follow Him and to grow into a deeper relationship with him.  This is why I first entered seminary.  I wanted to turn my face fully to what is above, not of what is on earth, so I opened myself to discerning what God was calling me to do, rather than what I wanted to do.  As I’ve continued to gaze at the wisdom of the Father through prayer and diligent study of God’s word, I’ve realized that my life in seminary was not in harmony with God’s wisdom.  I was lacking the peace, joy, and abundance of life promised by the Father.  For this reason, I discerned that God is calling me to leave the seminary and to pursue a vocation to marriage.

This has disappointed many people, and I’m sorry about that, I’ve found these same people to be very supportive of me clinging to God’s will rather than to my own.  I’m grateful for that.  As I continue down this new path, I would appreciate the prayers of all my readers.  I certainly pray for you!

I would also appreciate some job offers!

I plan on continuing to write this blog, and tentatively I plan on finishing my master’s degree in theology before getting a PhD. in theology or getting a JCL for Canon Law.  Hopefully God will provide a young, holy, and WISE woman along the way!