The Smoking Priest

The Smoking Priest

The Mystery of God and Communion

St. Augustine was once confronted by a pagan leader who showed him his idol and said, “Here is my god; where is yours?” Augustine replied, “I cannot show you my God; not because there is no God to show but because you have no eyes to see him.”

The mystery of the Blessed Trinity is clearly revealed to us throughout the New Testament.  However, we already get a glimpse into this mystery in the first book of the Bible.  “God said, let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves…” (Genesis 1: 26).  Us?  Ourselves?  These words reveal to us the nature of God.  God is one God, but three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  One God, not three Gods.

“The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.  It is the mystery of God in himself.  It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.  It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 234).

We can look upon God as a communion of persons.  We can see the image of God stamped into all of existence.  Human nature, marriage, the family, human society and the Church are all icons of the Triune God who is a communion of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Man is a communion because man has been created as male and female.  Adam is not complete until the creation of Eve. Pope John Paul II affirmed that “man becomes an image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion” (Theology of the Body, John Paul II, p. 163)

The marriage of man and woman is defined as an “intimate community of life and love” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1603).  The intimate life of married spouses is an image of the interior life of the Blessed Trinity.  “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love…” (Gaudium et spes, Vatican II, 48).   Moreover, the Sacrament of Matrimony can be considered as the prototype of all of the sacraments  “because all of the sacraments draw their essential significance and their sacramental power from the spousal love of Christ the Redeemer” (The Theology of the Body Explained, Christopher West, p. 362).

Finally, the family, human society, and of course the Church are, in essence, communities or communions.

Pope Benedict says that “the Church is Eucharistic fellowship” (God is Near Us, p. 115).   I find these words to be quite significant because they indicate that it is not enough just to go to Sunday Mass as a private spectator.  Each parish is a community or communion of believers.  As living members of the parish family, we are called not only to worship, but to participate in the community life of the parish.  The parish is our church family.

“Faith is a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself.  But faith is not an isolated act.  No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone.  You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life.  The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others.  Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith.  Each believer is thus a link in a great chain of believers.  I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 166).

As I stated in my new book, Get Serious! A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics, I firmly believe that after every Eucharistic Celebration, whenever possible, there should always be some kind of fellowship activity.  Moreover, sprinkled throughout the liturgical year, there should be well organized parish family life activities that provide an opportunity for the entire community to come together for fellowship.

Community with other persons will make us human and allow us to come to a deep encounter with God.  Community must exist in our families; it must exist in our neighborhoods; it must exist at school and in the work place; it must exist in our churches.

We all know that we live in an isolated and fractured world.

We can begin to change the world by building community right where we find ourselves planted.

 

Real Christians Needed

A number of years ago I was invited to give a retreat to a group of lay people in New York City.  A seminarian graciously accompanied me in order to help with the practical details.  Prior to the evening retreat, we had a number of appointments, and so that meant that we would have lunch in New York.  The seminarian really enjoyed Asian cuisine, so I accommodated his palate by inviting him to lunch at a Korean restaurant.

As we went to our table, we were met by a Korean woman who graciously attended us with delicate courtesy. Having had many years of experience at my father’s restaurant, I was able to notice that her kindness, manners, and spirit of service were far from ordinary.

Towards the end of the meal, another Korean woman finished waiting on our table.  When we were ready, I asked her for the check.  She then proceeded to tell me that there would be no charge for the lunch because the first waitress took care of the bill.  I was very surprised and I asked her why she had decided to pay for our meal.  “She is Christian”, was the unanticipated answer from the waitress.

“She is Christian”, meant that all the other waitresses were not Christian, and that all though encountering a free meal in the middle of downtown New York City surprised me, they were not surprised at all.  They knew that this woman was different.  Because of her Christianity, she was different.

This is just one example of what it means to be a witness.  The Korean woman, through her profound generosity, gave an amazing witness to all of her co-workers.  She is Christian.

This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost.  Pentecost was a feast day for the Jewish people.  On this day, many Jews were known to have made a special pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem.  At first, the feast was celebrated as a day of thanksgiving for the harvest, and subsequently it also became a commemoration of the Ten Commandments that were given by God to Moses.  Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after the Passover.

Jesus’ return to his Father makes it possible for God to come to us in a way more active and more powerful than before. Only the second person of the Blessed Trinity became incarnate. Thus everyone was able to see Jesus.  However, the Holy Spirit can only be experienced by those who are believers.  Jesus now lives and rules through the Catholic Church, which the Holy Spirit brings to life.  From the Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ brings every believer to a new existence, to deeper intimacy, and directs our deeds and our journey to eternal life.

At an important point in the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi, a missionary gave him a book that contained the four Gospels.  This of course, was the Indian leader’s first exposure to Christianity.  He read the Gospels with great interest, and was convinced that the principles taught by Jesus could resolve all of the political, social and economic problems of his country.

Gandhi had to travel throughout Western Europe in order to muster support for an independent India.  Traveling through Christian countries, he was dismayed only to conclude that the Gospels are wonderful indeed, but he did not see anyone living their teaching.  For this reason, Gandhi never converted to Christianity.

We are in dire need of men and women who will evangelize a difficult world by the witness of their lives.  We all need the deep, unyielding convictions of the heroes of the civil rights movement such as Dr. Martin Luther King and the un-sung heroes of the pro-life movement who have been imprisoned in order to save the lives of millions of unborn children.

Now more than ever, the world needs an authentic, mature and coherent Christianity lived by Christians who are living witnesses of the Gospel.  Come Holy Spirit!

Go to Heaven

What is Heaven?  Without a doubt, Heaven is a place difficult to describe.  We cannot begin to understand it because Heaven belongs to the mystery of faith.

In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of this mystery through images.  He calls it the kingdom, a place of life, light and peace.  He refers to it as a wedding feast, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem and paradise.  St. Paul tells us that “no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2: 9).   And St. John tells us that in Heaven “we shall see him as he really is” (1 John 3: 2).

St. Paul’s awe is echoed in the words of a child taking an evening walk with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed; “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of Heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!”

Life confined to the boundaries of time and space without the promise of eternal life would be cruel and unbearable to live.  Without the certainty of an eternal paradise, the trials and tribulations of this present life would have no meaning and purpose.

The judgments of time will be corrected by the judgments of eternity.  The injustices of this world will be replaced by the justice of the world to come.  The tears shed now, will be replaced by the joy lived forever in eternal life.

One day each of us will stand before God for judgment.  We will stand before God without a lawyer and without family or friends to support us.  We will stand alone before Almighty God.  Each day could be our last day on earth.

We should ask ourselves each day, if I were to die today, how would God judge me?  Is there any particular sin, attachment, or attitude that might keep me from getting to Heaven?  If we really want to get to Heaven, we can’t be making excuses for our behavior.  Life is not a dress rehearsal.  Life is like a bus ride.  We move forward with our bags packed, hoping that when the bus stops and the door opens, we will be at the right location.

By the way, my new book Get Serious! A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics gives you all of the steps that you need to take to live a happy life here on earth and the steps that you need to take now  to get to Heaven.

 

 

My First Flight

Recently I began to reflect on the first time I was on a plane.  It was 1980 and I had just finished my first two years of seminary training for the Catholic priesthood and now I was being sent to Spain for my third year of seminary.  The flight was from New York to Madrid and I was so excited.  I was thrilled about flying for the first time and I was eager about going to Europe.

Many years have gone by since my first flight.   Now, my priestly ministry brings me to the airport a lot and all of the excitement about flying is gone.

I complain that I am being charged extra money for my checked bag.  I complain about taking my shoes off.  I complain that I can’t bring my bottled water through security.  I complain that I have to take my laptop out of my carry-on.  I complain that someone is scanning my body.  I complain that the plane is too small.  I complain that there is no leg room.  I complain that there is no food or that the food stinks.

All of the excitement and the illusion of that first flight to Madrid are gone.

As I remember that first flight and my bad attitude about flying today, I realize that perhaps that just might be my attitude about life in general.

Have we lost the excitement?  Have we lost the illusion?  Do we still dream?

Dude, go back and think about the first time that you met your spouse.  Wow.  Think about your wedding day and your first years of marriage.  Wonderful.

The years have gone by and what is going on now?  You are complaining that your wife is fat or that your husband is a lazy slob.  You complain that you can’t pay your bills and just about everything else that is going on in your life today.

Enough!  Let’s stop the complaining!  Dude, we are Christians and we are supposed to be an Easter people.

Speaking of flying, do you remember when the Concorde used to fly?  Wow.  You could leave Paris at 11 AM and get to New York the same day at 9 AM.

That’s Easter!

With Jesus, we know that we are journeying, not to the sunset, but to the sunrise.

And Easter is not just one Sunday a year.  No.  We are an Easter people and Easter is every day.

So, stop the freaking complaining!

Sure life is difficult.  People get sick and die.  Jobs are lost.  Thing happen; even crazy things like earthquakes, tornadoes and wars.

But, Jesus has risen from the dead and we have to be totally convinced that “by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose” (Romans 8: 28).

Remember that first time when you took off from that first airport and live life with that same excitement and enthusiasm.  Do not let the difficulties; the challenges and even the disappointments of life diminish your excitement and enthusiasm.

“I rescue all who cling to me, I protect whoever knows my name, I answer everyone who invokes me, I am with them when they are in trouble; I bring them safety and honor.  I give them life, long and full, and show them how I can save” (Psalm 91: 14-16).

By the way, I wrote this while listening to the most awesome jazz music.  I would have smoked a cigar too, but I don’t want to stink up my office.  So, time to go and stink up my house with a great cigar.

Hey, did you know that I wrote my second book?  Check it out on my website.  It will change your life.

 

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