The Path to Holiness

“For our sakes God made him who did not know sin, to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness of God.” 2 Cor 21. 

This passage really hit to the core this morning.  I am called to be no longer me, but Christ living in me.  That means that I am called to holiness in this life.  How much of my daily activities includes holiness? There is a part of me that thinks – that happens in the afterlife, but I know that it starts in this life. It is perfected in the next.  

How does one live this life in this world?  I think it means dying to self. I think it means getting out of my comfort zone and serving God’s people. I think this can happen by being polite to and compassionate with the person at work who is making one’s day difficult. I think it means treating people with dignity and respect. I think it also means feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, and clothing those with little possessions.  I think the more we ask the Holy Spirit to show us how to live more Christian lives, the more we will see the path to holiness.  

I know that it also comes through silent prayer.  It comes in looking for God in the depths of our being.  This path is even harder than the love of neighbor part.  God wants to show us where our behaviors are impacted by our brokenness. He wants to heal us and to restore us to His image. He can only do it if we spend time with Him each day trying to listen, even when it doesn’t feel effective.  The problem is, most of us do not want to see what is imperfect or broken inside. It doesn’t matter that He is faithful, loving, and gentle. It doesn’t matter that He sees us as we are, and He loves us.  We still want to run from perfection, because we are comfortable in our imperfect.  

For me, this makes so little sense.  I find myself running from truth frequently.  He always finds a way to slow me down, and let me see. Still, I would love to rip the band-aid off, and go for it all at one time.  It takes patience and gentleness with oneself. We can still be good people, even though we are still sinners.  However, we will be better Christians if we allow God to heal us.  We will bring more people to Christ if we can be more holy ourselves.  

This reminds me of a news article I once read.  A journalist asked then President Bush what he saw when he met the Pope.  The President responded, I saw God in his eyes.  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could see Him within us? I know that the reflection of God in one’s eyes comes with finding Him in the depth of ourselves.  I have seen it in the lives of more than one contemplative. I look forward to the day when I, too, can reflect His presence to the world more fully than I do today.  I pray each of you is either on this journey or encouraged to enter into this journey today.

In Him,

dw

Are You Saved?

Are you Saved? 

What does that even mean?  If you are asking me – am I choosing Heaven or Hell, I’ll choose Heaven every time. Who wouldn’t?  If you are asking me – Do I know Jesus? Has he changed my life? Am I walking with Him, and letting him transform me into his likeness every day of my life? I would say – some days better than others.  

The truth is, being a Christian  is multifaceted.  On the one hand, there is the joy of knowing I am loved, no matter what. It means that I am no longer an individual because that person died at Baptism, and I was raised into something greater – the Body of Christ. It means having supernatural gifts that should be used for lifting up the body of Christ. It means proclaiming the Good News.  

On the other hand, it is about crosses and rejection and humiliation.  Do I love him enough to accept it?  Am I running from this every day because culture permits it or because I am not willing to open my eyes and see? 

Does my faith life look more like Mother Theresa’s or like a non-believers?  I imagine that some days we look like one or the other, and I don’t have a consistent trend in one direction or the other.  

For some of you, this might be a hard message. I know it is for me.  I want to be liked. I want to fit in. I don’t want to go against the grain.  At the same time, God loves me so much that he takes me where I am. If I can take large strides towards living more like Mother Theresa, he will open those doors. If I am only willing to stand in place, he will lovingly stand with me until I am ready. If I fall back into bad habits, he is there with me.  Every day is the start of a journey with a God who loves you more than you can ever imagine.  He is there, waiting for us to put down the things that distract us.  

God, we thank you and praise you for your mercy and your love. We ask you to show us how to enter more deeply into your transforming love today, and every day. Help us to overcome our fear and our temporal desires. Give us this day a sense of what waits for us when we go deeper in this journey.  Give us consolations when we need it. Help us to trust in faith when you, in your wisdom, keep us from experiencing consolation. It is in the name of your Son, Jesus, that we pray. Amen.

Painting a Picture – Part 3

We will pick up our pencil sketch of the last supper from an Old Testament (OT) perspective with Abraham. This is not to say that the chapters between Adam / Eve and Abraham add nothing to our painting. It just means that I am focusing on the high points.  

In Genesis, God establishes one of many covenants with Abraham. The concept of covenant is an important one if we are to understand what Jesus did at the Last Supper.  From a Biblical perspective, a covenant was a legal way of establishing a familial relationship between two unrelated parties.  Covenants were terms and conditions that laid out each party’s obligations. They were usually followed by a ceremony or liturgical rite that often ended with a common meal as a way of confirming the familial relationship.⁠1   The process basically brought about a sacred bond; a fictitious blood relationship that made the participants of the same flesh and blood.⁠2 

More to the point, the covenants between the Israelites and God required sacrifice and blood. Sacrifice had many purposes. For our purposes, it was a way of restoring the offeror to relationship with God. By sinning, a sinner is guilty to the death, and the animal’s blood is substituted for the blood of the sinner. In this way, the blood, which is the life essence of the animal, atones for the sins of the sinner.⁠3 In other words, the sacrifice of animals was an interim way of restoring the balance of order between God and man that was lost in the fall. 

In Genesis chapters 12-22, God selects Abraham as the father of a nation, and instructs him to go to a land that God will show him, and God will make of him a great nation. In fact, God promises to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars.  Abraham asks God how he will know that all of this will come to pass. God told Abraham to sacrifice animals. Abraham sacrifices the animals, splits them in half, and lays them out. God passed between the pieces.  In this way, Abraham understood God to say – if I fail to live up to my agreement, I will become just like these slain animals.  Luckily, God will always be faithful, so the penalty will never be triggered. In this way, these two cut a covenant. 

In concluding Abraham’s story, God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son, Issac, through whom God had promised to fulfill the covenant.  Abraham was faithful and takes his son to the place God commanded for the sacrifice.  Abraham built an altar, bound Isaac, placed him on the altar, and as Abraham was about to sacrifice Issac, an angel of the Lord calls out to him, and orders him to stop.  God provides a substitute victim, and Abraham offers it in place of his son. Because of this faithfulness, God reiterates his promise to Abraham. In this endeavor, God begins to more clearly sketch Jesus, the antitype, who will one day be the lamb on that same mount; a lamb that would bring a blessing to all nations.⁠4  

1 Jerome Neyrey, The Passion According to Luke: A Redaction Study of Luke’s Soteriology (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2007), 10.

2 Devin Roza, Fulfilled in Christ: The Sacraments – A Guide to Symbols and Types in the Bible and Tradition. (Bellingham, WA: Verbum, 2014), 122.

3 S. David Sperling, “Blood,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 761.

4 Thomas Nash, Worthy is the Lamb: The Biblical Roots of the Mass (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2004),  71.

© Debra Weldon, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Painting a Picture – Part 2

Yesterday, I promised to paint a picture for you of the Last Supper using the Old Testament (OT). This picture, like any master piece, may take some time to develop. We will see how it goes. Today, I want to answer the question – what does the Creation story tell us about the Last Supper and its meaning? This will be my way of pulling out the canvas and some pencils so I can start to rough out some of the details of the painting.
In the beginning, God created us. In his image and likeness, he created man and woman. It doesn’t matter if this story is a myth[1] or real or some combination of both. It was divinely inspired. It tells us something about God and his reasons for creating us. It tells us that as his creation, we are good.
He made two trees, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve could eat of the tree of life, and the fruit was eternal life. In this era of time, there was only one command, one law – do not eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil. The result of disobeying God was death.
What we see in the Eden version of the creation story is a God who walks with his creation. We see a God who is present to us. I can picture God sitting down to eat with Adam and Eve, sharing a meal, sharing communion with them. But, we all know how the story goes, right? The serpent, the cunning creature, tempts the woman into disobeying God, and she in turn passes the fruit to Adam. Alas, sin enters the world, and humanity becomes its own god, its own creator of the rules of good and evil. The great divide between God and man came into existence.
I find great humor in this part of the story. Let’s look at what Adam and Eve do with all their new found wisdom. They don fig leaves to cover their nakedness. Have you ever googled fig leaves? The first thing they do is put a leaf with caustic properties on their “nakedness”! Ouch! I can’t say that this seems very wise to me!
Here our loving God, who knew from the beginning that we would disobey, shows his creation great compassion. In the face of our disobedience, he takes from them their painful choice of clothing, and makes them clothes out of soft animal skins. Then, like any parent who has to enforce the rules, he shuts the gate and places an angel with the fiery swords to protect the tree of life.
I want to back up, and address one final issue. Did you notice how Adam tells God that he was hiding because he was naked? This used to puzzle me because the previous verses say that they had already clothed themselves with their finest choice of materials. Why did they really hide from God? In my meditation on this question, I saw their shame; I saw their fear of disappointing God. Because of this, fig leaves have become for me a symbol of sin and shame. In some respects, I see sinners wearing layers of fig leaves, and God, in his mercy, wants to work with us to remove these fig leaves. He wants to replace them with something more fitting for our station in life as his creation.
In summary, what pieces of the picture have we sketched on the canvas. I suggest that in this divinely inspired story God reveals many things. He revealed that we are good, but that we choose things that are not for our good. He tells us that his original intention was for us to be in union with him; to walk with him in a land of milk and honey. We are the ones who choose differently. In some sense, it is in our nature to be out of communion with God, but he has a plan that will restore the original balance. First, he has to finish the OT painting so we can comprehend what Jesus means in the Last Supper.

[1] Myth, a symbolic narrative, usually of unknown origin and at least partly traditional, that ostensibly relates actual events and that is especially associated with religious belief. www.britannica.com

© Debra Weldon, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Painting a Picture – Part 1

Yesterday, I opened facebook, and there were many photos of mom at different times in her life.  Tears flooded my eyes.  I miss her. While I am blessed to go to a nursing facility and love all over my mom who has dementia, the woman she once was is hidden somewhere inside of her.

I miss sharing my spiritual journey with her, and her pearls of wisdom, like, “live the question.” I long to ask her about her experience with the changes after Vatican II. How did she get so catechized in those matters? How did she raise us with such good Catechesis so close to the closing of the council?  What was the most important aspect to her? What did she think was the worst?  What did her mom think about it? Did she ever think about being something other than Catholic?  I suppose I know her favorite aspect of Catholicism.  She loved the Eucharist. It makes me sad that in her dementia, she no longer recognizes Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  She loved Eucharistic adoration. She loved helping other people fall in love with adoration.  I wonder if she is the key to why I have such a fascination with the Eucharist. It is a timeless miracle that causes conversion, repentance, and unity.  If we could only all see the meaning behind Jesus at the Last Supper, we might all live differently.  Then, if I could fully take to heart the meaning of the Eucharist, then peace could more fully begin with me.

As I take a stab at my newly professed career as a freelance writer, I think I will start with sharing my mother’s main love with the rest of the world. I do not profess to share her full understanding of the Eucharist. Outside of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, I don’t know what she thought. At the same time, both of my papers this last semester had to do with the Last Supper in some form or fashion.

I suppose the question is – where does one begin? There are so many potential readers out, each with their own thought construct on what it means, and I respect everyone’s viewpoint. I just feel called to preach, and I hope that you feel free to enter into a discourse with me about the similarities and differences we share in regards to the Eucharist.

Having said that, I think the right starting point is the Old Testament (OT). My Gospels Professor this semester said that many people think the NT could be deleted from the Christian canon of Scripture.  I was thunderstruck! How can anyone understand the New Testament (NT) without the old? I suppose some people think that you can do it.  I don’t see how.  From my perspective, God painted a picture of salvation history in the stories of the OT.  If the brush strokes of the OT are not built into the NT painting, how can one see all of the detail?  I posit that one cannot.  Let me take the next few days or weeks or months to pencil in the sketch of the OT, and see if it helps you to better understand the full painting of the Eucharist, and the impact I think it has on the meaning of being a Christian.

I will close here, but hope to see you back here tomorrow as we begin with Genesis, and some of the symbolic meaning in the story of Adam and Eve.

© Debra Weldon, 2019. All Rights Reserved.