Dying With Christ This Lent

As we enter into this season of Lent, let us reflect for a moment on what this season is all about.  One way of looking at it is that it is a time of dying with Christ so that we might rise more fully with him this Easter.  

First, what is it that needs to die so that we might rise?  Our tendency towards sin.  Humans come into the world naturally craving the good; however, we all too often choose the lesser goods of God’s creation over the greater goodness of God.  Lent is a good time to curb our worldly desires so that we might more fully live the life he wants us to live.  

In addition, God created humanity to be in relationship with himself.  Most of us have a tendency to march to the beat of a different drummer.  We want to make our own decisions.  We want to do things that make us feel good or increase our prestige in the eyes of the world. So often, these and similar desires lead us away from this deeper union with God.  

By finding ways to die to self we open ourselves to the greater good, which is God, who is love.  We make room for him to live and breath within us. We clear out the voices in our head that cry out for the goods of the world, and this allows us to hear Him more clearly.  

The problem is, we are weak, and any solo effort to die to self is destined to fail, at least in part.  There is a reason that God, through the prophet Ezekiel, told us that he wanted to replace our stoney hearts with hearts of flesh; that he wanted to place his Spirit within us in order to move us towards compliance with his decrees. Ez 36:26-27.  There is a reason that Jesus had to ascend so that the Advocate could come and guide us in all truth. Jn 16:13.  We were never intended to take on the role of dying to selves by ourselves.  If we have been baptized, we have the source of all goodness residing within us.  We have within us the one who will be our strength in weakness (2 Cor 12:10). All we need to do is learn to hear him; learn to follow his lead towards holiness. 

This Lent, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer with the Holy Spirit seeking his insights on how you can take steps towards dying to self so that you might live life to the fullest (Jn 10:10). By this I mean so that you might live life in union with the Triune God who dwells within you.  Spend this Lent working with the Holy Spirit to curb your earthly desires, and learning how to follow his lead more readily. Spend time praying that he help you be open to his grace so that you might be moved away from sin and moved towards the Father who loves you.

In Him,


In Weakness

Last week, I went to confession, and confessed my holiday blues and the sloth that it generated in me.  I confessed the inordinate amount of time I spent watching TV and gaming on my phone.  I always love the healing and affirmation I feel when I hear, “you are forgiven.” At the same time, before I left the room, I asked Father something like this, “Sometimes I feel too weak to avoid sin.  Instead of falling into a place of despair, I find myself drawn to sitting in awareness of my littleness.  Does that sound wrong?” 

He said he didn’t think so, and that it sounded like something a Carmelite nun had been saying in her books. He encouraged me to read something by Ruth Burrows, the pen name of the Carmelite nun.  I’m only a few pages into a book on her major writings.  Her life so resonates with my own, while being very different.  

She talks about how Jesus met her in her littleness. This resonates with Paul’s writings when he talks about allowing God to be his strength in weakness (2 Cor 12:10), which is one of my favorite Pauline quotes.  She says in this littleness we find the Christ who emptied himself for us.  She talks about how in our brokenness, in our neediness, we more profoundly find him who is the way, the truth, and the life. She says that there is something mystical in accepting our imperfections, and in relying on him.

The more I ponder what I have been experiencing in my own spiritual life as enlightened by what I have read of Ruth’s book, the more I realize how much the Christian life must be rooted in being open to one’s weaknesses. There is a tendency to fall into complacency.  However, the objective is to find the humility to turn to him who desires to be our strength in weakness. The objective is to learn to hear the voice of Truth that dwells within us as a result of our baptism, and to follow him to a place of healing, a place of peace and joy.

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit pondering your own spiritual life.  How are you dealing with the fact that you are still sinner while redeemed in Christ?  Ask him how you can better live not only in your own littleness, but in reliance on his grace.  

In Him,


Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord

This morning, I was drawn to the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist.  John was the one who came before the Lord to prepare his way.  This is the meaning of the season of advent. We take stock of our lives to see how well we are living the Gospel; how well we are preparing for his second coming. 

There are many ways to prepare, but one of the most effective ways is through mental prayer. One form of mental prayer is meditation, which I define here as entering into scripture using our imagination, our memory, and our ability to reason. Another way is to prayerfully read the words of scripture while looking for the Holy Spirit to guide us to words or phrases that open the door to where he wants to work in our lives. This second form of prayer is called Lectio Divina. The idea behind these forms of prayer is to be in dialogue with Scripture, the word of God, and with the Spirit of Truth.

For instance, if you chose to meditate on this scripture, Luke 1:5-25, you could start out just reading the scripture, getting a feel for the scene and the characters.  As you read, see if the Holy Spirit calls your attention to one of the characters or to and object within the scene.  While not required, I highly recommend doing a little research before you begin your prayer.  You might purchase a commentary on this Gospel, and read what the author shares about the text. Such research might reveal how the priests were divided into divisions, and the history behind why the priests were casting lots.  Another method of research is to skim the internet for additional facts or for images to help you picture the scene in your mind. For instance, you might look for a depiction of the altar, and use that image when you imagine yourself walking into this room.  You might do a little research on the angel Gabriel, or the history behind the offering of incense in the temple.   

Now, you close your eyes, choose where you are going to enter in, invite the Holy Spirit into the process, and begin. Sometimes things proceed naturally without prompting. Sometimes I find it helpful to ask the Holy Spirit questions like: who, what, when, where, how, and why.  

With this scripture, you might start by imagining yourself as  Zachariah gathering with the rest of your “division of priests,” casting lots, and exploring the feelings of being chosen to offer the incense. How does this sense of being chosen look in your own life?  From here, you might imagine yourself approaching the altar of incense. All of a sudden, an angel appears to the right of the altar.  You use your imagination to help you feel the same sense of fear that Zechariah feels, and you hear the angel say, “be not afraid.” Maybe a memory of an event that has or is causing you fear comes to mind.  If this or something similar comes up, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand this image or memory in regards to your own life. 

If you are using Lectio Divina, you would start by reading this passageand looking for words or phrases that resonate within. For instance, you might feel something when you read the word “barren.”  You sit with this phrase for a bit, and ask the Holy Spirit why this word resonates.  Maybe you realize that certain aspects of your life feel barren, so you ask the Holy Spirit if this is a time of preparation, or if there is something more you can do to bring fruit into your life. 

The point I want to highlight is that we are praying with the Holy Spirit so that he can help us make the words personal. Sometimes, prayer enlightens us to deeper meanings of scripture, and sometimes they help us to seek healing within our own personal lives.  We are looking to be open to what the Holy Spirit wants to show us about himself and about ourselves. We are looking for him to show us where we have watered down the Gospel, and for guidance on how to better live as Jesus lived 

Spend some time today (and every day) with the Holy Spirit in mental prayer, asking him to teach you how to pray effectively, and how to be open to his ways of teaching you truth.  Many experts say that the spiritual life can be greatly enhanced by spending a minimum of 20 minutes a day in mental prayer. Ask him to help you make a commitment to grow closer to the God who loves you by giving you the grace to pray with him this way every day.

In Him,


Call Me Theophilus!

I love studying the Bible. Commentaries have a way of bringing new thoughts and ideas to the surface. They help my imagination better engage scripture in meditation because they tell me more about the culture and the various connotation of the words contained in the Bible. 

I have recently begun my journey into Luke’s Gospel.  This Gospel was written to a man named Theophilus as a way of assuring him in what he had been taught. There are those who believe that Luke wrote his Gospel so as to assure the Gentiles about the faithfulness of God. This theory is based on the fact that Gentiles were converting to a religion that was the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy; however, many Jews were rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. If the Gospel was true, and salvation comes through Jesus, this meant that many Jews were not receiving that which was promised. Could one trust in God like this?  Based on this theory, Luke undertakes this project to prove to the Gentiles that God is faithful. 

Another intriguing theory about the prologue is that Theophilus is a metaphor because the name means “lover of God.” Therefore, anyone who loves God is Theophilus. We read this gospel as a way of allowing ourselves to know God. In knowing God, we come to love him more. The more we know him, the more we believe in him, the more faith that we have. 

The thing is, the more that I study, the more I realize that there are many reasons I call myself Christian, and while love should be the first and foremost reason, it is buried somewhere in the middle. For example, I am a Christian because I want to go to heaven, not hell. I love the idea of a God who cares for me, and delivers me from evil. While these are good drivers, they are also tainted in selfishness.

Despite the fact that my love for God is not currently the primary reason why I call myself Christian, I know that the spiritual life is a journey. I understand that every time I encounter God, who is love, I learn to love him more. Therefore, I say, “call me Theophilus!”  I do love God, and as I continue on the journey, I shall learn to love him more. 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit asking him to shine the light of truth on your own reasons for being Christian. Where does love fall on the list for you? Can you call yourself Theophilus? Regardless of your answers, spend some time thanking him and praising him for his love of you, and ask him to show you how to love him more. 

In Him,


Shattering Images – Discipleship Part 2

In the last couple of blogs, we discussed how Mark’s Gospel shatters worldly images of God, and replaces them with the truth.  In Shattering Images – Discipleship Part 1, we looked at the Markan Jesus’ first passion prediction where Jesus told the Apostles that discipleship involves both cross carrying and self renunciation. It focused on the principle of carrying one’s cross, and today, we will focus on the principle of self-renunciation. 

In Part 1, I mentioned that these discipleship principles were not about suffering for the sake of suffering.  In fact, these requirements are cobble stones on the path to God.  Let me see if I can explain. 

The need for self-renunciation, which is the same as the requirement to die to self, is rooted in the story of Adam and Eve: 

 The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Gen 3:6

When one looks at this scripture, one sees how Eve made a decision based on what the body wanted, she saw the good, found it pleasing and desirable. She took the fruit, and ate it.  Desiring the fruit was not evil. What was evil was acting on the desires of the body against God’s mandate.  Eve should have stepped back, reflected on God’s moral code, and exercised the will in favor of obedience.

The thing is, we continue to do the same today. We see worldly goods, we desire them, and we exercise our will in favor of what the body wants.   How often do we make choices because “I don’t want to” or “it feels good”? How often do we exercise the will in favor of things that limit our ability to live a more spirit-filled life? 

The thing is, the body is not bad. It desires good, but when we feed it the lesser good of created things, we deprive it of the greatest good, which is God himself.  The body sees and appreciates the goods God created for the benefit of humans, but in feeding it what it wants, the body becomes a slave to such desires.  

By depriving the body of what it wants, we basically go through withdraw so we are free to see the greater good of God. In fact, when we control what we we feed the body in regards to created goods (using them in moderation and the like), we make room for spiritual goods; heavenly treasures.  

In addition, through practices that help us die to self, we actually free ourselves to participate in the divine life. We see this in 1 John 4:16, which tells us that God is love, agape, self-giving love.  By learning to live selflessly, we begin to live in union with him. However, we have to remember that we can only become Agape by living with him, in him, and through him. It is living a life in humble cooperation with the indwelling Holy Spirit that we become true participants in the life of the divine. What could be better than that? 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit reflecting on your discipleship practices.  How are you living a life of self-renunciation.  Do you invite the Holy Spirit into your efforts so as to supernaturalize them? Are your practices of self-renunciation about dying to self so you can live in Him?  Can you see the fruit of such practices? Are you becoming agape?  If not, just ask him to show you what you need to do to perfect your existing efforts so that you might live a more full life in participation with the divine. 

In Him,


Shattering Images – Discipleship Pt. 1

Today, I would like to revisit the topic of shattering images, the topic of the last blog. In that blog, we looked at how the Gospel of Mark is written so as to shatter worldly images, and to replace them with Godly images. 

Today, I want to continue our search for worldly images that are in need of shattering by focusing on the concept of discipleship. I want to return to the first passion prediction where Jesus tells the Apostles that discipleship involves both self renunciation and cross carrying. I think that a worldly view of this statement is that God created us to suffer. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

God created us for glory; God created us for love. When he tells us that discipleship involves suffering, he’s talking about suffering through the transformation of becoming glorious, of becoming love. He is telling us that as a result of sin, we have been damaged, and we must suffer through the restoration. He is telling us that by our own sinful acts, and the impact of the sinful acts of others, we must undo the damage done.  

This undoing of the damage done is twofold. There is the part that the human does, and there is the part that God does. It is our obligation to carry our crosses and to renounce ourselves. Today, we will focus on the concept of carrying one’s cross. 

Cross carrying is the process of accepting what God allows to come our way. That through obedient acceptance of things that come our way, we allow God to use these circumstances for our transformation. In this acceptance, we learn to understand that all things work to the glory of God. We learn to understand that his ways are not our ways. We learn trust, and we learn the joy of allowing God to reform us into his image and likeness. 

I want to stress here that sticking with on-going abuse may not be a cross.  In fact, I ponder whether it is ever a cross. If you are accepting the cross of an abusive situation, I strongly encourage you to reach out to a spiritual advisor to prayerfully consider whether this is a cross that God has given, or one that you have allowed because of the Biblical language of accepting crosses.  God can and will use an abusive situation to transform you. The question is whether it is a situation you should continue to endure. 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit analyzing your own life. Do you continue to ask God why he has allowed things to happen, or do you ask him how to cooperate with him in carrying the cross(es)? Are you trying to control your own circumstances, or are you obediently submitting to what he has allowed to happen. Are you in a situation that causes you to ponder whether it is a cross or not? Spend some time praying and asking the Holy Spirit to help enlighten you to where you can allow him to be Simon for you. Ask him to help you lay down any crosses that are not of him.

In Him,


Shattering Images

A Reflection On The Gospel of Mark

There is a trend in Biblical studies of using literary analysis tools to study Scripture.  By this I mean using those tools we learned in school, like analyzing how an author structures the story and develops the characters. This form of analysis is having an interesting impact on our understanding of the Gospel.  

For instance, there are those who see Mark as using the first seven chapters of the Gospel to create a human image of the Christ.  Jesus is out doing things like healing the sick, casting out demons, and multiplying food to feed the hungry.  Basically, we find ourselves in the shoes of Samuel, who, when meeting David’s brothers thought each one of the older brothers would be a great king.  Then, he finds out that God’s ways are not always our ways. God has something different in mind.  Let us see how Mark accomplishes this.

As I already mentioned, Mark uses the first part of the Gospel to paint a particular image of the Christ. Then, in chapter 8, we find Jesus and the twelve disciples at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asks them them, “who do the people say that I am?” They respond that others are saying he is John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the other prophets.  Jesus then asks, “who do you say that I am?”  Peter answers, “you are the Christ.”  How did Peter make the leap from the view of the people to the correct answer?  I would suggest that his answer was founded on his understanding of Old Testament prophecies viewed through the lens of Jesus’ miraculous actions.  

Immediately following this, Jesus makes the first of his passion predictions, which is the first time Jesus takes a verbal baseball bat to the human understanding of messiahship.  In response to this prediction, Peter immediately drags Jesus aside, and tries to put the shattered pieces back together by rejecting Jesus’ prediction.  In effect, Peter tells Jesus, “No! That is not what is going to happen!” Jesus rebukes him, and then says, “Peter, you are thinking like a human, not like God.”  He then turns to the others, picks up his verbal baseball bat and and this time he takes a swing at their image of discipleship by telling them that discipleship means renouncing self, carrying a cross, and otherwise following Jesus’ example of obedience to God’s will. 

Further down the road to Jerusalem, we again find Jesus predicting his death and resurrection.  This time, no one speaks out.  Instead, they resort to grumbling amongst themselves. Likely, no one wants to be rebuked, so they just grumble about Jesus’ process of shattering their ideals about what is to come.   Mark then tells us that mumbling turns into a debate about who among them is the greatest.  Jesus, seeing an opportunity to further shatter their images of what is important in life, picks up his verbal bat and takes another swing by explaining that greatest must be the least.  He attempts to help them understand that life is not about seeking fame and glory, but about servant leadership.  

As we continue down the road to Jerusalem, we hear Jesus predict his death and resurrection for the third and final time. This time, he gives them a more graphic description of what is about to happen when he tells them that he will be spat upon, mocked, scourged, and put to death, but on the third day, he will rise.  In effect, he is telling them that this messiah that they choose to follow will be humiliated; not glorified in Jerusalem.  How do they respond? This time, Mark doesn’t tell us, but what he does tell us shows us that they still do not “get it” because in the very next story, James and John approach Jesus to ask if they might sit at his right and at his left when he enters into his glory.  I give them credit. In response to the second passion prediction, they were seeking glory based on their own self worth, and here, we see that they are beginning to understand glory in relation to Jesus.  However, they are still not thinking as God thinks. Jesus reinterprets glory in light of his passion by asking, “can you drink of the cup from which I am about to drink?”  Without asking him what he means by this, they very eagerly say yes. They basically say that for glory and honor, they will do just about anything.  Jesus assures them that they will drink of his cup, but that it won’t necessarily get them what they currently think they want.  

When we look at this story through this structure of shattering images, we are encouraged to have a greater appreciation of how God’s ways are different than our own.  The disciples would have Jesus march into Jerusalem in glory, and remain in glory with them in various positions of authority.  However, without his death and resurrection, there would be no glory. If they had had their way, they would have been deprived of the very thing that they wanted – salvation. 

We are surrounded by ideals that are not rooted in the Good News, and maybe some of these ideals have taken up residence within us. Spend some time with the Spirit of Truth in prayer.   Ask him to show you where you are living within a human understanding of the world.  Look for images, words, memories, and thoughts to come to the surface. You might see ideas of grandeur. It could be your desire for creature comforts over self-renunciation.  It might be along the lines of asking, “how can a good and loving God allow this to happen?”  Ask him to bring any false beliefs to the surface, to shatter them, and to restructure them in light of the fullness of Truth. 

In Him,


Becoming Agape: The Role of Prayer

In the last article, we discussed how the spiritual life is about becoming agape; becoming selfless. How does one achieve this objective? First, we must understand that the work of becoming agape is the job of the Holy Spirit. However, because the Holy Spirit will not work without our consent, we must participate in the process.

How do we consent to the work of the Holy Spirit? Well, the first step is prayer. There are many forms of prayer, and all forms are required for the journey. The first part of this journey begins with vocal prayer. We must ask the Holy Spirit to make us holy, to make us agape. We must ask him to open our hearts to his work.

The next stage of prayer is mental prayer, which is also called meditation. Here, I am using the word meditation in a very broad sense. There are many forms of mental prayer that fall within this category. To explain the difference between vocal and mental prayer, I would use the concept of conversation. In vocal prayer, we monologue with God. We tell him our wants, our needs. We offer him thanks and praise. In mental prayer, we begin to dialogue with God. In addition, we use our cognitive skills and our imagination. The best forms of mental prayer are rooted in biblical studies, because we are in dialogue with the word of God. However, many people have found fruit in studying the lives of the Saints, treatises on various aspects of Christianity, and the like.

Mental prayer can be accomplished in several ways, and I will describe here the two most commonly used forms. The first of these is Lectio Divina. In Lectio, one invites the Holy Spirit into this prayer, opens the Bible and starts to read. Try not to get too caught up in worry about where to being.  You can start in the beginning with Matthew, choose your favorite book, or just open the bible and start reading.  Old Testament passages are great, too, but I recommend starting with the words of Jesus. I started with the daily readings for mass. This took the guess work out of it, and if I stayed with the reading long enough, I always found fruit.  

The objective is to identify where the Holy Spirit is working; to find the word or phrase that resonates. When one finds this word or phrase, one stops, and like Mary, ponders these things in one’s heart. Lk 2:19.  It is hard to describe this state of pondering. It can be sitting in silence while repeating the word or phrase. It can be asking questions about the word or phrase. Keep in mind that the goal of mental prayer is silent prayer (where God monologues in us). So, if you choose the latter, try and tag on several minutes of silence. I will describe silent prayer in more detail as this series develops. 

The second method is the more traditional form of meditation where one picks a story in the bible, and uses one’s imagination to enter into the story, and, just as with Lectio Divina, one looks for where the Holy Spirit is working.  Be open to the idea of exploring inanimate objects. I once heard of a great prayer experience when someone pondered the cloth Jesus used to wash  the disciples’ feet, and I once found myself in the rubble of Jerusalem after the first temple was destroyed.  

When we pray with scripture in the company of the Holy Spirit, the word of God comes alive, strengthens our faith, and leads us to the deeper gifts of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.  When we encounter the Holy Spirit in prayer, our love of God cannot help but be expanded, and our desire to serve him also grows. Every expert on prayer that I have studied said beginners should commit at least 20 minutes per day to this form of prayer.  As one learn the joy of more fully living life in the Spirit, one’s commitment will likely increase as time goes on; however, according to those who have engaged in this process, this increased commitment is something that comes naturally and joyfully.

Remember that the goal becoming agape is selflessness.  You will likely find resistance to prayer, but know that the sacrifice of committing to prayer when you don’t want to pray is a great way of shedding selfishness.

Spend some time with the Holy Sprit reading scripture.  Ask him to help you be open to how he leads you in mental prayer. Ask him to help you hear the dialogue so you can enter into the conversation with him.  Spend some time setting out commitments for daily mental prayer, and contributing to the process of becoming agape.  

In Him,


The Nature Of Divine Essence

In the last blog, I mentioned that the spiritual life is something that transforms us into the divine essence. What is divine essence? According to John, it is agape; selfless love.  John also tells us that Jesus desires his people to be one with him and the father. We are called to be fully united to agape. Thus, it makes sense that the spiritual journey is about shedding selfishness. 

If you want more than my word on this, all you have to do is look at the concordance to see what Jesus and the apostles said about love, the nature of God, and the importance of love in the Christian life. One of my favorite examples is in the story when Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.  When you understand the original Greek version of the text, the conversation goes along these lines: Peter, do you love me as God loves you? Peter answers, Jesus, I love you like a brother. This conversation is repeated, but in the third instance, Jesus asks if Peter loves him like a brother.  Peter emphatically says, “Yes! You know I do.” In this conversation, I see God calling us to a higher form of love. He may accept us where we are in our love tainted by selfishness, but he is calling us to something more. 

In the Bible, Jesus tells us many ways of becoming agape.  One can look to the beatitudes, the way he interacts with others, and in the metaphors he uses for seeking the kingdom of God.  However, the very first step in the way of agape is conversion. Catherine of Siena tells us that self knowledge precedes love. Knowledge of our sinful self, our selfishness, comes before we can see that there is something better.  In addition, knowledge of self opens us to an encounter with mercy, and this encounter is what leads us to desire the perfection of love.  

The second step on the way of agape is baptism. Through this act of faith, we are united to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, and God is agape.  The on-going journey is the perfection of this union.  Eternal life is about perpetual union with selflessness, and eternal life begins with baptism.  

For some of us, this process is reversed, especially for those of us who are baptized as infants. There is nothing wrong with this inversion; however, as adults, we must personally choose conversion because the Holy Spirit cannot be effective within us if we do not turn our hearts towards God. In truth, most, if not all of us, will find ourselves back at the beginning on numerous occasions as we get distracted, mislead, or otherwise step off the path. The way of conversion is something that we must return to every time we turn back to God. In addition, even when we stay the course, we will find the Spirit of Truth convicting us of areas of sinfulness that we previously failed to see.  So, regardless of the order of the first two steps, conversion is one that we will encounter multiple times along the way. 

Spend some time in prayer pondering your understanding of agape.  Some call it unconditional love, but it is more than that. Unconditional love implies a sense of accepting one for who one is.  God does accept us where we are, but he is calling us to something more.  He is calling us to selflessness.  Ponder your favorite Bible verse on love, and see how it corresponds to God’s call to agape.  Ponder what it means to go to Heaven where we will live in the presence of agape, and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what that entails.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you penetrate the mysteries of union with him, and what this means.  Spend some time with him confessing your sins, asking for his forgiveness, and for healing in the areas of your life that keep you from becoming agape. In closing, spend some time offering him a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for offering you this path of life, and for leading you along the way. 

In Him,


Baby In A Manger

This morning, as I was reading Luke’s gospel, I was taken by the words related to finding a baby in a manger; the place where animals find food.  Right before the words about finding the baby in the manger, the angel told the shepherds that this baby was a savior, a deliverer. From what did we need saving, and how is it tied to the image of the baby Jesus in the manger?   

As I prayerfully pondered this question, I remembered that what separates humans from animals is the intellect. Could it be that we needed to be saved from our inability to use our intellect to act like humans made both in the image and likeness of God? In other words, maybe his purpose was to deliver us from the animalistic tendencies that exist within the sinful components of human nature.

The idea here is that animals live a life based on minimal intellectual activities. Animals are naturally wired to fight or flee in the face of danger. They act on instinct and compulsion. They do not have the ability to reason through decisions (at least at the same level as humans).  

I think we can all relate to these tendencies when it comes to food and the sin of gluttony, whether through our own experiences or that of others. For example, many of us tend to instinctually gravitate towards food that is to our liking, as opposed to that which nourishes the body more thoroughly.  At least on occasion, we compulsively eat more than we should.  Therefore, one might say that one of the reasons Jesus came was to free us from these impulsive and instinctual inclinations.  He came to free our intellect to choose the greater good, and the greater good is God.  

So, how does the baby in the manger free us? By feeding us the very essence of God.  Let me see if I can explain at least one component of this mystery.  The Bible contains several statements against drinking the blood of animals because it is the life essence of the animal itself; it feeds our animalistic tendencies.  So, why does Jesus go against the Biblical mandates, and tell us to drink his blood? So that we can take on the divine essence of God. 

Through the Eucharist and our participation in the other sacraments, we are moved in the direction of union with God. The spiritual life is about the perfection of all that is not Godly, and he does this, in part, through the baby in the manger.  

While, this mystery is tied to the presence of the Holy Spirit within all who are baptized, that is the topic of a future blog.  For now, let us just spend a moment in prayer with the Holy Spirit, and ask Him to further enlighten us regarding the truth of the baby in a manger, a baby who came to free us from our sinful inclinations.

In Him,