Antiphon 1: You have been endowed from your birth with princely gifts; in eternal splendor, before the dawn of light on earth, I have begotten you.
6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6-7 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
CHRISTMAS REFLECTION: 1
The last words before this posting was written just before Advent, on the topic of tithing. I think Christmas and tithing have a lot in common because here we see Jesus as an adult teaching about giving all you have away. True riches are not found in the earthly possessions but yet in Heaven were nothing rusts or is eaten by moths. But what makes a person give away everything for God? Jesus would most certainly answer that question with one word – the same word that his ministry was based upon, the same word that is used to describe His father in Heaven and which is the link to our Christmas Season. So what is that word? LOVE.
Isaiah 9:6-7 is about hope rooted in God’s perfect love, grounded in the very reason – justification to why Jesus came in the first place. Jesus our ‘Wonderful Counselor’, ‘Mighty God’, ‘Everlasting Father’, Prince of Peace’, and all of those titles are filled with God’s love for every one of use. Isaiah is foretell the action of God centuries before He actually does it. In this scripture we have God’s will working in the world preparing us for His son Jesus. This one action is the greatest act of love on behalf of God because it would be used to save every human being on Earth. So that we could spend eternity with God in Heaven forever. So what we are really celebrating is perfect love bestowed upon us by God the Father. I can’t think of a better gift than LOVE.
CHRISTMAS REFLECTION: 2
Antiphon 2: With the Lord is unfailing love; great is his power to save.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
Merry Season of Love my brothers and sisters, to you I pray that joy is multiplied a thousand fold in your lives. May God show you His perfect undying love to you and your family. It is often said that we reflect and wait for the birth of Christ within Advent. But I say to you… reflect everyday, contemplate your service to God, your mindset as God perceives it. Ask yourselves the hard questions such as… ‘How have my actions this year served God’s purpose?’ Ask yourselves, ‘Have I forgiven enough? Have I followed God’s will for my life?’ Look deep inside and contemplate the love God has shown you, reflect how He has blessed you, and thank Him for this most wonderful of all gifts… His saving love. In reflection the one question I ask every morning when I wake up and before I get out of bed is, ‘Dear Lord, how can I be of service to you today?” Then I listen intently and hear Him say the same things over again, ‘Be kind, be gentle, be considerate, be forgiving, be patient, believe in my word for it is the truth, and above all love all you meet especially your enemies even if they do not love you back.’ In this I try everyday to do… some days I fail, other days I succeed beyond my wildest dreams. But I try everyday without fail to always LOVE.
CHRISTMAS REFLECTION: 3
Antiphon 3: In the beginning, before time began, the Word was God; today he is born, the Savior of the world.
11 “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”
1 John 5:11 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
Have you ever wondered what the words, ‘eternal life’ actual mean? Have you ever thought about the implication of eternal life with God? The very definition implies life beyond death. So, death has no real meaning in the face of eternal life. Again, my brothers and sisters I say to you… eternal life with God comes at the birth, life, and death, then resurrection of Christ Jesus who defeated death and sin, paid your sin debt in full so you could live with God in heaven forever! This Christmas is about love, God’s perfect love, Jesus’s perfect love for you. We celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus because of the miraculous gifts he offers to all of us, gifts we cannot buy, steal, bargon for, and or earn on our own. This Christmas give the gift of love by opening a door for stranger, taking out the trash for your grandparents, calling a long lost friend and telling them how much they mean to you, and or simply tithe giving of yourself for in that giving your heart reflects your love. Much in the same way Jesus shows us His love that He has in His heart for us. Whatever you do… make it real, make it tangible, make it a reflection of God’s LOVE.
Let Us Pray
The Supremacy of Christ
“Let us give thanks to the Father, for having made you worthy to share the lot of the saints in light.
He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His beloved Son.
Through him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creatures.
In Him everything in Heaven and on Earth was created, things visible and invisible.
All were created through Him; all were created for Him.
He is before all else that is.
In Him everything continues in being. It is he who is head of the body, the church; He who is the beginning, the first-born of the dead, so that primacy may be His in everything.
It pleases God to make absolute fullness reside in His person, both on Earth and in the Heaven, making peace through the blood of His cross.”
2 “On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. 3 Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem,” ~ Isaiah 4:2-3 (NRSVACE)
Ant. Christ is born for us; come, let us adore him.
Isaiah in many ways had an unmistakable and colorful code to his writings. He stands alone in how his vivid portrait of the future would come about. In fact, many scholars take into account the effort it took to write with such boldness and yet poetically layout Gods divine plan shown him through dreams. Isaiah’s prophecies are the very fabric of that links the Old Testament, old world views, to that of the New Testament; leading us straight to Jesus Christ and the New Covenant with mankind. The colorful language Isaiah used here,‘the branch of the Lord,’ is a bold reference to that which Jehovah made grow. Giving authorship of the creation of everything including the plan of salvation to God alone. But in breaking this down even further we see a word in this short section of scripture, ‘branch’ which is referenced throughout the Old Testament, beginning with Isaiah 11:1 where the word, ‘shoot’, is used in reference to The Root of Jesse. It is linked to Jeremiah 23:5 in reference to the word, ‘Branch’ talking about King David. Again in Jeremiah 33:15 the word, ‘Branch’ is used. In Zechariah 3:8 the word, ‘Branch’, in reference to things to come as laid out directly to Josuah, the high priest. Finally, the word ‘Branch’ is used to reference the coronation of the Branch in Zachariah 6:12. Here, then, if we thus interpret the words, ‘Branch and Shoot’, we have the first distinct prophecy in Isaiah of a personal Messiah! My brothers and sisters, Isaiah (750-695 BC), Jeremiah (628-588 BC), and Zachariah (520-510 BC) all three connect the dots using the same code of speech over time. Jesus Christ is the “Branch of Jehovah,” and within the coming of Jesus, we can look back to the Octave of Christmas which in the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar is the countdown to The Eighth Octave of Christmas, Mary, Mother of God where we celebrate this very prophecy come to fruition.
On That Day!
“The Lord has made known, alleluia, alleluia! On that day a marvelous exchange had taken place, God man’s creator has become man, born of a virgin!” ~ Solemnity Evening Prayer, The Liturgy of the Hours, pg.172-173.
This is one of the mysteries of Christ’s life that is celebrated because this is when we as human beings became shareholders in eternity; this is the divinity of Christ who so humbled himself for us so that we have the hope of salvation through Him! In many ways, as we celebrate this event we are also celebrating Christ’s return or the Second Advent. It is this that John so poetically wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” ~ John 3:16, and who also wrote about meeting Christ in Heaven, 12 “Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest.” ~ Revelation 1:12-13(NRSVACE). We celebrate because the promise of salvation is now, it is upon us! We have not only been saved by Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection but are also recipients of His mercy, forgiveness, love, and His devotion! The point is that Jesus desired to become our brother by being born of the Virgin Mary, to enter into a sinful world, to teach us how to love one another as brothers, and who willingly died for our sins. So, I say to you my brothers and sisters, rejoice and pray, love each other as Christ has loved you, celebrate this day of freedom and salvation, and remember that it all was done by God’s desire to save the human race from ourselves!
Celebration of a New Year
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“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” ~ John 3:16
It is a hard concept for some to come to grips with the idea of “GOD”. The idea of a singular “GOD” that is so powerful, so perfect that He would even want to count us as His children. It makes no sense logically speaking that the “GOD” of the Bible would hang in there and forgive each and every collective sin, striking covenant after covenant, until finally having to hand over His only son. It is a very hard concept to believe in because we would not have treated ourselves with such grace, so why would “GOD” love us so much? I think a bigger question is why would God continue to love us after the sacrifice of His Son and seeing the brutality of it, a death befitting a common criminal. “GOD” is such a hard concept to believe in that some refer to Him as a fantasy no different than all the sci-fi shows and fantasy novels that fill the movie-houses and books-shelves of popular culture of today. In this light “GOD” is regarded as nothing more than a story to explain our beginnings no more important than filler until we arrive at some sort of scientific imperial truth. The argument these people use is based upon the lack of change in the human story over the past two thousand years, the lack of evidence that proves Jesus was really a person, the lack of evidence that surrounds other Bible tales like the events chronicled in Genesis,Exodus, Job, Isaiah, Daniel, Jonah, and a host of other Old Testament stories that didn’t make it into the Bible. These arguments however do not stop at the Old Testament, but continue throughout the remainder of the Holy Bible as our one “GOD” seems to have undergone a metamorphosis from start to finish. The biggest argument I have personally heard is if our sin debt is paid in full why then are we still so completely filled with sin and destruction on every level of being? With these ideas permeating throughout our world it is not surprising there are some who do not believe or even entertain God or the Bible, but I ask all who do not believe; “At what cost will this lack of faith and belief in God cost you in the end?”
This question as a youth is what drove me to first research God, to study God, to understand the cost of disbelief. In part the very idea of “GOD” and His perfect love is what gave me my center balance and my ability to live through unforgiving situations, it is this belief centered life I was given by our singular God that constantly reaffirms my belief in Him daily and every-time I actively seek him out. In retrospect, I was more afraid of missing out on the greatest, most powerful, spiritual, loving being known to mankind as; “GOD”, that I put away all notions of a Godless Universe, because after all who made everything I see, feel, touch, experience, love, and who is it that feeds me when I am hungry, forgives me when I have sinned. The hole I had in my soul was so vast and empty it drove me to my current conceptualized belief I hold today. It was through many hours in deep contemplation, research,reflections, conversations, and life experience which brought me to understand the God of our Bible, of our world, and of our universe. With all these collective influences I came to the point of simply handing over all control of my life to God, doing His will, allowing Him to mold me into a more perfect person, the person He wants me to be. I was filled and still am with His Holy Spirit, I feel His forgiveness, His love, His mercy, I see His miracles in my life, and I know without a doubt He will always be there no matter what, even after my mortal death. In short I was more afraid of not being forgiven for my sins and transgressions and having to live with them for an eternity absent of God. So I find it next to impossible to teach others about the Bible, and the power of belief without referring to my own past infantile thinking about religion and of humanistic spirituality. Therefore, in no short order this post will delve into a very grey area for most of you, and all I ask is that you read and confirm what I have written here in order that it build your fabric of belief so as to fill all the gabs and holes, to make you stronger in your faith, to bring you closer to God, and to hopefully steer you away from false doctrine which is so plentiful in our modern world. With that said I will be asking a lot of logical questions that I hope you ask of yourselves in doing your research into the Bible, questions that will if applied guide you and help you conduct the best possible research on the subject matter of God and in your growing belief in Him.
Question 1: Concerning Everlasting Life; “According to John is it here or in Heaven we will live forever?”
Because the spirit of God is so vast anything is possible. But the idea of living forever has been with mankind from the start, the wanting to live forever has been the catalyst that is found behind many great fantasy stories in our popular culture. The requirements found in the Bible are somewhat different than what is found in many non-fiction stories that have been told for centuries, interestingly the bond in all stories dealing with immortality include obtaining to some-degree a potion, spell, or magic that can transform a mortal body into a non-mortal body. The best evidence in this cultural idea is found in John 20:15-17; and again later in John 20:28-29 which reads;
Events After Jesus’s Resurrection:
15 “Jesus said to her, ‘Women, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away , tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” ~John 20:15-17
In this passage we, the reader, are to believe that Jesus arose three days after His death and talked with Mary. He was unrecognizable to her, which in and of itself is a stretch of what writers and story tellers call the, “Suspension of Dis-Belief”. This then is made the focus when Jesus call’s out to Mary and then she saw Him for who He really was. This event in faith is one of the most powerful indicators that something out of the norm happened to the mortal body of Jesus, and that something was so unexpected that Mary had not conceived of looking and finding anything other than a dead Jesus, not a living one. Even though He told all His disciples of what would happen three days after His own death.
Question 2: “Why then were they not looking for a living Jesus?”
The crushing reality for those who witnessed the brutality of the Romans in their onslaught against Jesus and then to see His mortal suffering and death drove into their minds that no one could have survived the punishment Jesus had suffered. This fact also leeds us to believe in the notion Jesus really died on the cross just as it had been told. The scene was so gruesome and Jesus’s body so mangled that there would have been no possible chance for resurrection. The feelings of hopelessness, grief, guilt, and fear was so well chronicled that even if Jesus’s followers had believed they still would have been taken by surprise, and as the Bible tells us the disciples did not believe in Mary’s words, in fact they where cruel to her in their response. This then brings in to question Mary’s state-of-mind when the tomb was empty, in that her grief overshadowed her faith and made her cry real genuine tears. This part of the story is believable to anyone who has lost a loved one. This is a human response, one filled with love, and panic as she inquired to the whereabouts of the body of Jesus, not recognizing Him for who He really was, again ignoring the obvious out of grief. We can extrapolate from this text that Jesus died, and arose in a transformed body, a spiritual one, an immortal one, not unlike the body He presented to three of His disciples, Peters, James, and John during the transfiguration of Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Mark 9:28-36 and ten again refereed to in 2Peter 1: 16-18. Going back to mans longing to be immortal the Bible is a clear foundation for later stories we have build up over time. Each fantasy being larger and more fanciful than the one before it. We have more details to non-fiction characters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The world of J.R.R. Tolkien, and The tales of Narnia than we do for the resurrection of Christ. The Bible goes into no detail to how Jesus defeated death, rather it plainly states that He did defeat death just as He said that He would. In fact much of the story had already been written thousands of years before Christ such is found in, Psalm 2:7,Psalm 16:9-11, Psalm 22:14-25, Psalm 30:29, Psalm 40:13, Psalm 110:1, Psalm 118:21-24, Isaiah 53:9-12, Hosea 5:15–6:3, and Zechariah 12:10,and so on. This drives scientists crazy, and with them all others who are lacking in faith. Because the Bible tells us nothing of the, “How Factor”, of Christ’s resurrection and because of this missing peace of the puzzle there have been countless hours spent looking at physical evidence such as the Shroud of Turin, and other important artifacts from that time period. But because our God is so mighty in knowledge and perfect in His execution Jesus gave us something even more powerful than proof, He even said it aloud to Thomas;
27 “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach you hand here, and put in into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and My God!’ 29 Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” ~ John 20:28-29
In truth this is the true story behind the non-believing, unrepentant, and lost Christian who struggles in their faith, that is the real story, the human story behind the Bible tales of Moses, and King David, and plethora of others who struggled in their belief. But, at some point they and we had to stop questioning and simply believe in a world where mortal and immortal collide. Our hearts long for it, we chase after it, and to some extent we fight against the power of belief. Mary did when looking for a dead Jesus, the disciples did in not believing her, Thomas when they all told Him of the resurrected Christ, Paul did in His persecution of Christians, and we all do before we meet Jesus face to face in our hearts. We may have based our fanciful stories of immortal beings from Greek authors, but the Bible stories share their truth in their telling from an spectacular reality; from an unknown, “How Factor”, of man, to the immortality of God. We gain our immortality through the belief in Him, and thus to answer question 1 we will live and reign forever with Christ in Heaven. We will be with Him wherever He is as God created us all in His image and will recreate us in His resurrected likeness. Unlike many fantasy stories that have no shred of proof, there is proof to Jesus. His immortality was not achieved by some elaborate mystical spell that no one could repeat, but rather in the belief in God, though His perfect love, through the belief in the Holy Spirit, and in the belief in His mission to save mankind; all of which give us the promise and power to believe that there is nothing God cannot do. Likewise, our immortality is secured by our faith and belief in Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, as we too live, die, and will live forever in His glory.
10 “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” ~ Acts 1:10-11
Truth in the power of belief is all we have in this world, the feeling deep in out heart is all we have to know that God is with us. It in reality is the tuning into the heart, into morality, to hold the covenant with Jesus Christ as the most important aspect of ones life. The Holy Bible offers us a wonderful chance to look into the world of belief from Gods point of view, from Jesus’s point of view, from all the Saints and Prophets vantage point. We are all called to believe without seeing, and to ask for forgiveness through Jesus Christ who has paid our sin debt in full, for Hell itself has been over thrown by Jesus for you and me and everyone living and dead. To some regard I look at my life since understanding these most basic tenants of belief and can truly see all the small miracles in my life God has placed there. My life is no longer aimless, and without direction, rather I can see clearly the path He wishes for me to travel. It is this assurance I offer to you now by reviewing the “human” Jesus, the “scared” Mary, the “vulnerable” disciples, for it is this aspect of our belief that is the corner stone to Jesus transcending from mortal to God through His resurrection. A tantalizing peace of the puzzle is simply over looked in telling this story, Jesus was the only one of His age that could bring people back from the dead, they were not in their spiritual bodies, but still fully flesh and blood. When Jesus died their was no one to bring Him back, but yet His arose. The Disciples could not have this because they where hiding, and the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them, so this “How Factor” rests with God. The tomb was filled with Angels, indeed it was the Angels that rolled back the heavy stone to His tomb. The Bible describes the Roman guards that were placed there by the Pharisees bore witness to these events. The proof we all seek is in the scripture, but the power of belief is in your heart.
43 “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever in Him shall receive remission of sins.” ~ Acts 10:43
Challenge Question: If we use this power of believe in every aspect of our lives, how would it impact our thinking, feeling, and emotions selves, would our lives be better or worse for having done so?
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