Friday, January 21, 2005

The Power of God's Love

It does not occur to us the majority of the time how great the Love of God is. We know that it is unfathomable--measured, as it is, by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ--but no kind of knowledge can compare with experience, with a real encounter with the Holy Spirit of Love. Such experiences are not within our power to create, nor can we in any way force God to give them to us. They are pure gift, that is to say, they are grace. They are foreshadowings of what is to come, tiny tastes of heaven, that God gives--according to His own choosing--to souls open to His Love.

I had such an experience this past thursday--second hand, so to speak. During our community holy hour at the seminary, a priest read us a letter that he had received from a man who had had such an experience first hand. The man had a relative (an uncle) who had been in obstinant denial of God for many years. This uncle was dying of cancer, and the man was trying his best to talk to him about Christ, and to get him to let a priest come to him. Eventually, after it was clear that the uncle would die soon, the man came with a priest to the hospital room while the uncle was sleeping. The priest was a very holy priest. As the man described, this priest gently took the uncle's hand, waking him up, and spoke to him of God's Love. The priest told him, gently stroking his forehead, that he would die soon, but that he had nothing to fear because God loves him, and would receive him and forgive him all of his sins. The man said that he was amazed by the way which the priest spoke and looked at his uncle. It was with a love that he had not seen before. And this love totally disarmed the dying man, who, without needing any persuasion, gave his confession to the priest--his first confession in thirty years.
The sight of the Love of God in this priest, and the sight of this Love's power, disarmed the man as well. The priest was also disarmed--on the ride home, he spoke to himself, almost in a contemplative trance, fixed as he was upon the Love of God, saying, "How can I ever stand before God, when He does all the work and I get all the credit? How can I ever thank Him for His Love?"

So there I was, listening to this story in the words of the man who experienced it, and was myself disarmed. The Love of God disarmed me, welling up in my heart a spring of praise and thanksgiving for-- For the greatness of His Love.... For the glorious calling of the priesthood, which he has given to me.... For His zeal for the salvation of each and every sinner, even one who has sinned as I have sinned.... For His power manifest everywhere.... For His Glory, beyond imagination.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Aqua Vitae

In anticipation of the upcoming Feast of the Lord's Baptism (Jan.9), I thought it appropriate to reflect on the life of the saint whose memorial occurs today. We honor St. John Nepomucene-Neumann, the Redemptorist bishop of Philadelphia. He was a Bohemian immigrant named after St. John Nepomucene, a fifteenth-century Bohemian martyr who was drowned in the Moldau River and who is invoked as the patron saint of flood victims. This is timely, because the world continues to stand today in prayerful solidarity with the tsunami victims and their families. But I also pause to reflect on the irony that St. John Neumann is the patron of the parish where I was baptized.

In Easter1981, my parents took me down to Lubbock, Texas, where my Godparents live. My uncle and Godfather is a Deacon of the Diocese there, and he was at that time assigned to serve under the pastoral direction of a very blessed man. Fr. Joe James was pastor of St. John Neumann's parish, and it was he who baptized me in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

So I stand now, partway between the feast of the Holy Name and the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, reflecting on my own Baptism in the Name of the Triune Lord, my own cleansing in the Waters that bring Eternal Life. I invoke the intercession of St. John Neumann, whose patronage brought me into God's Holy People. I ask his continued blessing on my Godparents, whose prayers and guidance sustain me in the Faith.

I ask his blessing on Fr. Joe James, who washed me of my sin.

I also invoke the intercession of St. John Nepomucene today; so many perished in that destructive deluge last month. May St. John and the Holy Angels watch over those many souls! May their families, their communities, and their homelands find consolation, peace, and the vigilant charity of the global community. May Christians all over the world be a sign of Christ's cleansing relief in the midst of overwhelming disaster. May the Waters of Life wash over what Darkness has wrought and bring about a Springtime of Renewal.

This we ask in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen~