December 24, 2013

Why the Nativity?

Moses longed to see God's glory but God granted that he was not to see his face but only his back.

Moses said, "I pray thee, show me thy glory." And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name `The LORD'; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. [20] But," he said, "you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live. (Exodus 33:18-20)
Elijah understood that he could not look upon God and live. When God became present in the gentle wind, Elijah hid himself. 

And when Eli'jah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:13)

Moses and Elijah were eventually granted their wish - they were allowed God's glory in the person of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration when his face shone like the sun.
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli'jah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:2-3)
All of Israel had longed to see their salvation, longed to behold God's glory, longed to see God's face. Until Jesus was born, they had only seen manifestations of God - the burning bush, the cloud during the day and pillar of fire at night... Man was finally able to behold God's glory in the person of Jesus, was finally able to see God's face at the nativity.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John 1:14)
God had finally revealed himself fully. Man was finally able to see God's glory, to touch God, converse with God and eat with God. John speaks so eloquently about the great gift of seeing God with his own eyes, about Israel's longing and its fulfillment in Jesus.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us -- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)
It was the eternal longing of Israel, to look upon the face of God. Israel was finally able to do that at the nativity. We get to do that at every Mass at the elevation when the priest says...
Behold the Lamb of God...
We get to see God's glory at every Mass. It is something Israel longed for. It is what we celebrate tonight, that man was finally able to behold God and live. We celebrate that God became visible tonight.

Merry Christmas to all. 


December 22, 2013

Book Review: In the School of the Holy Spirit

In the School of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Jacques Philippe is only 90 pages, small pages at that, but don't let its size fool you. This is a powerful work on a subject easily overlooked.

The author asserts that holiness in our lives is the work of the Holy Spirit and "The task is beyond our power". This might seem obvious to any Christian, but Jacques Philippe goes further, asking two questions of vital importance; how can we foster inspirations of the Holy Spirit and how we can know for sure that the inspiration comes from God (and not from our own mind or from the devil)? The latter is what the Early Desert Fathers called "discernment."

Several broad precepts are given for fostering divine inspirations, including obedience to small movements of the Spirit as a means to greater and more numerous inspirations.

"'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy." (Mt 21:25 NAB)

Knowing that an inspiration comes from God is something that I struggle with and the author's wisdom in this regard makes the book well worth the $9.95 cover price.

"We should not... take it as a systematic rule for discerning God's will the principal that in any given situation, what he asks of us will always be what is most difficult."

The author addresses these questions while recognizing our own individuality and hence, God's way of working with us on a very personal level. The book does not present a formula, but rather a set of guidelines we can use in our daily lives to help us help the Holy Spirit affect our call to holiness.

Summary: The Holy Spirit is our means to holiness. Fostering the Holy Spirit's work in our lives and the ability to discern God's call is the subject of In the School of the Holy Spirit by Jacques Philippe. Short, to the point and well worth reading. This is one of my top ten favorite spiritual books of all time.


December 18, 2013

One Mediator

A mediator is one who goes back and forth between two parties getting them to agree. In Jewish culture and in the Hebrew Scriptures, mediation has to do with covenants.

Moses was a mediator for the covenant between God and the Hebrews.
Now when all the people perceived the thunderings and the lightnings and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled; and they stood afar off, and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die." (Exodus 20:18-19)
Moses mediated the covenant, going up and down the mountain at least five times, bringing Gods proposal to the people and the people's response to God. If you look in your Bible, it might even have the heading "Moses Accepted as Mediator" before this section of Scripture. Don't ever let anyone tell you that there is one mediator between God and man.

Jesus is the new Moses. Jesus mediates a new covenant.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, (Hebrews 9:15)

and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, (Hebrews 12:24)
The old covenant was imperfect, and the man Moses was an imperfect mediator. Jesus is the perfect mediator between God and man because Jesus alone is both God and man.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1 Timothy 2:5)
Jesus is God. Jesus is man. Jesus is therefor the perfect mediator of the new perfect covenant between God and mankind. His mediation is perfect because he is both God and man.