All posts by Ed Wills

The Flow of God

In my vision of the throne room of God, I saw the essence of God Enthroned flowing out from his presence to all who surrounded his throne, filling them with life then returning back to God in eternal praise. This essence of God is:

  • The energy that manifests the universe.
  • The Glory of God’s ever abiding presence.
  • The Divine Will and Purpose for all things visible and invisible.

It is manifested in:

  • The Word of God through whom all things are created and sustained.
  • The consolation of the Holy Spirit that gives us awareness of God’s presence.
  • The Love of God that is his Divine Will and Purpose for us all.

To experience this power in our lives, we must be in the flow of this Divine Energy.

This flow is most commonly referred to in Scripture as “the river of God.”

This river is alluded to as early as the Eden story as the origin of all rivers. The four rivers named in the Genesis epic tell the story of the flow of God.

  • The first river is the Pishon which means “the overflowing of living water.” It relates to the Hebrew word pashur that means “prosperity everywhere.”
  • The second river is the Gihon from the Hebrew word giyah that means “to break.” From Eden, man’s relationship with God as friend and companion was broken.
  • The third river is often named the Tigris. However, in Hebrew the river is named the Hiddekel from the verb hadak, which means “to prick with thorns.” Our Savior was crowned with thorns as he purchased our redemption.
  • The fourth river, often named the Euphrates is actually the Parat in Hebrew which means “the bitter water has been made sweet.” Our relationship with God as friend and companion has been restored in Christ.

The river of God is viewed by Ezekiel who saw in a vision a trickle of water flowing from the eastern side of the temple, where Christ was crucified. As the trickle flowed it grew bigger until it was a great and powerful river. Then, when the river reached the ocean, it transformed the ocean from salt water that no one can drink into fresh water that quenches the thirst of all in the earth. Ezekiel was viewing the ministry of Christ in the earth, what we now refer to as his Body, the Church. Through his Church, Christ quenches the thirst of all.

Finally, the river of God is viewed by St. John the Divine recorded in the book of Revelation.

And he showed me the river of water of life. It was clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It divided the central street of the city, and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life. The tree of life bears twelve fruits, continually bearing a crop every month. And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall no longer be any curse whatsoever. Because the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in the city, and his servants shall serve him. They shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. Night shall be no more. They shall not need the light of the lamp, nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall be their light. And they shall reign with him forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5

I remember when I was younger swimming in the San Marcus River in Texas. It is not a huge powerful river like the Mississippi, but you cannot swim against the current for long without becoming discouraged and exhausted. If you are going to enjoy being in the river, you need to go with the flow. When you go with the flow you are strengthened and carried along by its awesome power.

Everything that is, exists in the flow of God.

Pursue God with joy and find him in peace. He is not far from any of us, for in him we live, and move, and exist. Acts 17:27-28

The flow of God entered our universe the moment he separated light from darkness in that beginning spark of creation we commonly refer to as the big bang. The flow of God continues unabated till this day and will continue into eternity. Even though this universe may one day grind to a halt in icy stillness, the flow of God will continue in that realm of pure light we commonly refer to as heaven.

To experience the love, peace, and joy of God’s presence, we must live in the flow of God.

The immature believer wants to bend the flow of God to his own perceived needs and desires. He prays, “God, do this for me. God, perform a miracle for me. God, make everyone I like happy and healthy. God, change the people who frustrate me. God, make my life easy.” The mature believer only desires to be in the flow of God and so surrenders to God’s perfect authority and will. He prays as Jesus taught him, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” The mature believer surrenders everything he has or desires to the flow of God. The Blessed Mother gives us an example to follow when she prayed, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.”

It is a great blessing to shift our prayer life from constantly seeking something from God, and simply to seek God himself for his own sake. When we do that, we find ourselves in his magnificent flow. He carries us and fulfills in us his purpose for us. And, as Jesus promised, we find rest for our souls.

We also find the miraculous power of God in our lives. There is a story of a young boy who was troubled by an evil spirit that the disciples were unable to drive out. Jesus comes and comes and commands the evil spirit to leave. The disciples asked Jesus, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” Jesus replies, “This kind only comes out by prayer.” (Mark 9:13-29) I’m sure the disciples thought to themselves, “What do you think we were doing?” It seems that Jesus was using the term “prayer” in a different context than we generally consider. I’m sure the disciples were asking God to cure the boy, but something must have been amiss in their motive. St. James teaches us:

Where do the wars and arguments among you come from? Are they not from your selfish desires, which wage war inside yourselves?  You covet and you do not possess. You kill and envy but cannot obtain. You argue and fight but come up empty. You don’t have because you do not ask God.  You ask but don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, seeking only personal gain or pleasure. James 4:1-3

Could the disciples have been motivated by a desire for personal recognition rather than glorifying God? We see their desire for recognition elsewhere in the gospels. Perhaps here as well. Perhaps they were competing to be the one who drove out the evil spirit. But regardless of the underlying issue, it is clear that the disciples were not ministering in the flow of God. So, their prayer was ineffective.

True prayer is not asking or demanding that God does what we want him to do but submitting to the flow of God. Even Jesus said that he could do nothing by himself, but only what he “sees his Father doing.” (John 5:19) We should follow Christ’s example and not demand from God but, with spiritual sight, see what the Father is doing. Then, in that knowledge, step into the flow of the Father’s work. Allow God to be God through our prayer. And all thanks and glory go to God, none to us his humble servants. For all we do is submit to the mighty flow of God.

 

 

How can a good and loving God allow so much pain and suffering?

First, let us define what love is. What does it mean to love? St. Thomas Aquinas defines love as “willing the other’s good.” When we think of God’s love, we see it as God intending all the energy and presence of the universe for our benefit. God wills all things for our good. And all things include suffering, even death.

A personal trainer pushes his or her trainee to the point of struggle, and perhaps even pain to prepare muscles to strengthen and grow.

Boot camp is an experience of many in which a weak and selfish individual can be broken down by his drill instructor and rebuilt into a strong, well-trained soldier who will sacrifice himself for the good of his country.

When accepted with thanksgiving, suffering in this life can be redemptive.

Therefore, since we have been brought into a good and positive relationship with God by faith, let us enjoy peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access through faith into this grace, in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of the children of God. And not only that; but we glory also in our troubles, knowing that suffering builds patience; And patience builds endurance. And endurance builds hope. And our hope, our conviction that God is working for our good, never puts us to shame. Because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Even death when seen from God’s perspective is not a sad or bad experience. Jesus said, ““I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me shall live, even if he should die. And everyone who lives and believes in me, will not die forever.” John 11:25-26 Death is merely a doorway from life to the fulness of life. The sadness we experience when losing a loved one comes from our perspective of loss and loneliness.

Of course, not all suffering is redemptive. Parents sometimes have the experience of watching a rebellious child take everything that was intended for their good and employing it for the purpose of self-destruction. It is called free will. A child may squander their education, money, and life itself on drugs, alcohol, relationships that lack commitment or true intimacy, and screen distractions that numb their ability to reason. Self-destruction is not in the flow of God’s loving presence but exists in the devil’s playground. Still, God’s love is so powerful that one only needs to turn to God, repent, and submit to the flow of God’s love to be plucked from the path of destruction and placed on the path of life. And God is able to take even the worst experiences of our lives and miraculously use them for our ultimate good.

And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God. All things work together for good, for those who, living according to his will and purpose, are called to be saints. For those whom he foreknew, he also determined to be conformed to the image of his Son; so that Christ might be the firstborn among many siblings. And those whom he determined, he also called. And those whom he called, he also justified into a good and positive relationship with God. And those whom he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30

Sometimes the Holy Spirit needs to perform holy surgery in our souls to cut away self-destructive desires and replace them with pure desires that bring us hope and joy. That can be painful for a moment but ultimately result in our healing.

So, God is not ashamed to be called our loving Father. For he has purposed everything in this universe for our good. And even when through our own rebellion and violence we introduce destruction into our lives, God is always present to transform our lives into joy, when we submit ourselves into the flow of his love.

Pray for the Nation

I am writing this before dawn on Inauguration Day. If our parish is a reflection of the general population, half of you are happy and half of you are disappointed. At times like these, I encourage everyone to shift their gaze heavenward. Do not look to the men and women who sit in seats of government. Look to God who sits upon the throne of power.

Our lives are not dictated by the congress, or the senate, or even the president. As Christians, our lives are guided and fulfilled by the presence of God. Think of the first Christians who lived under the Roman Empire. They were unimpressed by an Emperor who declared himself to be a god. They intimately knew the True God. They lived their lives fully, in peace and love. All was joy for them. Even when called to martyrdom, they rejoiced to share in Christ’s sufferings.

During this time, Saint Paul offers us an admonition.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

In the Book of Common Prayer, the first prayer listed is a prayer for those in government.

MOST gracious God, we humbly pray the people of these United States and especially for those in civil government; that you would be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations:

  • to the advancement of your glory
  • the good of your Church
  • the safety, honor, and welfare of your people

that all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavors, upon the best and most solid foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and goodness, may be established among us for all generations. These and all other necessities, for them, for us, and your whole Church, we humbly beg in the Name and mediation of Jesus Christ, our most blessed Lord and Savior. Amen

This past weekend we celebrated the feast day of Our Lady of Hope. If you are unfamiliar with the story, Our Lady an apparition in Pontmain France in which the Blessed Mother appeared to children in order to bring the Franco-Prussian War to an end. Her words to the children were, “Keep praying. God will hear you in time. My son always allows himself to be moved with compassion.” On that very night, the general of the Prussian army halted his advance saying, “We can go no further. There is an invisible Madonna blocking the way.” What that story teaches us is this: Victory does not go to the strong. It goes to the one who prays.

As our nation moves into a new administration, we should pray earnestly for all those in authority, not that they should listen to our opinion and follow our agenda, but that we would be able to live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. It is not the job of our government to make things better for us. Rather it is our job to lead our culture into godliness and dignity.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Call to Thanksgiving

Following the Sursum Corda (“Lift up your hearts”) the preface of the Eucharistic Prayer opens with a call to thanksgiving, which, of course, it the meaning of Eucharist. Although there are many prefaces assigned to special days and seasons, they all begin the same. “It is truly right and just (“meet and right” -Divine Worship Missal), our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy.”

Additionally, many Eucharistic Prayers repeat that call to thanksgiving at the end of the Preface.

“You are indeed Holy, O Lord, and all you have crated rightly gives you praise…” Eucharist Prayer 3 based on the Anaphora of Saint James

“It is truly right to give you thanks, and truly just to give you glory, Father most holy….” Eucharistic Prayer 4 based on the Anaphora of St. Basil the Great

This call to thanksgiving is an invitation to experience the power of God activated in our daily lives through an attitude of thanksgiving in all things. “Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

To give thanks in all things is not necessarily the same as giving thanks for all things. Even in our darkest hours, when we face grief and sorrow, we can still offer God thanksgiving, not for our sorrow, but in the midst of our sorrow, because we know God will give us the strength to carry our burden and find victory on the other side.

In Jesus’ darkest hour, as he prepared to undergo his Passion, he walked with his disciples from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane singing Psalm 118, “O give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.” This great Psalm of triumph continues, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Jesus focus was not on the pain and suffering of his Passion, but on the glory and victory of his Resurrection. Therefore, he could offer thanksgiving in the midst of his suffering, knowing the victory ultimately belonged to God.

In our re-enactment of Christ’s passion in the Eucharist, we open with a call to thanksgiving, following Christ’s example. The ability to offer God thanks in in suffering is the ultimate proclamation of our faith. We express our confidence in God’s ultimate victory even when nothing seems like it now.

As people share with me their pains and their requests for prayer, I am struck with how much sorrow there is in our congregation and the world. How do we carry such burdens? How do we hold onto our faith when grief is tearing our world apart? The same way Jesus held steady as he took the cross upon his shoulders and carried the weight of the sin of the world up the hill to Golgotha. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.”

Benedictus es

In the mass there are a few prayers the priest says quietly while something else is going on. One of those prayers is the Benedictus es, or “Blessed are You”. It is said during the offertory. After the gifts of bread and wine are brought up, while the cantor and congregation are singing the offertory hymn, the priest will lift up each of the gifts and pronounce a blessing. In daily masses, he will say the prayer aloud with those attending responding, “Blessed be God forever.” But on Sundays, because the offertory is being sung, he will simply say it quietly. “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.”

This very ancient prayer predates Christianity by hundreds if not thousands of years. It was an ancient Jewish practice to thank God continually throughout the day using a formula known as the Berakah or Blessing. It was expected that devout Jews utter 100 blessings each day. The Berakah typically began “Blessed are You Lord God, King of the universe.” The second phrase of the Berakah then adds what it is that you are thanking God for. For example, before a meal one would commonly add: “Who brings for bread from the earth.” After a meal, “who feeds all.”

At the feeding of the 5,000, the Scripture tells us that Jesus took the bread and said a blessing. This would be the blessing Jesus spoke before the miracle. Similarly, the priest invokes the same blessing before the miracle of the Eucharist. “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.

The priest then lifts up the chalice of wine. To the ancient Hebrews, as well as modern Jews, this cup was known as the Kiddush. The Rabbi would intone, “Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.” Then, it continues to say, “Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has chosen us from among all nations, raised us above all tongues, and sanctified us by His commandments. And You, God, have given us lovingly.” Again, the priest utters a similar blessing. “Blessed are you. Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”

These ancient prayers link our mass with the prayer life of Jesus and his disciples. It reminds us of how ancient our tradition is, being built upon the Jewish roots of the first Christians.

Alleluia

We are an Alleluia people, and Alleluia is our song.

Alleluia is the song of Easter. We silence the Alleluia during Lent as we prepare for Christ’s Passion. And we proclaim it loudly and often when we celebrate the Resurrection throughout the Easter season. But what exactly is Alleluia? Where does it come from? What does it mean? And how should be best proclaim it?

Alleluia (sometimes spelled “Halleluiah”) is a Hebrew word usually translated, “Praise the Lord.” However, its roots go even deeper than the Hebrew language itself. It is an onomatopoeic expression of ululation. Ululation is that high pitched trill made by a coordinated chorus of vocal cords, tongue, teeth, and uvula. It is practiced by a number of tribes in Africa and the Middle East. Even though I have spent time in the Middle East, I have only heard the sound on movies, usually used to celebrate a tribal victory or rescue from certain death. It is a sound of rejoicing. It is both exciting and penetrating.

Alleluia is a word of excitement and unrestrained joy. It is a word to express the thrill victory and of being saved from certain death. That is why it is the Easter word. In the Resurrection, Christ wins the victory and saves all of us, in fact all of mankind, from certain and eternal death. We become sharers in His victory as we look forward to our own resurrection on the last day. And so, we rejoice in exultant praise, “Alleluia.”

Too often, we say it because it is the liturgy beginning and ending of the Gospel proclamation as a sort of bookend. We say it with little more enthusiasm than the period that preceded it and follows it. But saying or even shouting the Alleluia is not what Christ calls us to do. He calls us to live it.

In the Book of Common Prayer, there is a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving that includes the line, “We show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days.”

Alleluia is our song of praise. But it is not just something we say or sing. It so permeates who we are that it affects the way we live.

We are an Alleluia people and Alleluia is our song.

The Joy of the Lord

The joy of the Lord will be your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

Cheryl and I were praying together this morning, and one of the Scriptures we read reminded me of a song sung by the Medical Mission Sisters. It was in the 1960’s and their music was always filled with such joy. In fact, simple, childlike joy was a hallmark of the renewal movement in the 1960’s. I actually began to weep as I wondered why we see so little joy these days.

Amid this pandemic, joy seems scarce. We might even feel insensitive or crass if we openly expressed joy. There is so much trouble, so much sadness. But life was not all peaches and cream when Nehemiah made the promise given above. “The joy of the Lord will be your strength.”

Israel had been exiled from their homeland for 70 years. A few were allowed to return under Nehemiah’s leadership to rebuild Jerusalem from the rubble. He was maligned by those who did not want Jerusalem rebuilt and so he was arrested and tried for treason. When he began rebuilding the walls, he was daily attacked by those opposed, so the builders had to keep swords with them as they worked, always ready to defend the project. But he encouraged the people, “The joy of the Lord will be your strength.”

Could simple, childlike joy be the key to strength in our time as well?

Here are a few suggestions about how to get back to joy.

  1. Watch less news. In the 1960’s the news was only on for 30 minutes a day. Somehow we didn’t seem to miss it.
  2. Listen to uplifting music that praises God. Yes, the Medical Mission Sister still publish CD’s.
  3. Get together with others to pray, praise, and support each other.
  4. Attend the daily live stream Mass or at least read the daily readings as part of your prayer time.
  5. Sing. It is good for your body and your soul. Just keep a safe social distance when singing.

Remember, it is God who is in control of this universe. Not Covid. Not government health agencies. In this Easter season we celebrate Christ who conquered death. So, let’s celebrate with joy.

Mass Intentions

“Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity your pilgrim Church on earth, with your servant Francis our Pope and James our Bishop, Steven the Bishop of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the Order of Bishops, all the clergy, and the entire people you have gained for your own, especially….” Roman Missal

The Holy Mass is prayer, and like all prayers, every mass is said for an intention. Priests are instructed in Canon Law to intend masses “for the Christian faithful, especially for those in need.” Sometimes that intention is spoken, at other times not. Whenever a Mass is offered for a specific intention, the Mass applies special graces from God upon that person or intention. We often intercede for others by our personal prayers. The Church is able to intercede for us through the celebration of the Mass itself. One mass each Sunday is said for all the parishioners of the parish, both living and deceased.

Pope Paul VI said, “The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer!” It has immense power and countless miracles and conversions have occurred throughout the centuries by offering Masses for a specific intention or person. Mass intentions are a great treasure of the Church and have a spiritual weight that is incalculable. Since the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life” the Mass possess a power that most efficacious.

The practice of Mass intentions goes back to the first centuries of the Church. Inscriptions in the Roman catacombs demonstrate Mass intentions were being expressed as early as 150 A.D. Then, as now, Mass intentions were offered for the repose of the soul of a loved one, for special occasions such as an anniversary, or for individuals.

Anyone can request a Mass be said for a specific intention. Generally, a small offering is made so the one making the request becomes a sharer in the mass. As King David once said, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24) In our diocese, there is no minimum offering, but there is a maximum of $10. In some poor countries this offering is a large part of the priest’s income. In the U.S., where priests receive a regular salary, this offering goes to the general church fund.

The Mystery of Faith

Before the most recent edition of the Roman Missal, when the priest said, “The Mystery of Faith,” all would respond. “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” That simple declaration encapsulates the accomplishment of Jesus of Nazareth. He died as the payment of man’s breaking covenant with God. He rose from the dead to defeat death so that man could live eternally in accordance with God’s original plan for mankind. He will come again to establish his eternal kingdom, where man reigns with God over the entire universe. This declaration is the mystery of the Gospel. This gospel, declared on the lips of martyrs, transformed the world. It was proclaimed by the apostles to the first church in what scholars refer to as the kerygma. That proclamation was passed on to the modern church in the form of the Apostle’s Creed, which is our baptismal covenant.

With the new edition of the Roman Missal we now say, “We proclaim your death and profess your resurrection until you come again.” Not only is it the proclamation of the apostles, it is our proclamation as well. The work of the apostles is not done until has heard and understood the Gospel, the mystery of faith. Not all will receive it, but all should be given the chance.

It is easy to become complacent in modern America in which there are churches seemingly on every corner. We might think the job is done. But can we think our job is finished in a culture so riddled with falsehood and violence?

The mystery of faith is not just something we memorize. It is a responsibility. We are responsible for proclaiming it to our time and our culture. If our culture is different from that of the primitive church, then it is our task to develop new means and methods to proclaim it in a way that will be meaningful to our age.

So when we say, “We proclaim your death and profess your resurrection until you come again.” Let us not miss the fact that we are not only professing what Christ has done, but what we will do. It is our job to partner with Christ who purchased our salvation by proclaiming that mystery to all. Every time someone accepts that mystery, the world becomes a little more peaceful and a little more holy.

I Confess

In both daily and Sunday Masses, worshippers are called upon to make a confession of sin. This is called the Confiteor. In the Roman Missal it occurs in the introductory rites. In the Ordinariate service, following the Eastern tradition, it is said by the priest and servers before the service with a Confession of Sin for the congregation following the homily.

The Confiteor is an act of self-purification before approaching the Altar of the Lord. The tradition goes back to Moses who required ritual purification before serving in the Tabernacle or the Temple. It is echoed in the New Testament, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts.” James 4:8

The Confiteor is begun by a call to confession and a moment of silence for self-examination. It is sometimes difficult for worshippers to shed all the stress of getting to church on time to pause and reflect on their lives and mentally bring their sins to God. A silent utterance of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have Mercy on me a sinner.” May be helpful to foster an attitude of repentance.

First, we confess six categories of sins.

  • Thoughts of ill will against God, our neighbors, or against ourselves.
  • Failure to be thoughtful of the commandments of God or the needs of others.
  • Unkind words spoken against others. Passing malicious rumors. Speaking injurious lies.
  • Failing to speak words of praise to God. Failing to speak well of others in need of encouragement.
  • Overtly committing sins against God or our neighbor.
  • Failing to act in such a way that glorifies God. Failing to perform deeds of service to our neighbors in need.

We compress all this into a simple statement. “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”

We then take full responsibility for our sins. Mea culpa. Through my fault. Our sins are not the fault of our parent’s shortcomings, misguided teachers, or sinful priests & bishops. Our sins are through our own fault alone.

Finally, we profess our confidence in God’s forgiveness. “My Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and bring us to everlasting life.” This is not an absolution as in sacramental confession, but a proclamation of trust. For the Scripture promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9