Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Pushing to know Jesus

In a treasure trove books on Christology (secondary theological reflection) we have densely packed pages reflection on the of Jesus and what it means to say He is the Christ. It seems to me that the theological and spiritual questions and research have to be re-oriented. What if we reflect on what Jesus says in the Gospels, and how he acts? Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say I am?” AND NOT “Who do the theologians say that I am?” Jesus does not ask us what Fr. John Meyendorff or Fr. Alexander Schmemann, or Sr. Vassa Larin or NT Wright, or Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar thought.

Knowing about Jesus is different than knowing Jesus. As to Peter so to us: “Who do you say that I am?”, a question that demands our own personal response based on our own personal experience of Jesus in prayer, divine Liturgy, Lectio Divina, and his subtle yet very real, mysterious presence in everyday life.

Theological reflection, first and second levels, are critical in having a comprehensive view of who Jesus Christ is. The personal encounter is a aided and challenged by theological reflection so as to keep us honest and correct. In today’s world we are tempted to think that any experience and any book is orthodox, that is, without error. We know by reason, however, this is incorrect. Knowing Jesus and not merely about Jesus is experienced with several contexts: worship (adoration), personal conversion, a communal life and works of charity; you can think of these points as pillars: prayer, study, community, and service. Truth is symphonic and verifiable. Book knowledge is useful but it is useless unless we are led us into a deeper relationship, a deeper engagement with Jesus. Otherwise, valuable space in the brain is wasted.

Blessing God

I think if you asked many people what it means to “bless God” an adequate answer would be lacking. Probably for no other reason than it is not a subject we hear preached on at Mass, or study in Catechism class. This is a sad thing to say: we don’t have competent or interested priests and lay catechists doing the work of passing on the revealed religion. Sister Vassa Larin, on the other hand, has provided a brief explanation on the meaning of Blessing God.

“Bless (εὐλόγει) the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” (Ps 102/103: 1-2)

Does God need that I “bless” (εὐ-λόγει, say a good word about) Him? No, of course not. But I need to say “good words” about the Source of Good, the Source of Blessing, lest I forget all His gifts or “benefits,” showered upon me and others every day. I need actively to exercise my God-given capacity for “good words,” even when it is easier to grumble and choose “bad words,” about whatever bad things may cross my path.

The “blessing” (or “good word”) I speak with my mouth, and say in my “soul,” has creative power, because God, my Creator, is the Source of all Blessing. I grow in Him, to be more “like” Him, when I participate or share in His creative energies of “blessing.” Conversely I do damage to my growth, if I choose de-structive, “bad words,” or words that are God-less, outside of God. So let me choose good words today; let me bless, that I may be blessed.

As Charity lived in Michael Novak

The funeral rites were prayed last week for theologian Michael Novak in Washington, DC. The Oratorian Fathers in the District offered and preached the Mass. May God give Michael eternal light, happiness and peace!

It is said the Novak was one of the finest Catholic theologians of the USA, indeed for the Church. A man of great intellect AND charity. This fact comes out in a beautiful homily preached by Father Derek Cross, Orat., giving us a wonderful picture of how grace moved man. I urge your reading the homily.

In part,

More and more, as he grew older, Michael gravitated to the theme of caritas. In the Free Society Seminar at Bratislava, he developed a contemporary version of St Augustine’s City of God called Caritapolis. Later, he included a chapter on Caritapolis in The Universal Hunger for Liberty. He introduced the song “Ubi Caritas et Amor” to the daily Masses of the Free Society Seminar. It was his only musical request for today’s Mass, but he asked that it be sung twice. “Little children, love one another,” was said to be the aged Apostle John’s single and constant homily: a simple and profound wisdom that Michael made his own. To those who came to bid farewell before he died, he said repeatedly, “God loves you and you must love one another, that is all that matters.”

 

Benedictine monk preserves Christian history

The word “rescue” doesn’t always connect in people’s monks with the life and work of a Benedictine monk, but when you read a recent article in The Atlantic, you will have a new appreciation of the connection. It is a fact that Father Columba Stewart, monk of St. John’s Abbey (Collegeville, MN) spends a great deal of time rescuing some of the world’s precious manuscripts from possible human destruction –think of ISIS– and natural decay in a project sponsored by Saint John’s Abbey and University —Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML). The HMML project puts on microfilm and in digital format manuscripts the world has a rarely seen.

This is human project with Divine blessing; a true ecumenical and inter-faith project that reaches into the deep for the sake of something greater: Truth. What else could you expect a monk to do as a fruit of his contemplation? This, for me, is crucial consequence of the Incarnation of the Lord.

Merton’s birthday

Thomas Merton

Today in 1915 Prades, France, Thomas Merton was born. The famous monk of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance (the Trappists), was known in his monastery as Father Louis. The Merton genealogy includes an American mother and a father from New Zealand. Artists, both died early; Merton’s mother died of stomach cancer when he was six years old; 10 years later, his father died of a brain tumor. His early life was wild and seemingly of out of control.

Having met the Lord, Thomas Merton converted to Catholicism in 1938, while he was a student at Columbia University, at Corpus Christi Church on 121st, NYC. Perceiving a call to the contemplative life after the Franciscans rejected him, he entered the Trappist Abbey in Kentucky; Thomas initially gave up his writing career yet it was Abbot Frederic Dunne who recognized his talent noting that it was helpful in bringing others to Christ, he missioned Merton to write.

Thomas Merton once wrote: My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton
Thoughts in Solitude, p. 83

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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