Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Golden Calf

The LORD said to Moses,“Go down at once to your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out,‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!" - Exodus 32:7-9

Moses had left the Israelites with Aaron and climbed to the summit of Mt. Sinai to meet with God, but after and extended stay away from them, (I believe it was 40 days.) the Israelites became antsy and began to press Aaron to do something about it, so Aaron had them take all of their gold jewelry, and then he fashioned a golden calf which they acclaimed by saying, "This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!"

So, was the big deal that Israel was worshipping a calf? I don't think so. I think the Israelite's had more sense than that (although God didn't seem to have a lot of faith in them as he was on the verge of annihilating them). Israel was worshipping God but transferring that worship of the unseen God to an image, the image of a cow. It would seem that the sin in this is fairly self-evident, but it is in reality a bit more insidious.

Moses was gone for too long. The people became restless. "Ach! Where is he, that scoundrel?! He shoulda been back by NOW!" By this point in time, the Israelites are well aware of the close relationship between Moses and God, so they know that he is up on Mt. Sinai talking with the Almighty. Instead of patiently waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain to relate God's message, the Israelites decided they couldn't and wouldn't wait for God any longer.

So, they fetched him. They essentially said, "Well if God won't come to us, we'll go and get him. Hey Aaron! Make us a statue!" That acclamation reveals that they were not worshipping a bull, but using that bull to worship God. It was their image of God, something which God had forbidden. This returns us to the Garden of Eden in that the Israelites caved to pride and suited their own need for God's presence by making an image and bringing God to them rather than patiently waiting for God to come to them.

So how is this different from sacred art which we find in our churches? Simple. The Israelites had no image of God, so the golden calf was their own desire for an image of God. It wasn't that images per se were the problem. Notice, the Israelites were allowed to put Cherubim on the ark of the Covenant which faced each other. This is because God revealed that image to them. Christians have something better than the cherubim. We have an image of God himself through his Son, Jesus, because Jesus according to St. Paul, is the image of the invisible God. He is God's own self-revelation of Love.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Faith and corporal acts of mercy

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9

This verse is typically one that I hear about whenever I am discussing the role of works in the greater picture of salvation with Protestants. For Protestants we are saved by faith alone, or as Luther called it sola fide. The problem is that this position doesn't really jive with the Letter of St. James which says that faith without works is dead. How is it that the scriptures appear to contradict each other? How do we reconcile this passage from the letter of St. Paul to the Church at Ephesus and the catholic letter of St. James?

We have to keep in mind one essential thing. The Church has its origin in Jesus Christ, a Jew ("salvation comes from the Jews"). His teachings were revealed in the context of the Jewish synagogue. As a matter of fact, St. Paul's letters were written at a time when Christians still worshipped in the synagogue, worship which was ultimately oriented toward the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple in Jerusalem was the sign of unity for all the Jews.

In the Temple, animal sacrifices were offered to God for atonement in accordance with the Law of Moses. The Christians believed that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate and eternal (everlasting) sacrifice which made the Temple in Jerusalem obsolete. His sacrifice became the center of the Christian's worship, and this sacrifice was made present again in the Eucharistic sacrifice which was instituted in the Upper Room on the night before Christ's passion. (Notice, Christ is not resacrificed, rather his eternal, i.e. timeless, sacrifice is brought forward in time for all Christians to participate in it.) Through this sacrifice, Christ's body became the new Temple (which was raised in 3 days).

So Christians would participate in the Jewish liturgy of the word, which consisted of readings from the Torah and Prophets as well as Psalms and prayers, but when the sacrifice was offered, they would leave because the animal sacrifice was irrelevant and unnecessary for them since Christ had fulfilled the Law and the need for animal sacrifice was gone. To celebrate the eternal and life giving sacrifice of Christ, on the first day of the week, they would gather as a community and celebrate the Eucharist (or "the breaking of the bread" as it is called in Acts). So St. Paul is speaking to people who prayed with Israel, but then participated in the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ's body and blood (remember the new Temple...our worship is oriented to Christ's body) as a sign of their unity.

This is significant because the Jews who had not accepted the faith were still following the ceremonial Law of Moses. For them, salvation was wrapped up in works of the Law as outlined in the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus, so that it was through these works that they believed they found favor with God. Christ fulfilled that Law in his body which was sacrificed on the cross, so therefore, Christians were no longer bound to "works of the Law" because of their faith in the saving power of Christ. This is what St. Paul is talking about. He is not talking about corporal acts of mercy which we nowadays call "good works."

Good works are the fruits of faith, they are not a way to gain salvation. The Catholic Church has consistently taught this since the beginning. However, as St. James has pointed out, to proclaim your faith without putting it in action is not really having faith. That faith must bear fruit in order to be living. Good works must accompany faith and the two are as inseperable as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Now we get to the question of how to reconcile St. Paul with St. James. I give you the next verse from the letter to the Ephesians: "For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them." Here we have St. Paul saying that we are created in Christ for good works, works that make our faith in Christ alive. That is how we reconcile the two Apostles, because in reality they taught and believed the same thing. Faith without good works is totally lifeless.

In nomine Patris, et filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Great Commandment

And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. - Mark 12:33

Jesus has just summed up the law for the scribe in this section of St. Mark's gospel. The scribe has affirmed a truth of our faith, that love is worth more to God than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

The truth is that love in its very essense is sacrificial for it denies the self for the sake of the beloved. While the law prescribes that Israel offer animal sacrifices, they were never meant to be a permanent fixture in the plan of salvation. Animal sacrifice was substitutional in that the innocent animal be it lamb, goat, dove, etc., took on the sin of the person who offerred it. This pointed to and prepared us for Christ's true offering of love on the cross, the innocent victim for the sins of all humanity.

So when offer God praise, and when we realize that we do so out of love for God which spills over to our neighbor then we are offering a sacrifice which is united with Christ's sacrifice of love on the cross. This is why it is worth more than all the burnt offerings. This is why Christ says, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Venite exultemus

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.” - Psalms 95:8-9

Psalm 95 is known as the Invitatory to those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours. It is the first prayer I say every day. It is an invitation to sing praise to God our salvation. Toward the end of the Psalm, the above verses are proclaimed which tell of Israel's lack of faith at Meribah and Massah.

After the Israelites had been freed from bondage in Egypt, they travelled for years in the desert. At one point in their travels, they camped at a place called Rephidim where there was no water, so the Israelites grumbled and complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt only to make us, our children and our livestock, die of thirst?" At this Moses asked God for help, to which God replied by sending Moses to a rock. Moses struck the rock with his staff as God had commanded and water flowed from the rock. Moses named the place Meribah and Massah which mean "dispute" and "temptation", for it was at this place that the Israelites, despite seeing all God had done for them, disputed the presence of God and tempted him.

In the Psalm, these verses are a call to repentance, to return to God. They call us to be open to the Lord, to trust in him who has led us through our lives. During times of trial and distress, we are to move forward always trusting in God's guiding hand. As Israel had to fight the urge to return to their former lives of bondage in Egypt, something that was familiar to them as opposed to wandering in the emptiness of the desert in an attempt to reach an unknown destination, so we must fight the temptation to return to our former lives, lives which though familiar hold no promise for us. The promise, our hope, lies in the future, a future that is vast and unknown, sort of like a desert.

The verses immediately before the ones listed above say, "For he is our God and we are his people, the flock he shepherds." If God is our shepherd, we must trust him to provide what we need and have faith that he will lead us along the right path. As with Israel, we will wander and lose faith, so Lent is a time to reflect on our path. It is a time to turn to God, to repent, and this will assure us of the right path which will lead us straight to the promise of the future which is hope.

St. Turibius of Mongrovejo, pray for us.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Seven times to infinity

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times." - Matthew 18:21-22

The mercy of God is infinite simply because God is infinite. We though created in the image of God are not infinite, however, Jesus in these verses teaches us that our mercy must be infinite.

Here's why. God rules everything. For us to sin against his infinite majesty is no small thing, but in his mercy, he forgives us and sets aside the infinite punishment that is due us. We, on the other hand, rule nothing, so when someone sins against us, it is not nearly as great an offense. So if God can forgive us our sins against him which are infinitely offensive, why shouldn't we forgive our brothers and sisters who have sinned against us because the discrepancy between our sin against God and those who sin against us is incalculable.

To illustrate this point Jesus tells the parable of the King who forgives the huge debt of one of his servants who had no way of paying it back. This is a great gift from the King. But the servant then goes out and comes across another a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount, yet demanded that it be paid in full and when the fellow servant could not pay it, the first servant had him thrown in prison. When the king found out of the first servant's behavior, he had the servant thrown to the torturers until he should pay back the entire debt.

So during this time of Lent, a time of reflection and penance, I choose to consider the people who have caused me pain, and to forgive them from my heart. Sometimes not the easiest thing to do but according to the Master, absolutely necessary.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Paradoxical wisdom

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. - 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

St. Paul begins this verse with generalizations about Jews and Greeks, nonetheless, they are accurate. How often did the Jews seek a sign while they were wandering in the desert during the Exodus? God provided the signs: the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, quail, and a spring of water from a stone. Jesus laments that "this evil generation demands a sign." In a similar fashion, the Greeks wanted something logical. They wanted something that would rest on philosophical axioms as "proof" of its genuineness.

It is only human for us to want proof to back up the truth of a message whether it is in the miraculous or the philosophical. So what proof does the Church provide? Christ crucified! I can just hear the response of the Greeks and the Jews, "Huh?!" The cross is an impediment to the Jews because their Messiah is a political figure who will overcome the earth's political dynasties and rule the kingdom of Israel. It is foolishness to the Greeks because it is completely illogical for Christ to have as his mission crucifixion. The problem with proof comes when we use the evidence provided as a reason to not believe.

But to those who receive God's grace, Christ crucified becomes all the proof we need, for in this paradoxical fashion, God reveals his wisdom and strength through the depths of his love for us in the sacrifice of his Son.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

He runs to meet US!

So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. - Luke 15:20

The parable of the prodigal son was proclaimed at Mass today. I have never met a person who said, "You know. I can't STAND the story of the prodigal son." I think it is because we can all see a bit of ourselves in that story, some of us more than others. If you want to read the entire parable, you can find it

The verse mentioned above really stood out to me as I was contemplating things tonight. In the first part of the verse, we see the first thing that is necessary for us to return to God. The prodigal son decides at his lowest point, that of desiring to eat hog slop, to return home to his father and hope for the best. Catholics experience this in a unique way. We first have an inward conversion, a turning from sin. And we know the way back home is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We have to go to confession. That is the "hoping for the best" part because, as most Catholics will tell you, going to confession after living a life of sin is a daunting and scary prospect.

But, in the second part of the verse, Jesus reveals to us the nature of God, that of compassion and mercy. The prodigal son is still far away when the father sees him in the distance and has compassion. He doesn't stop in his tracks and wait for the son to get to him, no he runs to the son, embraces him, and kisses him. And when his son says to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son." the father says, "Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him!" This is the reality we discover when we leave the confessional.

In this parable, while Jesus is teaching something about each of us as individuals, he is also teaching something about humanity in general. We see the image of the fall of man and expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the subsequent return home and reconciliation of mankind as a whole. When the father says, "Quickly, bring the finest robe" the Greek wording (as I learned from reading a book by Pope Benedict) is "Quickly, bring the first robe." In other words, to quote the Holy Father:

"The first robe is the robe in which Adam was created and which he lost after he had grasped at likeness to God. All the clothes subsequently worn by man are only a poor substitute for the light of God coming from within, which was Adam's true "robe". The man who in faith returns home receives back the first "robe", is clothed again in the mercy and love of God, which are his true beauty."

After reading this interpretation, I have just one more reason to love the parable of the prodigal son.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, pray for us.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Judgment and forgiveness

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven." - Luke 6:36-37

These verses from St. Luke's gospel are among the first tossed around when the Church makes a stand against the decadence of modern secular society. "Who are you to judge me? The bible says 'Judge not lest ye be judged!'" How do you respond to that? That is what Jesus says in the bible. Does this mean that anything goes, and we are to sit idly by and say nothing?

What does it mean "to judge?" It means to form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration. One who makes estimates as to worth, quality, or fitness. Here is the difference for the follower of Christ. To Christians, all people by virtue of their being created in the image of God have an inherent dignity and nobility. It is worth that is given them by God and cannot be diminished in any way by another person. When we judge a person, we are not making a comment about his or her actions, rather we are coming to a conclusion about their person, who they are, based on our knowledge of their actions. That is an assault on their dignity.

So, are we as Christians to sit idly by and say nothing of immoral behavior? Of course not. Christ calls us to discern the will of the Father and inform our consciences. The Church puts forth the teachings of the Apostles as given to them by Jesus himself and these are our guide to living good and holy lives. When one of our brothers and sisters sins against the Church, it is our duty as Christians to inform them of the nature of their actions. This is not judging them but teaching them, for if you were really to judge them unworthy, it is doubtful that you would care enough about them to have concern for their souls.

The key to all of this is found in the first sentence, "Be merciful as your Father is merciful." While we may not like what another person is doing, we must always remember that they are created in the image of God, God who is merciful, God who treats all with the dignity and love of a first born son. When you think about it, that means that when we judge someone who is created in God's image, we are judging God, and that is a big no no. It is important to remember that in judging someone we seek to diminish their dignity, which in turn diminishes ours, i.e. we are judged. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Stop judging and you will not be judged."

So we must correct with love and compassion. We must be patient. And above all, we must be merciful and forgiving.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The ram in the thorns

As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son. - Genesis 22:13

In the story of Abraham and Isaac, God instructs Abraham to take his son Isaac to the top of Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him to the Lord. You can only imagine the distress this must have caused Abraham. But Abraham was faithful to God, and he obliged. As he and Isaac were walking up the mountain, Isaac carrying the firewood and Abraham carrying the fire and the knife, Isaac asks Abraham, "Where is the sheep for the holocaust?" Abraham responds, "God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust."

I have always thought it was interesting that Abraham responded, "God himself will provide the sheep." Why didn't he say simply, "God will provide the sheep?" And how did he know that God would provide the sheep?

Christians have long viewed this passage from Genesis as a foreshadowing of the Passion of Christ, for Christ, the beloved Son of God, walked up the via dolorosa to Golgotha carrying the wood for the holocaust, the cross. It was his blood spilled from the altar which was the cross. He stretched out his arms in the image of a priest offering sacrifice, and he offered the most holy and perfect sacrifice possible. And indeed, God did provide the lamb for the sacrifice. He provided himself as the lamb of sacrifice, the lamb whose head was caught in a crown of thorns as the ram was caught in the thicket.

So that brings me back to the question, how did Abraham know? Because Abraham was a man of faith. He trusted that God would take care of him. He knew that God would provide.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Exit and return

Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. - Isaiah 55:10-11

In this passage from the book of the prophet, Isaiah, we see an image of the giving by God and the returning to God (or as Pope Benedict calls it in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, an example of exitus and reditus). The rain and snow come from heaven to do what they are meant to do and then return to heaven from whence they came. In a like manner, the word of God will come forth, do what it is intended to do, then return to God.

The word of God is that through which the universe came into being; that's the entire universe mind you which includes you and me and paramecia and cats and sand crabs and dust mites, etc. It was all willed into exitence by God as is described in Genesis, "And God said let there be___ and there was ___." Jesus is the incarnation of that word, the person through whom God willed all things into being, or as the preface to the Second Eucharistic Prayer says, "he is the Word through whom you made the universe." Even more simply put, God willed himself, the uncaused cause, into our nature. Infinite intermingled with finite, the eternal with the temporal, God with man.

Why? To do the will of the Father, the one who sent the Son (exitus). And when the Son, the Word of the Father, achieved the end for which he was sent, he returned to the Father (reditus). So, what was the will of the Father? That all might be saved. With the Fall of man, we accepted the exitus, but in our pride we refused the reditus because we turned away from God (a privilege of our freedom to reject God) and sought to do our will rather than God's, and in the process lost our way, and once lost we could not find the way back to God on our own. We needed someone to come and get us and bring us back to God. The only one who could do that was the one who sent us in the first place, God himself who came to us as a man. But he didn't just show us the way. He is the way.

Father, it is our duty and salvation always and everywhere to give you thanks through your beloved Son Jesus Christ. He is the Word through whom you made the universe, the Savior you sent to redeem us. By the power of the Holy Spirit he took flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary. For our sake he opened his arms on the cross, he put an end to death and revealed the resurrection. In this he fulfilled your will and won for you a holy people. And so we join the angels and the saints in proclaiming your glory as we sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might! Heaven and earth are full of your glory! Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!"

Saints Perpetua and Felicity, pray for us.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Flooded with grace

This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. - 1 Peter 3:21-22

Todays Old Testament reading from Genesis regarding Noah and the flood is reflected upon in the Epistle reading from St. Peter's first letter to all Christians. What the waters of the flood did was wash away the sin and corruption which had overtaken the world. Through the flood, the earth was regenerated. All was made new.

St. Peter's letter gives insight into the way the Church has viewed the story of the flood as an image whereby we are delivered from sin and death through the waters of baptism. The ark is an image of the Church in which Noah and his family were delivered from death through the waters of the flood. It is through the family of Noah that all the earth will be renewed.

It is interesting to me that some people still deny the saving power of baptism despite the scriptures being fairly straightforward saying that baptism saves. Through the waters of baptism, we are regenerated and made new creations much like the earth after the flood. We die to our former life of sin and are born again to our new life in the Spirit.

Being born again is not simply a vague conversion experience. It is a real act whereby the Church gives birth to her children at the baptismal font. As each of us is born into our human families through water (or amniotic fluid as the case may be), so we are born (again) into our divine family, the Church, through water (and the Spirit). We cannot enter God's family without being "born" any more than we can enter our human families without being "born." It just so happens that we enter our human families first, and we are reborn into God's.

I am truly thankful for the regeneration we experience through the waters of baptism, a regeneration forshadowed by Noah and his family as they were delivered from the sin and death of their former world through the waters of the flood.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Call of Sinners

Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” - Luke 5:31-32

In this passage Jesus calls the tax collector, Levi, to follow him, which of course he does. (Levi is called Matthew in the gospel according to St. Matthew.) After his acceptance of the call, Jesus attends a banquet at Levi's house where there are tax collectors and other sinners. (I have always liked how in the bible there were tax collectors and then all of the rest of the sinners.) The Pharisees look with disdain to Jesus for dining with such people. Jesus replies with the above statement.

It is really a rather clever statement to be honest. It would appear that Jesus has come to be a thorn in the side of the Pharisees who certainly saw themselves as "the righteous." If he had come to call the sinner to repentance, what role would the Pharisees have in his kingdom?

Well, that is the real irony in the situation because the truth is that all are sinners, even the Pharisees. The Pharisees posed a question to Jesus, and in reply, Jesus gave them an invitation to repentance, the same invitation that he gave to Levi and the other disciples, the same invitation that he gives to all of us. The real question then is, will we be convinced of our righteousness or will we be aware of our sinfulness and need for redemption?

St. Casimir, pray for us.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Every day

If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. - Luke 9:23

Jesus is teaching the disciples about the demands of folowing him. In the verses which follow this one, Jesus says, "but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." This gives a hint to the disciples of what to expect for their devotion to Christ. Many of them were martyred.

I have read this verse over and over, but I have never paid much attention to the word "daily." It is almost like my mind just sort of ran right over it, not to mention that in the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark, the word "daily" is not mentioned. This simple word adds a new dimension to the thought Jesus was putting forward.

We must daily make the commitment to deny ourselves and follow Christ, not merely make a one time profession of faith. The world around us poses unique challenges to us every day. These challenges can come in the form of temptation to sin, or they may be opportunities which will arise which could lead us to perform acts of mercy and charity for those who are in need. Either way, we must commit to serve Christ in our denial of ourselves through rejection of temptation and through service to others. As St. Luke quotes Christ, we must do this daily.

It is only appropriate that this day we remember St. Katharine Drexel. St. Katharine was an heiress, born in Philadelphia, who gave up her fortune to serve African Americans and Native Americans through the foundation of schools, including Xavier University in New Orleans. Through her example, we see one who daily denied herself for the benefit of others. Mother Drexel, pray for us.

Happy Birthday, Padre.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The glory of these forty days...

In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. - 2 Corinthians 6:2

Today we begin Lent, the forty days of preparation that the Church observes prior to the Paschal feast. It is a time where the Church in her wisdom prescribes acts of penance meant to purify us and to help us grow in charity. The three acts of penance prescribed are fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. These are meant to detach us from worldly things and raise our hearts to God.

That got me to thinking about salvation and eternal life. I have had some discussions with many Christians of different traditions, and it would appear that the way I understand salvation and eternal life is somewhat different than others. Most would say that salvation/eternal life is something that begins when you die and enter heaven. I would agree with that. But what about now? Is eternal life/salvation attainable to me while I am on earth? The above verse from St. Paul's second letter to the Church at Corinth says yes indeed!

Salvation and eternal life are defined as the pure and endless joy which occurs when we are in communion with God. Eternal life is not merely some far off future event which we hope for, it is experienced whenever we unite our wills with that of God who is love. It is pure joy and happiness which is not bound to a particular time but to a particular experience which may occur in time but not necessarily. Eternity cannot have a future because eternity is forever now, and for that reason we can experience eternity in our everyday lives through our relationship with the God who is.

Lent calls us to perform acts which draw our focus away from ourselves and the world which is passing away. We grow in holiness through our self-denial because we become imitators of Christ who denied himself all the way to the cross. Through our self-denial we are united with Christ who is united with God. Thus it is through Christ that we achieve eternal life, and we achieve it now.