Saturday after Ash Wednesday February 17, 2018

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3

We continue with our reflection on this divine phrase – God’s very first spoken Scriptural words creating the means which makes him known naturally and spiritually to humanity.

Free-Photos / Pixabay

Both kinds of light, natural and spiritual, give the soul awareness and a sense of well-being; and of course, light gives life. Without light, natural and spiritual life could not exist.

Whereas before, darkness covered the abyss of the faculties of the soul, God has “opened the eye of its abyss to the Divine light, and so had made it pleasing to Himself.” 1

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God draws the soul unto himself with the light. It is the light of faith, though small like a mustard seed, 2 it is the beginning of eternal life. It is God obscurely manifesting himself to the soul in light that will continue to grow as the soul’s spiritual life matures. With the gift of the light of faith followed by the soul’s acceptance, spiritual life is affirmed.

The light of faith is the gift of spiritual sight. The information contained in the light of faith is obscure, or dark (imperceptible) to the understanding. It is by its excessive greatness that it oppresses and disables the understanding, for its power extends only to natural knowledge. 3  It could be said faith’s excessive brightness blinds the understanding like direct sunlight blinds the eyes.

Faith alone, our Saint beautifully tells us, is the “proximate and proportionate means to the understanding whereby the soul may attain to Divine union of Love. For, even as God is infinite, so faith sets Him before us as infinite; and, as He is Three in One, it sets Him before us as Three in One; and, as God is darkness to our understanding, even so does faith likewise blind and dazzle our understanding. And, thus, by this means alone, God manifests Himself to the soul in Divine light, which passes all understanding. And therefore, the greater is the faith of the soul, the more closely is it united with God. [He] must walk by faith as he journeys to Him, the understanding being blind and in darkness, walking in faith alone; for beneath this darkness the understanding is united with God, and beneath it God is hidden.” 4

The soul will subsequently use reason in addition to the light of faith to determine if it will accept God as belief through guides, study aids, etc. “What he [St. John of the Cross] endeavors to show is that the coming of knowledge through faith excludes a simultaneous coming of natural knowledge through reason, and left, as it were, in blindness, so that it may be raised to another nobler and sublime kind of knowledge, which, far from destroying reason, gives it dignity and perfection.” 5

If the gift of faith is accepted, the soul proceeds to exercise its will in making an act of belief. The man in today’s Gospel Reading did so, most magnificently and in complete totality:

Jesus gifts the light of faith to a sinner sitting at his trade, saying to him, “follow me.” The man sitting at his post signifies dwelling in darkness; his customs post being the source of his sin through which he extorted. The gift of faith accepted, the man got up, left everything and followed Jesus – the Light of the world.

The link below will take you to the complete Gospel Reading, as well as Reading 1 and the Responsorial Psalm:

USCCB Daily Readings February 17th, 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

 

Monday of the First Week of Lent, February 19, 2018

God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:4

We shall skip for now the very important “good” God saw in the light until we finish with all our reflections on the light created on the first day.

God separating the light from the darkness after its creation pre-figures Jesus’ teaching in Luke’s gospel:

No one who lights a lamp hides it away or places it (under a bushel basket), but on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. Luke 11:33

 

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Upon the creation of light in Genesis on the first day, God separates it from darkness the very same day. Jesus, speaking spiritually about faith, expects one who lights a lamp to promptly follow with placing it where all may see the light and not conceal it. Both statements are about exposing spiritual light, thereby sharing it. There no waiting period between the manifestation of the light in Genesis and in Jesus’ parable, and making the light available on a wider scale. Both imply an immediate sharing of the light of faith.

We sense Jesus’ urgency upon his sending out the Twelve to proclaim the kingdom. Despite the strict Jewish dietary laws, Jesus tells them to bring no food. Proclaiming the kingdom is so important that it appears in three Gospels. 1

As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Matthew 10:7-8

Matthew was only just called by Jesus in chapter 9! There are 18 more chapters of learning for the disciples in Matthew’s gospel following Jesus sending them out to proclaim the kingdom, yet Jesus sends them out, imperfect as they are.

So very early in Holy Scripture, in the Book of Genesis, we find ourselves reflecting on sharing the light of faith, an indication of how tremendously important it is to God. God separating the light from the darkness in Genesis spiritually foreshadows the evangelizing aspect of the Faith, as does Jesus’ statement about not hiding the light of the lamp. There are three purposes of faith: to gather, to guide, and to guard. Sharing the Faith with others helps God in gathering together the People of God, which we will explore more fully as well as the guiding and guarding aspects of faith.

The faithful participate in the spiritual meaning of this Genesis verse every year on Holy Saturday by passing on the Easter Vigil light that was lit in darkness. In Genesis 1:4, God makes the very first pass.

God’s second act of creation – the separation of light from darkness – also foretells of Jesus’s last act in the world after his second coming: the separation of the sheep and the goats. The sheep he will place on his right; these are the righteous who responded to the light and chose to share their spiritual and temporal goods. The goats he will place on his left; these are the accursed who chose to dwell in darkness with their selfishness.

You can read today’s complete Gospel account of Jesus’ separation of the sheep and the goats at his second coming in the USCCB Daily Readings for February 19th:

Monday of the First Week of Lent, February 19th, 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent, February 20, 2018

God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Genesis 1:5

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Spiritually, “Day” is associated with reason, using information gleaned from the body’s five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

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Spiritually, “Night” is associated with spiritual knowledge that begins with faith, which is given passively by God to individual souls without the illumination of the understanding.

Holy Scripture beautifully sums up Day and Night, Reason and Faith, in Psalm 19:

Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge. Psalm 19:3

The soul in the spiritual “night” is ideally a movement toward greater faith, hope and charity culminating in union with God. Saint John illustrates the movement through the spiritual night with three stages:  The beginning of this night is the night of sense during which the first major conversion from sin and bondage to the senses takes place. It is called night due to the privation and purgation of the soul’s senses and is represented by the time of the night just after dusk when sensible objects can no longer be seen, a perfect comparison. The second part is the night of faith. It is compared to midnight since it is farthest from the daylight of reason, leaving the understanding in darkness. In the coming days we shall see these first two parts of the night happen with the Israelites release from the Egyptians in Exodus. The third part of the night, when it is still dark but preceding dawn, is the dark night of the soul when God’s bestows his mystical prayer called contemplation. When these three parts of the night are almost over, God begins to illumine the soul with his Divine light, which is the beginning of the perfect union with him that follows – when it is nearer to dawn and the light of day, which is compared to God. 1

The light of faith, as said, has three primary functions: it gathers, guides and guards. Faith gathers together God’s people to worship, learn the Faith, and to serve others.  Second, faith is a guide for the spiritual journey; leading the soul toward and ever deepening relationship with God and eternal life; for faith is the beginning of eternal life.  Third, faith guards by its protection and concealment against the devil, 2 whose goal is to prevent that from happening. In this part of Genesis, we’ll look at faith as a guide; specifically with God’s example of Israel’s exodus from Egypt when we continue tomorrow.

If “gather, guide and guard” resonates familiarity, it is because they are the attributes of the Good Shepherd himself and light of the world, Jesus Christ.

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus teaches us how to pray the Our Father, bringing faith into our everyday lives. This link will take you to the USCCB website and directly to today’s Daily Readings:

USCCB Daily Readings February 20, 2018

We will take a short break and continue on Thursday, February 22.

Thursday of the First Week in Lent February 22, 2018

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 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Genesis 1:5

We continue where we left off Tuesday, meditating upon the above verse as it applies to reason, faith and the Israelites exodus from Egypt. What is happening in Exodus helps us to understand spiritually these Genesis verses on light, darkness, day and night.

Upon the Israelite’s departure from Egypt, when Pharaoh let the people go, God bestowed upon them the light of faith. This was a release from spiritual bondage as well as physical slavery, because Pharaoh wouldn’t let them make animal sacrifices to God in the desert as God wanted. 1 Enslavement to sin and sensual comforts never fosters, like Pharaoh, worship of God. Like all who are newly aware of a spiritual part of their being, the Israelites release from Egyptian captivity would require guidance without complete reliance upon the senses. For how can one journey using the very same thing one is attempting to leave behind? This is where the light of faith takes over and operates in silence and darkness as a guide, more so with a soul who is co-operative with God’s grace. The soul who is eager to advance in the spiritual life practices mortifying their earthly desires while developing a deep prayer life, which is their relationship with God. The soul’s reliance on the false props of sensual comforts and satisfied appetites diminishes as the soul’s spiritual life matures, at the same time love of God and neighbor grows with hope and charity. One by one the chains of desires fall away, and spiritual freedom blossoms. And he is set free from the hands of his enemies – “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” 2

Scripture shows God guiding Israel by the light of faith, while revealing how faith operates:

The Lord preceded them, in the day-time by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire to give them light. Thus they could travel both by day and by night. Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13: 21-22

It is rather contrary that a cloud could show them the way. Typically, clouds and fog disable navigation abilities. Preceding them as they marched forward, they certainly could not see ahead to use their own reasoning abilities, which is the point. But as the verse states, this was God’s means, his way, of leading Israel. The first line is the Lord himself showing them the way, which is to say spiritually, their reason (day) was darkened by the cloud, and in this darkness of their understanding, which is night, there was fire to give them guiding light. It is also amazing that “clouding the reason” could show the way; a paradox that unbelievers cannot grasp.  This verse shows why faith is called “a dark night,”  by illustrating no simultaneous coming of natural knowledge through reason, leaving the understanding in darkness. 3 This is God’s guidance – this is faith.

The next line tells us Israel’s journey does in fact include both reason and faith:

Thus they could travel both by day and by night:
day = reason, night = faith.

Interpreted naturally: Thus they could travel both in the daytime and nighttime. Interpreted spiritually: Thus they could travel both by reason and by faith.

Forms of guidance God provides the soul’s intellect include:  Holy Scripture, a mentor, instruction, community. These assist the role of reason in the life of faith. Moses’ and Aaron’s instruction was directed at the Israelites’ sense of reason: Moses performed the signs in the sight of the people and Aaron spoke to the people, both under God’s instructions. 4 In the New Testament Jesus administers all three functions, as God himself teaching about the kingdom and performing miracles. But Jesus lays it down plainly that blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. 5  Belief rests on the power of God through faith, not human understanding, which is vulnerable to attacks of the devil, as we shall see.

In Moses we see the limitations of human help as he expressed to God multiple times his reluctance to lead the people; asking him, a bit prophetically, to send someone else. 6 Contrarily, we read of God’s unwavering response to his people’s walk of faith:

Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people.

Today is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle. The Popes have faithfully shepherded the People of God, guiding them for over 2000 years since St. Peter, whose profession of faith to Jesus is the rock he built his Church upon. You can read Peter’s entire response to Jesus on the USCCB website:

USCCB Daily Readings February 22, 2018

We will reflect more upon the faculty of the understanding and its operations of reason, its corresponding theological virtue and God’s beacon the light of faith, faith’s role as gatherer of God’s people, and why it is a dark guide and guard toward eternal life.

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text

Friday of the First Week of Lent – February 23, 2018

All three of today’s Daily Readings, as they have been since Ash Wednesday, are about repentance and belief; turning away from sin and practicing a virtuous life. The soul we are following here in Genesis is undergoing a conversion as well.  As we progress through the spiritual meanings in Genesis, we will find them corresponding to the Lenten Readings.  You can click here to be taken directly to God’s Word in the February 23 Readings:

USCCB Daily Readings February 23rd, 2018

Light has a unique association with God that no other created good has. Besides all we’ve pondered in this reflection on light, there is God the Father’s only begotten Son, the Eternal Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  Matthew 10:27

Jesus is not the created light in Genesis, though it is the great foreshadow of his uncreated light coming into the world at the Incarnation. In Jesus’ declaration, he not only gives the light but is himself the light that enables the soul’s sight. He is the guiding light, the light of life, and the fullness of the light first bestowed in the beginning of Genesis.

Jesus declares to his followers Matthew:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Matthew 5:14

We ourselves become light bearers of Jesus’ light, reflecting the heavenly Father, glorifying him.

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Just as The Holy Spirit, The Lord, The Giver of Life will overshadow Mary to bring Jesus the Light of the world into a world darkened by sin, the Holy Spirit in Genesis sweeps over the waters of a soul floundering in spiritual darkness, as does the Holy Spirit also sweep over the natural waters engulfed in darkness when God said, Let there be light, 1 and creation was gifted with sight.

Tomorrow we will finish up with the light created on the first day, but as you know there is more happening with light on the fourth day.

And as promised, tomorrow we will reflect upon the extremely important “how good” God saw in the light. Just how good is the light?

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

Friday of the Second Week of Lent March 2, 2018

Summarizing our reflection on Feb. 25, the waters of the soul’s spirit and sense were separated by God’s placement of the dome of the sky.  The spiritual part which includes the three faculties of the soul is above the sky; the sensual part which includes the body and its senses placed below the sky, on the earth.

The following is taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is relevant to the next verse in Genesis:

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  1. THE CHURCH’S ORIGIN, FOUNDATION, AND MISSION

The Church – prepared for in the Old Covenant

761      The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed the communion of men with God, and that of men among themselves. The gathering together of the Church is, as it were, God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin. This reunification is achieved secretly in the heart of all peoples: “In every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable” to God. 1

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Then God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear.” And so it happened: the water under the sky was gathered into its basin, and the dry land appeared. God called the dry land “the earth,” and the basin of water he called “the sea.” Genesis 1:9-10

Just as the human body’s requirements are food, clothing and a place to live, the soul needs the spiritual equivalent. Spiritual food, spiritual clothing and a spiritual home that provides these life sustaining essentials, and a community of those who are like-minded.  The CCC points out in 1253: “Faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe.” We have just reflected upon a soul receiving the light of faith. The following Genesis verse pre-figuring the Church is logical progression of the text’s spiritual meaning. Let us continue with the spiritual interpretation of the above Genesis passage.   

The verse uses the words:

Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin.

As we reflected upon, the divided water that is below the dome of the sky (which is on the earth) represent the soul’s body and five senses. The “gathering” of these waters in Genesis into a “single basin” pre-figures the gathering together of the People of God. The catch of 153 large fish in a single net in John’s Gospel 2 after the Resurrection is an evolvement of this “gathering” prefigured in Genesis. Note that both have a water reference. The 153 fishes in John traditionally represented every known fish at the time; which in turn represented all nations on the planet to be “gathered” into the Church. Briefly stated, this evolved from God gathering the water in Genesis, to the expanding covenants God uses to gather the Israelites of the Old Testament, to the single net catch of fish in John’s Gospel after Jesus establishes the New Covenant, followed with three thousand persons baptized in one day in Acts 3 , the spreading of the Church in the Epistles, to the reality of 1.2 billion Roman Catholic souls today worldwide, plus an additional 200-300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians. This prefigurement of gathering together the People of God, who will regularly share a spiritual meal, signifies what will become the soul’s one spiritual home on earth: the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. One home is signified in Genesis by “a single basin.”

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It is a very beautiful analogy that water is used in Genesis (and the above John’s Gospel verse) to foretell this gathering of the Church, because when brought to fulfillment water is used again to unify, in the Sacrament of Baptism. The Catechism tells us that “Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn.” [CCC 1271 with footnote 82: UR 22 § 2 [/note] It is also wondrous that as God gathered the waters and formed the dry land with his hands so very very long ago, before any of us came to be, his people were in his thoughts.

As stated before on our Feb. 19th reflection, the means God uses to gather the People of God is faith. CCC 762 states: “The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people. 4 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of all nations.” This is expressed most fully in the Scripture verse after Abraham’s enormous test of faith when God asks him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Just before he is about to do it, he is stopped by the messenger of God who called to him:

I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing – all because you obeyed my command. Genesis 22:16-18

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This verse is the introduction of faith working toward the gathering together of the Church, the People of God.

The dry land that appears in our Genesis verse after the natural waters are gathered God calls “the earth,” which provides for the physical home of the body.

In today’s Daily Readings for Friday March 2, Jesus identifies himself as the cornerstone of his Church. He is the solid foundation upon which the entire mystical edifice comprised of gathered souls is to be built, and the stone the builders reject.  You can read the entire Gospel reading by clicking here for the USCCB website:

USCCB Daily Readings March 2, 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text

Monday of the Third Week of Lent March 5, 2018

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The two stages of light in the Old and New Testaments:

The light God called forth from nothingness on that first day so all might see and believe testified to him until that fourth day when the governor of light took over; the sun to shed light upon the earth, to separate the light from the darkness, and to carry on the testimony.

At that proper time, God sent his faithful servant John [1] born of a barren woman, whose light [2] testified to the Light so all might believe; until the arrival of that true Governor of Light, Jesus Christ, who came into the world so that whoever sees him sees the Father. [3]

[1] John the Baptist
[2] John 5:35
[3] John 12:44-46

Then God said: “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.” And so it happened: God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night; and he made the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. 

Genesis 1:14-18

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We continue with our spiritual interpretation.

On day one, God called the light he created “day” and the darkness “night.” Spiritually, we saw “day” represents knowledge the soul is aware of through the body’s five senses with which it uses to reason with, enlightening the understanding. “Night” is associated with light of faith whose spiritual knowledge of God is imperceptible to the understanding. St. John calls faith “unformed knowledge.”[4] God essentially bypasses the five bodily senses when he communicates knowledge (and love in advanced prayer) to the soul because, as stated earlier, he resides in the substance of every soul. Substantial knowledge stripped of all images is produced by God passively in the faculties, rather than produced in the intellect by reception of forms, fantasies and apprehensions.[5]

[4] C12,2; Another great illustrative definition of faith comes from Edith Stein’s Science of the Cross: “Faith is a dark knowledge: it acquaints us with something but we do not get to see it.”
[5] C39,12

One day four of creation in the dome of the sky, God “organizes” the light he created and separated from the darkness on day one. The sun, moon, and stars do this on the natural level of creation. These same lights in their natural operations in the sky offer a sublime spiritual meditation on the faculty of the understanding and the virtue of faith. With God’s grace and St. John’s wisdom, I’ll endeavor to share God’s wonderment of the faculty of the understanding, the virtue of faith, and the dome of the sky.

In our present Genesis verse, both great lights, the sun and moon, are to shed light upon the earth; which is to say spiritually, reason and faith are both to be used by the soul during their sojourn on earth.  Reason and faith are to keep the soul from intellectual and spiritual darkness: to separate the light from the darkness.  Just as the sun and moon are to provide natural light upon the earth to separate physical light and darkness.

[6] CCC 117

In Genesis, we find the faculty of the understanding and the virtue of faith between the parted waters of sense and spirit: in the dome of the sky where God places the sun and moon. More precisely, the dome of the sky becomes the faculty of the understanding on day four of creation when the great lights are placed therein to govern reason and faith, according to the will of the soul. This illustrative central location is most ideal for providing the soul’s sensual part below and spiritual part above their guidance.  The soul’s faculty of the understanding and the virtue of faith, the dome of the sky with the two great lights (sun & moon) in Genesis, and the dry path where the Israelites walked through the parted Red Sea in Exodus guided by the fiery cloud (of faith) and Moses who appealed to their reason, are all three symbolically one and the same.

Faith operates in the opposite way than that of reason. The soul does not glean knowledge from the night of faith the way the understanding gleans knowledge from the light of reason; rather, the soul obtains faith’s light because it’s understanding is in darkness. And the darker the soul’s understanding of God, the greater light of faith is given it. God has provided a heavenly, natural representation of faith by watching the moon in the night and daytime skies. A soul with a strong faith has its understanding of God resembling a black nighttime sky with the bright light of the moon giving light. The moon is bright because the sky is dark; therefore, the soul with strong faith receives light because it has placed it’s understanding in darkness and not using the light of reason to believe and know God. The darker the understanding of God the stronger the faith; the greater is the light from the moon in the darkened sky.

Let us read what our San Juan says about the dark night of faith, which resembles God’s illustration of the moon in the night sky:

“It is clear, then, that faith is a dark night for the soul, and it is in this way it gives light; and the more the soul is darkened, the greater is the light that comes to it.” [7]

[7] A2,3,4

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Alternatively, the moon in the daytime sky is like a soul with little or no faith. The moon is pale in the daytime sky because the soul has not placed its understanding of God in the darkness of faith. Therefore, the moon’s light is weak or absent due to the greater light (sun) of reason overwhelms it and takes precedence. This could be from the soul attempting to wrongly and habitually use the light of reason rather than the darkness of faith to know God, or it hasn’t been given the gift of faith by God. Here is another one of St. John’s sublime quotes on faith: “He that would journey towards union with God must not walk by understanding, neither lean upon experience or feeling or imagination, but he must believe in His Being, which is not perceptible to the understanding, neither to the desire nor to the imagination nor to any other sense, neither can it be known in this life at all. Yea, in this life, the highest thing that can be felt and experienced concerning God is infinitely remote from God and from the pure possession of Him.”  [8]

[8] A2,4,4

Notice our Saint is talking about concepts of God, e.g., an idea, notion, image, emotion, sensation, or experience. The highest of these, he says, is as far from God as one can get. These are likened to the weak light of the moon in the daytime sky – relying on the finite human operations of the senses, reasoning, thought and judgement to know the infinite God, which dilutes or extinguishes the light of faith. There is, of course, a right use of reason with faith. The soul uses reason to deepen their understanding of the truths of the kingdom. We will explore that when we return on Thursday, March 8.

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St. John of the Cross’ extensive teaching on journeying towards union with God by the night of faith is legendary. I only briefly touched on it in these pages.

If I may suggest, today’s 1st Daily Reading tells of the army commander whose servants “reasoned” with him to make an act of faith, making our reflection today a good warm-up for today’s Word of God on the USCCB website.

USCCB Daily Readings March 5 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

 

 

 

 

Friday of the Third Week of Lent March 9, 2018

Let us now look at faith’s third purpose as a shield and protection from the enemy, the devil, who’s objective is to destroy the soul by eternal death. We again turn to Exodus and Israel’s faith beginnings in Exodus chapter 14:

Bondage and slavery to the senses won’t let its captives go easily for when the Egyptians caught up to Israel at the Red Sea, Israel called out in fright to the Lord. They complained to Moses for taking them out of Egypt. Moses told them all they had to do was stand their ground, the Lord would fight for them; they would see the victory the Lord would win for them this day. [1]

[1] Exodus 14:11-13

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The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s camp, now moved and went around behind them. The column of cloud also, leaving the front, took up its place behind them, so that it came between the camp of the Egyptians and that of Israel. But the cloud now became dark, and thus the night passed without the rival camps coming any closer together all night long. Exodus 14: 19-20

The column of cloud, previously in front of Israel as a lighted guide, now moves behind them as a darkened barrier between the Egyptians and themselves. The devil (the Egyptians) is blinded and halted by the soul’s light of faith, as shown by the darkened cloud. St. John tells us one who journeys by faith is “concealed and hidden from the deceits of the devil, to whom the light of faith is more than darkness.” [2] It is dark to the enemy since its light is meant for Israel. What is a spiritual guide to Israel is a shield against evil. The devil can deceive the soul through the faculties of the sensual part, [3] but he is incapacitated by the spiritual light of God. Those who journey by faith are secure from the devil’s wiles and errors of their own reason, an ingenious fail-safe method put into place by God; for the five senses are not reliable sources of spiritual information. The Apostolic teachings handed down by Jesus to his Church are both reliable and a journey of faith as are the sanctioned revelations of apparitions such as Lourdes and Fatima that were thoroughly discerned by the Church. Someone following the instructions in a private revelation given by an entity that appears to be an angel is not walking by faith. They are relying on their senses and reasoning regarding spiritual things they have never seen or understood; therefore, the person is subject to their own deception or deception by the devil.

[2] A2,1,1
[3] N2,23,2

Let us read further what happens to evil when it attempts to subdue the soul as the Egyptians attempt to catch Israel in the Red Sea, through the parted waters of sense and spirit of the soul in the night of faith:

The Egyptians followed in pursuit; all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers went after them right into the midst of the sea. In the night watch just before the dawn the Lord cast through the column of the fiery cloud upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic; and he so clogged their chariot wheels that they could hardly drive. With that the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel, because the LORD was fighting for them against the Egyptians. Exodus 14: 23-25

The definition of a “night watch” is “a guard kept at night.” For Israel, this is the night of faith acting as an imperceptible guard and protection.  “Glance,” as used here, is defined as a flash of light. The fiery cloud (of faith) disorients and paralyzes the Egyptian force with a flash of light. Egypt attempts to retreat against their more powerful adversary, the Lord. The Lord is the active force during this “dark night.” At dawn Moses, Israel’s guide of reason, takes over.

Then the LORD told Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and their charioteers.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea flowed back to its normal depth. The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward the sea, when the LORD hurled them into its midst. As the water flowed back, it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh’s whole army which had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not a single one of them escaped. Exodus 14: 26-28

All Israel did was do as Moses directed: stand their ground. [4] This is the essence of faith and the hallmark of all the saints in adversity – from the martyrs in the Roman arenas nearly two millennia ago to the contemporary football coach going down on bended knee to pray publicly on the field just before the game. Stand your ground.

[4] Exodus 14:13

 With the daylight, Moses visually takes over and the Israelites saw with their eyes the promise Moses made earlier. As the dawn broke, Israel witnessed the defeat of their captors as the parted waters representing Israel’s sense and spirit, of reason and faith, co-operate to annihilate the enemy.

Let us reflect upon how a matured faith in God can enable a soul to stand their ground in the most horrific of circumstances the natural light can behold.

andreethota0 / Pixabay

One gains a mature faith by adherence to God’s laws and a deeply prayerful life.  The three disciples the gospels reveal had deeply prayerful lives were all found at the foot of the Cross of Jesus[5]; standing their ground in the face of the Roman soldiers, the jeering crowd, the unspeakable sight.  Theirs was a profound faith that, despite the apparent colossal failure of Jesus’ ministry, kept them united and not scattered like the rest of his followers whose focus was on what was happening in the natural light- whereby the devil whispered to Peter to deny Jesus. Their belief was centered on God and fueled by love that refused to believe what their eyes told them, that is the natural light; instead remaining unshakable in the safe and sure darkness of faith while attentive to what reason told them the years they spent with Jesus. These three spiritually advanced disciples of Jesus, following behind the Master carrying his Cross after he met his mother at the 4th Station, [6] walked the same walk of faith as did the People of God at the beginning of the Old Covenant through the midst of the Red Sea, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left. [7] Instead of beneath the cover of  a cloud, this time God led the way  under the veil of a cross, bloody scourges, a crown of thorns, shame, physical weakness, abandonment, a cursing crowd. The Way of the Cross wound through the narrow streets of Jerusalem. The noisy crowd who turned out to see the famous condemned Jesus were like a wall to their right and to their left of those disciples who, representing the People of God of the New Covenant, were following their God.

[5] John 19:25

[6] Sacred Tradition

[7] Exodus 14:22

These known contemplative disciples are: John, the disciple Jesus loved who leaned against Jesus’ heart at the Last Supper asking which would betray him, and who arrived at the tomb before Peter; Mary Magdalene, the extravagant, first adorer of the Eucharist, at the feet of Jesus wiping them with her tears and hair, later anointing his feet again with costly perfume, and here she is again at the feet of Jesus nailed to the Cross ; and the Blessed Virgin Mary who reflected on her Son’s doings in her heart and had perpetual union with God himself.[8]

[8] John 13:25, Luke 7:44, John 12: 2-4, Luke 2:19

We see faith gather, guide and guard in both the Way of the Cross and the Parting of the Red Sea. We see how the devil was able to scatter the disciples and get to Peter through fear of what their senses beheld in the natural light. We see the mature, unflinching faith operating in the three disciples; keeping them united to Jesus spiritually, and at the foot of his Cross.

In today’s Daily Gospel Reading, Jesus teaches his listeners to love God with all of their spiritual possessions: heart, soul, mind and strength. All of this is governed by the soul’s will. On Monday, March 12th, we will begin to reflect upon the soul’s faculty of the will and its corresponding theological virtue of love as the spiritual narrative in Genesis continues with the faculties. We will finish up with faith and the understanding with very short reflections March 10 & 11.

USCCB Daily Readings March 9, 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.

Holy Thursday – March 29, 2018

God’s addresses to the man, woman, and serpent should be read slowly in its entirety, then we shall reflect upon each individually.

Then the LORD God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this, you shall
                                   be banned                                                                              from all the animals
an
d from all the wild creatures;
On your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the
woman,
and between your offspring and
hers;
He will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”

To the woman he said:
“I will intensify the pangs of your
childbearing;
in pain shall you bring forth children.
Yet your urge shall be for your husband,
and he shall be your master.”   

To the man he said: “Because you listened
to your wife and ate from the tree of
which I had forbidden you to eat,

“Cursed be the ground because of you!
In toil shall you eat its yield
all the days of your life.
Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you
as you eat of the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
shall you get bread to eat,
Until you return to the ground,
from which you were taken;
For you are dirt,
and to dirt you shall return.”
Genesis 3: 14-18


Then the LORD God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this, you shall
be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
On your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life. 

The first part of God’s admonishment to the serpent on the natural level addresses those souls, like Judas Iscariot and every evil one before and since, that choose to live outside of God’s love and law; especially those who tempt others to follow evil ways. It is God separating the bad from the good to preserve the good, and a warning to all souls who allow the devil to work through them. We see God’s promise to the serpent in Genesis that he will be banned from all the other creatures has come true in life for fallen souls; Judas becomes estranged from the rest of Jesus’ disciples and hangs himself in a lonely field, [1] empty with despair because his hope was not with Jesus. Law breakers who hurt others are banned from society, beginning with God’s banishment of Cain after he kills Abel. God uses the same word “banned” with both the serpent and with Cain. [2]

[1] Matthew 27:3-10
[2] Genesis 4:11

The spiritual meaning of the first part of God’s statement to the serpent addresses the deadly forgetfulness of God; the knowledge of the forbidden tree and its fruit in the memory of the woman that the devil worked through to cause the fall. God is putting all humanity on alert, this form is different and dangerous from all the good animals / forms and knowledge in the memory created on the 5th day. God will establish with Israel and humanity his covenant which spells out the complete mortal forgetfulness of him in the Ten Commandments in the Book of Exodus, thereby further clarifying and separating (banning) the bad from the good.

The next verse is God’s very first appearance of his merciful love toward fallen humanity. It is no surprise it relates directly to his Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. With the next verse spoken directly to Satan operating under the cover of his tool the serpent, God establishes and initiates fallen humanity in the theological virtue of Hope, proclaiming a future Redeemer, offspring of the woman who is Mary, will have the upper hand:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
He will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”

There is indeed enmity between Mary and Satan. The offspring of Satan God is referring to are his future serpent workers of iniquity; those humans who become his henchmen that he uses to accomplish evil in the world. Jesus’ victory on the Cross is a strike at Satan’s head, while all he is able to accomplish is a feeble strike at Our Savior’s heel.

In Paul’s letter to Titus 2:13, he tells us Jesus is still our hope: as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ.

It is at this virtual moment, upon God settling humanity in the great virtue of Hope, the Church rejoices at the Paschal Vigil Mass Exsultet:

O happy fault, . . .which gained for us so great, so glorious, a Redeemer!

A Redeemer who will bring more good to humanity than if the man and the woman had remained innocent. A Redeemer who elevates man to the status of adopted sons and daughters of God. [3] Though the serpent/devil “tricked” the woman, God outmaneuvers him on our behalf by giving humanity Hope in Jesus Christ.

[3] Ephesians 1:5

It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. Hebrews 7:26

Our Redeemer Jesus Christ is indeed holy, innocent, and undefiled. It was in this way he was separated from sinners, as the evil serpent was separated by God from all the good creatures. Jesus is higher than the heavens, the serpent was made by God to crawl on his belly. Jesus’ disciples will eat from the life giving heavenly banquet of Holy Communion; the serpent, for coaxing the man and woman into eating from the forbidden tree, is made by God to eat dirt all the days of his life.

But God will not give man eternal life without his co-operation.

In God’s address to the woman, he initiates his second act of merciful love to humanity by establishing the theological virtue of Charity:

To the woman he said: 

I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing;
in pain shall you bring forth children.
Yet your urge shall be for your husband,
and he shall be your master.”

Though the woman’s answer to God revealed she had a weakness to the deceits of the devil, God in his infinite compassion addresses her actions at the tree – her selfishness and disobedience – by establishing the theological virtue of Charity through sacrifice and obedience, thereby addressing the fall in the will.  Sacrifice which is at times physically painful, like childbearing. Child-rearing is sacrificial for the love of children, the next generation.  The Blessed Virgin Mary Our Mother said “yes” at the Annunciation [4]  for the good of all generations. This lesson is for both men and women in all circumstances that require sacrificial love; it is especially beneficial when it comes with the requirement of obedience, which further purifies the soul’s will for its ultimate union with God. For Jesus gave us his example by obediently following the Father’s will through his Sacrifice on the Cross. For true love is only proved by sacrifice, and sacrifice can only be done out of love. The two cannot exist separately. That is why the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ seamless garment, woven in one piece from the top down, leaving it whole instead of tearing it. [5]

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  John 15:13

[4] Luke 1: 26-38
[5] John 19:23-24

The self-sacrificial love of the virtue of charity is the antidote for the weakness of will, blame game, and lack of love the man showed when he told God: The woman whom you put me here with, she gave me the fruit so I ate it. 

In God’s address to the man, he initiates his third act of merciful love for humanity by establishing the theological virtue of Faith:

To the man he said: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat,

“Cursed be the ground because of you!
In toil shall you eat its yield

all the days of your life.
Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you,
as you eat of the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
shall you get bread to eat,
Until you return to the ground
from which you were taken;
For you are dirt,
and to dirt you shall return.”

Though the man showed a lack of love and control of his will in his answer to God, in his infinite wisdom God addresses his actions at the tree – his choice to believe and follow what his wife was doing despite God’s direct command and truth about the tree – by establishing the theological virtue of Faith through suffering, thereby addressing the fall in the understanding.  Suffering of mind or body can often make a person turn to God – which is comparable with union with God by the light of faith under its cover of darkness.  God often allows suffering as an attempt to catch the soul’s attention. In God’s third theological lesson, because the man and woman ate from the forbidden tree of knowledge, man is to learn to walk by faith (no knowledge) through the thorns and thistles of the cross. By the often suffering and toil of daily life and its trials, in the darkness of his understanding as to why, the soul will gain a higher and more refined kind of knowledge than he would ever get by eating fruit (being told). This verse contains both of God gifts of faith and the cross to humanity.

St. John of the Cross beautifully writes on suffering:

“By means of these trials whereinto God leads the soul and the senses, the soul gradually acquires virtues and strengths and perfection, together with bitterness, for virtue is made perfect in weakness, [6] and is wrought by the experience of sufferings.” [7]

[6] 2 Corinthians 12:9
[7] The Saint’s wisdom on trials and suffering is found in F2,22-27

There are Scripture verses that show a direct connection between suffering and gaining knowledge – an activity of the faculty of the understanding- illustrating the purification of the understanding through suffering:

He sent fire into my bones and taught me. Lamentations 1:13 [8]

Thou hast chastised me, Lord, and I was instructed and became wise. Jeremiah, 31:18 [9]

He that is not tried, what does he know and whereof has he knowledge? Ecclesiastes 34:9 [10]

For in much wisdom there is much sorrow, and he who stores up knowledge stores up grief. Ecclesiastes 1:18

A man with training gains wide knowledge; a man of experience speaks sense. Sirach 34:9

[8] “and taught me” is not in our translation but is found in the Douai translation of the Bible according to Peers Index of Scriptural quotations used by St. John. The verses used here are in F2,22

[9] “I was instructed and became wise” is not in our translation, see footnote 8.

[10] Douai translation, see footnote 8

What a grand paradox it is that walking in blindness of the understanding through the thorns and thistles of suffering enables the riches of wisdom.

St. John tells us the knowledge and wisdom of God gained by trials and tribulations in souls advanced in the spiritual life (saints) cleanse and strips the understanding of accidents and phantasies, and clears it of clouds of ignorance. [11]

[11] C36,9;12

Just as in Jesus’ example of obedience and self-sacrifice to purify the will, he gives us his lesson on suffering in his Passion for purification of the understanding.

The secret of those souls who suffer excruciating circumstances while uniting their suffering through love with Christ’s suffering on his Cross for the salvation of souls is this: hope. It is in faith through love that the soul suffers with patience and perseverance – because of hope. This is transformative suffering and is of supreme value to God and the soul. Small sufferings and the routine annoyances of daily life offered to God also have much value too,  giving them meaning and purpose while providing light, experience and strength to the soul. At their cross God is asking the soul for faith though their understanding be blinded as to why; faith and trust that he is working the greater good beneath the cover of suffering’s darkness.

Summary: The trials of the thorns and thistles of the cross in God’s third theological gift of faith and act of mercy provides the soul with experience and wisdom, which in turn purifies the faculty of the understanding for its ultimate union with God.

The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it. So how does the thorns and thistles of the cross overcome weakness to the devil’s promptings that the woman revealed in her response to God?  It was and always is pride that causes man to fall – and again we say: “Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”. What is the cure the devil’s temptation to pride and sinful acts? The answer is best summed up by a saint who points out the three most important things in the spiritual life: Humility, Humility, Humility. St. Augustine said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men into angels.” [8] And nothing fosters the powerful virtue of humility like denying oneself, picking up their cross daily, and following after Jesus. [12]

[12] Luke 9:23

Faith came to include belief in God when God ceased to have visible and audible contact with humanity; now maintaining his relationship with souls under the cover of faith’s darkness. Faith produces humility by the realization that there is someone greater than oneself in charge of things, an automatic benefit against the devil at the start of the spiritual journey.  Faith itself is protection against the devil, as was said earlier souls who journey to God by the light of faith and not by their understanding, feelings, etc., are concealed from the deceits of the devil. St. John says faith protects more than all the other virtues against the devil, who is the strongest and most cunning of all enemies. [13] Therefore, the virtue of faith and the union with God it accomplishes, the concealment from the devil and humbleness wrought by the suffering of the cross, is God’s main prevention against souls being tricked by the devil.

[13] N2,21,3

The man and the woman’s revealing answers to God and their actual actions at the tree shows that everyone needs the healing of both faith and charity.

Faith, hope, and love are meant to sustain and transform the soul throughout life, especially at each of their crosses.

It is at this moment that God is commencing the three theological virtues of hope, charity (love) and faith in man. The man and the woman prior to their fall away from God didn’t need hope or faith since they had personal relationships with him. The theological virtues were infused with their memory, will and understanding by God’s all-knowing and providential care when the man and woman were created.  They lay dormant until now – God awakens hope, charity and faith from their sleep in the man and woman with a rousing call in Genesis 3:14-18. The lessons learned through these virtues are tough and hard-earned. But the way of perfection to the kingdom of heaven is through the three spiritual faculties purged, purified, and made poor by the theological virtues that enable the soul to be filled with the divine life of God, the soul’s inheritance as a child of God through Jesus Christ. With the promise of a Redeemer, this is God’s blessed, holy remedy for humanity.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

On Holy Thursday in the upper-room, at the feet of each of his disciples, Jesus shows us what we are to do with this self-emptying.

You can read about it at the USCCB website:

USCCB Daily Readings March 29, 2018

The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text.