My Life with German Shepherd Dogs


On my parents wedding day, my father gave my mother a German Shepherd puppy as a wedding gift.

Mother named her puppy Guapa or ‘pretty.’ When Guapa died, Mother was inconsolable and it was years before my father gave her another German Shepherd. Gerry was a black six-month old with brown eyebrows and severe hip dysplasia. He and my mother bonded instantly. What happened to Gerry is told in my book, Only by the Grace of God, 2016. I grew up with German Shepherds.

After the war, when Mother began teaching, the parents of one of her students gave her a German Shepherd puppy we called Schonheit (Beautiful). Schon for short. She was a loving, gentle dog but Mother never bonded to her. She was not like Gerry. Shon was easily trained. I drove to downtown Whittier one day, with Shon in the back seat and the top down on my convertible. When I parked and left the car, I told her to ‘stay,’ She did. She attracted a lot of attention from people walking by.

When I went to graduate school in Boston, the Boston Strangler had not been caught. He seemed to prefer young white-uniformed women. As nurses, my roommate and I were vulnerable. So, knowing she was soon to have a birthday, I offered to buy her a German Shepherd puppy who could protect us. Bitte was deeply devoted to us and terribly protective. She was also smart. We were having company over one day and had placed peanuts around in side dishes. Bitte was not allowed to take food off tables but could have anything on the floor. I came upon her as she gently tipped the bowl of peanuts with her paw, spilling peanuts all over the floor. Clever.

When my roommate left for Nigeria to teach, she left Bitte to me. I was in a dilemma. I was on my way to do field research in Nevada and a dog would be an encumbrance. I left Bitte with my mother, my brother and their dogs but got a panic call soon after – the dogs did not get along. So Bitte lived with me. We shared a ¾ bed. She barked at every noise. No one came to visit. We both survived.

I took Bitte to three different obedience classes. At the graduation in our last class (we were living in the San Fernando Valley, California), we were on a long sit-stay when we had an earthquake. Bitte never moved from her sit-stay.

A colleague of mine at UCLA, Marilynn (Marnie) Wood, bred and showed Cocker Spaniels. She invited me to a puppy match on a Saturday where I saw a lovely German Shepherd bitch. I gave the owner my card and asked her to call when her dog had puppies. She did. I went to see the puppies armed with a puppy temperament test. I found my puppy. A lovely, sweet tempered, black and gold girl. I named her Benay. I tried to show her but neither Benay nor her handler knew what they were doing. I started Benay on obedience classes as a puppy. She won first prize at graduation. We were a bonded pair.

I was still interested in having a show dog and a brood bitch, so Marnie introduced me to Doris Rossini of West Wind Kennels. I bought Zehren from her. Zehren had one litter of puppies and was shown in both conformation and obedience. She earned both her American CD and championship titles. Doris and I became ‘relatives by dog.’


Zehren, with Mary Roberts

When Zehren was not able to conceive, Doris gave me Westwind’s Halo, the daughter of Zehren’s brother. Halo was never able to conceive but she did earn her Canadian championship title and her novice obedience title. She was another sweet-tempered dog who unlocked every gate that did not have a padlock. Halo loved to show. When we were in the obedience ring, she would heel by walking around the periphery of the ring to laughter and applause. She loved it!

Since I wanted to breed, Anne Koots, Halo’s handler, introduced me to a breeder in Lloydminster, Alberta, who sold me Echo. Echo was a lovely, sweet tempered dog, who produced several litters for me, but she turned out to be a cat killer. When I was away, she killed one of my beloved cats—Miss Sarah—who thought she was a dog.


Echo with Anne Koots receiving a Group First in the Herding Group

Echo was a wonderful mother. She not only nursed her own litters, she also helped her daughter Dyan to nurse her litter. Echo gave me Hester who only loved two people: her handler, Ingrid Winkler, and me. At a show in Red Deer one year, I came into the agricultural pavilion and saw Ingrid at the other end of the building. There was a path between grooming set ups. Hester scented Ingrid and was off down the path, running at full speed, dragging her leash behind her, and leaped into Ingrid’s arms. Ingrid was standing at the time. People complained of course, but Ingrid and I enjoyed every minute of the fun.


Hester and Ingrid.

Ingrid and I had many good times with Hester. Although Hester did earn a Best in Show (the worst show photograph she ever had!), she never achieved a Best Puppy in Show – to my great disappointment. At one show, Hester earned her CD and a Group First on the same day! Ingrid and I were very proud of her. When I terminated her show career so she could have puppies, she produced two lovely litters. One litter gave me Johanna. (Johanna was in one show where she was the only German Shepherd Dog. She was awarded a Group First and Best Puppy in Show. The crowd loved her because ‘she was not sloped!’)


Johanna and Ingrid – Best Puppy in Show

Johanna was also a very sweet good mannered dog. She did well in obedience and earned her novice CD as well as her novice Rally titles. I bred her only once. She produced five puppies. One was Lanz, the last of the Vonderbrink line. The last of my life with a German Shepherd.


On a rainy windy day, Johanna won the top obedience award at a regional German Shepherd specialty show.

A second litter from Hester produced a male (Klaus) and a female (Kristie) who were stunning dogs. Kristie earned two Best Puppy in Show awards. Both dogs were Group First winners.


Ingrid and Kristie – Group 1st


At a regional German Shepherd specialty show, both Kristie and Klaus won awards. Beautiful dogs with sweet temperaments.

Kristie and I took several obedience classes together. She didn’t like leaving me alone when there were other dogs in the ring, so on the long sits and downs, she would follow me to the other side of the ring. She only achieved one leg toward her CD and that was because we were the only ones left in the competition. Like her mother, Kristie and I were very close. She always slept next to my bed.


Kristie with her first and only obedience leg – high in class


Lanz is the last. He is totally devoted to me and is anxious when I am not around. He was not show quality but he did well in Rally and Obedience. He did earn a High in Class like his grandmother Hester.


Life will be very lonely and boring when I no longer live with a German Shepherd. There is no other source in this world for unconditional love and devotion. They never lose their tempers. They are always accepting and eager to please. They are always there to meet and greet. They ask very little in return.


An introduction to G. K. Chesterton by Dale Ahlquist: A Synopsis

A genius and a giant in literature, G. K. Chesterton is almost entirely neglected today. He is rarely quoted or studied, yet his works are monuments to logical, everyday common sense. A convert from atheism to the thinking and beliefs of the Catholic faith, he did not actually become a Catholic until after he had written his major works on Catholicism. In his book “Surprised by Joy,” C. S. Lewis, himself a formidable Christian writer, attributes his conversion from atheism to Christianity to the works of Chesterton, especially the book “Everlasting Man.”

Ahlquist is an obvious admirer of Chesterton. He has a remarkable gift of condensing Chesterton’s thought into a few tantalizing paragraphs, leaving the reader with a desire to read the original. As Chesterton is a genius, Ahlquist is gifted in his ability to summarize and synthesize Chesterton’s thought.

Ahlquist writes that Chesterton’s publications number in the thousands, including novels, detective stories, poems, essays, reviews and on and on. Chesterton’s interests were eclectic. He was not just an advocate of common sense, he was also an avid seeker of the truth. And he found the truth in the Catholic faith. Even during his years when he was not a Catholic, he was a major defender of the teachings and doctrines of the Church. His intense conviction of the truths taught by the Church underlay all his predictions of what could happen if these truths were violated.

Was Chesterton a prophet or was he simply examining the current facts and speculating where they would eventually lead? Chesterton himself would say he was merely envisaging future events based upon a commonsense examination of current events. For example, he accurately predicted the beginning of World War II, and the use to which Hitler would put the theory of Eugenics popular in the 30s.  Chesterton died in 1936, yet he was able to anticipate the explosion of sexual promiscuity and the concomitant result of millions of abortions. Chesterton would merely say he was putting two and two together to make four. Ahlquist says he was a genius.

Chesterton spent a lifetime arguing about something. Generally, he wrote out his arguments. Some of the people he was arguing with are well known today (George Bernard Shaw) and others have been forgotten — but he addressed his arguments to them. The argument may have arisen in a private conversation, a public speech or a published piece. Readers are not always told which.

Chesterton had no trouble calling his debate opponents names. Generally, he accused them of lacking common sense. Sometimes he would compile all the arguments of his opponents on some issue, then demonstrate how they contradicted each other. He asks how they could all be right.

In “Heretics,” Chesterton says that a heresy is a distortion of the truth. For Chesterton, truth is consistent, unchanging, distinctive, complete (or whole) and good.  A heresy can be either a deliberate distortion of biblical passages to suit the desired theology or, when only one doctrine, out of all the doctrines, is held up as the supreme teaching, out of all proportion to the others. Other heresies simply ignore some of the doctrines taught in Christianity. To appreciate Christianity, one must accept all the doctrines Jesus taught. Anything else is a heresy. Heresies are either incomplete or illogical. A heresy simply does not stand the test of common sense.

 Chesterton read the Bible in the original Greek and found many mis-translations of the Bible underlying some denominational beliefs.

 “Orthodoxy is Chesterton’s confession of faith. In it he outlines how he came to the conclusion that Christianity was the only faith that explained the existence of God to his satisfaction. For Chesterton, the teachings of Christianity are logical. He did not stop there, however. Out of the myriad denominational and sectarian choices available in Christianity, he found Catholicism to be the most complete. He found that Catholicism was logical, contained all the doctrines taught by all the other Christian denominations and sects and made sense. His defense of Catholicism was made years before he became a Catholic. He did not convert from atheism easily.

The Thing is an unusual book title. The “thing” Chesterton is referring to is the Catholic Church. The subtitle is “Why I am a Catholic.” His continuing complaint was that he kept bumping up against the Catholic Church everywhere he turned. He simply could not avoid the Church in his search for the truth.

Chesterton was a great believer in a logical progression of ideas from a central core. For Chesterton, the central core of Christianity is the Incarnation. He examined all the existing arguments both for and against this doctrine and found the arguments against were flawed in some critical way. He spent years trying to argue against the Incarnation only to find his own arguments were also flawed. He eventually gave in, having convinced himself that Christianity was the true faith and that Catholicism was the fullness of that faith.

Today, Chesterton is probably best known for his Father Brown detective stories. He loved to read mysteries but was irritated with authors who sprang the conclusion on the reader without forewarning or any clues. Father Brown solves his little puzzles by an examination of the facts leaving the reader to ask: “How did I miss that?” The BBC has recently introduced a Father Brown television series.

Ahlquist is to be commended for his insightful and masterful introduction to Chesterton. For those who have access to the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), Ahlquist had a regular weekly program on Chesterton. This television series is available on CD from the EWTN bookstore. The American Chesterton Society also provides further information on his works. Some will find this book satisfies their need to know who Chesterton was and what he wrote. Others will find it only a taste of, and an introduction to, a brilliant author.

Ignatius Press offers 39 volumes of the Collected Works of G. K Chesterton. The books Ahlquist summarizes and reviews are referenced by the volume number of these Collected Works (CW): “The Thing” (CW1), “Orthodoxy” (CW 1), “Heretics” (CW 1), “The Everlasting Man” (CW 2), “St. Francis of Assisi” (CW 2), “St. Thomas Aquinas (CW 2), “Why I am a Catholic” (CW 3), “The Catholic Church and Conversion” (CW 3), “The Well and the Shadows” (CW 3), “The Superstition of Divorce” (CW 4), “Eugenics and Other Evils” (CW 4), “What’s Wrong with the World” (CW 4), and “The Outline of Sanity” (CW 5). The “Collected Father Brown” is available from Penguin, 1981. For anyone wishing to dip into individual Chesterton volumes, they are available online and in bookstores, including a biography written by Maisie Ward (“Gilbert Keith Chesterton,” Sheed and Ward, 1942) and a collected volume of poetry (Dodd, Mead 1949).

English Translations of the Biblical Passage John 1:1

As a follow up of my last post, I decided to look up one Biblical passage to see how different English translation Bibles would present the same sentence. I assumed before I began that there would be different translations, but I had no idea which would differ or how. For “Bible Christians” who believe in the literal translation of the Bible, and that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, these various translations may disturb them. On the other hand, they may say that their translation is the correct one and all the rest are wrong. Others may say, “What’s the fuss? They all mean the same thing.” For the literal Christian, the words themselves are sacred and should not be changed.

I used the Bible Gateway for my search and I chose John 1:1 because of it’s profound Christian theology, succinct phraseology, poetry and because of its brevity.

Many Bibles use the same wording, others change the wording. Although all try to convey the same meaning, the words differ. The most common translation of John 1:1 is:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

The following list of English language Bibles (listed alphabetically for easy reference) use the identical wording to the above. Did they all use the same source document for their translations?

The Bibles with the Identical Wording of John 1:1

American Edition (DRA),

Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

Christian Standard Bible (CSB),

Common English Bible (CEB),

Darby Translation (DARBY),

Disciples’ Literal New Testament (DLNT)

Douay-Rheims 1899

English Standard Version (ESV)

Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV)

1599 Geneva Bible (GNV)

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Jubilee Bible 2000 (JUB)

Lexham English Bible (LEB)

Modern English Version (MEV),

Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament (MOUNCE)

New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV),

New Century Version (NCV)

New English Translation (NET Bible)

New International Version (NIV)

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

New King James Version (NKJV)

New Matthew Bible (NMB)

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized (NRSVA)

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized Catholic Edition (NRSVACE)

New Revised Standard Version Ca

Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The New Jerusalem Bible

Tree of Life Version (TLV)

World English Bible (WEB)

Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

The Bibles with Different Wording of John 1:1

The following are Bibles that have a different wording for John 1:1. Several use the same wording, others change wording and still others add words. Not having the source for the specific translation means no conclusions can be drawn. This is simply one indication of the variety of English translations of the same Bible. Which one is correct? Which used the original Greek as the source documents? Whether anyone can say all these translations are the literal word of God seems unreasonable.


In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Living Bible (TLB)

Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God.

The Voice (VOICE)

Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God.

Expanded Bible (EXB)

In the beginning [Gen. 1:1] ·there was the Word [the Word already existed; the Word refers to Christ, God’s revelation of himself]. The Word was with [in the presence of; in intimate relationship with] God  [the Father], and the Word was [fully] God.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word was with God and was truly God.

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Before the world began, the Word was there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Good News Translation (GNT)

In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

International Standard Version (ISV)

In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning. All creation took place through him, and none took place without him. In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.

Living Bible (TLB)

Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God.

The Message (MSG)

The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.

Names of God Bible (NOG)

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

In the beginning, the Word was already there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The New Word Translation of the Holy Scriptures

In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

New Life Version (NLV)

The Word (Christ) was in the beginning. The Word was with God. The Word was God.

New Living Translation (NLT)

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

New Testament for Everyone (NTE)

In the beginning was the Word. The Word was close beside God, and the Word was God.

The Wycliffe Bible (WYC):

In the beginning was the word, and the word was at God, and God was the word. [In the beginning was the word, that is, God’s Son, and the word was at God, and God was the word.]








The Origin and Organization of the Christian Bible

Some North American Christians refer to themselves as “Bible Christians.” In other words, if it isn’t in the Bible, it isn’t so. They say the Bible is “the Word of God,” meaning it is to be taken literally. They believe the King James English version is only true translation and that it has never changed over time. They are faithful, and they are adamant.

Many of these Christians have little knowledge of early Church history prior to Martin Luther and the Reformation and have little to no knowledge of how the Bible they know today came into existence. They are unaware that for almost the first four hundred years of its existence, Christianity had no Bible, and after the Bible was created, even if portions were available, most Christians could not read it anyway.

There are two good sources on early Christianity and the creation of the Bible, one is a lecture by Pastor Andy Stanley and the other is a book by White called “From Jesus to Christianity.” They cover the same period in Christian history and come to the same conclusions despite denominational and educational differences.

The Organization of the Bible

The Christian Bible is a collection of books contained in a single volume, having two major divisions: the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament (OT) and the Christian Bible or the New Testament (NT). Although both the OT and NT are included in the Christian bible, the Catholic bible contains more books in the OT than the Protestant bible. All Christian Bibles contain the same books in the New Testament.

The list of books, approved in each collection, is a called a “canon,” a word referring to a unit of measurement or a list. A canonical book is a sacred book believed to be inspired by God and having value for faith and morals. Through the centuries, Christians have died for these books. (See R. E. Brown and R. F. Collins, “Canonicity” Chapter 66 in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, pp. 1034-1054, Prentice-Hall,1990)

The Old Testament/Hebrew Canon

The Old Testament Hebrew canon has three major divisions: the Pentateuch or the first five books of the bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy); the Prophets and the Prophetic Literature; and the Wisdom Literature. The Pentateuch is also referred to as the Torah or The Law. The Prophets can be subdivided into Early Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) and Later Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel with the twelve minor prophets). Some authors divide them into Major (longer writings) and Minor (shorter writings) Prophets. The Wisdom Literature is composed of eleven books, including Psalms, Proverbs, Jonah and Job.

There are two canons for the OT. One is the canon of the Hebrew bible. These (39) books, in Roman Catholic terminology, are called “protocanonical” meaning that they are beyond dispute. The other is the Alexandrian canon which contains seven other books, called “deuterocanonical” meaning “similar in content or title” but not canonical. Some Protestant Bibles will contain these books placed in a separate section from either the OT or the NT called “Apocrypha.” Catholic Bibles also have a section called an “Apocrypha” which contains non-biblical books or “pseudepigrapha.” (See “Canonicity” in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary.)

In Jesus’ day, the Hebrew Bible (referred to as “Scripture” by the Gospel writers) was available in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Not all literate Jews could read and understand Hebrew (considered a dead language) so an Aramaic translation was used in local synagogues. Many diaspora Jews knew only Greek. The Greek translation is also called the Alexandrian version or the Septuagint.

Jewish and Protestant Bibles use a similar OT canon whereas Catholic Bibles use the Alexandrian Old Testament canon.

The New Testament or Christian Canon

The books in the New Testament canon are identical in Catholic and Protestant Bibles. The NT canon consists of four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the Book of Acts, the Book of Revelation, and the Epistles or letters written by the Apostles to the new Christian communities or house churches.

The final list of books to be included in the New Testament was decided at the end of the fourth century at the Council of Hippo (393 AD/CE) and ratified at the Council of Carthage (397AD/CE). Although there were many Gospels and many “lists” of which books could have been included, the definitive list took almost 400 years to finalize. Prior to that time, the only written “Scripture” available was the Old Testament.

The four Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) contain descriptions of the life and teachings of Jesus. Mathew (an eyewitness and an apostle), Mark (thought to have traveled with Paul and later a disciple of Peter) and Luke (a Greek physician and the only non-Jewish author in the Bible) are very similar in content focusing upon Jesus, the man. The Gospel of John (said to be an early eyewitness and a favorite Apostle), stresses Jesus’ divinity.

Acts (attributed to the Gospel writer Luke), is primarily an account of the evangelical travels of Paul. Acts also describes the international development of the infant church, its disagreements, and its methods of resolution, its organization, its martyrs and its theological arguments.

The Book of Revelation (attributed to the Gospel writer John), is a contentious book. Some believe it is a prophetic book, foretelling events to come in the third millennium. Others see it as an encoded book containing messages to 1st century Christians under the yoke of Roman persecution to inspire hope and encouragement.

The Epistles, written by eyewitness disciples, as well as Paul, are the letters sent out to the early churches in different countries. They offer encouragement, clarification of disputed issues, clarification of theology, and insights into the problems faced by the early churches.

Prior to the final decision on the canon of the New Testament (NT), the early church fathers (most of whom were disciples of the first disciples) wrote extensively about theology, the organization of the church, and how Christians were to live, pray and behave. These were the only written documents available to Christians and were the basis for Christian thought. Illiterate Christians relied on the biblical passages read at the Eucharistic and other liturgies, or the pictorial versions of those stories seen in statues, paintings and stained glass windows to tell them about their faith. A final, uniform, listing of authentic doctrinal sources, came as a relief to many.

The organization of the Bible will differ depending upon which Bible is used: Hebrew, Catholic or Protestant. All three agree to the inclusion of the first thirty-nine books of the Hebrew Bible which does not contain any of the books of the Christian Bible. Protestant and Catholic Bibles contain the same NT books but differ on the inclusion of books in the Hebrew Bible. Determination of the canon, as reflecting the authentic word of God, has taken centuries. This was not an easy decision to make. (A collection of other ‘gospels’ written during these years can be found in a book called “The Other Bible,” showing what the early fathers of the church excluded.)

Biblical Translations

Originally written in Greek, the NT books are said to have been translated into the vernacular of the time (Latin) in the 5th century, by Jerome, a linguist and a classical scholar. (Since Roman rule dominated most of Europe, the common language was Latin, and was used in all official documents, in meetings, and general speech.) The original documents Jerome used for the translation are no longer in existence. This translation, called the Latin Vulgate, is the standard translation upon which all subsequent translations were based.

Since the Reformation and the Gutenberg Printing Press, the Christian Bible (both old and new testaments) has been translated many times and into many languages. There are numerous English language translations each giving a different spin or nuance to the original text. Some of these translations are made from the original Greek, others from the original Latin Vulgate while many more are translations from other English translations or French versions. So, taking what the Bible says literally can be perilous. There is no way to know if the text is accurate unless it is compared to the original Greek.

All Christians believe that the Bible was inspired by God, but the Bible was translated by man, and men make mistakes. So, believing that the English version of the Bible is a literal transcription of God’s own words can lead to  misinterpretation and error.

What do Christians mean by free will?

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The concept of ‘free will refers to the human ability to make choices from either an unlimited or a restricted number of options. Free will implies a rational choice between two or more things based upon which the individual believes is more important.  The classic example of limited choice is: “Your money or your life!” Both are valued. Which is valued more depends upon the individual and the circumstance.

In one scenario, the money may be all the individual has to pay rent or to buy food.  Or the money may have been collected for a church charity and was on the way to the bank. In either case, the individual may feel the money was worth trying to save from the predator so hangs on to it even to death. On the other hand, the money may have just been won at a gambling casino, and its loss would make little difference one way or another. In this case, the individual may hand over the money.

It is what an individual values that directs choices, no matter how limited. In fact, people often learn just what they value most, when asked to give it up.

For Christians, as well as Jews and Muslims, the primary choice that directs their lives is whether or not to choose God first. For the Christian, Jesus summarized the greatest of all commandments when he said: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind and with all your strength. (Matt 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27) This is the same commandment, given by God to Moses. (Deuteronomy 6:5) Loving God requires obeying His commandments, no matter what it takes. It is the prime directive. It is worth dying for.

In Christian belief, the first sin (Genesis 3) was the sin of Adam and Eve. They were told, by God, not to eat from the tree of good and evil. But they decided to disobey God and ate of the fruit. The first sin was choosing to do something in opposition to God’s commands. It was a deliberate choice.

The problem is, of course, that humans are very self-centered and self-absorbed. It is very difficult for people to give up what is pleasurable, what is comfortable, and what promotes their own desires and wants. For some people, being “politically correct” is more important than “doing the right thing.” To be popular and go along with the crowd is a safe place to be. Becoming immensely wealthy, no matter who is hurt in the process, is a goal for many. To eat anything you want to eat, to stay physically fit without any exercise, to be entertained rather than study, to experience the adrenaline rush or sexual pleasure at any given time, are all goals some people live for. They are all self-centered. They are all in the service, or under the domination, of the physical body and its needs and desires.

People also choose to act on the basis of their emotions rather than their intellects. A person can become angry at another for all sorts of reasons such as bad drivers, being ridiculed or treated unfairly, being deprived of something or of being generally frustrated by someone else when attempting to achieve a goal. The emotional human response is to strike out and hurt whoever is in the way. Little thought is behind this action. Revenge or retribution is a typical human response to a perceived hurt or insult. The Christian, however, is asked to ignore this emotional response and forgive the aggressor. Free will allows the Christian to choose the human way or God’s way.

Still others use their intellect to achieve their goals. For some, winning an argument is more important than actually believing in the issue being argued.  For others, it is a tool to browbeat and control those less gifted. Once again, the goal is to please the self without regard for the other person.

The Christian is asked to put all these normal human actions, beliefs and feelings aside and choose God. The stories Jesus told are all in the service of choosing God over self. The stories of the Prodigal Son, as well as the story of the woman caught in adultery, are all about forgiveness rather than judgementalism and punishment. The story of the loaves and fishes (Mathew 14:15-21) is all about sharing what you have, as little as that might be.  The story of healing the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19) is about gratitude. The story of the Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13) is about humility. The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) is about ignoring personal, cultural and kinship boundaries and helping those in need. These stories are about moving beyond personal, automatic, self-centered responses and reaching out to others with a different attitude.

Jesus not only told stories, he also gave sermons. His Sermon on the Mount  or “The Beatitudes,” (Matthew 5-7)  shifts the emphasis of the “Thou Shall Not’s” of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5) to a higher calling of “these are the things you are called to do.” To be a Christian is to be merciful and generous

Finally, Christians have Jesus own example to follow. Before Jesus set out to do anything, he prayed. In fact, before he began his ministry, he prayed and fasted for forty days. How many Christians follow this example? How many Christians pray and fast before setting out to do anything they believe is important? Although Jesus was very clear when he explained to his apostles that certain demons could only be cast out by prayer and fasting, how many Christians today even consider fasting as a spiritual exercise? Although prayer continues to be part of Christian practice, fasting seems to have fallen out of favor.

Christians have the ability to choose whether to follow Jesus and his teachings or not. The gospels tell the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he was to do to be a disciple. Jesus replied, “Sell all you have and come follow me.” (Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22) Following Jesus example and teachings is very difficult but can anyone truly call themselves Christian if they don’t at least try?

If God had not endowed humans with free will, then everyone would believe in God. Humans, however, are free to choose whether to believe in God or not. If God had not given humans free will, then all peoples throughout time would still be living in Eden. People have chosen to ignore God and the result has been war, murder, theft, famine, debauchery, hedonism, materialism and getting away with doing as little as possible to get by or have a good life. This is the world Christians live in. A world where people have chosen to ignore God.

The Christian, however, can choose to follow Jesus example and teachings, no matter how difficult it may be. Over the course of history, Christians have given their lives and suffered torture and death rather than deny Jesus. Today, Christians are called to do the same. It is a personal choice made freely.

Research on the Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is arguably the most scientifically tested artifact in history. The debate as to whether it is a true relic or a hoax continues unabated. New tests and articles are constantly in the news. For those who believe in the authenticity of the Shroud, no further evidence is necessary. For those who believe the Shroud is a hoax, no further evidence of its authenticity will be adequate.

The Shroud is a linen cloth with faint markings which, when subjected to photographic X-ray to produce a negative image, reveals a naked man 175±2 cm tall, lying on his back with his hands crossed at the groin.  He has shoulder length hair parted in the middle, a beard and a mustache. Examination of the image reveals a man who was severely beaten as well as crucified.

The debate hinges on whether the actual Shroud is a product of the first century CE or was a hoax created during the middle ages.

Among the tests that have been performed on the Shroud are: Carbon 14 dating, pollen analysis, analysis of the linen cloth and its weave, analysis of the blood stains and blood flow, analysis of the pigmentation on the Shroud to determine whether or not it was painted, and so on. Scholarly papers abound producing evidence of first century origin followed by critics of the research stating that the research was flawed.

If the Shroud is indeed a fraud, it is a magnificent hoax especially for the time in which it was said to have been created. Whoever the unknown artist was, he was not only an expert in anatomy; he had expertise in the effect of crucifixion on the body and the post mortem effects of blood flow from various wounds, not only of the crucifixion but the wounds from severe beatings on back, legs and as well as the wounds on the man’s knees showing he had fallen several times. There is also evidence of deep seated wounds and bleeding around the head. None of this is evident from an examination of the Shroud itself, but becomes very clear when photographed and viewed as a negative image. The artist was very clever indeed. The artist had to have been skilled at “painting between the lines” in order to produce an image only visible or recognizable through photographic negatives.

An interesting point about the image is that there is no evidence that the cloth was removed from a dead body more than 24 hours after interment. In other words, if this cloth had been used to wrap a bloody body after death, or even from a body in which there was an attempt to wash it prior to burial, and then was removed from the body later, there is no evidence of the cloth sticking to dried blood. Instead, the image shows no blurring at all. So the cloth could not have been pulled off or unwrapped from a dead body.

The Shroud itself is a linen cloth made from Middle East cotton and of a weave used in Syria during the first century. “The shroud contains pollen grains from 58 species of plants,” some of which are from Europe while the majority are found exclusively around the Dead Sea area. The apparent blood stains on the Shroud do contain hemoglobin. There is argument as to whether or not it was sprayed on the cloth in order to create the image.

The results of a radiocarbon dating, published in 1988, gave a date for the Shroud as being somewhere between 1260 CE and 1390 CE. Some claim that the dating is skewed as the Shroud had been in a fire which affected the dating or that the samples were taken from a piece of 14th century repair work. Those who see the Shroud as a hoax use this study as their proof. Others see it as only one of a number of 20th and 21st century scientific tests.

The Catholic Church has made no official proclamation on the authenticity of the Shroud although many Catholics accept it as being authentic.  The Shroud has great value as a devotional image.  In fact, many pictures of Christ are based upon the image in the Shroud. A lecture by Fr. Francis Peffley called “The Passion of Christ in the light of the Holy Shroud of Turin” describes the wounds of Christ taken from examinations of the Shroud including his beating at the hands of two Roman soldiers, the crown of thorns, abrasions at his knees where he fell numerous times, the nail marks on wrist and feet, and the cramping of the thumbs as a result of the crucifixion. It is an excellent basis for a meditation on the passion and death of Jesus.

The Shroud of Turin remains an enigma. For the unbeliever, it is a fake. For the believer it provides irrefutable data about the sufferings of Jesus of Nazareth. Twenty-first century scientists, using techniques unknown in the 14th century, cannot agree on its authenticity. It remains a mystery.

The Stolen Miracle: Mark 5:24-34

A brief incident, sandwiched in the middle of a story of another of Jesus’ miracles (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:22-43) is unusual in that it tells of a stolen miracle. Unlike other miracles that Jesus freely gave away for the asking (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:24-34, Luke 8:42-48), it was stolen because the woman who stole it was forbidden to touch any man or any object or she would render it unclean. She was a social outcast. It is doubtful that she would appear in public and never in a crowd of men because even if she brushed by a man he would become unclean. Ritual cleanliness was extremely important in Judaism. So this woman could not come out in the open and ask Jesus for a miracle as did the lepers and blind man. (Leviticus 15:25-33) For a woman who was desperate, what were her options?

As the story is told, a woman had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and nothing the doctors tried, healed her. Since women were considered ritually unclean during their menses (niddah) and probably were not allowed to carry on their regular duties until after they had fulfilled the requirement of a ritual bath (mikvah) to restore them to a state of “being clean,” this woman  was effectively ostracized from the company of other women as well. Also, she was forbidden by law to have sexual relations with her husband during her menses so this hemorrhage had to have put a strain on her marital life. Not to mention the fact that without sex she could not have children which was a woman’s duty to her husband. This woman had lived in virtual isolation for twelve years.

Imagine what she must have felt about hearing about Jesus and his healing miracles. Might she have thought something like, “Do you think it might be possible that he could heal me? But how can I reach him to ask him? I can’t leave the house? I can’t go openly like anyone else and beg him to heal me. What can I do?” She had heard he had healed others so it was just possible he could heal her. But how to get him to heal her?

So she hatched a plan. If he ever came through her village she would disguise herself so no one would know who she was. She would sneak in and around the crowd, for she knew everywhere he went he drew crowds. She thought that if she could just touch some part of his clothing, the hem of his robe or perhaps his sandals … She did not dare touch any part of his body. But perhaps, just perhaps, anything that had touched him also had the power to heal. It was worth a try.

She believed that Jesus would heal her if he wanted to. Her faith in his healing abilities was strong. She also believed that anything he touched also had healing powers. So her faith in his ability to heal without knowing he was healing was also strong. But she also hoped with a strong hope, that Jesus would choose to heal her as he had others. He could do it, she knew that, but would he? She hoped so.

So she made her plans very carefully towards the day he might come to the village, or even just walk through the village on his way elsewhere. Which is what happened. One day Jesus and his disciples came through her village and he was surrounded by people clutching at him and clamoring after him. There was lots of noise and confusion. “Wonderful,” she thought “it’s now or never” and she ran to get her cloak to disguise herself.

Just as she thought, the crowd was so loud and so boisterous and so uncaring of anything except getting near enough to touch Jesus that she had little trouble, being a small woman, of weaving herself in and out of the people trying to reach Jesus. Finally, exhausted, she was near enough to touch the fringe of his garment. But just as she reached out she was bumped aside and almost trampled. She struggled to get back up and cover herself again and then desperately surged forward to try again and again. She finally got close enough to try again and did grab a tassel, then frightened at her own temerity let go. “What if he found out? Suppose he felt the “tug” – what would he do to her?” Such shame swept over her for even thinking she could impose on him so, she hung back and let the crowd swell around her.

But something happened. The crowd stopped moving. She heard Jesus call out, “Who touched me?” She tried to disappear, to bury herself in the road. She heard Jesus say, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” He was looking around for who had touched him. His disciples tried to reassure him and Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” Jesus persisted that he had been touched in a special way and kept looking through the crowd.

“When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. (Luke 8:47) The woman knew she had violated the most important laws of Jewry. She knew she had been a sneak. She knew she deserved punishment for her sins. She was desperately afraid and shamed before her townspeople. How much more humiliation could she take?

Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

There was to be no punishment. She had been healed. She was returned to society. She was whole again. Oh joy! Oh thank you Jesus! She had stolen her miracle of healing but Jesus said it was okay. He understood why she felt she had to steal. He understood why she had to come in secret. He forgave her and he had healed her. She could keep her stolen miracle.

She was a woman of great faith and great hope. She did what she felt she had to do to get Jesus’ attention. She violated Jewish law to do it but Jesus violated Jewish law on occasion too, when he thought the person was more important than the rule. There are always exceptions to every rule. In this case, since she had been healed of her hemorrhages, all the woman had to do was visit the ritual bath to be made clean again. Jesus had made her clean in body and soul. Now she could return to her proper job of being a Jewish wife. Her marriage was saved and she could return to society. Jesus had given her back her life.

Regrets are fruitless

Regretting the past only leads to spiritual depression

Feelings of regret are not limited to the dying. Nor are they limited to the old. Most people have regrets now and then. Even Job had regrets. In fact, regrets come in all forms: regret over things not done or said; regret over things said and done; regrets over choices made; regrets over wasted talents and abilities; and so on. The list can be endless. The problem comes when we wallow in our regrets and let them suffocate us. Mother Angelica calls it having “Spiritual Hangovers.” There is nothing inherently wrong with having one or two regrets, what is wrong is when we let those regrets become obsessions.

We make choices every day. Some are major, some are minor. Will any be the source for regrets in the future? We make choices based upon a variety of factors. Will those decisions come back to us later in life as a regret? Did I study hard enough in school? Did I make the right career or vocational choice? Did I choose the right school? Did I choose the right spouse? Did I spend enough quality time with my children as they were rowing up?

Many people say, “If I had only known then what I know now.” This form of regret usually refers to past decisions made on the basis of what that person believed to be true at the time. The knowledge might have been gained from experience or from knowledge developed from science. Punishing yourself for not knowing what you could not possibly have known at the time is a wasted effort. Instead, concentrate on the fact that this knowledge is now available, not just for yourself, but also for others so that they do not make the same mistakes you feel you have made.

Every decision we make helps to define who we are and who we will become. Some decisions are irreversible. Some women, for example, regret having had an abortion and never have another. They have trouble forgiving themselves for having made that decision. One can learn from the regret and grow from it.

Regret makes us try to justify, to ourselves as well as others, what we have done or have not done. We endlessly explain, either to others or to ourselves, why we did what we did. We search for the reasons why we made such a stupid mistake. This kind of self-examination is not helpful. It can lead to depression. The regrets of past actions can color our present or future but only if we let them take over.

We all fail at something. Our failures do not have to define who we are. Instead we can look at why we failed, what were the decisions or actions we took that lead to the failure, in order not to repeat that sequence of events again.

We all succeed at something. Are we proud of those successes or do we discount them in order to focus on our failures again?

How do we handle regrets spiritually? One way is to pray backwards in time. We know that God is always in the now. Our past, present and future is all now to God. So we can place ourselves, imaginatively, in that situation again, and ask for God’s help and blessings for that moment. We can ask for the strength to make the best decision available to us in that time and place. It may not be a good decision, but it may be the best choice at that moment.

A healthy and spiritually valuable use of regrets is in the daily examination of conscience. How did my day go? Did I do the things I know I need to do? Did I neglect to do something I needed to do? Did I do a sloppy job or was I conscientious? How did I treat everyone I met this day? Was I gracious and loving or was I selfish and self-serving? Did I say something I now regret? Did I do something to them I now regret? Did I fail to do or say something I now regret? What about my relationship with God? How has that gone today? Did I make it a point to pray, or did I put it off all day. More important, do I regret not having prayed today? Or do I just shrug it off and say, I can always pray tomorrow.

When we use regrets as a means of self-discovery, rather than as a self-punishment, we find that we can grow from these experience and choices. We can come to realize that we are who we are as a result of each and every one of these choices, no matter how bad they seem to us today. Each choice has taught us something.

We need to become comfortable with ourselves, with who we are at this moment. We need to realize that the choices we regret may also be gifts in disguise. Our past is who we are today. Our questions should be “Am I the person God wants me to be or do I still need to work toward that goal? “

Christian Leaders are Called to a Higher Standard

“We love God only as much as we love the person we love the least.”

Gandhi was quoted as saying that he would convert to Christianity if he ever met a Christian who practiced his faith. Gandhi had read the New Testament and was convinced by the message. Although he had Christian clergy as friends, he evidently did not see them as practicing Christian principles consistently. Gandhi was looking for radical saints or heroic Christians. He was responding to Jesus’ message “by their fruits you shall know then.”  (Mat 7:15-20) Unfortunately, radical Christians are few and far between. (I wonder if he ever met Billy Graham or Mother Theresa of Calcutta and if, so, would he still declare he had never met a practicing Christian?)

Negativity is a very powerful sales approach. Whether it is gossip or a negative television ad in a political campaign, negativity is very convincing to many. Political candidates who refuse, on religious grounds, to run negative ads, lose. Candidates who run the most vicious ads, regardless of their truth, win. People’s reputations have been ruined by false gossip and accusations.  For some reason we prefer to hear the negative about others rather than the positives. We readily accept that a negative is true while being suspicious of a positive.

Unfortunately, we take this attitude into our spiritual lives as well. We delight in the exposed sins of others because, somehow, it makes us feel superior.

Many religious leaders, especially those trying to promote their own variation of religion, have found that negativity is a very powerful tool in evangelization. Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, ran a very successful negative ad campaign against the Catholic Church. Many of his subsequent followers have followed his example.  Every new Christian sect has had to demonstrate how their interpretation of the Bible is superior to all others, and to do so have had to demonstrate all the others are wrong.

Negativity sells in Christianity just as effectively as it does in politics.

For hundreds of years Christianity preached against Judaism. Christians blamed the Jews for killing Jesus. For hundreds of years Christians have discriminated against Jews. Jews were either prevented from living in a country or were required to live in isolation. The Holocaust taught Christians that their bigotry and discrimination had lethal, albeit unintended, consequences.

For some Protestant leaders, attacking the Catholic Church is very popular. Some teach that Catholicism is the ‘Whore of Babylon’ and therefore to be despised. Others say that the Rosary is blasphemy because “it is not Biblical.” These kinds of comments are based on ignorance of Catholicism. For example, the primary prayer in the Rosary, the Hail Mary has 2 parts: the quotations from Luke 1:28, 42 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition) and a request for prayer. The second major prayer is the Our Father which is found in Luke 11: 2-4. So, any Christian leader claiming the Rosary is not Biblical based, exposes his ignorance of both the Rosary and the Bible.

It saddens me to hear stories about Bible Study leaders, especially those who are responsible for teaching children, wasting time criticizing the Catholic faith. Many children are taught that Catholics worship statues and Mary. Some say Catholics do not have a personal relationship with Jesus and, therefore, are not saved. Others insist that Catholics have an incorrect Bible, not realizing that their own Bible is based upon the Catholic Bible. The shame is in not having spent any time looking up the available facts to see if what is being taught is true. The apparent need to feel superior overrides teaching Jesus’ message.

Perhaps this need to criticize the Catholic Church springs from jealousy. Remember, the Jewish church leaders were very effective in their negative ad campaign against Jesus. (John 11:44-53) Even after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they did not believe him and spent countless hours trying to figure out ways to silence him. As we know, they were successful. Do Christian leaders really want to follow their example?

Some Christian leaders have created great confusion on what is a sin and what is not. They also teach a difference of opinion on whether there is eternal punishment for sin. There is almost no preaching on hell. For those who believe in a life after death, many believe they will go to heaven, no matter how they live on earth. It is a comforting idea but is not what Jesus taught. Jesus was very clear that behavior has consequences and that people choose. Why aren’t Christian leaders teaching that?

For some Christian leaders, keeping their congregations placid and satisfied is more important than teaching the hard truths that Jesus taught. Jesus was never shy of offending anyone by his teaching. He never minced words. He was more concerned about saving souls than maintaining a following. If anyone doubts this, read chapter six of the Gospel of John.

Christians say they believe that Jesus is a role model for their attitudes and behavior. Jesus never attacked the beliefs of another faith. Except for hypocrisy and injustice, Jesus didn’t attack or negatively judge anyone. Jesus pointed out when people were mistreating others, but he did not condemn sinners for their sins. Instead he asked them to stop sinning. Do Christian leaders follow this example? Or do they say, “I leave it to your conscience to decide how to act.”

The Church of Satan is an outspoken anti-Christian, anti-church organization, that deliberately seeks the negative. They worship Satan and accept sin as natural and desirable. Satanists say Christianity expects too much from their followers, therefore don’t bother to try. Christian leaders are called to denounce Satan and his works.

Because of their profession, Christian leaders are expected to teach and act according to the standard of behavior taught by Jesus in the Gospels and reiterated by his apostles and early church teachings, regardless of their sect or denomination. The pastoral letters of Paul to Timothy give specific directions on how a Christian leader should act. “The Gospels are our marching orders.” (Mother Angelica)

Jesus referred to the Pharisees as “whitened sepulchers” (Matthew 23:27), meaning that on the outside they appear to be holy and pious men, but on the inside, they are filled with pride and corruption. Christian leaders who preach a sermon of hate meet this description. The frightening thing is that their congregations believe they are teaching the truth and leave feeling smug with satisfaction because they are not like ‘those others.’

It is time Christian leaders stopped trying to “sell” their particular brand of Christianity and instead spread the message Jesus wanted taught. (If Christian leaders were all preaching the same message, there wouldn’t be 40,000 Christian sects!)  Jesus taught love (Matthew 5:43-48), acceptance (Luke 6:42) and forgiveness (Mat 18:21-22; Luke 7:36-50), not hate, prejudice and discrimination. Jesus taught, “hate the sin, love the sinner.”

During his years of ministry, Jesus told many stories; stories with a moral. Many of these stories are examples of how people should behave, not just toward God, but toward one another. The story of the Good Samaritan demonstrates love of neighbor, even if that ‘neighbor’ is of a different faith group. There are stories of the punishment meted out to those who abuse others. There are stories about forgiving other people for real or imagined offenses.

As Jesus said, by their fruits you shall know them. A good tree bears good fruit, a bad tree bears rotten fruit. Christians, especially Christian leaders, are called to be good trees bearing good fruit.



What is Christian Love?

Christian love is a choice we make every moment of our lives to live up to the example of Jesus and his teachings. Christian love is not a feeling; it is a decision about how to behave toward others.

It is difficult to love a God we cannot see. If we are convinced that we were created in the image and likeness of God, and that we are all reflections of God, then we must treat each other, who we can see, with the love and respect we would treat God.

Love is a word we use every day to express a wide range of emotional attachments from simple liking to a passionate obsession. “I loved that movie. I love my dogs. I love that dress. I love my country. I love my faith. I love my parents, siblings, children, spouse” and so on. We try to express the strength of our feeling by the use of the word “love.” We assume everyone understands that we mean different things in these contexts and that our degree of attachment can range from affection, superficial liking, friendship, to a deep and strong emotional attachment or passion for something or someone else.

Jesus is the role model for Christian Love

Christians understand God from the unique perspective of Jesus’ first disciples. From their witness, we see Jesus describing God as a loving father who is generous beyond anything we can possibly imagine. We see the human person of Jesus going about the countryside, letting people know about his father, showing us as a living example, how we should talk to God and how we should behave in relation to other people   Jesus, by his behavior, modeled what is meant by Christian Love. Jesus passion was to let people know that God loves us, each of us, unconditionally.

If we look closely at how Jesus treated other people, we can see he was not judgmental. He didn’t tell people how to behave or what to do. The most he would say, as in the case of the woman caught in adultery who was to be stoned to death, was “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t criticize the men who had brought her, knowing that they were testing him, saying only, “He who is without sin shall cast the first stone.” Although he had no great respect for the behavior of the Scribes and Pharisees, he still told his disciples to obey them implicitly in matters of The Law, as they were legitimate authorities. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, the most despised public sinners of society.

What are we to learn from these examples? We are to make no judgments as to who is and who is not deserving of God’s love. Make no judgments about the way people look and act, we cannot see into their hearts or histories. We are asked to treat each other with respect, kindness and concern for our inherent dignity.

As we follow Jesus through his public ministry, we find that many of his disciples left him when they could not accept what he had to say. He didn’t chase after them to come back, he didn’t change his message to please them and get them to return. Instead, he felt the entirely human pain of being let down by a friend. He didn’t try to win them back by changing his message, argument, pleading or false promises. What should we learn from this? Our lives will be filled with fair weather friends who will abandon us at the first sign of trouble. Let them go.

Everywhere Jesus went, he healed the sick. He didn’t shy away from lepers. He touched them and healed them. He did not despise the woman with the hemorrhage for touching his robes, although it made him unclean according to Jewish law. He spent hours healing without taking a break. Not everyone thanked him. We can be a healing influence without expecting gratitude.

Frequently, we see that Jesus forgave the sick person his sins before he healed him of his physical illnesses. Forgiveness was a major part of Jesus teachings on how we are to behave toward each other. He never retaliated when people jeered him or taunted him. Even when his family and neighbors tried to throw him over a cliff, he didn’t show any trace of anger or resentment. Nothing seemed to faze him. We, too, are asked to forgive everyone we believe has offended us and hold no grudges.

At the end of a long and exhausting day, Jesus would go off by himself to pray, sometimes spending the entire night in prayer. We tend to forget that Jesus’ strength came from his relationship with God. What are we to learn from this? We too need to spend much more time in prayer every day to find the strength to go on. We can only find Divine love through prayer. Christian love springs from this source alone.

Put Christian love into practice

Christian love desires what is best for the other person without counting the cost and not asking for anything in return. When we see another in need, we try to fill that need. We do not turn away and expect someone else to do the job. As Christians, we see Jesus in everyone we meet and treat that person the way we would treat Jesus.

Friendship or companionship helps us to do the things we know we ought to do. What may be an overwhelming task for one of us is easier if there is more than one to carry burden. If the task ahead of us makes us fearful, we draw strength and courage from companions who are facing the same challenge.

Through friendship, we develop deep seated bonds with others who have or are currently experiencing what we are experiencing. The influence of companionship and sharing cannot be overemphasized. We see evidence of this power in groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Where self-help, psychotherapy, or medical treatment often fail, the fellowship of AA, the understanding of someone who has been there, and provides total dedicated support in times of greatest need, succeeds.

Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization based upon Christian principles and demonstrates Christian love in action. The principles are:  acceptance without judgment, companionship at any time of the day or night, a reliance on the Divine (called the Higher Power) for support and healing. Acknowledging faults and failings honestly is requisite to healing. AA stresses forgiveness of self and others. The pinnacle of achievement (the 12th step) is helping others selflessly in their time of need, asking for nothing in return.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta is a good example of Christian love. She was in love with God and took Scripture seriously. She was able to see Jesus in each person she met. When she was forty years old, after a religious life that began when she was 18, she founded the Missionaries of Charity to work on the streets of Calcutta, living a life of extreme poverty, caring for the dying, the homeless, and the abandoned. Many joined her and her mission spread to all parts of the world, including the United States. She loved everyone as she loved Christ. When she looked at you, you were her entire world at that moment. When she took your hand, hers was warm and gentle. Mother Theresa epitomized Christian love. She achieved celebrity status by receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the homeless and unwanted in Calcutta.

Father Damien of Molokai is another example of sharing the love of Christ with the despised, the unwanted and the rejected of society. After he was ordained as a Priest, he went to Hawaii. There he discovered that lepers were isolated on the Island of Molokai. They were literally imprisoned for life on the little island, abandoned by their families, rejected by society. Father Damien saw these lepers as his mission. When he arrived, they were living in unspeakable poverty without health care, food, clean water or hope.  Father Damien never left Molokai, he died there having finally contracted leprosy himself. At the time of his death, however, he had changed the misery of the lepers into hope. Health care, good food and clean water, schools for the children, meaningful work for the able bodied, were all in place when he died. Others have taken up his work. Like Jesus, his role model, he was not afraid to touch lepers and care for them.

Many Christians practice this form of love every day in total anonymity.

Christian love asks more of us. To reiterate, Christian love is not a feeling or an emotion; it is an act of will. Christian loves asks us to rise above our natural human inclinations, to reach out beyond the familiar and comfortable, to give when we don’t feel like giving, to want what is best for the other person without asking for anything in return. Christian love is not telling other people what to believe or how to change their lives; Christian love is showing, by our example, how our lives have changed by doing something for them. Christian love is an extension of God’s love for us.