Category Archives: God dwelling in you

Separated – But Not from God’s Presence

We enter our third week of nearly complete separation from other people because of the Coronavirus. This is an unprecedented moment in our nation’s history as nearly all social and most commercial intercourse is curtailed. Our government calls for social distancing – no church, no school, no spectator sports or entertainment, no gatherings greater than ten. In public and commercial settings we are to separate ourselves by six feet. We have March Madness but without basketball.

While the virus separates us from one another and the rest of the world, it does not separate us from God. Jesus’ final words to the disciples were, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20)

Before his arrest, he told the disciples, “On that day [his resurrection] you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” Later he says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

Jesus promises to dwell in us if we love him and keep his word. We may be temporarily denied his presence in the Eucharist, but not his presence in us through the Holy Spirit.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus reasserts this promise. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)

As we open the door of our hearts to Jesus, he promises to enter and take up residence. There are no qualifications or limitations to this statement. Wherever we are, whatever the circumstances, Jesus is available to us. What a promise! We can have a conversation with him just as we have a conversation with a loved one, a friend or colleague.

For many years I have been meeting with Jesus every morning for coffee. I read his word, share with him my concerns, ask for his help for various needs on behalf of my family, friends, and myself, and seek his guidance on various choices I face on daily basis.

Our family misses coming together with others for mass on Sundays and with other Christian friends on other occasions, but we are not separated from God’s presence in the midst of this present worldwide medical and economic crisis.

We cannot yet imagine how God will use and work during this time. As Paul says, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

How are you using this extraordinary time of restricted activity? Are you taking advantage of God’s presence? Are you taking time to open the door of your heart to him?

Temples of the Living God

If we are temples of the living God as St. Paul suggests, who is building our temple?  “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Co 3:16)

God creates us in his image and likeness.  He offers to dwell in us through his son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. (John 14:23)  In Old Testament times God dwelled in a tent and then in a temple, but Jesus declared that a time was coming when true worshipers would worship the Father not in the temple of Jerusalem, but in Spirit and truth. (John 4:21)

In fact, he referred to himself as the temple when he cleared the temple of money changers.   “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days,” he said. (John 2:19)

Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds a house, the builders labor in vain.”  So, who is building our temple?  Are we seeking the Lord’s help or are we trying to it by ourselves?  How is our character and conscience being formed?  Is it with the help of the Lord, or are we leaving him out of the process?

Many of us who are Christians had Christian parents who raised us in Christian homes.  While this may not be true for everyone, from the time we began to understand, our parents would teach us what was right and wrong.  If we were Catholic, they sent us to Catholic schools or saw to it that we received religious education in our parish church.  If we were Protestant, they sent us to Sunday school and took us to church on Sundays and saw to it that we were raised in the Christian faith.

My Father was Baptist and my mother, Catholic.  My brother and I were raised Baptist, and I remember going to Baptist Sunday school every Sunday throughout my elementary school years.  When I was twelve, I became interested in my mother’s Catholic faith, and became Catholic a couple of years later.

As we grow older, whether we continue to grow in our faith becomes our responsibility.   While God continues to invite us to grow closer to him, he gives us compete freedom to accept or reject his invitation.  He offers us several tools, however, to help us build a temple for his presence. 

The first is as simple as conversation with him, which we call prayer.  The second tool is his word.  The Bible reflects his word in many different forms.  If we read his word regularly, we can come to know God better.  We can take on the wisdom his word provides.  We can learn from the lives of the people of the Bible, the words of the prophets and the psalms.  We can learn from the teaching of Jesus and the example of his life.

One of the most important tools God gives us is his church.  Through the church he gives us sacraments to experience his grace and presence.  Through his church he gives us a community of believers to strengthen our journey.

God makes all these tools available so that we can build a temple for him to dwell in.  Many of the cathedrals of the world have taken decades to complete.  Our temples take a life time.      

Mysteries Revealed

Is God a mystery to you?    the-creation-of-adam

At the last supper, Phillip asked Jesus to “show us the Father.  Jesus answered, ‘Don’t you know me Phillip, even after I have been among you such a long time.  Anyone who as seen me has seen the Father.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14:9, 11)

St. Paul says that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”  He goes on to say that God was pleased to have his fullness dwell in Jesus, and through Jesus to reconcile to himself all things on earth and in heaven through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. (Col. 1: 15-20)

John confirms this in his gospel when he says, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side [Jesus] has made him known.” (John 1:18)

God is not this obscure, remote presence, hanging out in the clouds.  He is a person, made known to us in the human person of Jesus at a given time and place in history.  He is God’s presence in both the physical and in the spirit.  We therefore can see God in Jesus — in Jesus’ words and actions and through the Holy Spirit. 

Paul reveals one additional mystery that he says has been hidden for ages and generations. He says this mystery “is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:26-27)

So, we can see God in the person of Jesus.  When we accept this as fact and love him, acknowledge him, and obey his commands, Jesus and the Father come and make their home in us. (John 14:23)

The result: Christ is in us!  We can be and bring his presence to the people and circumstances in our lives! 

When we take time to listen to a loved one or a work colleague and offer encouragement or assistance, we are being Christ to that person.  When we refuse to shade the truth for economic advantage or career advancement, we are being Christ by bringing truth and integrity to the situation.  When we are generous with our time, talents and resources with the less fortunate, we are being Christ in our communities. When we are doing our best in our work, we are being Christ in the workplace.  Let me share an actual example from Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You. (p. 80)

The office manager of Jack’s insurance brokerage firm, Ginny, was no longer able to speak clearly after having surgery for cancer of the tongue.  She asked Jack if she would be let go because of her inability to talk with customers, which was one of the most important parts of her job.  She only had a year until her retirement.  Jack took the time to personally call over eighty of his customers to let them know of Ginny’s condition and ask if they could work with her under the circumstances and pray for her as well.  Cards, letters, flowers and gifts started pouring into Jack’s office.  As a result of Jack’s love and extraordinary efforts, Ginny was able to work until her retirement.  

When we follow Jesus’ example of love and sacrifice, we are revealing the mystery of who God is and his plan for us to bring his presence to bear on a world in desperate need of his grace.

The Alpha and the Omega

How do we come to know God? jesus-dsc_0461-2

In John 6:43 Jesus says, “No one comes to me unless the Father draws him.”  And then later he says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)

It all sounds a bit circular, but Jesus is saying that our salvation begins and ends with the Father, and Jesus is but the means to assist us in completing the journey.  What a perfectly obedient son he is to the Father, showing us the way, the truth and the life in returning us to the one who created each of us in the first place.

Whether we return to God, our creator depends not only on God’s grace, but also on our choice to accept the means he has provided, mainly Jesus.   

The Father is the alpha and the omega.  Everything starts with him and everything ends with him.  He is the source of our creation.  He is the point from which we begin our journey of existence and life, and he is the intended destination of our journey.  He created our inner being before our physical being was born.  He gives us a life to live and a free will to choose whether our destination will involve returning to him for eternity or being separated from him for eternity.

Gospel singer Andre Crouch recorded a song many years ago with a chorus that reads:

“Jesus is the answer,

For the world today.

Above him there’s no other.

He’s the only way.”

Jesus says: “Learn from me.” (Mt. 11:29)  “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15)  “Don’t be afraid.” (Mt. 17:7)  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)  “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Mt.  4 :19)   “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4, 5)  “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Mt. 28: 20)

The Father is the source for all that exists, including we who are made in his image and likeness.  Jesus is the way to the source, which is our intended destiny.  So simple, but yet so profound!


Jars of Clay

St. Paul says we have this treasure in jars of clay. (2 Co. 4:7)  What is the treasure and what are the jars of clay?  

The treasure is Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in us.  The jars of clay are we who have accepted Christ, who have been baptized into his church, who have opened the door of our hearts to experience his presence and the release of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

But this treasure is not just for us, but also for the people and circumstances in our lives.  To release the treasure, the jars of clay need to be broken.  We need to be broken of our pride, our agendas and of doing things “my way.”  “A broken and contrite heart you will not despise.” (Ps. 51:17)

My self-focused nature is often the greatest obstacle to my sharing the treasure of God’s love with my family, friends and strangers that enter into my daily life.  It is amazing how easily I can forget that Christ lives in me when responding to an unsolicited phone caller, a store clerk who doesn’t seem to meet my expectations or the interruption of my plans for the day by a loved one.

It is interesting that Paul used the word-picture of a jar of clay rather than one of iron.  From his own self-described experience, he knows that we are weak vessels when it comes to holding God’s presence, love and willingness to sacrifice.

Yet as we share this treasure, the light of Christ, his love, truth and sacrifice will shine in the darkness of the world surrounding us even if the darkness does not understand it.  We must remember that one of Jesus’ harshest responses in all of scripture was directed at the servant who buried the talent given to him instead of investing and risking it for God’s kingdom.  Jesus concluded the parable by saying, “And throw that worthless servant outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt. 25:30)

There are of course countless ways to share this treasure.  Let me offer one example.  One day I was having lunch with one of the executives of the company where I worked and he started to share with me how his wife of more than 40 years had left him due to some actions on his part.  I could tell that he was very distraught over both his actions and her response.  After listening to him for more than an hour as he described their life and the recent developments, I asked him if I could pray with him.   He said yes, I reached across the table, took hold his arm and prayed that God would give him courage to say he was sorry and ask his wife to forgive him; that she would be open to receive his request and the grace to forgive.  He was not necessarily a religious person, but by God’s grace they reconciled.  He subsequently retired and died of cancer a couple of years later in her love and care.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Does God Dwell in You?

In Galatians 2:20, St. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”   Do we as Christians really believe that Christ lives in us, and more importantly, do we live our lives as if God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is present in us?

Imagine if Jesus were physically at your side 24/7.  Would his presence not have an impact on what you say, do, and how you react to the people and circumstances in your life?  One of the great benefits would be that in every kind of circumstance you could ask, “What do you want me to do now, Lord?”  

Think of having the Lord’s ever-present counsel in how to respond to a difficult colleague at work, a child in need of discipline, a friend who needs someone to talk to, the morality of a certain business practice, the need to reconcile with someone you have offended, and all the myriad of life’s daily challenges.

This is exactly what God offers us when he says, “Here I am.  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)  Eating together is a sign of being together and sharing life.   John’s Gospel affirms this reality when Jesus says that he will not leave us as orphans, but will live in us and that he and the Father will make their home in us. (John 14:15-24)

Three times, St Paul speaks of this in terms of our being “the temple of the living God” and “the temple of the Holy Spirit that is in you.” (2 Co. 6:16, 19; 1 Co. 3:16)  In other words, we are the place where God dwells.

God’s plan for his creation is to dwell in us through his son, Jesus Christ, so that we, with the power of the Holy Spirit, can partner with God in bringing his presence to the people and circumstances of our lives.

Yesterday we were at a Christian gathering where several teenagers were being sent on a mission trip for a couple of weeks.  One of them was our grandson, Max.  As people gathered to pray with them, I found myself at the back of the crowd.  I asked the Lord if I should push my way through the crowd so I could put my hand on Max’s shoulder, and I thought the Lord said yes.  I pushed my way through the crowd so I was standing directly behind Max and put a firm hand on his shoulder.  As the prayers were concluded, Max turned around to see whose hand was on his shoulder and saw that it was me, his grandfather.  With big smiles, we gave each other a big bear hug — a small thing, perhaps, but hopefully an encouragement to Max.

God, who dwells in us, wants us to come to him with all our decisions, small and large.  Like all endeavors, practice makes it better.  Our goal should be to make it a habit.  Jesus says, “I am with you always.”  Paul says, “The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations…is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:26-27)