The Gospel for Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

The Gospel for September 3rd, 2017: “The Conditions for Discipleship”

Matthew 16: 21-27

Reflection: Dealing with Sin

Jesus’ words in today’s gospel strike deep in my heart.

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct” (24-28).

The challenge of these words is undeniable. They demand a choice and a commitment on such a scale that I can’t help but pause and wonder, can I do this?

The easy answer, of course, is God’s grace will provide the help we need to meet this challenge (or maybe some would say the easy answer is no, I can’t do it). However, accepting that all will be well with God’s providence depends on a faith that still is shaken at times in my own life. So I find it helpful to think about why anyone should try to follow Jesus–to think deeply about why, as Matthew Kelly has described it, choosing Jesus’ conditions of discipleship is “the best way to live.” In my view, this is not a matter of ethics and philosophy per se. It is a personal choice for happiness in this life that just so happens to be God’s plan to save all humanity from the grip of sin for all eternity.

Allow me to focus first on the last line of the passage, because, like me, some will be concerned about line 27, which says Jesus will come and “repay all according to his conduct.” If one reads this line from the “works contract” theological perspective, it is daunting. How will sinners be repaid? Probably they will be sent to Hell, right? Those with a track record of sin like mine (which is really all of us except Jesus and Mary) can’t help but think there is no way I can become a saint, so why don’t I just give up now and enjoy the time I have left? However, I think this is a misunderstanding of the line. The repayment will not be according to the conduct of the sinner; rather, it is according to conduct of the savior, Jesus. This conduct is to join God’s creation in love on Earth, to bring to birth the Kingdom of God on earth. In the Kingdom, as in Heaven, sin no longer exists, causing pain, suffering, and death as it does currently in this world. So line 27 is not a threat to sinners, it is a gospel. It is the good news that the Savior has arrived and the Kingdom of God is at hand!

How so? If we think of sin as the dark side of free will, we move beyond the “works contract”  list of specifically sinful behaviors found in many Christian paradigms to a greater sense of God the Father’s relationship with His creation. He promises to love and care for us throughout the ages, which is the covenant that begins with Adam and continues through the old and new testaments. He created us to share in the glory of His love. However, if He did not give us free will, we could not truly participate in that love because it is enacted by willing the good of others. Without the choice of free will, one cannot love by choosing to serve the good of others, much a like a robot that is programmed to behave only according prescribed ways. Such an automated program  is lifeless, the opposite of the promise of life in God’s kindgom, because it does not reflect God’s desire to share His goodness. Still, with free will, the temptation to harbor God’s goodness for our own satisfaction is inevitable. And so sin exists in the realm of Earth and leads to all the selfish behaviors that divide humans and interfere with coming of God’s kingdom on Earth. Foreseeing all this, God set in motion a rescue operation where humans will choose love over sin in all its forms. This is, in effect, a choice to worship God over human created idols such as power, greed, sensual pleasure, and so on. God deals with sin by becoming man in the person of Jesus. He brings together perfect divinity and perfect humanity, so that sin is dealt with, while free will is still respected. Jesus, in this incarnation, is so attractive that we are drawn to Him, as were the huge crowds and both Jew and Gentile alike, which the New Testament describes. And what does He do with this magnetic power to unify all of God’s people? He unites instead of divides; He forgives instead of seeking vengeance; He heals the sick; He calms fear with hope; He loves unselfishly to the point of giving His life for us who are in the grips of sin. And finally he takes the worst that sinful humans can do to Him and rises from the dead, cementing the victory of love over sin on Earth. All that remains is for us to participate in this love to complete the task of unifying God’s creation and cleansing the remaining sin on Earth. With the same inevitability that free will allowed for the existence of sin on Earth, God is dealing with sin through life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to join with His people on Earth in a destiny certain of victory.

With this in mind, Jesus’ words in the gospel are still challenging, but not in a threatening way. We are being invited to join in the building of the Kingdom where all are loved unselfishly, even those we consider unlovable or enemies. In doing so, as Jesus did, we will encounter resistance from some, who under the power of sin, will criticize, mock, and even do us violence in order maintain their grip on the false idols they have mistakenly believed will make them happy. Those same idols are the ones that  divide and cause violence. He is helping us see the truth for what they are in this passage because we may cower in fear when the resistance comes as we may have made an idol out of a secure life in this world.

This is why Jesus rebukes Peter when he says in response to the news his friend awaits a fate of suffering, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (22).  Jesus calls Peter “Satan” not because that is who he is, but because he is under sin’s power by choosing to trust his own instincts for the security of his friendship instead of God’s plan for the good of all people. Jesus needs to deal with sin by allowing it to be drawn out in all its ugliness on the cross and conquering it with forgiveness of those under its power. This should not be feared, but lovingly embraced.

Now, to return back to my original claim that denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus is choosing happiness in this life, a distinction needs to be made between suffering and pain that is the result of complying with sin and the suffering that Christians may face in the effort to follow Jesus. Happiness, as I am using it, is akin to the fulfillment to the peace and joy that comes from union with God and his creation. It is life-giving and satisfying. Pleasure, on the other hand, is a temporary pleasing of the senses that inevitably does not last or sustain life. Whenever we comply with sin and make an idol from one of the good fruits of God’s creation, even when it is merely idolizing the survival instinct to cling to an earthly life out of fear of death, we will eventually experience the pain of separation from God and His Kingdom. It is not God’s will that we would actually be excluded, but selfishness cannot exist in the light of God’s perfect love. Hence, the mission of the Church is to spread sin-vanquishing love throughout the world as participants in the salvation plan. In Old Testament language, it is to gather the lost tribes of Israel back into unity with their God.

In contrast, when we choose to love in Christ’s name and thereby incur pain and suffering as a result, we are living in union with Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. In short, we will be at peace in our suffering. We will be happy and loved and strengthened against any sensual pain. This is the point of this gospel; we will be happier following Jesus to the cross. It is not just a plan for deferred gratification for after we die. We die to sensual pleasure in favor of happiness in Christ. His is the only true source of happiness. Line 25 makes plain the ironic and self-defeating rationale of clinging to sin: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Even when we fool ourselves into thinking we are happier choosing the fool’s gold of the world over Jesus,  we experience pain that comes not  just from being separated from God’s love, but also from being divided against ourselves. God is within us calling us back. Jeremiah’s line in the auxiliary reading is so poignant on this point: “I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20: 9). God’s love is irresistible. Eventually we will all must give in and join the Kingdom to find true happiness.



The Gospel for Sunday, August 27th, 2017

The Gospel for August 27th, 2017: “Peter’s Confession about Jesus”

Matthew 16: 13-20

Reflection: Developing a Good Conscience

Today’s gospel from Matthew narrates the moment that Jesus publicly announces Peter will lead the Church on Earth. This announcement is in response to the unequivocal witness Peter gives as an answer to the question from Jesus, “[w]ho do you say that I am?” Without hesitation, Peter faithfully states, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (15-16).

In making this announcement, Catholics believe Jesus is inaugurating the authority of the first Pope. So when He says, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (19). This is strange wording. So I did some research. It appears to be a Jewish expression that refers to the authority to settle disputes.  In this case, Jesus is giving Peter that same authority to settle disputes in the Church with the full support of the Father in Heaven. This line of reasoning is the basic argument for papal infallibility, which purports that the Church doctrines the Pope and bishops teach as truth should be followed as proper worship. This authority, which draws both from sacred scripture and sacred tradition, is generally referred to as the magisterium.

Catholics and non-Catholics, especially in America, are well aware that this authoritarian role to set doctrine and settle doctrinal disputes is at times in conflict with other Christian denominations and with societal norms in general. Some of the topics that have persisted in causing tension over the last 100 years are the unacceptability of divorce, contraception, and abortion, as well as a lack of openness to many issues relating to homosexuality and transgender. Discomfort with the Church’s teaching on such difficult issues has played a role in alienating many from Catholicism, including myself many years ago, especially when well-meaning clergy and lay persons have used divisive rhetoric on this issues promising penalties of Hell and ex-communication for those who do not comply with the magisterium. Although I am not proud that I left the Church as a young man and am so grateful that I was welcomed home when I was ready to return, I understand the sensitivity and stakes of trying to grasp papal infallibility as a Catholic. Surveys since the 1960’s have consistently shown many Catholics are forced to quietly disobey Church teaching on issues such as contraception in order to remain in the Church they love. Charles Morris’s brilliant history from 1997, American Catholic, deftly describes the many historical forces and political factors that play into the uneasy tensions to which I am referring.

As a counter balance to the authoritarian structure of the Catholic Church and the inherent potential for human corruption, even among the clergy, the Church teaches the primacy of conscience as well. The Catechism states in Article 6 under “Moral Conscience,” “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1782). Statements like this, which although respectful the God-given intellect and a history of some doctrinal change, complicate the picture further. While the standard is not a robotic blind obedience to doctrine, respect for the hierarchy and magisterium and the divisive rhetoric that often accompanies doctrinal debate, make it difficult to know when a Catholic can or should, in good conscience, dissent from the magisterium and if such breaks are cause for leaving the Church.

The point I wish to make to close this reflection is I am reading deeply to better understand the interplay between the primacy of conscience and papal infallibility so that I don’t ever feel as though I should leave the Church again. I am too early in this course of study to draw any firm conclusions. However, I have begun to develop a set of criteria as a guide for dissent that I think may be worthy of further discussion. I would like to share those and invite comment to see if others find them tenable or useful.

Here are some potential guidelines I think may help in rectifying one’s conscience in areas of dissent:

  1. The love of Christ is unselfish and wills the good of others. If one dissents from Church teaching to defend selfish behavior, this is not morally and spiritually defensible.
  2. The development of conscience depends on a prayerful and sacramental life, so that we may live in dialogue with and in the presence of Christ. If one is in conflict with Church teaching, he or she should pray and ask the Lord for guidance. Furthermore, participation in the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation should intensify, not lessen. If one is in crisis, one should turn to Jesus. One of the reasons I fell away is because I stopped participating in the life of the Church when I had doubt and disagreement.
  3. It is important that Christians strive to understand Church teaching through study. I enjoy reading, so I read literature that speaks to those issues. However, this is not the only way. There are many great programs from the Church both in-house and through videos that promote a deeper and more nuanced understanding of difficult issues. Finally, while clergy are very busy in many parishes, my guess that most are willing to talk to those with serious questions.
  4. Any dissent on Church teaching should not be viewed lightly. Doctrine is not a political platform, where ideas are often shaped to win votes; it is an effort to clarify the divine truth. Jesus gave Peter this authority in anticipation of its need. The Pope and bishops spend hours each day in prayer and celebration of the mass in order to remain aligned with God’s will. While a review of the history of papal pronouncements does include some questionable decisions, these are men who have given their lives to Christ in a way that few of us can imagine. Their teachings deserve our fullest attention and respect, even if we choose to disagree in the end.

If these four considerations are followed as one decides whether or not to follow an uncomfortable Church teaching, I wonder if it might be enough so that through God’s grace the conscience will form appropriately and leave one in peace if the conclusion is to dissent from the magisterium. Thoughts? Please comment respectfully if you feel moved to do so by this reflection. Further, I ask for your prayers that I may be motivated by a humble search for God’s truth and not selfish pride as I write these blogs.

Thank you for reading and may God bless you.

The Gospel for Sunday, August 20th, 2017

The Gospel for Sunday, August 20th, 2017: “The Caananite Woman’s Faith”

Matthew 15: 21-28

Reflection: Mercy Upon All

In today’s gospel Jesus heals a Gentile girl possessed by a demon at the request of her mother. This request is granted only after the woman persists in asking, even though Jesus seems to ignore her at first. As we seek guidance from this narrative, the lesson of persistence is clear and a common interpretation. The woman does not give up even though her first request does not bear fruit. Jesus rewards her patience, proclaiming, “O woman, great is your faith!” (28).

Even though I do not want to take for granted the usefulness of connecting faith and persistence, I think this story suggests there is more to be learned from the strange conversation between Jesus, the Caananite woman, and his disciples. My reading of scriptures right now is heavily influenced by the work new testament scholar N.T. Wright, who seeks to dispel limited notions of personal salvation in the scriptures in favor of a larger view that Jesus came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God on Earth, where the power of sin and darkness are conquered and all people of faith—Jew and Gentile alike–are restored in the resurrection through Jesus Christ.

An interpretation of this gospel with this larger view in mind begins with the fact the woman is not a Jew. Despite her upbringing, she witnesses her belief by calling Jesus, “Lord, Son of David” (22). Whatever her understanding might have been of those words, the name acknowledges Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior. When Jesus does not respond, the reader, especially a first-century Jew, might jump to the conclusion that He is ignoring her because she is not Jewish. Indeed, that is probably what his disciples thought as they say to Jesus, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us” (23). I contend that Jesus waits to respond to draw out this discriminatory response from the disciples, rather than to merely test the woman’s perseverance in faith. If this episode is preparing the way for a Kingdom that includes Gentiles as well as Jews, Jesus needs to draw attention to the fact that his granting of her request will be based on faith alone, and that the new covenant will not be limited to the traditional understanding of Israel.

How does Jesus do that? The conversation that follows illustrates that disciples are characterized by faith, participation, and humility, as well as persistence, not by ethnic identification or religious law. Jesus describes His mission this way: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (24). On first glance this sounds exclusionary; He came to save Jews. However, Israel is the light to all nations who is characterized by their worship of God, instead of false idols. The woman’s answer shows she too is a sheep of Israel when she says with “homage,” “Lord, help me” (25). Her faith is marked by participation, by witness.

Jesus continues to use this conversation to draw out further how this Gentile is a worthy disciple by emphasizing her humility. He states a very conventional opinion about the relationship between Jews and Gentiles from the Jewish perspective. The Gentiles are “dogs,” not worthy of a place at the table of God’s chosen people; therefore, “It is not right to take the food of the children* and throw it to the dogs” (26). This is a setup so that woman may illustrate her faithfulness through humility. She responds, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters” (27). Her answer is not demanding and prideful; she asks for no more than simple mercy from the Lord of all. Her words have served the purpose of illustrating Christian discipleship in the Kingdom of God. Once stated, Jesus praises her and heals her daughter.

This trial of the woman’s patience and faith is not just a personal test; it is a vehicle to reorient Jesus’ disciples to the new Kingdom that will include all of God’s people, not just Jews, and the conditions for discipleship. All have been marked by the power of sin so that all may be saved. This is what Paul means in the auxiliary reading when he says, “For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all” (Romans 11: 32).

I find this perspective challenging and exciting. I have often been inclined to see faith as being about my personal salvation and to read this episode as an exercise in persistence. However, it can be lonely and discouraging to focus on begging for one’s personal rescue. While God hears, he wants us to put ourselves third behind Him and others. By identifying with the awakening of the disciples in this gospel to the mission to reach all, both happiness and salvation will follow. It emphasizes the tremendous opportunity in this fallen world to participate in the Christ’s salvation mission. This gospel makes clear we are called to treat all people with love and mercy, especially those we don’t understand or who are difficult to love. In so doing we participate in the building of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth and live in hope of the day when loneliness and isolation no longer exist, only harmony in the love of God. It is radical notion that, once embraced, leads to happiness in this life and beyond.




The Gospel for Sunday, August 13th, 2017

The Gospel for August 13th, 2017: “The Walking on the Water”

Matthew 14: 22-33

Reflection: What am I Afraid of?

Today’s gospel is one of my favorites. Jesus walks on water, further revealing His divinity, and Peter attempts to follow Jesus, only to need saving from sinking when he has a moment of doubt in faith. It is a magical story, miraculous and uplifting, and filled with unforgettable imagery. In particular, this version  of the scene by Australia artist, Rebecca Brogan, captures the frightening turmoil of the storm, which can be read symbolically as the danger and disorder of a life without Christ in a fallen world. All the disciples are afraid, first of the storm, and then of Jesus’ unprecedented walk across the waves. But it is Peter’s fear that interests me most at this point in my life.

Peter accepts Christ’s reassurance and invitation to join Him on the sea. He climbs out of the boat and begins to walk toward Jesus on the water. He is really doing it! I go through stretches like this where my faith is strong and am answering Christ’s call. However, they are often followed by episodes of doubt and fear like Peter. “[W]hen he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (30). Of course Jesus answers that cry for help and saves him from sinking. He says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (31).

A fair question. Unlike me, Peter has a reasonable excuse for doubting. The notion that Christ is there to save Him is still unfolding before his very eyes. Trusting that He is the Messiah would take some time. It might not be too much time, considering the others in the boat end this episode by saying to Jesus, “Truly, you are the Son of God” (33). Still it is a radical idea to accept. But in my case, I have known for a long time this fact. For most of my life, I have been aware Jesus is my savior, even though my ego sometimes has caused me to resist that truth. So why do I doubt? Why am I afraid of sinking into dangerous waters when I set out to follow Jesus?

The reasons are complicated; however, I think it is accurate to say that at the heart of most cases when I give into fear I am afraid of suffering and view it as a precursor to death. Granted, I am rarely, maybe never, in actual danger of physical harm. Nevertheless, a natural survival instinct takes over as I fear the suffering. In reality the suffering is usually from the emotional discomfort caused by frustrating, disappointing, or failing others. Still, the fear is real and can paralyze me.

Since this danger is in my head, the analogy of Peter’s situation is not precisely similar, but still very instructive. What is Peter afraid of when he starts to sink into the water? The worst case scenario is drowning—death. Let’s say his worst fears are realized, Jesus doesn’t save Him and he drowns. What does our faith tell us about his fate? He is fully in the hands of the Lord at that point, no longer in the grips of suffering. He is in a better place. Of course as this gospel illustrates, it doesn’t come to that. Jesus intervenes and saves him from his dilemma. In other words, there is no bad outcome for the faithful Peter. There is nothing to fear—which is Jesus’ message in this passage. Death and suffering only have power over us when we doubt our faith.

I try to remember this story when I am aware of fear setting in. Since I believe my ultimate goal  is to live with Jesus in the resurrection, there is no rational reason for me to fear death. If death brings me closer to this peaceful destiny, I should welcome death and any suffering that precedes it. If it is not my time, then Jesus will save me from suffering so I may find the peace and health to return to His mission for me in this life. In Christ, I cannot lose. I should fear not, for as Jesus tells us and the old hymn asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer is not a person or thing in creation. Every trial brings me closer to the God who created and loves me, as soon as I let go of the doubt. This is the true freedom of the Christian life.

The Gospel for Sunday August 6th, 2017

The Gospel for August 6th, 2017: “The Transfiguration of Jesus”

Matthew 17: 1-9

Reflection: A Glimpse of the Resurrection

Last week I cited theologian N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope from 2008 as an interpretive framework for reflecting on the gospel. Since am continuing to read Wright’s work with The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion from 2016, I would like to return to his basic claim today that our Christian lives are not an effort to achieve personal salvation that ends with a spiritual eternity in a far-away Heaven. Both books contend that this popular notion represents a misunderstanding of Christ’s death and resurrection. Wright argues instead that both the Old and New Testaments point to a joining of Heaven and Earth where all of God’s creation will be restored to its divine splendor physically as well as spiritually for eternity. This is the promise of the Kingdom of God, where humanity will live harmoniously in the presence of God as Adam and Eve did in Eden before the fall. Wright emphasizes this salvation framework is not only scripturally logical  and inspiringly hopeful, it also explains our role as builders of God’s kingdom in the present. Jesus ushered in the beginning of restoration of creation with His ministry, death, and resurrection, called us to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, and assured us He will return to finish its manifestation through a second resurrection of all His people. Our present joy comes not from securing an individual salvation through faith or works and then waiting for a death that leads to Heaven, but rather by accepting our vocation to praise and worship God, love our fellow men and women, and participate in the transformation of Earth into Christ’s kingdom.

In light of this understanding, today’s reading of the Transfiguration can be seen as glimpse of the Kingdom of God for the Apostles by Jesus to ground their work in the goal of bringing it to birth here on Earth. Preceding this event in Chapter 17, Matthew tells us important details in Chapter 16 of why this event happens at this moment. It’s timing precedes the nearing of Christ’s passion. First, Peter has recognized and acknowledged publicly that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16: 16). Next in lines 21-23, Jesus tells the disciples of His coming suffering, death, and resurrection. When Peter says God should forbid this from happening, Jesus calls him “Satan” and explains he is not thinking “as God does, but as humans do” (Matthew 16: 23). Finally, at the end of Chapter 16 Jesus lays out the conditions for discipleship as the willingness to take up one’s cross and follow Him (24). The language of this extended preview is peppered with notions of death, resurrection, and ushering in a new kingdom marked by “his Father’s glory” (Matthew 16: 27).

With the Transfiguration in Matthew 17, Jesus provides this glimpse of the Kingdom because Peter and the apostles must understand their mission of kingdom-building through the lens of the resurrection rather than through worldly understanding. Jews expected the Messiah to restore Israel to worldly power as a warrior-king like David. Jesus as God-Incarnate is preparing them for a kingdom that fully realizes His creative vision of love reflected in His creation itself.

What are some of the details of the Transfiguration event that help to create a more accurate expectation of Christ’s kingdom in His disciples?

  • The inauguration of the Kingdom through Christ’s death and resurrection has not happened yet, so Earth is not properly cleansed for a vision of divine splendor. Therefore, Christ takes the disciples up the mountain away from the worldly realm similar to how Jews worship rituals prepared them to encounter God in the temple in purity. Once there, the perfection of Jesus’s physical state is dazzling. “[H]is face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17: 2). Hence, the joining of Heaven and Earth will result in the restoration of physical perfection of Eden. All creation will be resurrected to bodily perfection on Earth.
  • The appearance of Moses and Elijah shows continuity with and fulfillment of Israel’s deliverance to “the promised land” and “Kingdom of Heaven” from Old Testament prophecy. A restoration of Eden has always been the plan.
  • Christ’s kingdom will be marked by unity, not division, since it is free from sin. Peter wants to erect three separate tents, but this divisive suggestion is quickly dismissed. The kingdom will be unified and it will be on Earth, unlike there remote location on the mountain.
  • God the Father will be present in the Kingdom as He was in Eden. Not only is He present in the person of Jesus, He speaks directly to the disciples.
  • Jesus tells the disciples, “[D]o not be afraid” (Matthew 17: 7). No harm that can come to us neither in an earthly life of kingdom-building nor in our destiny as eternal residents of Christ’s kingdom.

In this reflection I am trying to convey the hopefulness I feel in contemplation of Christ’s mission. I think the Transfiguration gives us a glimpse, like the disciples, of a future in Christ that is dazzling beyond our wildest dreams. It is all that is good and beautiful, untouched by sin, death, and decay. Paul speaks of this incomprehensible “wisdom” of the Kingdom 1 Corinthians 2  by calling it “mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew; for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (7-8). And yet by listening to Christ, as the disciples ultimately do in the Transfiguration, Paul tells us we can know “[w]hat eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart” through the spirit” (9-10). Our destiny is not a waiting game and not a rigged contest; it is a new life that we can know and confidently anticipate through the Holy Spirit.