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Conceptions are rich realities that defy easy description. If I asked you to imagine a sunset and then said “describe it,” the mental picture would be far richer than the words. During Inauguration Week, we might reexamine how we conceive of our nation. I fear it seems some recent conceptions may be mutually exclusive of others… not a recipe for common ground. Yet to be a nation “united under God with liberty and justice for all, born and unborn” we need to build a common vision. Many of us have hopes and dreams for ourselves, for our families, for our community, for our nation and for our whole world! How can we build those dreams together? In Matthew Kelly lingo there is a “best version” of each of these realities; we move forward seeking to grow in God’s grace.

There is a lot to pray for these days. Our hearts are heavy with concern. Amidst the global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and transition in the White House, many concerns weigh on us. In the news churn we can become awash is the latest data on the Corona-virus but lose sight of an even more virulent epidemic: abortion. I hope the many matters that weigh on us do not overshadow this perennial assault on a wholesome society.

The numbers are staggering. Since 1973, in the USA approximately 62 million have died at the hands of doctors, on average 1.3 million a year, far more than the almost 400,000 people who have died due to Corona-virus. Just imagine if everyday, someone came on the news and told us another 3,600 babies were killed in their mother’s bellies today. Wouldn’t we do everything in our power to stop the slaughter? This is not a part of our national history that I enjoy remembering; sadly however it needs to be part of how we conceive of our nation so we can correct the grave moral error. Why do some things get white-washed while others land on the front page?

In our Message Series, we are in Week 4 (pp. 51-63) of I Heard God Laugh . We are focused on the names and images of God. It strikes me that we each possess images for a host of realities that are beyond words. What are some of your images for the good ol’ US of A? Mine have shifted over the years. But so have my images of God. How do we conceive of God?

As a boy, God was an old man with a long beard and a stern face. As my prayer grew in consistency and intensity, my conception of the divine exploded into an ever richer reality. Gradually I came to know the Son as savior: someone who died for me, brother: one who shares my joy and pain, and eventually as priest: teaching me to offer myself on the altar of the world by his grace. The Father showed himself as the steadying hand on the seat of a two-wheeler while one learns to ride, but also as the one who set the stage of nature so that I could take in richness and beauty, and a myriad of other moments. And finally, I came to recognize (somewhat) a movement or impulse that inspires me to holy things and gives me words of counsel I could never surmise. I also took the rosary as the hands of my dear mother Mary, and sometimes I will just feel the beads without saying a word. These are some of the conceptions that I can try to put into words, for the richness of a series of relationships that can only be called my interior life. Don’t even get me started on the Saints! I will be here all day.

The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates. We are challenged this week to examine and even reevaluate our conceptions, especially how we think of our nation and how we think of our God. Above all, consistent prayer as dialogue enriches and enlivens our conception of God, otherwise it will remain unexamined, underdeveloped - like the stern old man of my youth, or like the high school friend you haven’t seen in thirty years. That is not really who God is, just a shadowy conception of the real thing. Let’s take up the challenge to explore our conceptions. O Lord, open our hearts and minds to the rich mystery that is YOU!

Fr. Wilson

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