Posts Tagged ‘Love’
I wish to begin today’s entry with a salute to my classmates (1992) from the North American College. Twenty one years ago today, we entered St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome for our deacon ordinations. There, laying prostrate on the floor in the chapel of the Chair of St. Peter we gave our lives to the Lord for the service of His Church and people. What a blessed walk of life and faith these twenty one years have been! Please, God, may many more young men follow us as such ‘gentle, but ardent servants of the altar.’
Last night found me at Holy Trinity parish in Cheyenne for yet another Confirmation ceremony. Twentynine young people were sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were reminded that we are not our own. We belong to Christ! They were also encouraged to be bold in faith, passionate in their love for Christ, and generous in their service to the Church and God’s people.
Now, to the quirky title of this blog. As some of this readership knows, there was a time when country music was about all I listened to. Sunday, during my last leg of driving back home, I turned once again to a country channel. Merle was singing one of his old hits. I’ve always felt that the many songs of love in country music (as in our own lives) are a mere reflection of God”s love for us.
As I listened to this particular song of Merle’s, I found another basic of Christian life being spelled out symbolically. These are the lyrics:
Here I am again, mixing misery and gin, sitting with all my friends and talking to myself. I look like I’m having a good time, but any fool can tell, that this honky-tonk heaven, really makes me feel like hell.
How often do we follow the ways of the world only to experience the emptiness it offers. Sure, there is a temporary ‘high’ that for the moment drowns our sorrows or takes our minds off what ails us, but when reality dawns once again, we are left empty, and sometimes worse off. We may on the outside appear to be ‘having fun,’ but on the inside, if we are honest with ourselves, we are adrift, in desperate need of an anchor.
Christ has taught us that He is the Anchor. He tells us that the things of this world are fleeting. Obviously, the world is a part of God’s creation, and thus good. We are to live in proper harmony with the world and the people of this world, but not seek to possess them, nor live for these things alone. We belong to Christ. He has grafted us to Himself.
Through the Holy Spirit, Christ has poured His Divine Life into our hearts and souls. This indwelling of Christ is what makes us holy; makes us sons and daughters of God. It is this Divine Presence, this ‘Sonship of God’ within us that is our ticket to heaven. Thus, let us be grateful for this tremendous gift. Let us fully employ our freedom to embrace Christ and always cooperate with His desire to fully nourish His life within us, doing nothing to offend the Holy Spirit.
This is the life of holiness to which all are called.
Today is the Feast of one of my favorite saints, Saint Catherine of Siena. There is a statue near Castle San Angelo in Rome that beautifully represents St. Catherine’s ‘urgency’ to accomplish God’s will; God’s work for the ‘salvation of souls.’ (see picture to the left)
There are many things I admire about this great saint of the 14th century. First and foremost is her love for God and her great desire to live passionately her love for Christ. She had several names for Jesus, perhaps the one she used most in her writings was “Gentle First Truth.” Her life was spent prayerfully discovering the depths of this Truth and preaching it to all who would listen, and quite often to those who would not.
A close second to her love of God and Christ was her love for the Church, most especially demonstrated in her devotion to the Holy Father. St. Catherine was deeply concerned for the state of the Church of her days, and spent countless hours in prayer and fasting and made many journeys working on behalf of the unity of the Church.
St. Catherine put her deep spirituality to practical use in many ways. Along with her love for the Church she wrote many letters of encouragement, even reprimand to people of all walks of life, encouraging greater fidelity to Christ and His Church. So steeped in the Paschal Mystery herself, many of her letters begin with an expressed desire that individuals be bathed in the blood of Christ so as to be washed clean of all selfishness to walk boldly in the life of Christ.
St. Catherine is a great model and intercessor in this Year of Faith and the work of the New Evangelization. Through her intercession, may each of us this day be drawn deeper in love with Christ, grow deeper in love for our Holy Church, and practically express our love caring for those who are struggling in faith.
St. Catherine, Pray for us.
On this Third Sunday of Easter, Jesus appears to his disciples for the third time. This appearance is particularly touching, as Jesus again expresses compassion for and patience with his disciples, while at the same time insisting on their following him as the Risen Lord, while at the same time taking care of his ‘flock.’
Jesus is standing on the shore watching his disciples out on the lake reverting to their former life as fishermen. For Peter, this moment had to call to mind a few other life-changing encounters with Christ. Jesus calls out to his friends: “Have you caught anything?” knowing full well they have been unsuccessful. Then he tells them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” Following Jesus’ instruction leads them to a miraculous catch.
This encounter with the Risen Jesus had to remind Peter of his first meeting with Jesus. Similarly at that time, Jesus instructed Peter to ‘put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch.’ (Luke 5:4) Surely it also reminded all of the disciples of another instruction of Jesus: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Thus, John (the one Jesus loved) was able to recognize and instruct Peter, “It is the Lord.” (John 21:7)
How important it is for us to discover the truth that ‘apart from Jesus we can do nothing.’ This is particularly important in discovering one’s own vocation in life. I reflect upon my earlier life, and see the truth of this. As a young man, I had so much; a great job, a house, I was dating and (in my mind) well on my way to getting married and starting a family.
And yet, despite all of that, even in the numerous and wonderful relationships that were a part of my life, something was missing… And it was not as if I was apart from the Lord or ignoring my faith. I was active in my parish and regularly receiving the sacraments…and yet something was missing. The Lord was calling me to ‘follow him’ and I was following instead my own plan… “apart from me you can do nothing.”
It was only after answering His call to follow Him that my life was complete. It was only after living the life that He created me to live, that my life finally made sense.
Once Peter realizes it is Jesus, he and the other disciples are invited to sit with Jesus and share a meal of fish and bread: “Come have breakfast.” (John 21: 12) This is strong imagery for Eucharist. Then, Jesus has this marvelous interaction with Peter. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these.” (John 21: 15) Three times, Peter professes his love for Jesus. Three times, Jesus instructs Peter to “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep.”
Finally, Jesus instructs Peter to “Follow me.” (John 21:19) Here in-lies the great commission for the Church; for all of us. We are to recognize that apart from Jesus we can do nothing. We are to hear in a clear and concrete way Jesus’ instruction to “feed my lambs.” We, too, are to follow the Risen Jesus in our life.
The great commission of Jesus is heard again in this touching and very personal encounter between Peter and the Risen Lord. We who know him from our own personal faith experience are to be his witnesses to the world. We are to preach to people and to testify that Jesus is the One sent by God as judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10: 40-43) We are to give expression to our faith by concrete actions of charity. “Tend my sheep. Feed my lambs.”
I pray that all may recognize the ways that the Risen Lord is walking with each of us; calling each of us. I pray that each of us may have the grace and courage to follow the Risen Lord wherever He leads. I pray we may all have the generosity of heart to love those to whom we are sent, that they, too, may know Jesus Christ.
Easter Vigil 2013
Happy Easter! This Holy Night never fails to capture the radiance and abundant life that are ours in God’s Providential love. From Creation, through the Covenants; from the Wisdom of God and His profound patience and mercy, the People of God are ever confident in the faithful, accompanying presence of our God.
Enlightened by His Word as well as the great lights of the heavens, we walk unencumbered by the darkness of our world. This Light is known in its fullness and in person in the person of Jesus, resplendent in His Risen Body. To live in Christ is to know the abundance of Divine Life. To live in the Risen Christ is to know joy, peace, and the fullness of life.
Both nature and faith teach us that apart from the light, we remain in darkness, we remain sluggish. In the dark days of winter, it is easy to feel a loss of energy, even depressed. Sunlight is a natural source of energy to all forms of life. This is just one of the ways nature teaches us the deeper Truth of Faith of the role of Christ in the life of every person. The world without Christ and the Light of His Gospel remain in darkness, sluggish to reach its full potential, meaning, and purpose.
Tonight, the Light of the Risen Christ shines once again upon the world. He is the Light to guide our feet from the shadows of darkness into the ways of peace. (Luke 1:79) Christ completed his humble walk among us as the Good Shepherd, One like us in all things but sin. Christ has completed His self-offering as the Sacrificial Lamb, shedding His life-giving blood upon the cross for our Salvation. He has conquered sin and death, once and for all. He laid down His life. It was not taken from Him. He offered freely for our redemption. (John 10:18) He has taken up His life again, once for all time, because His life is life without end.
This Divine Life, this Life that generates all life, this Life that created heaven and earth and all within them, can never be destroyed. This Divine Life, which God shared with our first parents, which was lost by sin, is now restored. That is why the angels asked the women at the tomb: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.” (Luke 24:5) All of creation owes its life to this Life.
My dear friends each human person, from the moment of conception, is created in the image and likeness of God. The creation account we heard tonight from the Book of Genesis recalls this crowning moment of God’s handiwork by creating us in his image and likeness. But we know that this harmony and holiness was lost through sin. The human person, now scarred by sin and death remains in the image of God, but is deprived of the Glory of God, or His likeness. This Glory, this likeness, is ours once again because Jesus has restored us to the Father’s likeness by giving us again the Spirit, who is the ‘giver of life.’ (CCC 705)
The Risen Jesus comes to us to restore Divine Life. He comes to restore us to a proper and profound relationship with God, and with one another. Christ, in his humility walked this earth that we might know God. Christ in His obedience to the Father took our sins to the cross to conquer sin once and for all. The disfigured body of the Crucified Christ was the means for restoring the beauty of our humanity.
In Baptism, we die with Christ that we might rise to the new and eternal life that is ours in His Resurrection. Thus, the entire project of the Christian life is two-fold; continually die to sin, and live in Christ. This is always and only possible by remaining in Him. (John 15:5-10) Because God has bestowed upon us the dignity of freedom, we always have a choice between loving God, remaining in His love, or not. Baptism grants us the sanctifying grace to always remain strong in this freedom, in this life and death choice. (CCC #1999) In a few moments, we will celebrate the offering of this grace which restores us to Divine Life once again.
Let us always live in the grace that is ours through Baptism and the sacraments of the Church. And when we fail, as in our humanity we are bound to do on occasion, let us be quick in seeking out the grace of sacramental reconciliation.
Let us not starve the Life of Christ given us through the Church. Let us always feed upon the bounty of Life He offers us in His Body and Blood of the Eucharist.
We have been baptized in Christ. He now lives in us, that we may live in Him. Be ever mindful of the words of St. Paul: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
Therefore, let us no longer be duped by deception and falsehood. Live in the Truth of Him Who lives in you!
May we forever remain in His love, and may His love forever live in and through us for others.
Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! In Him we are victorious!
Happy Easter, Everyone!
Good Friday, 2013
Christ sheds His blood for us that we might be redeemed and made sharers once again in the Life He shares with the Father. This life that Christ shares with us comes through His humility, His obedience, and His suffering. If we are to share fully in the life He offers, we too must be humble before God, obedient to Christ and His Church, and willing to embrace the suffering that life entails.
From the cross, Christ shares with us the fullness of His love. Let us not run from the love which He offers, which is a love that involves a full giving of one’s self.
As the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us today: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:8-9)
Who does not want a more abundant life today? Greater dignity for all people requires us to embrace the reality of human life. Life is cheap in our culture today. We do not acknowledge or respect its origins, namely that the Divine origin of life is God, who works through the human force of nature. The human source of life ultimately is woman, who through the natural means of love with a man conceives a child in her womb. Just as Jesus nourishes his life within us through shedding His blood on the cross, a woman nurtures the life of a child within her womb by sharing her blood with her child.
Yes, this life within the womb is human, is a child, and is nourished by the life- blood of the mother. For a woman to bring this life to birth, she requires humility, obedience to the laws of nature and to God, and the willingness to embrace the pain and suffering of child-birth. As Christ on the cross, through shedding his life-blood unites his Bride, the Church to Himself, so a husband and wife cling to each other in the same love of humility, obedience and self-sacrifice. For our world to know greater peace and harmony, we must regain a proper understanding and respect for the life of the unborn and the natural means of generating this life through the sacramental love of husband and wife.
Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) His blood cries out to us today for a deeper respect for human life. Who is not concerned in our culture today about the increase of violence? Who can remain unmoved by the massive numbers of innocent people oppressed and killed by dictators and terrorists? Whose hearts are not broken when the lives of innocent children and countless others are murdered in random shootings? What kind of culture, what kind of thinking creates such an environment if not a society that has lost sight of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life?
The first reality of the cross that speaks to us is of suffering. Human life is full of pain and suffering, and much of life is spent trying to relieve or avoid it. Jesus is teaching us today in part that suffering cannot always be avoided. We cannot allow suffering to cause us to withdraw into the safe haven of self. We cannot allow the fear of suffering to keep us from continually giving ourselves in love to our neighbor.
Jesus also teaches us that suffering when associated with Him and His cross can lead to new and more abundant life. The difficulties of our life, down to the most seemingly insignificant detail can have salvific meaning and great power in the hands of God.
Jesus upon the cross teaches us that human relationships are not easy, yet He shows how embracing these difficulties and persevering through them leads to fullness of life. He loved those who crucified Him, and yet He prayed for their forgiveness.
How many in our world today are not willing to make simple sacrifices for those they claim to love? How many marriages today fail because of an unwillingness to embrace the sacrifices that are a part of love? How many couples today simply live together without the benefit of marriage because their own independence means more? How many children are born into the world today without a father to care for them because of such selfishness? In many ways, we are like those referred to by Isaiah: “we have gone astray…each following his own way.” Rather, we are called to live as St. Paul says: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but everyone for those of others.” (Philippians 2:3)
Jesus was obedient to the Father, obedient to death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8) We are called to such obedience. Jesus’ obedience entailed suffering. It is no different for us. But the suffering entailed by obedience leads to endurance. (Romans 5:3) With growth in humility and obedience, we will be able to say with St. Paul: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” (Romans 8:18)
Let us not forget, Jesus’ death was for our sins. (1 John 4:10) Therefore, we too must die to sin if we are to live for Christ. As we venerate his cross today, let us humbly call to mind its purpose; our freedom from sin and our abundant life in Christ. This necessarily means that “we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)
Let us live humbly our faith. Let us live obediently our faith. Let us embrace the suffering life, love, and faith entails, that we may gain the fullness of life Christ has obtained for us by his holy cross.
Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Good Shepherd Tonight; Sacrificial Lamb Tomorrow
Tonight, we celebrate the beginnings of the Church as Jesus establishes the two great sacraments of Eucharist and Priesthood. Tonight, we see Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Tomorrow, we will gaze upon Him as the Sacrificial Lamb. (see Zechariah 10:10-11) Tonight He gives us the Eucharist, tomorrow He will become the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world.
Tonight as He washes His disciples’ feet, Jesus models the great commandment to love one another. Tomorrow He will live out the demands of this Great Love as our High Priest, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.
Tonight, Jesus gives us the Banquet of His Love, new and eternal. The cupboard of the Church is the only place this meal is stored. From this Eucharist, we draw the grace to live our lives with the same love. Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) The banquet we celebrate tonight is the means by which this fullness of life is eternally shared with us. From this Banquet of Love we receive the grace to grow in the fullness of charity and life.
Tomorrow we will remember the great out-pouring of this Love. The Blood of Jesus is a stream that flows once and for all times. It is the life-giving stream seen by Ezekiel flowing from the temple. It is a stream that becomes a river, flowing into the sea, renewing all life. (see Ezekiel 47: 1-10) This outpouring of Love is the Cup of Blessing we share; our Communion with the Blood of Christ. (1 Cor 10:16) This Blood of Christ is the great treasure of the Church entrusted to the priests for safe-keeping and distribution. This blood of Christ washes away our sins and makes us worthy to serve the living God; indeed, this Blood of Christ reunites us with God.
God has blessed us in Christ. Through him, at the cost of his blood, we have been redeemed. (see Romans 5:8-9) This is the cup of blessing shared by Christ with his beloved disciples. The meal Jesus celebrated with His disciples was a remembrance of God’s powerful arm that led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. The meal we celebrate tonight is the fulfillment of the Passover Meal, now that God through His Son has freed His people from their sins. This Eucharist is a remembrance of the redeeming work of Jesus and has become as Moses declared, “a perpetual institution.” (Exodus 12:14)
When we eat the Body of Jesus and drink His Blood, we know what it is to share in the Love of God. This intimate Communion of Life in God is what was lost by sin. We must be honest and humble about our need for this Eucharist. Hopefully, our Lenten journey has sharpened our awareness of sin. Hopefully, our Lenten journey has taught us that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. (John 15:5) This is what sin is; to separate one’s self from Jesus; from God. When sin separates us from God, we can do nothing.
We all know this mysterious power that comes over us at times that seduces us and clouds our thinking. This is the mysterious power that came over Judas and led him to betray Jesus this very night. This power is real, and we know that when we give ourselves over to this power, we die. This is the power of sin that diminishes the Divine Life within us. We cannot love both Jesus and the attraction of sin. Jesus said: “You cannot love both God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) We cannot serve two masters. Blessed Columba Marmion says: “we cannot by the same act unite ourselves to someone and turn away from him.” (Christ, The Life of The Soul, p. 170)
If we choose to remain in sin, then we can have no part in Divine Life. We all know what it is like to desire this Divine Life; to desire this intimate walk with God, and yet to fall into sin. It is so defeating! The reality of our experience when we sin tells us the Truth about sin, that it leads to death, and diminishes the Divine Life within us. Yet, our hope is always in the Lord. God allows this struggle within us between good and evil because, as a wise young priest told me just last night: “God knows we can be victorious. But we are only victorious when we remain in Christ, because it is Christ alone who is victorious.” This is why Christ tells us to remain in Him. (John 15:4)
So, my dear friends, we celebrate tonight. We celebrate the priesthood, and those individual priests who hear our sins and grant us God’s mercy. We celebrate the priesthood and those priests who offer us the Eucharist and all the sacraments that are the means by which Christ shares with us the Divine Life. Above all, we revel in Christ who is our victory. We celebrate this Holy Eucharist, our greatest prayer and means of giving thanks to God for all the Good He has done for us. We celebrate this Eucharist; our greatest means of receiving the abundance of Life, Divine Life, from Christ Himself.
Let us learn these lessons of love. As we are renewed in Divine Life and Love tonight and in every Eucharist, may our lives be marked by concrete actions of the same love, expressed to those who are most in need.
In her Dialogue, God speaks to St. Catherine: “In so knowing me the soul catches fire with unspeakable love, which in turn brings continual pain.” These words appear in the opening section of St. Catherine of Siena’s The Dialogue. They seem a good starting point for our Lenten journey.
In so knowing me… As the title of the book indicates, The Dialogue is a description of the mystical experiences of St. Catherine in her relationship with God. Thus, the first phrase of our meditation is about coming to know God. Yes, it is possible to know God. We may not have mystical experiences, but God is longing to reveal his love for us.
From the beginning, God created all things in love. He so fell in love with us that he drew us forth from himself, and created us in his image and likeness. (he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 3:4) Even despite the original sin of our first parents and the many sins that followed down through the ages, God continues to love us. He chose in love the people of Israel to be his special people. He sent the Patriarchs, Moses, great Kings and prophets to continually renew his covenant with us. After all of this, he sent his only begotten Son that we might gaze upon the face of God and live. In Jesus, we have the fullness of the new and eternal covenant; the fullness of the law and the prophets. Yes, God longs to reveal himself to us. He has done all things that we may come to know him and love him. He awaits our response, each one individually.
The soul catches fire… For something (someone) to catch fire, it must be brought into contact with the fire or a very powerful source of heat. Likewise, the human heart (soul) must be prepared to receive the fire of God’s love. We do not put green wood on a fire (unless it is all we have to burn.) Wood needs to season in order to be a proper fuel. Lent is like that period of seasoning for our souls. We allow time for silence, which may also include less time exposed to the media and messages of the world around us. We spend time in prayer. We give additional attention to the reception of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and Eucharist. We take on additional practices of charity to ease the pain and suffering of others. We identify sinful behaviors that have crept into our lives and devote careful attention to better understand these practices that we might remove them from our life by the grace of God. We identify virtues that need our attention and effort.
But even if we are like the green wood, if the fire is hot enough, (as is Divine Love) it will boil out any moisture present (selfishness) and consume the fuel that is offered (self-gift.) But we must first freely and willingly offer ourselves to God, and allow the Fire of His Love to transform us. Lent is a time for such conversion.
With unspeakable love… “We love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) For our love to grow, we must draw near the source of love, God. “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) We come to know God through his Son, Jesus. Our Lenten journey is to be a journey with Christ.
Which in turn brings continual pain. St. Catherine teaches that when one falls in love with God, pain is experienced on two levels; for one’s own sins and the awareness of the sins of those around her (such as the blindness and indifference people show towards God.) God further speaks to St. Catherine “She suffers because she loves me…” The truth of this statement is revealed in the final moments of Christ’s life and ministry upon the cross. Christ loved the Father. In love with the Father, he sought only and always to accomplish the Father’s will. The will of the Father is to redeem humanity and all creation from sin. Thus, in his great love for the Father and for us, Jesus suffered. Jesus suffered the humiliation and pain of the cross to reveal to the world the fullness of God’s mercy, compassion and love.
Jesus speaks to us from the cross: “See how great, how infinite my love is for you.” Finite suffering of a single person could not suffice to make amends for the offenses our sins are to the infinite love of God. Therefore, only the infinite love of Christ can suffice for our redemption. This is why we believe that Christ’s offering on the cross is the new and eternal covenant. Our celebration of the Eucharist is a participation in this one and eternal offering of Christ for the salvation of the world.
And how do we enter into this offering; by interior desire and intention. The beautiful Morning Offering prayer has a great theology that explains this communion with Christ in the Paschal Mystery:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, For the intentions of your Sacred Heart, In union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, In reparation for my sins and for those of my associates, And in particular for the intentions recommended this month by the Holy Father.
The ‘center’ of this prayer is the Mass, the Eucharist, The Paschal Mystery, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Each day, particularly during each Mass, we seek to join our interior disposition and intention to Jesus’ intention, which is to accomplish the will of the Father, which is the Redemptive Mission of the Church.
Jesus suffered on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. His suffering was a result of his love for the Father and his love for us. Likewise, our love for God and neighbor is exercised in each and every moment of our day. This point came clearly to mind for me recently regarding the manner in which I fulfill my duties as your bishop. There is a big difference between fulfilling my obligations as a bishop, and fulfilling my duties with love. I can endure the sacrifices entailed in ‘my work’ as a bishop, or I can offer my sufferings through love with Christ as the fulfillment of ‘my ministry’ as the Chief Shepherd of this local portion of the family of God.
The same is true for all of us. As we grow in love with Christ and in our awareness of his infinite love for us, we are then called by the same Christ and sent by him to carry out our unique vocation with great love. The love we are speaking of here is not just any love, but the love we experience from Christ; a “love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
When the love of Christ so fills us and so compels us in all things, then we can say with St. Paul:
“I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:19b-20)
This Lent invites us to stand at the foot of the cross with our Blessed Mother and St. John, where Jesus speaks to us of his love. His wounds are openings into the infinite love of God. His open side reveals the infinite love that flows from his Sacred Heart. From his mouth flows not only wisdom and instruction for life, but the Eternal Word of Life.
This Lent, spend time in the school of the cross. Sit at the feet of the Master Teacher. Allow Jesus teach you a love that ‘endures all things.’ Allow Jesus to draw you into the ‘love that never fails.’
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
As the Universal Church recalls a great saint today, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, it is a good opportunity to reflect upon the desire of our own hearts.
One of the realities the saints can teach us is the necessity of spending time in prayer. This time in prayer is critical if we are to identify the deep desire of our hearts for God.
The other reality of the spiritual life the saints teach is that once we are in touch with this desire in our hearts for God, we must exercise that desire, express it. St. Ignatius, being of Spanish decent, and a Basque at that, was a man of passion. This passion is what I am speaking of when it comes to expressing our desire for God.
The interior life of God, namely the life of love that exists, is expressed, between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is the source of each person’s life, and is planted within each of us. This interior life of God is sown within our own hearts by Christ; “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man.” (Matthew 13:37)
I believe this is the ‘fire’ Christ came to sow upon the earth. This is the fire that singed the saints, and burns for each of us. “Thus says the Lord: I have come to cast fire on the earth, how I wish that it were kindled!” (Luke 12:49)
In a world that offers so many ‘delights’ and is fixated on ‘immediate results’ and ‘immediate gratification,’ it requires true self discipline to go beyond the “good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.” (Collect Prayer, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Prayer is the opportunity to daily dwell with the Timeless One. Prayer is the setting to express the deep, intimate, passionate yearnings of our heart, and to await the same from the heart of the Father through Jesus Christ. If we are not aware of God’s abundant, providential love for us, we will find it very difficult to fall in love with the Eternal One who awaits us, who awaits our response.
Strangely, but appropriately, I wish to close this entry marking the feast of St. Ignatius with a passage from St. Bonaventure:
But if you wish to know how these things come about, ask grace not instruction, desire not understanding, the groaning of prayer not diligent reading, the Spouse not the teacher, God not man, darkness not clarity, not light but the fire that totally inflames and carries us into God by ecstatic unctions and burning affections. This fire is God, (St. Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey to God)
This past week I was on retreat with the region bishops in Tucson, Arizona. One of the secondary blessings was the visibility and beauty of the stars. Is there anyone who does not enjoy gazing upon the stars? Even if only for a brief moment, the stars tend to stir one’s heart, and fill us with a sense of wonder and hope. Surely part of the reason for this strange phenomenon is that the stars naturally and powerfully lead us out of our self to something well beyond us. Hidden in this mysterious experience is a truth of the human person; our ultimate fulfillment is only to be found “beyond self”. In other words, we need others. We need God.
The beauty of this final Sunday of the Christmas season is that we see again how God in his goodness, comes to us, to fulfill this basic human need for wholeness, for holiness. Every individual is a part of this Epiphany event. As Epiphany Evening Prayer I says so well: “All peoples will be blessed in him [Christ], men and women of every race.” (Responsory) St. Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians teaches us today “that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” (Ephesians 3:2-6) The birth of Christ is the pivotal point of all history, and the reference point for all humanity, who seek Truth.
The mere presence and role of the star tells us this birth of Christ has cosmic, universal consequence. Imagine the genius of God, who created the heavens and the earth and all within them, most of all, each and every human person. Imagine that God “foresaw” from the beginning of time our need for a savior. When God set in motion the heavens and all their planets and stars and galaxies, He foresaw the moment in time when the Virgin would conceive a Son, and at this very moment in history, the heavens themselves would announce this event to those who were paying attention. Such is the generous providence of our God! This same astrological beauty and wonder continued for the next nine months, leading the magi to the place where the Virgin would give birth to the Savior of the world.
From crib to cross, these are the same heavens that would open on a few other occasions to “speak” on behalf of God to announce the glory of the Lord. On the night of his birth, the heavens opened to reveal to the shepherds “a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God and singing: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 213-14) Such is the significance of this event for us, that the heavens could not contain their joy or the Good News!
At Jesus’ Baptism, marking the beginning of his public ministry, we recount the vision that opened before John the Baptist: and “on coming out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10-11) Similarly at the transfiguration of Jesus, his disciples witness: “a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17: 5) Finally, as we recall, the heavens became dark as Jesus hung upon the cross and gave up his life. (Mt 27: 45, Mk 15:33, Luke 23: 44)
These are rather significant announcements! And they reveal that our God has not put the world into motion, only to set back indifferently and allow things to unfold without a care on His part. No! Our God has come among us, with tremendous love, care and concern, as announced again today by the Psalmist: In the person of Jesus, our God comes “to govern with justice, and with judgment.” He comes “to bring peace till the moon be no more.” “He shall rescue the poor when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him. He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save.” (Psalm 72)
So what does all this have to do with us? First and foremost, this Epiphany is our Epiphany. Christ who was born two millennia ago was born also for us! The light of the heavens and the light of the star which led the magi to the birth place in Bethlehem still call to us today to be led by the light of faith to the same Christ. As the heavens shined forth upon the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah reminds us today that now, “the Lord shines upon us, and his glory appears over us! (Isaiah 60: 1-6) We have only to open our eyes and to open our hearts to receive these precious gifts of the Lord. Indeed, the Christian journey begins by receiving God in the person of Jesus. On this feast of Epiphany, when we celebrate the arrival of the magi, and remember the gifts they brought the newborn King, we are invited to view this gift-giving in reverse, and see how God is the One giving gifts; the Gift of His Son, the Gift of Salvation, the Gift of Eternal Light and Life. We have only to receive Christ. Indeed, this “receiving” is absolutely necessary for the Christian. We are incomplete if we live a life closed in upon self. We are incomplete if we live life only for self, lacking love. We are incomplete until we receive the love of God, and learn to freely offer this love in all that we are and do. The scene before the magi is an instruction from God, Who gives Himself completely to us in His Son. Christ comes to us as the fullness of God, and fully human. He comes from God, and lives His life for God, and completely for others.
The Christian journey is a life of turning away from self (conversion), so as to live only and always for others, most especially, the Other, Jesus Christ! Once we have received Him as our most precious gift, then our life can be a continual response of making a gift of self to Him in our love for His Church and His people. Nationally, we dedicate this week as a week of praying for vocations. Surely, the Christian vocation is a life of service and love; a life lived for God, for His Church, and for God’s people.
Matthew’s Gospel today mentions twice that the magi offered homage and adoration to the Christ. (Mt 2: 2, 11) When we come to recognize the Truth, as did the magi, we, too, will spend more and more time in homage and adoration before the Lord. Such prayerful time in homage and adoration is required if we are to ever properly understand the depths of the love our God has shown us in Christ Jesus. Such understanding is necessary if we are to fully respond to this love. This is the vocation of each and every one of us; to open ourselves to this mysterious love, to receive it and to respond to it with all our heart, soul, and mind. This is to live a life fully human. This is to live a life leading to the Divine!
To all the mom’s this Mother’s Day, may God bless you bunches!
I was struck by today’s Gospel, the famous Road to Emmaus story of the similarity between the Church and mothers. We see the two disciples walking along after the Resurrection, “looking downcast”, when the Risen Jesus approaches.
After they give Jesus their version of “the recent events” in Jerusalem, Jesus “opens their eyes” by helping them understand all that the Scriptures foretold of “these events”. Then, in the “breaking of the bread”, their eyes were further opened to recognize Jesus.
Is this not what Christian mothers do? They give encouragement and hope to their children, and not just any hope, but the hope that springs from our faith in Jesus Christ. A mother faithfully walks the journey of life with her children, helping them come to faith, assuring them of her love, and helping them to accept and love themselves.
During my walk today, I saw many families out, enjoying this beautiful spring day. As I walked, I overheard bits and pieces of many of their conversations. It was quite diverse, what I witnessed and heard. One mother with her husband and two small children was impatient, and heard to say something vulgar to the slowest one lagging behind. With that, the other small child came back with something vulgar as well, and was almost smacked by the mother. I said a silent prayer for them all.
Then, thankfully, there were many others, sharing their joy and the simple gift of time together. I was edified to hear numerous times those three precious words: “I love you.” This is the kind of encouragement and hope which raises up well-formed people.
Today, in honor of Mother’s Day, I planted a patch of wildflowers. I thought of my own mother, with a grateful heart for her faithful journey of life and love. I thought of “our Mother, Mary” in this month of May as well. My own mom recently planted some hydrangeas next to a grotto I built many years ago. She told Mary to take care of them. I’d say Mary is more than doing her part
God bless all of you, and keep encouraging each other in truth and love,