Posts Tagged ‘Love’
Jesus said to the crowds: “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 yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
The call of God in every life is to love. Those who truly love know that it comes not only with great reward, but with a cost as well. It takes great energy to enter into the life of another person; to accompany them, to know and understand their person and their needs.
Through the Incarnation, Jesus took on our human condition. He knows what it is like to enter into the life of another person. He experience hunger, thirst, and weariness, even pain. We can look at the Incarnation as a means by which Jesus took our yoke upon himself in order to show solidarity in the process of revealing the presence of God in our midst. Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ invitation to us to take his yoke and learn from him.
During my walk yesterday, I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary. As I pray the rosary, I like to take just a few moments at the beginning of each decade to ponder the mystery for deeper understanding. The first Sorrowful Mystery recalls the agony of Jesus in the Garden as he enters into his passion.
What did Jesus see and hear from the Father during that period of prayer? Surely, Jesus experienced the Father ‘giving Himself’ in love. Truly, what the Father was asking of the Son, namely to give himself for the salvation of the world, Jesus received from the Father, namely, the Father giving himself in love to Jesus.
My reflection came to mind as I read the first reading today. This is what Jesus received from the Father:
Do you not know or have you not heard? The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. (Isaiah 40:25-31)
The Father not only sustained Jesus during his passion, but gave him the strength to bring to completion the Paschal Mystery. In the same way, Jesus comes to be our strength, most especially when we are doing his work. Jesus is the one who sustains us that we may complete the Father’s will in each of our lives.
So, when we grow weary in the day-to-day demands of striving to grow in holiness, of being faithful to our life as a husband or wife or priest or consecrated man or woman, we have our strength in Christ. When you get frustrated as a single person longing to discover God’s plan for your life, find comfort in Christ.
Behold, the Lord comes to save his people; blessed are those prepared to meet him. (Today’s Gospel antiphon)
On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate the mystery and magnificence of God. With great love, God created all things, the culmination being the creation of man and woman in his own image. Imagine our dignity, being created in the image and likeness of God, for relationship with God, for sharing in the Divine Life Itself! This is the beauty and the dignity of the human person, our communion with God.
But when sin entered into God’s plan for creation, it diminished the human person and dimmed the brilliance of life because sin ruptures the life between the soul and God. But for God, nothing is impossible, even healing the division brought about by sin. And so it is that God who created all things allowed himself to be born of a woman, maintaining his nature as God while at the same time taking on our human nature.
Today we celebrate the love of God that chose Mary to be the Mother of God. In his goodness, God provided for Mary to be conceived without sin by applying to her the grace of the Paschal Mystery which would be accomplished by the death and resurrection of her own son, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Because of this unique action of God and the deep faith of Mary that would cooperate fully with God’s providence, Mary is indeed ‘blessed among women.’
It is somewhat ironic, that on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, I will find myself sitting in the 10th Circuit Court in Denver listening to arguments in the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor as their legal representatives make the case that they should be exempt from providing the contraceptive services required under the HHS Mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The decision in this case will have a strong impact on the case of the Diocese of Cheyenne which is also before the 10th Circuit Court.
Today’s Solemnity is an invitation for all of us to recall the reality of sin at work in our world, and more specifically, in each of our lives. It is more importantly an invitation to reflect upon the incredible mercy of our God who humbly entered into our human condition in order to save us from our sin. Our Blessed Mother reveals the beauty of a life lived in complete obedience to God’s Word. This woman, fully human, by her cooperation with God’s grace, conceived the Savior in her womb, and lived her life as his first disciple.
Christ, as the Son of God and Son of Mary, lived his human life in this world uncorrupted by the ways of this world. Though never touched by any sin, during his passion his body was disfigured by the sin of the world, which he freely took upon himself in order to conquer sin and death.
This life and grace of Christ is now shared with us through baptism and the sacraments of the Church. The Divine life God intends to share with us is once again possible through the Immaculate Conception. The love and cooperation of Mary gave the world the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus through his life, ministry and preaching reveals God to the world once again. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, sin and death are conquered and the gates to eternal life are opened anew.
We are now called to cooperate with this grace and Divine life Jesus restored and renewed. Advent is a time of preparation and hope. As John the Baptist demonstrates, preparation precedes the coming of the Lord; repentance precedes salvation. On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, let us be mindful of our need for a Savior. Let a part of our giving thanks for the immeasurable love shown us by God be availing ourselves once again to the font of mercy that flows through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
As I write, the Solemnity of All Saints is drawing to a close and the eve of All Souls quickly draws near. These two great celebrations call to mind one of my favorite quotes of Bl. Cardinal Newman:
Life is short. Death is certain. Eternity is long.
It is good to turn our thoughts to eternity; to heaven. St. Paul said as much when he taught: Since you have been raised up to new life in Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. (Colossians 3:1)
This is how the saints lived, following Christ, with their feet on the ground and their eyes towards heaven. Thoughts of Christ and his eternal Kingdom stirred their hearts and motivated their every action to live life fully for God; concretely in loving service of their neighbors. They knew that Christ had conquered death and rose from the dead, and they were capable of joining all of their hardships to his with the hope that in so doing they would discover greater life here and grow in the only life that truly matters for any disciple, which is our life in Christ. This notion was captured well in a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Lord, let me not run from the love which you offer, but hold me safe from the forces of evil. And on each of my dyings shed your light and your love.
It is good to think of heaven while facing squarely the challenges we face today. As a tidal wave of secular force continues to crash upon our times and culture we can and still do live with faith and hope, because we know this life is fleeting, and the life of Christ is sustaining us now and drawing us onward to the fullness of life. We need this hope, because we cannot neglect our duties and obligations to the family of God who accompany us during these times in this earthly pilgrimage.
In this past month, I have followed closely the proceedings of the Extraordinary Synod on the family. We have heard many thoughts regarding the family and marriage. Some of these thoughts were captured in the relatio given during the midway point of the Synod, Pope Francis’ address during the final session, and finally, the concluding document.
Beyond the Synod, closer to home, federal judges across this nation continue to declare that state laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman are unconstitutional.
In light of all this recent focus (and fuss) on family and marriage, I gathered a group of young adults for dinner and discussion this past Wednesday evening. It is clear that the ‘tolerance mentality’ of the times is having its effect on what our people believe. Even though there is appreciation for ‘traditional marriage,’ there is also a willingness to allow people to live and express love as they choose, and find no problem calling it ‘marriage.’
At one point, I asked the group: “Where does morality and salvation fit into this discussion?” to which they responded: “That is a good question.” I also ask: “When everyone is allowed to define what is ‘true’ for ones’ self, do we not see what happens?” Absolute Truth disappears when everyone lives according to their own truth. And when these ‘various forms of truth’ conflict with one another, how does anyone any longer know what is ‘True?’
Before leaving this brief discussion of marriage and family, it is very clear to me that we as Church need clear and strong teaching of the fundamental nature of marriage. We need to teach not only the sacramental aspect of Holy Matrimony, but the fundamental nature of the social institution of marriage, which can only be the indissoluble union of love between a man and a woman, which is open to the generation of new life. Marriage is always a life of the spouses lived as a complete ‘gift’ to the other.
To all of those who are living and striving to live this life of husband and wife, I say “Thank you.” We need to continue to find ways as Church to encourage and support our married couples and families.
Back to thoughts about ‘truth.’ The present culture of ‘tolerance’ and ‘live and let live’ can only lead to division, which is more and more the fruit being harvested. The goal of governance is the common good of all peoples, and the common good leads to harmony. For people of faith, we find this common good and sole expression of Truth in the person of Jesus Christ.
Where I see Pope Francis leading the Church is this: First, we are to recognize the beauty of Christ through an intimate encounter with Christ. We are to first personally fall in love with Christ, who alone reveals the love and mercy of the Father. Christ and his Holy Spirit will reveal to us ‘all truth’ so that we may live fully the Divine Life the Father longs to share with us. The Holy Spirit will then help us to know and love the Truth of Jesus Christ.
Second, we are to recognize that many people for various reasons are not living the fullness of the truth in their lives. We are to embrace them and accompany them, not judge and condemn them. Jesus came into the world to save the world, not condemn the world, and this is our attitude once we come to know and love Christ. As we accompany God’s people, together we seek the Truth, all the while seeking to ‘build a bridge’ by which we walk together to greater and greater wholeness and holiness.
So, let us look to heaven, where the great company of holy men and women await us and intercede for us. Let us know and love Christ and his Truth. Let us get to know and love our neighbor, and together, build a bridge (which is Jesus Christ) that will bind the wounds of a hurting humanity while binding us together as one, in our faith in Jesus Christ.
Isaiah: my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Psalm 67: O God, let all the nations praise you.
Romans: St. Paul is sent to the Gentiles.
Matthew: To the ‘foreigner,’ Jesus says: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Jesus, though at first glance, seems harsh and unresponsive to the Canaanite woman, is actually busy in his role as Teacher and as Savior of the nations. His silence in the face of the Canaanite woman’s request is meant to elicit faith from her. Is she there simply because she has heard of this man Jesus and the miracles he performs, and wants him to perform a healing for her daughter? Or is she there because she, too, has come to believe in him as the Son of God?
Likewise, Jesus is also in this moment teaching his disciples about the universal nature of his ministry. By granting this Canaanite woman her request, Jesus signals that faith in him is not limited to Israel; God’s mercy and love extends to all people. Thus, they will eventually be sent to all nations to proclaim the Good News and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
How do today’s readings apply to us?
Christ put his life at the service of the Father’s will, and came into the world as the Bread of Life, that all who come to believe him might live. St. Paul put his life at Christ’s disposal, and was sent to the Gentiles. The Disciples put their life at Christ’s disposal, and were sent to all the nations to proclaim the Good News. Do we see the implication in these statements for us?
We, too, are to grow in faith in Jesus Christ.
We, too, are sent in the name and love of Jesus to others.
How many of us, like the Canaanite woman, have come to Christ? Have we come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Have we been brought into the life of Christ through the sacraments of the Church?
Now to the heart of the matter: What are we doing with this Life Christ has shared with us? Has our ‘vision’ of this Life been corrupted by today’s hyper individualism and consumerism in that we see this Life as ‘just for me?’ Do I live this Life in Christ only when it is convenient, or across the spectrum of every moment and aspect of my life? In short, is the Life of Christ something passively at work in me, or have I given my life completely over to Christ?, as Christ gave his to the Father and the apostles gave their life to Christ?
Has my heart become hard and cold to the presence of Christ within me, so that this Font of Life which is Christ has become like a frozen water pipe which no longer flows? Or, have I freely given adherence to Christ and his truth that this Font of Life breaks forth from me so that I am a life-giving stream to those around me?
What does adherence to Christ look like?
The Prophet Isaiah today tells us: we join ourselves to the Lord, we minister to Christ, we love the name of Jesus, we are servants of Christ and his Church, we remain faithful to the new and eternal covenant Christ created by pouring out His blood.
The Prophet Ezekiel tells us to adhere to Christ is to live a life of virtue:
- one who does what is right and just
- who does not raise his eyes to other gods or idols or place false hope in worldly things
- who is faithful to God and faithful to one’s spouse and family, faithful to one’s promises
- who is just in business affairs – who oppresses no one and takes not from another
- who gives food to the hungry and clothes the naked
- who refrains from every form of evil and conducts his or her affairs with honor
- who lives by God’s ways – God’s commandments (see Ezekiel 18)
Such a person is just, is virtuous, and lives a life pleasing to God; a life that shares in the fullness of life Jesus promises to those who believe and trust in Him.
Is my faith in Christ like the mustard seed growing in the life of others, giving shelter to all? Is my life like the yeast mixed into a batch of dough that extends the Life of Christ and the Kingdom of God to my family and friends, co-workers and neighbors?
The fundamental answer to these questions boils down to love. If we love, then we are another Christ. When we love, Christ is a part of everything that we do. When we love Jesus, we experience a deep communion with God. When we keep the great commandment to love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as our self, then our love extends the communion we experience with God to others. When we love, our love creates unity among others; a unity that overcomes all fears and divisions. When we love, our life expands beyond our self and extends the love of Jesus to others. (See A New Way, p. 76, Chiara Lubich)
The Opening Prayer in Mass this morning speaks to this reality of love:
“O God, who have prepared for those who love you good things which no eye can see, fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love, so that, loving you in all things and above all things, we may attain your promises, which surpass every human desire.”
We are all sons and daughters of one God, which means we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. May our life in Christ lead us to deeper union with God, greater friendship with Christ, thus enabling us to be agents for healing divisions and building unity, communion, wholeness. In short, let us give our lives completely to Christ, that He may send us in His name to further God’s Kingdom on earth.
Jesus is not only the ‘key’ to understanding the parables, He IS the Kingdom of God, and in Him, we spread that Kingdom here on earth. As a new day dawns upon this part of God’s good earth, may the Light of Christ ‘break upon us,’ that we may be led by Christ out of our own darkness and be better capable of bringing light and hope to others.
The Kingdom of God is like a treasure buried in a field. (Matthew 13:44) Jesus Christ, who though rich became poor, that by his poverty you might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9) Jesus Christ is the treasure, Who, when discovered, when encountered, enriches every human person. Even though He is the Son of God, He abandoned His rightful place in heaven to take on our flesh, our human condition, and was ‘sown in the field of the world’ in order to reveal the love of God. Every human person is created for love; every human person is by nature attracted to Christ. Thus, when we encounter Christ, we are so attracted to Him that we are willing to give up all other ‘worldly’ goods in order to belong completely to Christ.
This truth is expressed by the following phrase when Matthew completes this teaching of Jesus by saying when a person discovers this treasure: “out of joy [this person] goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44) Notice the joy that comes when we associate our life with Christ, when we allow Christ to take precedence over everything else. Life is a long journey, a ‘pilgrimage’ once we discover Christ. This life will continue to have its ups and downs, but as long as we stay focused upon Christ, we will know joy, love, and fulfillment. When we allow our self to look too much at what we have ‘given up,’ then this life and love and joy will begin to diminish (because we are focusing on ‘self’ rather than Christ; rather than others.)
St. Paul knew this truth regarding the fleeting nature of this world and the eternal glory of our life in Christ. That is why St. Paul can say: “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
The Kingdom of God is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.” (Matthew 13:47) This parable gives clear indication that God has created everything to be included in His Kingdom. God’s desire is that all of us grow in holiness, that we all be saved. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) We know from the creation accounts of Genesis that God saw His creation as “good.” It is only by our free will that we choose to distort this goodness, that we fail to live according to God’s will, which is that we love God with all our heart, and love our neighbor as our self. Even though we all sin, Christ has come as our salvation. Christ has come to redeem what was lost through sin, and so we see once again the centrality of Christ in God’s Kingdom, and the importance of our freely embracing and believing in Christ. The evidence that we truly love Christ is our love for our neighbor.
The parables offered for our prayer and consideration today reflect the multiplying effect of Christ living through more and more believers as God’s design for expanding His Kingdom upon the earth.
The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. … It becomes a large bush and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches. (Matthew 13: 31, 32) With this parable, the Kingdom of God becomes associated not only with Christ, but with Christ’s Church. We believe that the Church is the Body of Christ. The Church is made up of many individuals, those who have come to ‘dwell in the branches’ of this Kingdom which God has sown in the world through the Incarnation of Christ. From the one person of Jesus (that tiny mustard seed), Christ drew to himself the twelve and many others, and they (we) were sent into the world to continue to proclaim the Good News, to continue to give witness (testimony of faith in Jesus Christ) to others. And as more came to faith, more take up their dwelling in this ‘large bush’ that is God’s Kingdom upon the earth.
The Kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” (Matthew 13: 33) This parable is very similar to the one about the mustard seed, but gives clearer evidence to the effect of our faithful witness to Christ in the world. Our faith is not a matter of private relationship with Jesus, something held selfishly for my own wellbeing. True, when one comes to friendship with Christ, she or he is greatly enriched. But this is not sufficient, nor does it reflect the nature of true love (which always generates new life.) This relationship with Christ compels us to share our faith. (2 Corinthians 5:14) This relationship with Christ naturally leads us in love to enrich others, particularly those who are in need. (Matthew 5: 3-12; 25: 31-40)
May Christ bless each of us this day with His presence, His love and mercy, and may we be the same blessing to others. Thus, the Kingdom of God shall grow!
Last evening I went out after a brief rain thinking it would be easy to pull weeds in my small flower garden. To my disappointment, I discovered only the surface was moist, and I needed a tool to break the ground deep enough to pull the weeds from their roots. I realized after the weeds were pulled that having broken the ground in the process, this would be a good time to give the flowers some water. I thought the rain was over for the evening.
Then, around 9:45 pm a huge thunderstorm moved through, dumping not only copious amounts of water, but about five minutes of hail. The ground and streets are covered with the leaves stripped from the trees. My walk this morning revealed piles of hail on street corners where the gutters and drains were clogged from the hail, and could not carry the runoff of hail and rain fast enough. The hail did not do my flowers any good either!
But I digress from my point… The experience last night of pulling weeds and working the ground are a good analogy for the human heart. When the ground becomes hard, the rain does not have the immediate ability to penetrate the ground. Rather, the rain runs off, providing little long-term benefit to the roots, and thus the plants themselves. But, when the ground has been cultivated, it is not only free of weeds which compete for the nutrients of the crops and flowers, but the soil is far more receptive to the moisture required for growth and health.
Similarly, the human person must tend to the interior needs of the heart and soul. The attitude espoused in Psalm 108 expresses beautifully the openness of one who understands the life-giving relationship we have with the Creator: “My heart is ready, O God …” A healthy human life is one that does not allow the heart to become hardened by worldly ways, nor the soul to become fruitless through regular patterns of sinfulness and vice.
Hearts that cultivate relationships and love, souls that develop virtue and grow in holiness are ready tools in the hands of God. The Prophet Isaiah teaches: As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61)
So, dear friends, as we enter another day, let our hearts be open to the Lord. It is good to remember that each day we enter into a Love that is eternal. We take up fresh and new a relationship with Christ who is always pouring out grace upon grace to keep us vibrant in the life and ministry He shares with us. With cultivated and grateful hearts, let us ‘soak up’ the grace and love of Christ, that we may bloom where he has planted us and bear the fruits that are ours when we remain in His love. (John 15)
In Today’s Gospel, (John 14: 1-12) Jesus is telling His disciples that He is leaving them. But this message is not meant to leave the disciple in despair. No! Quite the contrary, this message is one that leads the disciple to fullness of life. Jesus indicates that He is going to prepare a place for them. The disciples are told that where He is going they know the way.
Thomas asks Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus responds: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father.” In other words, to know Jesus is to know the way, the truth and the life. To know Jesus is to know the Father. To know and believe in Jesus is to know that we belong to His Father and our Father.
In this discourse the night before He died, Jesus reveals one of the deepest mysteries of God, namely, that God is eternal relationship. When asked by Philip to ‘show us the Father’ Jesus responds: “whoever sees me has seen the Father.” What else can this mean other than the relationship that exists between Jesus and God the Father is so intimate that to see One is to see the Other. To know One is to know the Other. God is eternal, and therefore, God is eternal relationship. This is why Jesus also says in today’s Gospel “do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”
This eternal relationship that IS God does not stop with God, but because God is an eternal, life-giving Reality, this Life that IS God is continually creating new life, and in Christ continually redeeming life. Because Jesus returned to the Father, and promised to return to us in order to take us to Himself, we know and believe that all life is destined to return to its Divine Source, which is the eternal relationship of Love that is God.
God’s love is fruitful, prolific, always generating new life, always sustaining love. Every human person is drawn forth from this Source of Life and Love. Regarding this Divine Creativity of God, Ilia Delio, OSF writes this in her book: The Humility of God:
That God creates, however, reflects who God is, namely, self-communicative love. Because the nature of God lies precisely in fecundity, the question of “how” God creates cannot be separated from the question of “why” God creates, since the very nature of the Trinity as self-communicative love is itself the basis of action. Bonaventure’s theology allows us to say that the triune God does not act on discrete levels of creation, as if connecting things together nor does God act in every single discrete event as an individual “actor.” God does not “act” to cause things to change; rather, things change because God is love and love is attractive. God is a relationship of love whose “action” in creation is an eternal-temporal “act” of love. (p. 81)
God is one eternal procession of Love; never ending, never stopping, always loving. Jesus came to redeem and re-orient the human heart to this Original course. That is why still today, when a human person or when society as a whole loses this orientation, there can be no true harmony, peace, or justice. There can be no true human fulfillment, because the human heart fails to be satisfied with anything less than it is created for; namely love.
Pope Paul VI said just as much in 1968: “man cannot find true happiness – towards which he aspires with all his being – other than in respect of the laws written by God in his very nature, laws which he must observe with intelligence and love.” (Humanae Vitae, #31) The fracturing of society we are witnessing today is directly related to the diminishing of this fundamental truth, this life-giving wisdom.
In chapter 15 of John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about the absolute necessity of remaining IN Him. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Remain in me as I remain in you.” Jesus is LIFE because of the relationship He shares with God. Our lives will only bear fruit to the degree that we remain in Christ. When we separate ourselves from Christ, we cannot bear fruit, we remain barren. “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”
Every human person knows sin, and thus knows this ‘barrenness.’ Likewise, every disciple knows the life-giving reality of being in relationship with Christ. “On behalf of Christ, let us be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5:20)
Because ‘love is attractive,’ as disciples of Christ, let us continue to live the fullness of our Christian vocation. Let us live in relationship with God. Let us live in love our relationships in the world. Then, this ‘love that is attractive’ by God’s divine power, will change the world.
As always, the First Reading of the Great Easter Vigil is the creation account from the Book of Genesis. We are called back to our roots, to our Divine DNA. The One Who created everything we worship this Holy Night for He has now Redeemed and Restored the same creation.
Everything comes from God’s creative love. Easter is celebrated in the Spring – and not by chance. As Cardinal Ratzinger reflects in his book, Behold the Pierced One, Jesus spoke often of “his hour” and that his ‘hour’ had not yet come on those occasions when the Pharisees and Priests sought his life. Jesus chose the ‘hour’ of his death (and resurrection), in association with the Passover, with the first full moon of Spring. Thus he unites once again the entire universe with His saving act.
Spring, is a time when the earth is waking up from the sleep of winter to give birth to every form of life all over again. The Passover is a time set aside each year to remember how God in his marvelous works set his people free from slavery. Recalling the death of the first born (Christ) and the slaughter of the unblemished lamb (Christ) are meant to evoke the saving power of God through His Son. They are meant to evoke the salvation of all people of every time.
Springtime is as powerful a symbol of resurrection as creation can offer.
This Holy Night uses well the primary forces of creation. LIGHT: The Easter Fire initiates our celebration as we begin in Darkness to reveal once again that the Light of Christ conquers darkness (resurrection!) We sing the praise of the paschal candle which is the symbol of the Light of Christ.
WATER is another sign of Life. Water bestows fruitfulness. Nothing grows without water. The absolute necessity of water is uniquely understood in the desert. Water as we know is also a primary source of cleansing and refreshment.
Finally, as the Easter Vigil and the entire Easter celebration reveal, the human voice is another powerful force of nature. Today, the Church sings again the great Alleluia! and gives praise to God.
As all of creation ‘gives birth’ once again this Spring, so too, the Church in the waters of Baptism, “the grace by which God has erased sin, restored innocence, and conferred justification that makes the soul worthy of eternal life.” (St. Bonaventure; The Triple Way)
The Paschal Lamb; The Lamb of God: “According to the Book of Revelation, the Lamb alone can open the seals of history. It is the Lamb, who appears as slain and yet lives, who receives the homage of all creatures in heaven and earth. The lamb which lets itself be killed without complaint is a symbol of meekness: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Mt 5:5). The Lamb with his mortal wound tells us that, in the end, it is not those who kill who will be the victors; on the contrary, the world is sustained by those who sacrifice themselves. It is the sacrifice of him who becomes the “Lamb slain” that holds heaven and earth together. True victory lies in this sacrifice. It gives rise to that life which imparts a meaning to history, through all its atrocities, and which can finally turn them into a song of joy.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger; Behold The Pierced One, p. 114)
Christ Conquers Death (Sin); Christ is our Life.
When I have known darkness in my own life, it is only when I turn it over to Christ that I experience conversion, light, victory, resurrection … holiness. Christ, in uniting us more closely with Himself – makes it possible for us to live in greater harmony with others. For true life is one of relationship, of communion. When these are damaged or do not exist, there is despair, and persons quickly shrivel up and die without this light, this truth, this goodness.
But when we encounter Christ, when we allow Christ to be our Truth, our Way, our Life, then we know the fullness of life! Then we know joy, meaning and purpose. Then we know true freedom, because then we know God.
Look around, all of creation is coming to life again, and all of creation, every one of us, traces our origins back to One Source, God. Just as every part of God’s creation has an inner orientation to the Creator that gives rise to the cycle of life, so too does every human being. When the harmony of all that God created was disrupted through sin, He came among us and took the full force of this consequence, in all of its ugliness and force, to restore and redeem through the power of Love. “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
God, the Risen Christ, the God of LIFE and LOVE is our true DNA. That is why we can live each day with the faith and hope that it is possible to live without sin; that it is not only possible, but it is God’s desire that we live lives of holiness.
Christ said: “Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” My dear friends, let us find the Risen Christ within us again this Easter as we renew our Baptismal promises. Let us love and serve the Risen Christ within our neighbor. By such acts of faith and love, we bring heaven to earth. Let us follow the Lamb of God, Risen and Redeemer to a better world in this life, and to to eternal life!
Mass of the Lord’s Supper; Holy Thursday 2014
Homily, Bishop Paul D. Etienne
Who does not long to see Jesus face-to-face? Who does not yearn for the reassurance of Christ’s love? He comes! Let us receive Him in the manner He chooses.
In this Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus reveals the enduring reality of the Church as He gives Himself to His apostles under the form of bread and wine. Jesus points once again to the way of God’s love. He who “had come from God and was returning to God” took off his outer garments and wrapped the towel of humble priestly service about His waist. As He washes the feet of His apostles and tells them; “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
And thus begins the perpetual gift of Christ, a gift that will reach its completion on the cross, buried briefly in a tomb and be lifted up for all to see in all of its brilliance on Easter Sunday; a Gift we know today as the Church; as Eucharist, as Priesthood; in short, as Love.
We enter tonight the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The One Who humbled Himself to share in our humanity, Who lowered Himself as Son of God to become Son of Man, Who walked among us, Who preached the Good News, Who renewed and restored life to the sick and lost, Who gave hope to the desperate, Who forgave sinners, enters tonight into His Passion, which is the very Passion of the Heart of God, Whose Heart is overturned with mercy towards us.
Do you want to see the Christ face to face? Then enter with a heart of love into the Mystery opening before us this Holy Night. He comes! Let us receive and welcome Him as He chooses.
The Eucharist that perhaps has become a routine experience is revealed again tonight in its Original Beauty – a Communion of Love between Christ and His beloved friends. The Eucharist that at times is impoverished by our inattentiveness is revealed again tonight for its Truth and Beauty, as the very Body and Blood of Christ; the Gift of Divine love and life in its fullness. The Eucharist which some have left behind as something old and boring we celebrate with joy and gratitude tonight as the ‘sacrifice new for all eternity, the banquet of Christ’s love.’ (Collect, Mass of the Lord’s Supper)
As the Apostles gazed upon the face of Jesus during the Last Supper, so do all believers who gather around the table of the Lord. As the beloved disciple leaned upon the breast of Jesus during the Last Supper, so do we who adore Him in the Eucharist, who eat His Body and Drink His Blood. We do not come tonight to drink and still thirst, nor to eat and not be filled. We do not labor for food that perishes. Rather, we come to partake in the Food that endures for eternal life. (cf John 6:27)
As Christ changed water to wine, (John 2:1-11) so Christ comes to us under the signs of wine and bread that become His Body and Blood. May our faith in this marvelous exchange be renewed tonight, and may the eyes of the doubting be opened to believe and receive Christ in His precious Gift.
Do you want to see Christ face to face? Then adore Christ in the Eucharist. Discover Christ in the Blessing Cup of Communion that is the Blood of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:16) He comes! Let us receive and welcome Him as He chooses.
The Priesthood which has been soiled through human weakness is still the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. The priesthood that at times is diminished with too much emphasis on privilege rather than humility, worldly trappings rather than simplicity, power rather than service, control instead of collaboration is called tonight to return to Christ Who is our Head, our Master, our Model and Friend.
The priesthood that is at time isolated in parish rectories and offices is called tonight to walk with God’s people to accompany them in their darkness and lead them into the Light of the Church, the Light of the Gospel, the Light of Jesus Christ. Priests are reminded tonight that Christ Who became poor for our sake likes to whittle us down to nothing in order that He can be our Everything. The priests who leave everything behind to follow Christ are reminded again tonight that as they give their all to love those entrusted to them, He always returns love for love.
Do you want to see Christ face to face? Then look into the eyes of your priest. Love your priests. These are the mysterious, loving ways of our God. He comes! Let us receive and welcome Him as He chooses.
Finally, the Church. Christ washes the feet of His apostles tonight, and with this gesture he gives us not only the model for priesthood, but the model of life for all who will come to believe in Him and follow Him. As Christ approached Peter to wash his feet, Peter at first protests: “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answers: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” This inheritance is not just of apostolic ministry, but the inheritance of eternal life and the new commandment “to love one another as I have loved you.” To be washed by Christ is to be bathed in His blood and renewed in the waters of baptism. And thus Jesus tells Peter tonight: “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over;”
Tonight, as we join the apostles in the upper room, as we have our feet washed by Jesus and partake of the new and eternal banquet of the unblemished lamb slain for our salvation, as we walk with Christ across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane, while we stand by and watch him betrayed and arrested and tomorrow stand at the foot of the cross, we come to the headwaters of the Church.
The Church is the Body of Christ, nourished by His Body and Blood and called to service as we model Him “Who loved His own in the world, and loved them to the end.” Yes, each of us are called to the same loving service of Christ, called to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ, called to love as Christ, Who loves without measure. And when we learn to go out of ourselves and love with all the love of Christ, then we will see Christ face to face in those who need us most.
Do you want to see Christ face to face? Then love another, love one who cannot or does not love you in return and you will see the face of Christ and know the love of Christ in return. He comes! Let us receive and welcome Him as He chooses.
On this Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, we receive some great wisdom for living a fruitful Christian life. The prophet Isaiah reminds us of the ebb and flow of the spiritual life. In the 49th Chapter of Isaiah, the first 13 versus speak of the restoring love of God, and how God in his mercy will provide pastures where once there were barren heights; springs of water to those who thirst; food for the hungry; shelter to those exposed to the wind and sun.
Then, today’s reading follows, and the same ‘Zion’ cries ‘The Lord has forsaken me; the Lord has forgotten me.’ How often do we feel the same in our own pilgrimage of faith?! But do not these very same words remind us of Jesus in his moment of abandonment upon the cross? The Prophet Isaiah goes on to say in today’s reading: ‘See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you’. Indeed, Jesus allowed each of us to be carved into his hands as he was nailed to the cross. Such a love!
What does Jesus have to teach us in this moment? Jesus teaches us that love bears all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7) Jesus came from the Father, to reveal the love of the Father. This humble love of Jesus is best revealed in his own willingness to ‘abandon himself’ to the Father’s will, which is to be love to us. Jesus allows himself to be completely ‘emptied’ so as to be completely ‘filled’ with the love of God, extended to each of us. Recall the beautiful hymn of St. Paul in the Letter to the Philippians:
“Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at.
Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross!”
This love of the ‘abandoned Jesus’ is simply and yet profoundly a love that empties one’s self of ‘self’ to be filled with the ‘Other’ to live completely for ‘others.’ How does that translate for each of us? Let’s keep looking at today’s scriptures.
Psalm 62 puts it simply: “Rest in God alone.” In other words, we are to trust in the fidelity and love of God. This is also the message of today’s Gospel: “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? … Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:24-34)
Another key for understanding comes from the beginning of today’s Gospel when Jesus tells his disciples “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Even though this is not ‘specifically’ what Jesus is speaking of in this context, I believe a valid application would be in reference to ‘love of self’ versus ‘love of God.’
This is exactly what Jesus did in his earthly ministry. He chose to always love God, and did so concretely in his tender, merciful love for people. This is what we are also to do. We are to love God first, foremost and always, and to do so concretely in our love for our neighbor. Another key comes from today’s second reading, 1 Corinthians 4: 1-5 when St. Paul tells us: “Be servants of Christ.”
We are servants of Christ when we love one another. This is the basic commandment of the Christian life. The question for us is simply: “Have we begun to truly love?” True love is willing to leave one’s self behind for the good of another; to place one’s life at the service of another. Often, if not always, this creates the cross of each disciple’s life. Do you know what that particular cross is for you? Have you freely, lovingly persevered in allowing that cross to ‘empty yourself of self love’ so that you may be filled with the love of Christ?
Who of us does not want to experience the love of God?! The key is loving another. If you want to know God’s love, then love someone else, humbly, silently, tenderly. Chiara Lubich says that when we love another, Christ is present in our midst. When we love another, we open a bit of heaven here on earth. When we love another, we advance the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, let us seek first God’s Kingdom. Let us rest in God. Let us seek God first and above all else, and all else will follow.
Jesus abandoned himself to the Father. Jesus rested in God alone. And because he did, we see Life flow from his open side which is the beginning of the Church. This open side of Christ (and the Church) are like a Font from which we drink the life-giving love and mercy of Christ. Recall the words from John’s Gospel:
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. (…) whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10-14)
This relationship of Christ with his Church is so intimate and rich, that in his homily this past Friday, Pope Francis noted that ‘you cannot understand the Church without Christ, and you cannot understand Christ without the Church.’ The Church flows from Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ.
Finally, we look to Mother Mary as another ‘fruitful’ model of one who ‘rested in God’ and made a complete gift of her life to God in order to conceive and give Christ to the world. An essential part of the Christian life is this dynamic of ‘receiving’ and ‘giving.’ Let us seek Mary’s intercession that we may allow the Lord to ‘carve out’ sufficient space within each of us ‘for him to dwell’ (receive) so that we have the same Treasure to share with others, Christ our Lord.
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!