Posts Tagged ‘Love’
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!
The life of a Christian is one of service and humility, born in close association with Jesus Christ. The life of the Christian is to bear the good fruit of love, harvested in the many acts of charity, great and small. As a good fruit comes from ‘good stock,’ so the Christian must daily cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ. As St. Paul says, we must daily keep our eyes on Christ. (Hebrews 12:2) St. John speaks the more familiar phrase regarding the intimate closeness of Christ to us: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. .. Remain in me, as I remain in you.” (John 15: 1,4)
The association with Christ is what brings the Christian to full maturity. As the sun is necessary day after day for the fruit to ripen, so the Christian walks in the Light of Christ. For the good fruit to grow to maturity, it remains free from damage by insects and infestations. So does Christ allow the Christian to enjoy health and growth in virtue by his or her close association with Christ. At a minimum, for fruit to mature, it must remain on the tree. Storms and strong winds can separate the fruit from the tree before it is truly ripe, thus the Christian learns to cling to Christ during the storms of life, trusting that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.’
“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? … No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35-39)
The tree must be well cultivated and pruned. Part of this cultivation and pruning for the Christian means ‘ridding ourselves of every burden and sin’ (Hebrews 12:1). Jesus teaches that we can expect such pruning in our own life. “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” (John 15: 2-3)
As another Lent approaches, let us begin even now taking stock of how closely we allow Christ to walk with us. Let us examine what in my life is in need of pruning; sinful patters of behavior, fear of the cross as it falls across the path of my own journey of faith. Let us not be afraid of the pruning of even ‘fruitful branches’ of my life in order that I may bear even more fruit. Perhaps I am too attached to some things or relationships. Do not be afraid to approach Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He longs to meet us there with the healing balm of His mercy.
The true Tree of Life is the Cross, and every mature Christian life passes through the Cross to fullness of life.
May each of us find the way to walk ever more closely with Christ, remain more fully within His Light, and rely more upon His Word and Wisdom than our own.
Almost everyday, we encounter some form of road block or difficulty related to our work, or state in life and or vocation. Our Christian tradition tells us such will be the case for one who follows Jesus. Our ‘language’ for this is typically: “Take up your cross” or “Offer it up.”
When we speak about the cross and its role in the Christian life we immediately think of suffering. Suffering is seldom something we desire to embrace. The topic itself can often be treated with a deaf ear. Recently, a particular grace was offered to help me better understand this spiritual reality.
As I awoke early one morning, I was very aware of a difficult task that lay ahead in the day’s demands. In light of this, the simple phrase came to mind: “Touch the Wounds of Jesus.” Strangely enough, this was a comforting thought. I explored it more prayerfully. As I looked to this challenge in light of the phrase “Touch the Wounds of Jesus” I was immediately aware that only the power that flows from Jesus’ Wounds would bring about a good outcome for this difficulty that could not be avoided. I realized that my efforts in this regard in the past had been insufficient.
As I began working on the task at hand, I faced more challenges, and the phrase was repeated “Touch the Wounds of Jesus.” Now, other thoughts came with it: “Do not become frustrated.” “Do not become impatient.” I pressed on, at peace. I then began to come to deeper understanding that all such frustrations in our daily life, particularly as they relate to our being disciples of Jesus are not just opportunities to Touch the Wounds of Jesus, but are actual experiences, meant to allow that power of His mercy and love flow into us.
Touching the Wounds of Jesus is a meditation on the love of God, the mercy of God, the healing, redeeming power of God. A part of the experience of the Incarnation for us also entails a faith-filled encounter with the Wounds of Jesus. Think of the power that flows from these Wounds – the power of God to forgive the sins of the world. It is precisely this power, this mercy and love of God that we need at work in our life and in all that we do in the Name of Jesus.
For greater context, we can look to today’s Gospel from St. Luke (10:21-22):
“All things have been handed over to me by the Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
The Wounds of Jesus are an important part of the Son revealing the Father to the world. When we suffer in living out our vocation, Jesus is inviting us to touch His Wounds, and in the process, revealing to us the power of God, the mystery of God, the love and mercy of God. This is precisely why the power of God’s weakness is far greater than human strength.
May each of us be willing to allow Jesus to lead us in each moment of our day. May we have the grace to find Jesus in our sufferings, great and small. May we allow the ‘weakness of God’ to be our strength!
Today, couples gathered from around Wyoming to celebrate the beauty and gift of marriage. Many dioceses around the country have such an annual celebration in the middle of winter. I have a feeling that is why it has not been celebrated here. So, we decided that today, we would invite couples who have been married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, or more that 50 years to come to Casper to celebrate marriage.
I believe 113 couples registered for the event. The longest married couple was celebrating their 73rd anniversary of marriage! The 113 couples together represented over 5,000 years of marriage…that is not a typo…5,000 years of marriage!
Below are some of the main points from my homily today.
The People of Israel put their faith in the promises of God. This faith in God gave them courage.
The People of Israel awaited the salvation of the just. The author of the Book of Wisdom is here recalling the hardships the people endured while enslaved in Egypt. He is also reminding them that just as God saved them from bondage, He continues to act in our day, for our God is a faithful God. Thus, we, too, are to place our faith in God, and find our courage in the fidelity and mercy of God.
HEBREWS (11: 1-2, 8-19)
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”
I was looking back at my own journal the other day, and was recognizing the many moments that I have struggled, and turned to the LORD, questioning and pleading for what grace I felt was most needed. I began to notice even in my rambling thoughts a recognition in those times of the role of faith. Even though I could not see clearly the next steps to be taken, or did not feel enlightened enough for particular decisions, I never-the-less took those steps and made those decisions…in faith.
I then thought of each of you, and so many other married couples who no doubt live your married lives by faith. None of you could have possibly envisioned the life that lay ahead of you on your wedding day. No doubt there have been hardships. Probably all of you have had moments when it was not easy to continue to love. There were possibly major moves from one job to another or even one city or state to another, possibly even times when there was no income to support you as a couple or family. As Abraham was asked by God to offer his son, some of you have lost children, either through miscarriages or death.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us: “Your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.” Every Christian vocation is a way or path to the Kingdom of Heaven. Every Christian vocation is meant to build up the Kingdom of Heaven. This is certainly the case for marriage.
In marriage spouses are to help each other, their children, indeed all of society find their way to heaven. Pope Francis in a recent address tells us that the pastoral work of the Church does not succeed through our resources, but upon the creativity of love.
Dear husbands and wives, your sacramental life is such a ‘creativity of love’ upon which the Church relies. Our pastoral efforts as Church depends upon your love. Your love is a participation in Divine love. Your love brings new children into the family of God. Without the love of husbands and wives, there will be no more children in God’s family.
Jesus also instructs us today: “Sell your belongings and give alms.” The Christian vocation is not about one’s self. A Christian vocation is always about the Other, and about service and love of others. Jesus warns numerous times in the Gospel not to get too attached to the things of this world. We need to always remain free for greater love.
Every Christian vocation leads to an “inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.” The true, inexhaustible treasure in heaven is God, because God is love. That is why the path to heaven is love. That is how spouses assist one another in getting to heaven, by the path of true love.
“For where your treasure is, there also will your hearts be.” For most couples, their spouse is their greatest treasure. But we must always remember that marital love is to be a participation in a greater love, which is the Infinite, the inexhaustible love of God.
Dear husbands and wives, thank you for your love. Thank you for your fidelity. Thank you for your witness to the world of your believe in the God of Love, and your belief that the true goal of this life is what lies beyond the present world, the Kingdom of Heaven, which the Father wishes to give us.
I hope to have some photos to add to this entry shortly. To all our married couples: keep living the faith, keep loving, and hang in there! Thank each of you for your love and fidelity. God bless you.
Today I had the distinct pleasure of returning to a parish where I served as pastor for nine years to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony for a lovely couple. The groom was only 15 years old when I arrived in 1998 as pastor. I quickly came to know and love his family.
I was very happy when I learned of his engagement to a beautiful and lovely young woman, and more than pleased to accept their invitation to celebrate their special day with them.
Congratulations Steven & Kristina Bauerla!
Below are the main thoughts from today’s homily:
Today’s Gospel, Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, captures Jesus in one of his great teaching moments. I’m sure Kristina can relate to the role of teacher, as well as to the reality that when a teacher teaches, she or he wants others to pay attention, and learn. Equally, we hear today from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians perhaps his equivalent to the Sermon on the Mount, in his great teaching on the reality of love.
St. Paul teaches us that love rejoices in the truth. Love is patient, kind, humble. Love does not seek its own interests; it bears all things, believes, hopes, endures all things. It is reminiscent of his Letter to the Romans where he says: “all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Steven and Kristina, it is good that you are beginning your married life here, before the altar of God, for it is God who created you; God who brought you together; God who will sustain you; God who is your (our) final goal. And we know all this from today’s readings.
Thus, Jesus concludes his teaching on the beatitudes: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you, and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” Such instruction speaks realistically about sacrifice, suffering, and true love.
The Book of Genesis speaks of the intimacy and communion of love God creates us to share with him. Our first relationship (communion) is with God himself. Note how God speaks with Adam. God involves Adam in the process of creation, inviting him to name all the animals. And it is God who says “it is not good for the man to be alone.”
God makes a suitable companion for the man – woman.
This creation account says that God “cast a deep sleep on the man” to take one of his ribs. Actually, the Hebrew verb here is much more expressive than a ‘deep sleep.’ A more accurate translation would be ‘ecstacy.’ This calls to mind a beautiful statue of St. Teresa of Avila carved by Bernini years ago which depicts the great saint in an ecstatic communion of love with God. This is the scene when God takes a rib from Adam to create woman…an ecstatic communion of love between God and the human person.
One may ask: “Why the rib?” My first answer is simply: “God is God.” But also, when the rib is removed, it reveals the heart – the interior place of communion and love. In a sense, it opens the human heart to God. It reveals that the human person left to him or her self, is incomplete. Thus the Church has always taught that the Christian vocation is only and always found in self-gift. This is why Jesus also teaches that it is only in losing one’s life that one saves it. In the same manner, St. Paul teaches that love does not seek its own interests.
Further, the open side of Adam calls to mind the words of the Prophet Ezekiel (36:26) “I will take from you your stony hearts and give you a new heart.”
Ultimately, the open side of Adam foreshadows the pierced side of Christ crucified – revealing his Sacred Heart and the fire of God’s Infinite Love…again…a love expressed in self-gift. Jesus’ love is a complete giving of self for another. Christ gave himself out of love for the Father and love for us. In this self-offering of love, Jesus took his Bride to himself, and his Bride is the Church.
From the open side of Christ, we are nourished by the saving water of Baptism and Eucharist – the very flesh and blood of Christ – the Bread of Life. This life-sustaining intimacy of Christ’s love for us as members of his body, the Church, is the model and definition of marital love.
Kristina and Steven, stay close to Christ and his Church. As long as your marriage and love remain open to Christ – as long as your lives seek to participate in Divine Love itself – you will lack nothing – indeed – your love will continue to grow and bear much fruit.
Remember, your love is a part of something much bigger! Your love is a part of the life of the Church. Your love is a participation in the Divine Mystery. So, my final words of advice come directly from Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount:
Live always humbly before God, that you may be blessed with His Kingdom.
Seek justice in your relations with one another and others, remembering always the poor and the least, and you will know what it is to be satisfied.
Be merciful with one another – always ready to forgive, that you may know the mercy of God.
Live with purity of heart – never yielding the sacredness of your love to the depravities of the world, and you will see God.
Live in peace with one another and all, and you will be known as children of God.
Be ready and willing to bear your share of hardship which the Gospel entails; the hardships which true love requires, and you will rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven!