Saturday, March 21, 2009

For It Is Love That I Desire

March 21, 2009

Saturday of the Third Week in Lent

Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day! He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth. Hosea 6:3

“But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:13-14


Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner.


“Repent” is the first word spoken by Jesus during his public ministry following the arrest and execution of John the Baptist.

After He announced the call for “repentance (change),” then Jesus asked us to “Follow me.” However, before we can follow Jesus, we have to change the direction in which we seek happiness.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15

According to Matthew we learned, “From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17

Now this does not mean that we have to spend our life in pain whipping ourselves, doing penance, fasting, vigils, rosaries, and almsgiving. It just means that we must change the direction in which we are looking for happiness. Shift from looking for happiness in the world to looking for happiness in Jesus. That very Lenten sentiment is echoed in today’s readings.

We encounter in Hosea, the basic outline of a Fourth Day lived in the presence of Christ. “Come, let us return to the LORD.” This echoes the call of Christ to repent or change. Christ will revive us from sleep walking through life to live once again reconnected to Him and His Presence. We are not turning around aimlessly but turning to orient our lives toward the Star in the East.

The prophet Hosea outlines three ways to make this reconnection:
1) Piety. Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away.
2) Study. “Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day! He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth.”
3) Action. For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice.

Who said Cursillo was a lay movement that came into being after World War II in Spain? It appears that Hosea beat Eduardo Bonin to the draw by about 3,000 years.

Next, we encounter such a change in “direction” at the back of the temple while standing next to the tax collector. At several places in the New Testament we find people who are so touched by Jesus that we witness their conversion. That is the case with the tax collector hanging out at the back of the temple in today’s Gospel. He clearly seeks to change his orientation in life away from his worldly ways dominated by money and the love of money in order to re-orient himself toward God.


Are you ready to change direction? Are you ready to make the Four Consents to God as outlined by Fr. Keating? (Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995.)

"The spiritual journey is a training in consent to God’s presence and to all reality." Through grace we repair the emotional damage of a lifetime and are introduced to the path of unconditional love ("Love one another as I have loved you").

The four consents (based on the work of theologian John S. Dunne) correspond to the passage of human life. "In childhood, God asks us to consent to the basic goodness of our nature with all its parts." This basic goodness is not what we do but what we are, as God made us. The difficulties we experience in childhood may prevent us from fully consenting emotionally to the goodness of life.

The second consent, corresponding to adolescence, is to "accept the full development of our being by activating our talents and creative energies," including but going beyond sexual energy and its expression.

The third consent (early adulthood) calls on us "to accept the fact of our nonbeing and the diminutions of self that occur through illness, old age, and death." Dying is the ultimate letting go of everything to which we are attached in this world. Making this consent is more difficult if we have not made the previous ones.

The fourth consent is to be transformed. "The transforming union requires consent to the death of the false self, and the false self is the only self we know. Whatever its inconveniences, it is at least familiar. Some of us are more afraid of the death of the false self than of physical death."

Each of these consents is a kind of death, a letting go of a former life. But we can take with us the best of each stage; for example, we can continue to be childlike (simplicity, innocence) without remaining childish (subject to tantrums and ignorance). In this way we can move to the level of mental egoic consciousness and even beyond.

Whatever we may have done in our earlier life, God is always inviting us through grace to make these consents. They involve both the acceptance of legitimate pleasures with its abundant life and the final surrender of the false self to the true. Our paths differ; some may find the path in early adulthood, others in the midlife crisis, still others in old age. The process of dying itself may provide "the greatest chance of all to consent to God’s gift of ourselves."

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