Sunday, May 31, 2009
Memorial of Saint Justin, martyr,
Monday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
The table was set for me, and when many different dishes were placed before me, I said to my son Tobiah: "My son, go out and try to find a poor man from among our kinsmen exiled here in Nineveh. If he is a sincere worshiper of God, bring him back with you, so that he can share this meal with me. Indeed, son, I shall wait for you to come back." Tobiah went out to look for some poor kinsman of ours. When he returned he exclaimed, "Father!" I said to him, "What is it, son?" He answered, "Father, one of our people has been murdered! His body lies in the market place where he was just strangled!" I sprang to my feet, leaving the dinner untouched; and I carried the dead man from the street and put him in one of the rooms, so that I might bury him after sunset. Tobit 2:2-4
"Have you not read this scripture passage: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes'?" Mark 12:10-11
May all people respond generously to the ministry of Food for the Poor and other local or international relief organizations allowing us, through these charities, to provide relief to the poor in third world countries or to the poor right outside our doors in the same spirit shown to us by Tobit.
How do we treat our neighbors? On Sunday, Fr. Thomas Boutrie preached at our parish about his ministry with the organization Food for the Poor (www.foodforthepoor.org). According to Fr. Tom, Food for the Poor is the number one international relief and development charity in the United States, feeding 2 million poor people everyday. Its Christian relief services are helping children and the poorest of the poor by providing food, housing, health care, education, water projects, emergency relief and micro-enterprise assistance in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Fr. Tom shared what he has witnessed in places like Haiti where people will literally eat a paste made of mud because they have no food, or live in slums as large as six football fields, or take turns eating because their families do not have enough food for everyone.
Today’s readings show us two responses to the works of mercy. Tobit’s main concern was for others. He voluntarily risked his life to bury the dead and invited the homeless and hungry to share in his food. The workers in the vineyard, however, were self-centered and more concerned with protecting themselves and stealing the inheritance, so they beat up three messengers and then killed their landlord’s son.
We never know how the Lord will put himself into our lives. Maybe it is through our landlord or the visiting preacher. However, our job is to respond as if it is the Lord himself. “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
Considering making a gift to Food for the Poor or buying some of the greeting cards they offer for sale on the internet.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Temples of the spirit
Love announces the presence of the Spirit in our hearts. Our recognition of the presence of God in our lives is the work of the Spirit. The day we begin praying to the Spirit for the grace to be willing to be who Christ would have been if he were lucky enough to be one of us marks the beginning of a deeper love relationship with the Lord. From that moment on, the Spirit of the Father's love for the Son and the Son's love for the Father is ours. Caught in the deepest of all meanings of love, the still point of being in love, the lived experience of prayer brings to life the Spirit at work in our hearts. The Spirit speaks for us in the cry of "Abba.” to the Father. The Third Person of the Trinity voices our needs from our hearts in the intense emptiness of a dark night. Our prayer cries out for belonging to God. In the lived moment of the wordlessness of our hearts we encounter the Spirit pleading for us to the Creator. Our souls have become Temples of the Spirit.
Dawning of love
Love in our Spiritual lives gives us a growing vision of God. Our personal Pentecost is the dawning of love in our hearts. Christ indicated the importance of Pentecost at the Last Supper when he said, "...the Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything..."(Jn. 14:26). The apostles, even though they had known Christ personally, did not recognize him immediately in his resurrectional appearances. The Christ of the resurrection was a stranger to the two disciples traveling to Emmaus until they recognized him in the breaking of the bread. Although the Apostles recognized Christ a number of times after he rose from the dead, the coming of the Spirit would sharpen their awareness of Christ's presence through the gifts of the Spirit. The "everything" the Spirit would teach would include wisdom, knowledge, counsel, and understanding of Christ in his humanity. The putting on the mind of Christ would complete the Apostles’ training. Molded by piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord, the disciples would have hearts alive to Christ who would claim their hearts. These same gifts of the Spirit resurface our hearts as the Christ hearts of today. Thus, we proclaim the Sacred Heart even as we enshrine it in our heart.
Love for others
Seven gifts - Wisdom, Knowledge, Counsel, Understanding, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord - in which we are always growing, are ours by virtue of our membership in the family of God. The presence of the Spirit in our lives is most pronounced in the love we have for others. Christ made it clear at the Last Supper just how far reaching our love ought to be: "...no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend"(John 15:13). "What I command you is to love one another"(John 15:17). "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Love of God and love of our neighbor are Christ’s commandments to us. The Spirit surrounds our love and is our love for one another.
Put on Christ
The gifts of the Holy Spirit make it possible to put on the mind and the heart of Christ. The way Christ does things can be learned by our prayer and the example of good people. If our own adherence to Christ is to make any sense at all, we have to put on the mind and the heart of Christ. Prayer makes the mind and heart of Christ a living memory in us.
We come to know Christ through the Scriptures. Listening to our hearts brings us closer to the Christ who touched our hearts in baptism. Christ reaches out to our world by using our gifts for spreading his kingdom. If we are going to own the mind and the heart of Christ, our gifts have to fuse with our energies of life as we reach out to the needs of our world.
The gifts of the mind are complemented by the gifts that touch the heart. Wisdom, knowledge, understanding and counsel are the mind gifts that need the heart-felt gifts of piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord. Together they are the quality of a Christ life. Piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord are other gifts of the Spirit which come together to stretch our hearts. Both sets of gifts are the Spirit at work to help us put on the mind and the heart of Christ. The Spirit works to capture all of our being for Christ. The distinction of the intellect and the will often de-personalizes these gifts so that we lose touch with the Holy Spirit. We become a complete person in Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit in us.
No greater love
Love is the beginning of wisdom. We cannot love others if we do not love ourselves. But we can only love ourselves if we have been loved. Human love begins with a parent's love. A mother's love is incomprehensible, yet it teaches us, at an early age, the meaning of love. Divine love is best understood in God's love for us as expressed in the humanness of Christ who died on the cross for us. Wisdom is found in Christ's "no greater love." Wisdom is the Word made flesh and the fleshed out forgiveness of the cross.
Born in our time
Knowledge of Christ is all the information we possess of the events in the life of Christ. The knowledge produces meaning in us as we grow in our journey of faith to become another Christ. We read the Scriptures and come to an awareness of who this man Christ is. He lives with the Church as his Mystical Body. In what we know about the Church we come to recognize Christ in all he does in the lives of our brothers and our sisters. Reading the lives of great saints helps increase our knowledge of Christ. We imagine what Christ would have been like had he been born in their age and time. The 'saints' of our own families and friends help us to understand the Christ of the Scriptures by the way they have incorporated Christ into their own lives. The gift of knowledge dawning in our minds brings the light of Christ. Light is shed on who we can be in Christ.
The Apostles who accompanied Christ during his Public Life, and the understanding the Spirit gave them, sustained the early Church. Our understanding of friends and ourselves will continue through life until the day we see Christ face to face. Then eye will see and ear will hear what has not yet been seen or said in the history of the world. At last we will understand, in the fullness of the Christ of Heaven, what life in the Spirit invites us to have as our destiny.
Test of authority
The translation of Christ into our 20th century is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our belonging to the Church is the movement of the Holy Spirit in us. Paul could have heard of Christ many times in his life and never understood what Christ was about. As he subjected his understanding of Christ to the Spirit, through the Apostles he came to know in a deeper way what he understood in his prayer and the time spent in darkness. Understanding puts the process of learning to the test of authority. It allows us to realize the truth of our thoughts.
Wisdom, knowledge and understanding are the natural outcrop of the Spirit's grace within us. The divine indwelling reaches a tangible expression in the beauty of our love reaching out to another's need. Rid of selfishness our hearts have a greater capacity for loving. Our world does not understand hard love measured by Christ's giving from the cross. Hard love is measured by how we give rather than receive. Our wisdom, knowledge and understanding are tempered by our love of the cross of Christ. "The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them (Jn. 15:13).
Counsel is the coming together of wisdom, knowledge and understanding in the practical advice given or received. Counsel points out what is missing in our Christ relationship. We have counsel for others in our understanding of what is missing in their Christ relationship. We need spiritual direction and discernment on the spiritual journey. Counsel must be prudent so that advice not take us beyond our strength for living a good life.
Often enough, in our lives, there is a note of scorn in our voices when we call someone pious. Yet piety is the strength of personal love for Christ. We are called to lose ourselves in Christ so we can say with Paul: "...I live now not with my own life, but with the life of Christ, who lives in me"(Galatians 2:20). The Spirit strengthens our love of God in Christ. Christ's love touches the foundation of our being, giving us his relationship to the Father.
Fortitude is a sorely needed gift of the Spirit in our world and in our Church. It makes perseverance and sticking to a difficult task possible. Fortitude energizes us to live up to what we believe. Fortitude is essential to religious life. The intensity of a life following Christ all the way to the Cross relies on fortitude. Marriages can flounder in its absence. Every form of community will fall by the wayside without it. The intensity of our love is a measure of fortitude. By fortitude we can offer a love as intense as Christ's love. Such a love endures in season and out of season, when it is acceptable and even when it is not acceptable. Fortitude strengthens us in the way we share our love. The sinner who keeps on trying against all obstacles, and one day reaches the pinnacle of holiness, gets there by fortitude. The attraction of a pleasure locking us into selfishness is counterbalanced by the call of grace, which gradually allows us to build up the habit of saying "yes" to our Lord. Fortitude is the love of a heart capable of outlasting temptation. Fortitude forges a will of iron, which enables us to do what the Lord is asking.
Fear of the Lord
Our journey of love calls us to choose our beloved over everyone and everything else in life. Each time we fail we have a new movement of the Spirit flowing from a fear of the Lord. There are times when we do not want to live with our Lord, but we need him, whether we know it or not. Every time we pick something other than our Master, and make it, even for a moment, the meaning of life, we feel the grumbling of our hearts, calling, calling, calling us back to this God, whose absence we fear. Just like the awesome experience of his love living within us, fear of losing the Lord can be one of the freeing experiences of life. We will do the impossible to keep him.
We dare to be another Christ. Fear, which keeps us from doing something, is not the same as fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is different than fear of being punished. Our hearts quake before the awesomeness of God's presence in Jesus Christ. We have the gift of the fear of the Lord when we look deep within. In the Mystery of Indwelling we realize in whose presence we are. This fear does not bring paralysis; rather it brings a moment of adoration in the unveiling of God's majesty in us.
The Spirit is sent to empower us on our own missions in life. We have to surrender our way of doing things in favor of God's way. We have to realize that God is in our lives. There are no accidents in the plan of God. He has chosen us. He has chosen to be in our lives. The coming of the Spirit deepens the surrender of our lives to God's action in us. The surrender to this call allows God to work through us, because grace builds on nature. This enables us to see how much more can be done than we could ever have dreamt of doing alone.
Contemplatives in action
We have to make the transition from simply being preserved in life to being active participants with the Lord working through us. The ideal is to let the Lord work one hundred percent while we do nothing. All blocks to the-Lord-taking-care-of-everything need to be removed with today's Pentecost.
The Work of the Spirit
The Fruits of the Spirit
Each of the Gifts of the Spirit makes it possible for us to be present to the needs of another. The gifts show themselves through the fruits of the Spirit. These fruits distinguish our relationship to Christ. When grace builds on nature, the fruit of the Spirit focuses nature by shining forth with gracefulness, and exposing the uniqueness of each of us.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us
A genuine Christian by being true to oneself offers the fruits of the Spirit. The life of the Spirit in anyone reveals itself by the way one’s gifts nourish another. The fruits of the Spirit are much more obvious in others than in oneself. Love is the working of the spirit attracting our hearts by the gift of another. Love is anything done for another and a deed of love finds expression as a fruit of the spirit. Each act of love plants in our hearts a fruit of the Spirit. In the Gospel of Luke we encounter Christ reading from the prophet Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor..."(Luke 4:18). His comment on the scripture was; "This passage of Scripture has come true today as you heard it being read."(Luke 4:21) The presence of the Spirit within us has an outgoing manifestation discoverable in the fruit of the spirit. The force of the spirit within flows to the exterior of our lives, and his fruit show his presence within.
Fruits of the Spirit
The genuine living of our Christ-life should have many outward signs. A list could include more than the charity, peace, joy, patience, benignity, chastity, continency, longsuffering, goodness, mildness, faith and modesty that make up the traditional listing of the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit reveal our Christianity. We shall know they are Christians by their love. Our love for one another needs the uniqueness that flows out of the mixture of the gifts of the Spirit. The recognition of the uniqueness of a friend elaborates the meaning of a fruit of the Spirit. Love for another flows from the appreciation of the uniqueness of one or more of the fruits of the Spirit in another.
A great heart is recognized by its generosity, in its giving of self in love. The only thing we can change in a relationship is the amount of love we give, and the way we give it to one another. At the other extreme from generosity is selfishness, which manipulates the gift of another for personal gain. Love attempts to give the better gift, recognizable as the fruit of charity.
Joy flows from a genuine heart. Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God in any life. Joy goes deeper than a silly smile. The happiness of being a child of God is part of joy. The closeness of belonging is part of joy. The living of our truth brings joy. Desire to be true to our word is written on our heart and is the source of joy. The sad-faced Christian contradicts the Good News of the gospel. We like ourselves when we are living up to the dictates of our hearts. Holiness brings sane living, and the wholeness of sanctity brings a joy strong enough to survive even the trials of Job. Joy is one of the best signs of the closeness of God to us. The divine indwelling surfaces joy again and again, showing the truth of our heart’s closeness to God. It is the gift belonging to the Resurrection.
Peace is the sign of a soul that has it all together. It is tranquility of a heart secure in its relationship to the Father. Love calls us to togetherness with the beloved. Poverty, short life and dishonor that mark the life of Christ are difficult to want until love for Christ and the Father strengthens us. Once our peace is strongly established in our relationship to Christ, our unruffled spirits flow from our freedom to give of ourselves rather than our concern with what we are receiving. Christ chose poverty, and his spirit within us chooses his poverty. The disgrace of the cross bringing the glory of Christ makes possible the great peace accompanying Christ's cross in the saints. It allows us to know in the midst of our crosses that we are close to Christ. The human Christ who lived two thousand years ago is out of our reach, but his choices of life are possible to us. Christ can be touched and held in no better way, with the exception of Eucharist, than by the way we live out his choices of life. Our awareness of trying to choose as Christ chose brings peace.
Peace is possible amid fears. The Apostles of the upper room were filled with fear when Christ brought them his peace. Once we make the choices of Christ our own, nothing can separate us from the peace Christ brings. The world no longer can force us away from Christ because honor and power lose their attraction; they are not his choices. He chose poverty, short life and the dishonor of the cross.
Only the choice of something other than Christ endangers peace. Sin is the distance that exists between who I am and who I should be in following Christ. Sin is rarely a “we,” it is always an “I.” Our peace is in what we do for Christ as the other. Our peace is in our being with Christ by our togetherness with others. Peace births the leaders our world needs.
Patience is seen in the acceptance of our own and others' growth. It is easier to see growth in others than in self. Growth requires pruning to remove the dead wood. Such pruning is the work of the Father. It makes room for the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.
The pruning away of faults opens us to growth. Pruning and growth are not always easy. They often occur in periods of great stress, where we are not aware of what is happening. The piercing of the heart of Jesus on the cross ranks as one of the sharpest cuts of all time. Our own cuts do not always draw the best from us. Wanting to be close to Christ can calm the troubled waters of our lives. Closeness to Christ allows the fruits of the Spirit to flow out of our hearts in the patience we have with each other. We walk on water with the touch of Christ on our hearts.
Christ becomes part of the excitement of our life in the experience of the coming forth of the Spirit in our salvation history story. When the Spirit comes to us, we are enabled to live up to Christ in us. Our Christ gifts are always renewed for what is needed as our hearts are claimed to meet the challenge of what is to be done in our world today. A gentle heart is one that belongs to Christ. Violence is foreign to a soul caught up in the wonder of Christ having died for us. The willingness to be a non-violent person flows out of the oneness one has with the Christ of the Cross.
We joyfully recognize the presence of the Spirit as the bursting-out expression of the pleasure of giving. Not only does God love a cheerful giver. We all do, even loving ourselves when we give cheerfully. The fun of giving opens the eyes of our soul in an ever-widening circle of love until one day we can be more concerned about the world in which we live than about ourselves. Gentleness comes from respect for life and all life stands for. The life of Christ, knowable from the scriptures, becomes real to us in the way Christ dealt with the woman taken in adultery. Gentleness is how the good Shepherd comes alive in our dealings with one another. A placid spirit and a kind heart find expression in gentleness of spirit.
Each of the fruits of the Spirit is a living out of a gift of the Spirit in a practical way, thus making it a pleasure to be with another. The fruits of the spirit make us loveable. Once we are willing to say that we need another, we know, in the recognition of the gift they possess, the working of the Spirit in our relationship. It goes both ways. Others can discover in us what we discover in them. A living people-list of the twelve fruits is its own reward. Much more rewarding is the discovery of what attracts our hearts to holy people. Goodness is a label we put on holiness.
All of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit have to do with love. Perfect love generates new love. The fruits of the Spirit are found in Christ and the imitation of Christ produces fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit reveal the uniqueness of Christ's holiness in each of us. We are called by the gentleness of Christ. He does not call us by force. The "come follow me" touches our hearts as an invitation. The desire to follow is born of the truth of the attraction of holiness. Christ calls us to find ourselves in him.
The beauty of Christ's love is that it has anticipated us. Before we have been born, Christ has loved us and we are called to find in him the deepest meaning of our creation. All the other religions are touched by the Spirit of God, and in the very touch tell us something about holiness. Christianity not only tells us something about holiness, but also in telling us about Christ gives us the example of the perfect holiness of life. Christ tells us something about what it means to be ourselves and the richness of the Spirit in each of us is founded on the relationship to Christ's gifts of the Spirit.
The birth of the Church
As the blood and water issued forth from the pierced heart of Christ, the Church was conceived. Pentecost marks the birth of the Church and claims Christ's spirit as its ongoing life that will be fulfilled in the final resurrection. Love carries us toward fusion with the beloved. The tension of love is found in the need of independence and autonomy. Growing up in this love carries us into the Mystical Body of Christ in the interdependence of our lives together where our gifts are needed and expressed as the life of the Church. The source of this love is the Holy Spirit. The locus of this love is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And the possibility of this love is the exchange of hearts with Christ.
We live in an age of the Spirit. But we often pay only lip service to the Holy Spirit in the Gloria, the Creed and the sign of the Cross. How often do we adore the Holy Spirit in the depths of our hearts? Our missing challenge to holiness could be the ignorance of the coming of the Spirit in our own lives. The gifts of the Spirit can make us aware of the coming of the Spirit to us. We have all heard of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost. Yet our unawareness of his coming to us from without makes us incomplete in our own relationship to the Spirit. Most of us claim the Spirit at Baptism, but need encouragement to frequently tap the Spirit. Few realize that for every new need of the community, there is the possibility of a new coming. Christians will never get beyond the need of new comings because the problems of the growing pains will be with us until the end.
A new coming
We think of someone missing when we hear of the Holy Spirit, and yet the Spirit moves us when we adore the Lord our God. People whom we respect as spiritual are filled with the Spirit. Yet many of them do not realize that for every need of the people of God, there is the possibility of a new coming just for the asking. The very need of the people of God brought the new coming we call the second Vatican Council. What the Church can do as the macrocosm of the people of God, we can do in community as a microcosm of the people of God. Each new need of the people of God can invite us to go beyond the way we see ourselves. Our need is the basis for a new coming if we will but call out from the depths of our being with the cry that the Spirit makes possible. We need the combination of wisdom, knowledge, counsel and understanding that brings the integration of the mind of Christ into our way of thinking, and the piety, fortitude, and the fear of the Lord that claims for our living the very heart of Christ as our own. The mind and the heart of Christ give rise to all the fruits of the Spirit.
Love to be shared
We are looking for the Spirit of the Father. Looking at Christ discovers the Father. Christ was such a good teacher of the Father that he could claim at the Last Supper that all the Father had given him he had passed on to his disciples. He told his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, I have loved you." And he wanted his disciples to live on in that love. The disciples could well have come to the upper room of Pentecost out of fear and out of the memory of what they had shared in Christ. The promise of Christ to send the Spirit and not the qualifications of the Apostles made Pentecost possible. Peter, forgiven by Christ for having denied him, would be the spokesperson of Pentecost. Peter had a need of sharing this Christ who had died for him. What happened in that upper room was not just the rush of the fire of divine love that reached their hearts, but the need of that love to be shared.
Excitement of love
The Pentecost experience is filled with an energy that cannot be restrained. The Spirit of the living God within us breaks free in the sharing of our love. At Pentecost, the Resurrection becomes the dawning awareness of Christ bigger than hearts and the encounter with Christ needs to be shouted out to our world with all the excitement of love. We capture in Christ's humanness all the mercy and love of God. Pentecost makes it possible for a dearly departed friend to live on in our lives in the love of our hearts reminding us of our friend.
Wings to words
At Pentecost all the memories of Jesus came together with such a rush, it was like a loud wind gathering in one place. The Apostles could not be quiet. The urgency of their hearts to speak of their Christ gave wings to words that reached the hearts of the many listeners of that day. The tongues of fire set them free. The gathering of the day and the memories shared caught up and freed their spirits to proclaim to any and all the good news of Christ's Resurrection. The Apostles needed Pentecost to become free. What we would say because of our new Pentecost speaks the louder to hearts seeking to be free. The truth reaching the heart reflects the working of the Spirit. Each of the gifts we possess, given for the needs of the world, relates whom we are to the world groaning to know the salvation of Jesus Christ. Christ is revealed in us even as we reach out to the needs of the world under the inspiration of the Spirit. The victory of Christ lives in each of us through our goodness. Christ had to go. As long as he was on the scene, the apostles would always want to be around Christ and would be following his lead. They were not about to initiate anything that would risk their lives or spread the news that God was in the land. They needed something that would galvanize them into action after Christ had left them in the Ascension; they had to be taken from being bystanders and watchers to heartfelt livers of the Kingdom of God. Christ told the Apostles that he had to go in order that the Spirit might come. He was telling them that there was something missing between what he stood for and their living the fullness of whom he, Christ, was. When someone finally leaves us, all we shared becomes a living memory in us. We know the need of honoring the memory with action.
Pentecost brings the awakening of all the Apostles in the excitement of the day we read about in the second chapter of the Acts. Their membership in the human race showed through their fear. We can imagine the doors locked. They could not bring themselves to leave. Confusion reigned. Would Jesus come soon? How will we recognize him this time? What could be done in the meanwhile? Were they all talking at once? Was it Mary who first understood? Did she wait for the others to understand? So many questions then and today capture our hearts before we are ready for the work of Jesus. The Apostles were beset with confusion and doubt. They were held together by expectation and love of Jesus. The "Come, Lord Jesus" prayer of the early community was perhaps first uttered from the hearts of these men at this time.
Tongues of fire
When the Apostles were together, they possessed the presence of Christ missed so desperately when they were alone. This group of ordinary people would be made extraordinary by tongues of fire. The ground swell of fear is swallowed by a heaven swell of love. The doors of their hearts are swung open and the doors of the room hold them no longer. They burst forth from the room charged by the movement of the spirit, charged with spreading the good news. His excitement in sending the Spirit has to be measured by our joys in sharing the good news. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same spirit. What the apostles received, we receive. New times and new needs call forth the gifts that are so different, but the same in the Spirit, the giver of the Gifts.
Chapter four of Acts tells us about Peter and John praying: " to speak. Your, message with all boldness... grant that wonders and miracles may be performed... "(Acts 4:29-30) The building shook and the sound of the rushing winds made them aware of a new coming of the Spirit. The Pentecost we celebrate as the beginning of the Church was the first of many great needs that would be met by sending the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit comes to the great needs of the Church, inspiring men and women of every age to use their gifts for the Church. The great civilizations which have come and gone so quickly in the history of the world suggests something special keeps the Church going amidst all the weaknesses and sinfulness of its members. The presence of the Spirit in the Church, constantly renewing us, explains the ongoing life of the Church. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit brings the truth the Church shares with its people. The father of lies will not prevail over the Church. The Spirit’s presence nourishes and insures the growth of the Church. The Spirit is the love present in the Church in its relationship to the Father and the Son. Limiting the operations of the Spirit to the day of Pentecost would make the Spirit an isolated part of Church history. In truth, the Spirit is the life-giver of every day. The Spirit is in the ''now-ness'' of the mystery of love as the breath and life of the Church.
If we could hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us we might hear. “I am the love of the Father, and the Son for each other. I would be your love of God even as I am God's love for you. I am the meeting of love and the reaching beyond the boundaries of life to the meeting of the divine and the human. I am the moment of time that is eternal because it only takes a moment to love forever. I am your deepest wish and the wellspring of all knowledge. I am the truth of who you are, and of whom you will become in the fullness of all love that Christ makes yours in my coming. Forget yourself and all the desires you have of this world and allow me to do the talking for you. Open your heart to the sound of my voice and I will speak for you to the world crying out for the human to make sense. I am the moment before common sense, even as I am the divine logic of all love. Open yourself to hear the truth of the heart you can be in God's love as you accept the truth of yourself.”
Let us pray
We claim you, Spirit, as the truth of our hearts. Come, fill our hearts and make us faithful. Your gifts are the heartbeats of Eternal Life in us. Give us open hearts to love even as Christ did. Move us and mold us as lovers of life and all that is holy. Make us noble in the way we reach out to the hurting and the little ones of life.
Teach us what we need to know that we might always possess the truth of Christ in who we are. Let us be totally receiving and totally giving so the life of the Trinity might have a counterpart in us in the Mystery of Indwelling. Make us a giving people so poverty might be driven away forever. Deafen us with the cry of "Abba" from our hearts so we may only hear the word of our hearts calling to our Father in heaven. Speak for us so we might be heard by the Father in the truth of our Christ life within. May each of your gifts be strong in us and may the fruits of your life within us be seen by all. Enkindle in us the fire of divine love and never let it go out. Recreate us anew in Love. Let the Sacred Heart be our heart. Amen.
Pentecost Sunday (Mass during the Day)
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:2-4
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ (Jesus) have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:22-24
(Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” John 20:21-23
Let us pray. We claim you, Spirit, as the truth of our hearts. Come, fill our hearts and make us faithful. Your gifts are the heartbeats of Eternal Life in us. Give us open hearts to love even as Christ did. Move us and mold us as lovers of life and all that is holy. Make us noble in the way we reach out to the hurting and the little ones of life.
Teach us what we need to know that we might always possess the truth of Christ in who we are. Let us be totally receiving and totally giving so the life of the Trinity might have a counterpart in us in the Mystery of Indwelling. Make us a giving people so poverty might be driven away forever. Deafen us with the cry of "Abba" from our hearts so we may only hear the word of our hearts calling to our Father in heaven. Speak for us so we might be heard by the Father in the truth of our Christ life within. May each of your gifts be strong in us and may the fruits of your life within us be seen by all. Enkindle in us the fire of divine love and never let it go out. Recreate us anew in Love. Let the Sacred Heart be our heart. Amen.
The Spirit is the voice of our Piety. Piety requires the fullness of our being. The externals of piety are words of our bodies to the Lord. What our body does is fix our prayer to a special time and place. I need to be all there to pray. The harmony of body, mind and soul makes a glorious song to the Lord. There is a beauty to the person who is all there in their prayer. Yet prayer sometimes needs to be faked until we are able to put all of ourselves into what is our communication with God. God sees our heart and what we are trying to do. Consolation belongs to our piety just as much as desolation. God can put himself into our prayer through the way consolations overflow on what we say and what we do. No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. The evil spirit tries to draw us away from our prayer by desolation. The fight we put up against our desolations is the purity of our love for the Lord. Too often we are in love with the gifts of God, not the God of the gifts. God produces all of our gifts through the Holy Spirit. There are many gifts, but one giver of the gifts. We are united as the Mystical Body of Christ when we use our gifts for the good of the community. Then it is that we love God as God. That is the fullness of Piety. In the one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.
Our Study is of the needs of the Body of Christ. We study to put on the mind and the heart of Christ. Our love for each other is increased as we discover more ways to live the love of Christ. The question that John puts to us in Ch.4, 19-21 of his First letter is how it would be possible to love the God we did not see if we did not love the neighbor that we did see. The fruits of the spirit are listed in Galatians 5; 16-25. They are labels we can put on what makes each other likeable. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are the result of our crucifying our passions and unholy desires. We have to study our behavior to see how we can improve. From such study we learn to connect better to the Spirit of Christ. It does not happen by accident that we can be seen as Christ-like. It takes real study for these fruits of the spirit to shine in our hearts.
Actions need to flow out of these fruits of the Spirit. With our minds enlightened by the Spirit, our actions can change the world we are living in. Love rampant in each of us by the fruits of the spirit will bring people to say once again by what they see of our actions. ”See how these Christians love one another”. It befits us to pray before we begin any work for the coming of the Spirit over all of us. The gifts of the spirit will help us to break out of the fears of our hearts. For every need of the Community there can be another coming of the Spirit if we but ask.
Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter
“This is the reason, then, I have requested to see you and to speak with you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains.” Acts 28:20
Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” John 21:22
Generous Father God, you have blessed us with countless talents. Teach us how to apply these skills so that in all things, God may be glorified. Jesus never stops inviting us to “Come follow me.” We want to follow him and be faithful to your call. Help us to see in ourselves what you see in us. Give us the prudence, justice, restraint and courage to follow wherever you may lead. Bless us with generous hearts, eager to serve your people and to spread your Word. Amen.
So…what are the first words we hear from Jesus in St. John’s Gospel?
After his baptism, two disciples were following Jesus and he turned to ask them, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38) To their response, Jesus immediately replied with the invitation to follow. “Come, and you will see.” (John 1:39) At that point, everything that lies before them is a mystery until we unlock all that lies within the Gospel.
Today, the readings offer to us the final words that St. John reports. “You follow me.” No longer is this an invitation to a curious stranger. Instead, it is the instruction repeated to a group of friends and specifically addressed to the leader Peter. “Follow me.”
Jesus doesn’t give Peter or us the option of only following him when the sun is shining. He clearly spells out that following him will require suffering. The reward we can anticipate for following Jesus is to be handed our cross. “You will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
Let’s face it. That is not the kind of slogan the world wants to put on the recruiting posters. However, it is real. It is sobering. No matter what happens to the “other guy” who is richer, happier, better looking and gets the best seats to all the games, we can not focus externally on the other. We must focus on how we – as individual Christian women and men – will follow Jesus. By emulating everything about Jesus life – the miracles and the messages, the parties and the passion, we can expect the same kind of reward Jesus got in this world. He grants that we will be reasonably happy in this world. Ah, but what lies ahead in the next?
How will you use the coming weeks of Ordinary Time to make an extra-ordinary commitment to follow Jesus no matter what the price, no matter what the cost?
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
(Festus said of Paul to King Agrippa): “His accusers stood around him, but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy, I asked if he were willing to go to
Bless the Lord, all you angels, mighty in strength and attentive, obedient to every command. (Psalms 103:20)
(Jesus said to Peter:) “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.” (
Lord, you are so right. Dependence on others for my physical needs, a failing memory, and death all are places I do not want to go. Extend Your hand so I can hold on tightly as I follow You.
Sixty is the new forty, Hillary Clinton told us during the 2008 presidential campaign (not coincidentally, a few months after she turned sixty).
Google “seventy is the new fifty” and you’ll get 23.2 million responses. You’ll even get some matches for “eighty is the new forty” or “eighty is the new fifty.”
Are we deluding ourselves? How many years can medical advances, exercise, healthy eating, and a positive attitude add to our lives? It seems no matter what the age, few of us are prepared to go gently into that final goodnight.
While most of us don’t face the physical crucifixion today’s Gospel reading presages for Peter, if we live to a ripe old age, we will deal with lifestyle crucifixions: Not driving after dark. Not driving at all. Moving in with our children or into assisted living facilities or retirement homes. Having others do our laundry and cook our meals. Forgetting facts and figures and names and faces and words.
How are we as Christians to approach the process of aging? Perhaps in the same way we respond to the choices we face in other life changes, large and small, happy and sad—but all inevitable.
Sacred Silent: Denial and the Crisis in the Church by Donald B. Cozzens and Richard Hart (Liturgical Press; 2003), offers this:
The elderly certainly are challenged to matriculate in the school of hard knocks. This school teaches them how to be more like Christ, which is an endless process, one that will not be fully completed here on earth. From the womb to the tomb there is a constant clarion call for them to let go, which increases steadily with age. Elders can mellow, become more loving and compassionate, or grow more cynical, crabby, irritable, and pessimistic. They become their choices. They relive the paschal mystery of Jesus in a concrete way and are intimately united to his sufferings. ... In this daring adventure they become more and more like Christ and are able to say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:19-20.”
Change is never easy, but it is inevitable. May the example of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection be a comfort to us all as we prepare for the day we end our time here on earth.
After dinner tonight, discuss the changes that come with each stage of life and how we are called by Christ to respond. If possible, make this a multigenerational discussion.
Finally, a special prayer request: The Your Daily Tripod team will hold our first official editorial meeting and celebration of 1,200 consecutive days of reflections. We will gather Friday night in
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome." Acts 23:11
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: "I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them." John 17:20-26
Today, we have the privilege of reflecting on Jesus’ final words spoken at the Last Supper. For the remaining few days after today in the Easter season, the Gospel will turn to Jesus’ last encounter with the disciples – the Last Breakfast on the beach.
Before leaping into this text, let’s start off with remembering the first words in the Good News according to St. John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5) John’s focus at the beginning of this book is on union and communion with God until Jesus came into the world to be with us.
When Jesus began his public ministry, his first words were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus asks us to change where we look for happiness. He wants us to seek happiness in unity with God, not in the temptations of the world.
If those words were the introduction to Jesus’ public ministry, today, we listen to the conclusion or summation of all he has preached.
Who does he talk about?
Jesus mentioned himself (“I” and “me”) 23 times followed by references to God (“Father” and “you”) 19 times. In the beginning he was with God and now he will return to happiness with God. If Jesus and God are the source of this prayer, we are the object or subject of the prayer. He refers to us in various ways16 times.
What does he stress?
In all, three action verbs dominate this message and focus us like a laser beam right back on the Cursillo tripod:
“Be one.” (…through our piety)
“Know.” (…through our study)
“Love.” (…through our action)
Just as Jesus was one with the Father that is his pray for us. He prays and wishes for us to experience this total communion a dozen times in this short passage. “The love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
After studying this Last Supper discourse passed on to us through the Gospel according to St. John, we have had a fresh encounter with the poetic, passionate and prayerful sides of Jesus. He has so much to say to and to do with those he loved at the Passover meal about actual and sacramental Communion.
Yet in just a few hours, we encounter the loving figure of Christ in silence standing before Pilate and Herod, enduring ridicule from the guards and the crowd. The contrast between the different personas of Jesus that we encounter on these two days makes his piety, study and action on Thursday and what he did on Friday in silence stand in stark contrast as a way of emphasizing that Communion is not just a sacrament, but Communion is a state of being and living in his love, the love which the Father loved him and the love which Jesus passes on to us.
Listening to a talk on contemplative prayer (“divine union”) by Fr. Thomas Keating at the same time the Last Supper discourse unfolded in daily scripture reminded me of the centrality of love to this faith. Fr. Keating said, “Love is the universal bond that holds together the entire world.
Today, we can focus on God, Jesus and ourselves. The glue with which we will remain with God (and fulfill Jesus’ prayer for us) is such love expressed in our piety, study and action.
We can talk all we want about changing the world. However, the first step to that change is to look in the mirror and change the person who stares back at us. Take courage, just as Peter, Paul and the disciples has to dive in to this work after Jesus departed from the world, that responsibility now passes to us. So we also must bear witness in Virginia and everywhere we live, work and travel. Wherever we go, God is with us and will always remain with us. The question remains whether we will we choose to remain with God?
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:34-35
And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. John 17:11,13
Holy Father, the name that you gave your Son was Emmanuel (“God is with us”) so that we may be one with you just as you are One with your Son and the Advocate. Help us to devote our lives to piety, study and action so that you will remain strong within us and keep us from all temptation. By striving to be One with you, we also will draw closer to our brothers and sisters as we live in service for them. Amen.
This Easter season we have been spending 50 days delving into – among other messages – the richness of Holy Thursday speech that Jesus presented to the disciples at the Last Supper. These important messages from Jesus set the stage for the early days of the church and for our time. Today and Thursday, Jesus wraps up his last lecture before his arrest and execution.
The themes of this conclusion are paralleled in today’s first reading from Acts. The notes from the New American Bible call this passage Paul’s “last will and testament” to the leaders of the church from Ephesus. Considering that Paul was not at the Last Supper to hear the “last lecture” of Christ, the parallels between both passages are uncanny.
First, we see a warning about the need for protection from the forces of the world. Jesus and Paul both acted as our protectors. Without them, we have to be vigilant not to be taken over by the Evil One (temptations of the world). Jesus and Paul want to protect us and keep us close to the Ideal.
Paul: I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock.
Jesus: When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
Second, we understand that the reason they have been protecting us to so that we may be strengthened by the Father in order to experience total communion. We can do our part by focusing on the first leg of the tripod – piety.
Paul: And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.
Jesus: I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.
Third, we hear once again about the dichotomy of trying to live in the world while following the truths of the Lord. So it is important to know the truth (the Word) and not be swayed by those who would distort the truth. We can do our part by focusing on the second leg of the tripod – study.
Paul: And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears.
Jesus: I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One.
Finally, we hear Jesus and Paul ask the Father in prayer to continue to protect us when they are gone by helping us to go out into the world in service to our sisters and brothers. We can do our part by focusing on the third leg of the tripod – action.
Paul: I have never wanted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
Jesus: Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth."
American Priest Killed in Guatemala
GUATEMALA CITY – An American Catholic priest was killed and another from Congo was seriously wounded in an attack in a rural community in northern Guatemala, a police spokesman said.
The incident occurred Monday night on a rural highway linking the towns of Chisec and Ixcan, some 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of the capital, National Civilian Police, or PNC, spokesman Donald Gonzalez told Efe.
“The report from the PNC substation in Cuban says that two men armed with rifles, who had their faces covered with ski masks stopped the vehicle in which five Catholic priests were riding,” Gonzalez said.
After robbing them of their belongings, the assailants fired at the priests, killing U.S. priest Lorenzo Rosebaugh, 74, the driver of the vehicle, on the spot and seriously wounding Jean Claude Nowama, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The other priests, identified as U.S. citizens Ruben Elizondo and Erado Capustra, and Canadian Rodrigo Macaous, were not injured.
All of the priests belonged to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which works in impoverished areas in Latin America.
The body of Rosebaugh, who had been a parish priest for more than a decade in the community of Ixcan, will be transported to the capital in the coming hours.
Nowama is being treated for his wounds at a hospital in Coban, a city some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the capital.
“An investigation has been started to find those responsible for this crime,” Gonzalez said.
The violence besetting Guatemala, according to official figures, takes the lives of about 17 people each day, on average. EFE
May our personal actions be inspired by the life of this American missionary, Fr. Larry Rosebaugh, 74, who was killed last week in Guatemala. Fr. Larry devoted his life to helping the poor and being a witness to Christ’s message of peace. He lived out Paul's words -- "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
According to Fr. John Dear, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, “His death shocks us into recognizing once again the world’s unacceptable, rampant violence and rank poverty. But his life instructs us on how to serve Christ embodied in the poor and persecuted. Larry lived a most Christ-like life, which calls for gratitude and honor, as well as emulation.”
In a message to friends, Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, who knew Fr. Larry and served with him (on the streets and in jail) reminds us to not only pray for Fr. Larry, but also for those who killed him. Art wrote: “Like so many others who knew and loved Fr. Larry Rosebaugh, my heart is heavy with grief as I try to cope with the news of his sudden violent death. We live in a world where every person is a potential victim of violence. This time, a saintly brother who gave his life in service to the destitute poor and marginalized of Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, the streets of Chicago and New York City, and who was imprisoned for burning draft files in the Milwaukee 14 action as well as for other acts of peacemaking, has now been added to the litany of the murdered. While all of us who knew and loved Larry try to bear the pain of his shocking death, I know Larry, being such a Christ-like man of compassion and love, would want us to reach out and pray for the one who killed him. Hopefully, an investigation will be conducted to find out who was responsible for Larry's death.
Monday, May 25, 2009
May 26, 2009
Memorial of Saint Philiph Neri, priest
By Beth DeCristofaro
I served the Lord with all humility and with the tears and trials that came to me
because of the plots of the Jews, and I did not at all shrink from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes. I earnestly bore witness for both Jews and Greeks to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus. (Acts 20, 19-21)
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people,so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. (John 17:1-2)
Thank you Lord God, for my personality, my quirks, my strengths and yes, my weak-nesses in which I can find common ground with others. Thank you, God for taking on my burdens, my sorrow and my fears. Thank you, God, for offering me salvation in a finite and inadequate world. My God, direct my life and direct my death. (From Psalm 68)
(Jesus) raised his eyes to heaven and said …
… I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. (
…I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. (
… I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, (
… I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. (
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. John 16:32-33
Father God, you have chosen to dwell with us. Remain in us so we are not alone. Help us to welcome you into our minds, our hearts and our souls so that we are assured that you will disperse the troubles of the world that pursue us. Amen.
The disciples know that Jesus is referencing the prophet Zechariah of the Hebrew Bible: Strike the shepherd that the sheep may be dispersed, and I will turn my hand against the little ones. (Zechariah 13:7)
In addition to referencing the fulfillment of the prophecies, Jesus continues to stress the conflict between what he offers and what the world offers. He knows the temptations the world will place before us. He wants us to have the courage to turn away from these and share his peace.
Knowing what is about to happen, it is amazing that Jesus is able to profess that he is at peace. Jesus is able to profess that he is not alone. That is the power we can share when we accept the love and grace that the Father has to offer. No matter what kind of betrayal and trouble the world will throw at us, when we remain in total communion with the Father, we will remain in the state of peace that Jesus shared the night before his arrest, trial, torture and execution.
However, the disciples have yet to fully understand what any of this means until they live through the events about to unfold.
Memorial Day is a time when we remember those who have sacrificed for us. Our memories of these people remain with us.
Who remains with you this Memorial Day?
Many of us will remember a parent, friend, family member or other loved one who has passed from this troublesome world to share the next one with the Lord. In addition, we remember those who are separated from us – perhaps they have been sent into war, missionary work, or other assignments. Or, perhaps you will remember those on the prayer list at our Cursillo web site (http://www.arlingtoncursillo.org/prayer.htm), someone who faces serious illness or someone who has lost his or her memory due to age and disease – never to remember again.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Then they prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place." Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles. Acts 1:24-26
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.
Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.
Piety is living out the prayer of Jesus. He prayed that we might be one as he is one with the Father. The mystery of being yourself and being one with Christ is lived out in how we are consecrated in the truth. Christ prays that we might have the same oneness that he had with the Father. It is in Christ that our oneness comes alive through the coming of the Spirit into our lives. Our oneness takes form in how we share our lives with one another. Through our piety we are consecrated in the Truth of Christ. All the ways that we keep to our steady diet of prayer and good works keeps us close to Christ. Through our prayer we are drawn closer and closer to Christ. The more we look at Christ the more we are able to live out our lives in a greater and greater closeness of Christ. He draws us closer and closer to himself by our community. Even as Peter sees the need to replace Judas, we are called again and again to take the place of one another in the ministry of the word. We are to preach always by our lives consecrated to the life style of Christ. Seeing how Christ met the challenges of his life calls us to become updates of Christ in our own time. We respond to the needs of our world as Christ would if we are accepting Christ as the Son of God. When we remain in Christ, Christ remains in us. In the resurrection he has become our foothold in heaven even as we become his hands and feet by the ways we reach out to those who need our help. We are called by God to be transparencies of Christ.
Action speaks louder than words. Because God has loved us into life through Christ, we take upon ourselves the continuation of his work. Every time we bring Christ into a conversation with another, we are remaining with Christ and God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us. Christ becomes the fullness of God’s love in our world by the love we show to each other. We study Christ to see what is wanting in ourselves. We know we are consecrated to the truth when we realize we are not only created in the image and likeness of Christ by our Baptism, but we become Christ to one another by the love that is in us that brings us to Christ as all our brothers and sisters of life.
The Christ of the Resurrection comes to us as the strangers of our lives. Even as the Apostles did not immediately recognize Christ, love takes away the disguise of Christ as we reach out to one another in his love. In Christ we are all one. We make friends, we become friends and we lead our friends to Christ. There is no shortcut to the Resurrection. There is no bypass of the cross of Christ if we want the Resurrection. Jesus leads us to the truth of his Father and all our action of life flesh out his truth as we are consecrated to his mission and discover his word in our hearts as the deepest truth of life. All our apostolic actions of life consecrate us in the truth of Christ who is the Word of God. In dying to our world for the sake of Christ we become alive to ourselves and each other in Christ.
May 24, 2009
Ascension of the Lord
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.
When they had gathered together they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to
He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16
Goodbye has many different meanings. For most Christians, in light of the ascension, it signifies Christ is with the Father and no longer with us. The human Christ is gone forever and the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church remains. However, there still exists the Christ who lives in every Christian. Christ is present in the person we love. He is hidden in the person we neglect. Christ abides in us through Baptism and the indwelling of the Trinity. Christ enlivens the moment of Eucharist. Christ is in the midst of the two or three who gather in his name. We neglect to see the Christ whom we persecute by blocking the good another is doing because a task is not done our way or what we think is the way of the Church. Christ comes as the guest we welcome in his name. Christ is embodied in the Vicar of Christ. Christ speaks in the different forms of authority in the Church. Christ presides when civil leaders rightfully claim our obedience. In truth then, the Christ who stays and the Christ who leaves is one and the same person. The going of Christ is his staying. Christ keeps his promise to remain with us forever in the Sacramental life of the Church. His love is celebrated in Eucharist all over the world from the rising of the sun to its setting. All the ways Christ reaches us are expressions of his abiding love. Christ's request for devotion to his Sacred Heart reflects the intensity of his love for us and gives meaning to ascension's promise to stay. Christ's response to souls honoring his heart is revealed in the promises to Saint Margaret Mary.
Ascension is "goodbye." The ascension as the goodbye of all time teaches us how to say goodbye. It is not a good goodbye if we do not want to see the one we are leaving ever again. That is more like getting rid of someone. Christ is still present to his Church. His type of goodbye implies a return sooner rather than later. The ascension is the best of good-byes because Christ will always we present to those he leaves. The mystery of divine indwelling is the mystery of God with us, not gone. The love poured out on the cross is enough for the whole world. The victory already won belongs to the Christ of the Resurrection. The ascension is a going which implies the all given, or soon to be given in Pentecost.
Pentecost would enable the Apostles to make use of the gifts they already possessed. The coming of the Spirit would pull together and make sense out of all the Apostles had learned from Christ. Christ chose to leave but the Spirit would be sent to continue to instruct and strengthen the Apostles as they went about their task of passing on what Christ had taught them. Subsidiarity, the passing on of responsibility to another, is the result of Pentecost. It is a process that began in the ascension. We would be remiss in our duties if we left before a job was finished or before it had enough momentum to be finished without our help. Subsidiarity is possible when all the responsibility that needs to be given has been given. The responsibility of claiming the world for the Father is the mission Christ had from the God. What is still left of the task is continued in the Church. Christ could go because his mission had been passed on. The disciples had accepted the challenge. Christ gave them all they needed to accomplish this work. At Pentecost the disciples would discover what the going of the Ascension meant.
The disciples did not want Christ to go. They were told there would be some special message. They gathered in
The people of
I felt deeply the reluctant goodbye of the Mountain people when my mother, who was terribly sick and at the end of her life, asked me if it was okay to pray for a quick death. If I told my mother too easily that it was okay to go, she would feel that we did not want her around. Some weeks before her death, I heard her tell my sister that I did not want her to go. I knew then that it was time to give her permission to go, because now she knew that we wanted her around no matter what the cost was to us. Her pain of living had reached such intensity, that it would have been terribly selfish to have held onto her. Leave taking takes so many forms. The night before she died I told the Lord that if he did not take her, I would not speak to him for a month, I would be that angry. When I was told later that she had just stopped breathing, I could rejoice because my goodbye was no longer reluctant. I wanted what was best for her.
Christ's ascension is the statement that the best is not here. Even as we would look for, Christ, our search will lead us to the Resurrection. Christ had the right to go where his happiness is. A tearful goodbye expresses the need for the other to stay. 'The Ascension satisfies Christ's need to be with the Father. We can want one we love to stay or go with us. Christ would send the Spirit so we would understand how to be his love. We would need to share Christ with those we love before we would go to be with Christ. The need to go and the need to take others with us would always be the tensions of goodbye.
While visiting my spiritual director, who was in a coma, I expressed to others my desire to pray over him because I did not want to let him go. A week or so later when he was home from the hospital and doing a '
The Apostles by the intensity of their gaze had asked Christ to stay with them. They would have held on to him physically if it had made a difference. Christ was free to go because he could leave behind the gift of himself. Even as Christ gave the Apostles the command to go into the whole world and claim the world for him through Baptism, he gave the promise of being with them until the end of time. Are we really willing to claim the promise of the goodbye of Christ? What does it mean to claim that promise? The paradox of Christianity is that although dying implies going, the going in Christ implies the staying.
We all make attempts at developing a way of experiencing God's presence. As young Religious we were told to make acts of the Presence of God. They were just words we said in the beginning of our spiritual life. One-liners, calling out the name of Jesus, asking mercy, were more frequently acts of the mind than cries of the heart. "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me'' supposed that Jesus could hear and was close. Today, hopefully, those Acts of the Presence of Christ express the reality of our hearts being present to this God of ours. Christ's presence could mean as much as the presence of the brothers and sisters whom we can touch. The years spent as religious speak a life dedicated to the presence of our Lord. Now we should be capable of recognizing his presence in each other and our world.
There is no fundamental difference between the presence of the Lord in a newly baptized baby and any one of the mystics of the Church. The love of God reaches out to the good and the bad alike; reaches all of us equally. This is an important insight for our spiritual journey. The devil has the same presence of God's love in Christ as we do. We should all look for the humanness of Christ in each other. How can we love the God we do not see, if we do not love the neighbor we do see? At some point, the potential of the presence is the same for all of us. The difference lies in the degree of the heart's acknowledgment and response to the presence. How much love do we give? Does the presence stay in the head? Or does it respond from the heart? God's love makes the world go around. Our hearts can respond to God's love in any moment of our lives. Spirituality finds the presence of our Lord by seeing through the disguise of the stranger who comes into our lives. The doors of our hearts will be open and then the Christ of our hearts, the Lord of our hearts, will be free to come forth in all we say and do.
This "Omega" of our faith, the ascension, is really the beginning of the marvelous journey into a self realization of a Mystery of God. The call to become Divine is, by virtue of our own rising to the new life, our being able to live in the presence of God in the now of our life. It carries with it the promise of the Resurrection. The ascension allows us to see, but not clearly. Our own resurrection will allow us to see with the fullness of love. We will see and hear what cannot even be imagined now because it is so much more than what is suggested by the ascension. The realization that we are made for another world is part of the ascension grace. It is years of living in the presence of God, and the degree of awareness of that presence which claims our hearts bringing the anticipation of our own resurrection.
Our response to the ascension will be seen in the fullness of our living the mandate of the ascension. Christ passed on the job he had received from the Father. We have to continue his work where he left off if we are going to live up to our baptism. This is what subsidiarity is all about. The work of the Church will be finished when the entire world belongs to Christ. If we have not done all that we had hoped to do, it is still possible to pass on the responsibility of our charisms. It is here that the Mystery of ascension gives rise to the Church. The Angels query to the Apostles: "...Why stand you here idle?" (Acts 1:10) should have been followed by: "...Go forth and teach all nations...! (Matt 28:20) For so many years, spirituality was a turning in, without the going out. There was and is an acknowledgment of God and the Savior. Our lives were so private we did not really have to announce the good news of the Christ within us. This Christ life, which is the truth of who we are in this new life, gives rise to the responsibility of fulfilling the mandate to "Go forth!"
In Baptism, our initiation rite, the mandate to go forth is instilled in each of us. The literal meaning of baptism is discoverable in the branding of slaves by the Romans. Slaves were marked on their forehead with the sign of the Roman family to whom they belonged. We are branded with the cross of Christ in our baptism. We are claimed and owned by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Trinity comes to make their home within us, and the Mystery of Indwelling takes place. We become
Vatican II speaks of the Church as "The People of God." In the Decree on the Laity, the laity is given the responsibility to baptize the world with the presence of Christ. We have to go where the Church has not yet been. The ability to do this flows out of the presence of Christ in our lives, which comes with baptism. The vows of Religious have been spoken of as a second baptism. They are seen today as a public commitment to live out the fullness of the baptismal promises. Religious, commit themselves to be professional holy people, attempting to make the world holy by the intensity of their Christ life. The external signs of this life are the poverty, chastity and obedience, which show a genuine desire to live the same life as Christ. The vows single people out, when they are perpetual, because few people in this world of ours are willing to make a permanent commitment. Love is forever, and the promise to stay with Christ and to go where he would go is more perfectly stated in the commitment to live his life. These signs give the world the right to count on Religious to witness to Christ in every environment both favorable and unfavorable. Christ has a claim on every dimension of the life of a religious, and the consecration, which used to be regarded as a separation from the world, puts on the Religious the tremendous responsibility of making the world holy by sharing the intensity of the Christ life in them.
Belonging to God is "being caught" into the Lord in his Alpha and Omega The ascension of our Lord has long beer, looked upon as a statement that the final act is finished, the curtain has been drawn, it is over, the torch has been passed on. But the reality of the ascension, the statement that it is all right to begin again, says that Christ believes that we are now ready to be his presence in the world in which we live. It is our responsibility to re enter our world and claim it for Christ, and to share his love. We know that he came to claim us as brothers and sisters. The promise of Christ to stay, even as he goes, fills us with peace.
We stand on the hill of the ascension and see Christ whom we love going off without us. He wants to take us and we want to go. The ascension recalls the difficulty Christ had in leaving us behind and our desire to go with him. Christ had already said he must go but would send the Spirit. The Spirit of Truth would tell us all we need to know. Christ had said it all, but we did not understand. The Angel comes to ask why we are standing idle. How many times have we missed the point when we read that statement? We did not understand those men who locked themselves in the upper room for fear of the Jews. They loved Christ so much that without him they felt they had nothing to give, let alone, to live for. The Spirit would have to come before the Apostles would have the necessary courage to go out and share with the world the Good News of salvation. But at that moment they were just watching him go. For the rest of their lives the Apostles would feel the weight of sorrow that held them back as they reached out for him.
The ascension is a mystery that we relive again and again in the after prayer periods of our lives. We trace his presence on our souls by meditations. He traces his love in return in the moments of contemplation when he lifts us up into himself. We need to cherish those moments of our soul‘s contentment when he seems so close. But all too quickly the contemplative moment is gone. We find ourselves staring off into the distance at the ascension. Each moment of grace takes our hearts up into the heavens. Our prayer soars and the beauty of going off into prayer is the reminder that we are made for another world. As much as we want to go with him, and as hard as we try to hold onto his love,
he goes off and leaves us with a task to be done for the sake of his love. The desire to hold on to prayer can be for us what the ascension was for the Apostles.
We want to go with him, but it is not up to us to pick the hour and the way. We expect him to come soon, so we go on with our work. We want to be ready when he comes again, so we look for, his presence in all that is happening around us. The reality of going with him is what the Church is all about. We go with him by living the reality of his presence in the Church. In the ascension, he leaves one place, so that he might be in every place. He promised his presence in us, and we honor it by making him present to others. He calls us to go into the whole world and claim the world as the possession of the Trinity. Christ wants to go with us. Baptism and his ascension make it possible.
The ascension may be like a curtain closing so that the stage may be set for the next act, and this act is ours. Where we step out in his name, we give him a foothold in our world. Where he has stepped in the ascension gives us a foothold in heaven. Two steps, one in each direction allow us to cross the
Every Nativity, the Alpha of our Faith, has a date with the Ascension, the Omega of our Faith. Every going has the implications of staying. Ascension is not the last breath of Christ's Resurrection, but the first breath of our Resurrection as he sends the Spirit to make us his love to the World we claim for the Father.
We pray with the Apostles to the Lord of the Ascension: O Lord, we cannot let you go. We need you to stay because without you, we are unable to face the problems of life. How can we do anything without you? We like to touch and feel. If you are gone it will not be the same. We need to know your closeness and be with you in the confidence we have when you are seen and close enough to touch. Do not go Lord. Stay on because there is no one who can replace our need of having you close. How we want to see you, Lord. We cannot believe that you are lost in the clouds. Will you return? Can we not hold on to you? Do you have to go? Do you really want to stay as much as we want you to stay? Your ascension is our prayer of questions.
You could only have gone, Lord, if you knew that you would live in the poverty and brokenness of the least ones who would come into our hearts. It is a powerful question you asked of Paul on the road to
We hear the question of the Angels: "Why do you stand here idle?" We do not yet understand fully. We need to know what it means to be about the mission we share from you of being about your Father's business. You are such a lover that you would be our love for each other. Help us, Lord, to bridge the gap that is the ascension. Be the power of the ascension in the lives of our brothers and sisters. Help us to make you present by sharing the love you have left behind in our hearts. We can only keep you, Lord, by giving you away.
Lord, help us to be an uplifting experience for all of our brothers and sisters so that we may be drawn together in the wake of your going. Help us to find the way to the realization of the Resurrection in our own lives. Lord, strengthen our belief in the Resurrection. May your ascension be the beginning of our mission to share the promises of your love to the world. Let your goodbye be our hello to the mission of sharing the love of your heart with our world. Let us be strengthened by the coming of the Spirit.