Choosing the better part

Choosing the better part

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I Thirst For You

As a final post before our next meeting of the Schola Christi, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you a reflection based on the Spiritual Teachings of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta written by the Missionaries of Charity.  It captures beautifully, I believe, the desire of God's heart - His desire to heal and forgive us, to console and strengthen us, to give us His love and receive ours in return:

"Behold I stand at the Door and Knock… (Rev 3:20)

It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.

And I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come – always, without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My Spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you, and with a love for you beyond your comprehension – a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father; ‘As much as the Father has loved Me, I have loved you…’ (Jn 15:10)

I come – longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you my light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.

I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back.

If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life, and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power. I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations. I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory.

I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? ‘Come to Me all you who thirst… (Jn 7:37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on the cross for you.

I thirst for you. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to me, and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation, and give you peace, even in all your trials. I THIRST FOR YOU.

You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give Me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to my heart.

Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life – and I will. I promise you before My Father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest. Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My Kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home.

Sin can never satisfy you, or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you give Me the joy of being your Saviour.

There is nothing I cannot forgive or heal’ so come now, and unburden your soul. No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are.

You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the Cross, look at My heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood my Cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: ‘I THIRST…’ (Jn 19:28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm verse I was praying says of Me: ‘I looked for someone to console me and I found none…’ (Ps 69:21). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you have ever done before.

Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit: ‘No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake. Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jesus' Burning Passion for Our Presence

If someone wanted to know our deepest longings and desires, then they would retrieve and study a transcript of our prayers. In particular, they would need a copy of our private prayers, since that is where we all freely and openly pour out our hearts to God. And by looking at what we seek and cry our for to God, they would learn what is truly near and dear to our hearts.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 17, the night before his death, Jesus opens the window of his heart in this prayer to his Father.  And what do we see? We see an ardent yearning for our presence as he prays: “Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am.”
Although the Greek word is sometimes translated “will,” the words “desire” or “want” convey the meaning better. For the Greek word does not just express determination, but also pleasure, delight and aspiration.  Therefore, Jesus is articulating his heart’s desire to his Father. This is what he wants: he longs for you and me to be where he is. 

Jesus goes on express the reason that he wants us to be with him: “that they may behold my glory which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world.”  Our Lord's desire for us to share in this glory is reflected in David’s hope as he wrote: “As for me, I will see your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness” (Ps. 17:15). “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4).

It is true that the world has not known the Father, and so it has no right to be in his presence. But Jesus is not praying for the world (John 17:9); he is praying for his disciples and for all that the Father has given him.  “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you did send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.”  And to them he has made the Father known, and he will continue by His Spirit to do so. In other words, he will not just bring them to faith; he will also fully sanctify them.

The result, then, of Christ’s work is twofold - the love the Father has for Jesus will be in us; and Christ will be in us (John 17:26).  Jesus will make sure that we know the Father so well that we will love one another with the same love that the Father has for Jesus. In addition, the heart of the covenant will be realized in us, for God in Christ will dwell among us and be our God. The law of this covenant is written on our hearts and through His Spirit and the gift of Sacraments we are given the grace to keep the commandments.  One with Christ, it becomes our very nature to do so.  He will make us holy as he is holy.  And this he will surely do because of his desire that we be where he is!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Vulnerability of Passionate Love: The Desire of Christ Meeting Our Desire

How is it that we are to understand and more importantly enter into the desire of our Lord?  What is it that makes it concrete and real for us and what is it that will allow it to take hold of our hearts in such a way as to be transformative?  The answer to these questions is probably not what we want to hear; but hear and embrace it we must if we are to taste and experience the depth of God's infinite love for us.  We must make ourselves or rather allow ourselves to be vulnerable in our love and desire for God; like Him we must stretch ourselves out in a loving embrace and in that radical vulnerability allow ourselves to be broken and poured out in love for Christ and others.

There is a profound resistance within us to such vulnerability and we fear the shame of it.  But it is in the very wounds of Christ - it is in uniting our wounds, our brokenness to His, that we experience the deepest and most profound intimacy.

In his work, The Passion of the Lamb, Fr. Thomas Acklin, OSB reminds us that "Jesus did not come to make human desire irrelevant or to abolish desire; he came to fulfill it.  Yet in fulfilling it he shows us much about ourselves, about human desire and about human love."

Fr. Acklin explains that it is important to recall "that the Latin verb patior, besides meaning 'to suffer or feel deeply,' also means 'to lie open or be vulnerable.'  The word vulnerability comes from the Latin noun vulnus, vulneris, meaning 'wound.'  To be vulnerable is to lie open, to be exposed to being wounded, and the wounds of Christ crucified are the emblems of his passion."

"Not only our passion but also our vulnerability is a very important and personally intimate place of contact between Christ's life and our human lives, as well as between Christ's death and our own approach to death. . .  . We see the vulnerability of the divine Son - of the infinite, divine Person - in his taking on a finite human form or nature, become one of us.

In the vulnerability of our own passion, we marvel at and share in the infinite vulnerability of his passion.  We embrace our passion in embracing his, pressing our wounds against his. . . . This means realizing that the desire to share in his passion is already the union with him we are seeking.  Somehow the blood of my wounds and of my desire is already flowing into his wounds, and the blood of his wounds into mine.

If we are to love him here, we must become vulnerable in the vulnerability of the passion.  If we wish to receive him and adore him in the abiding fruit of his love and his passion in the Eucharist, where the infinite Son of God lets himself be exposed and gives himself with unlimited vulnerability under the appearances of bread and wine, we must ourselves become vulnerable and live the passion of our vulnerability in the vulnerability of his passion.  This is how all things will be made new, how every tear will be wiped away" (Passion of the Lamb, pp 7-10).

The Lord's Desire to Remain with Us

"And, lo I am with you, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:20).  The Incarnation itself expresses God's profound desire to be present to us.  Jesus is Emmanuel, that is "God with us" (Matthew 1:23).  This presence of God does not cease at the Ascension of Our Lord but continues, as He promised, in the most profound of ways; above all through His sacramental presence in the Most Holy Eucharist.  It is here that we encounter and receive His love in all its fullness.  This is captured beautifully by Bl. Angela of Foligno who writes:

"O God, O Creator, O Spirit of Life overwhelming Your creatures with ever new graces! You grant to Your chosen ones the gift which is ever renewed: the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ!

O Jesus, You instituted this Sacrament, not through any desire to draw some advantage from it for Yourself, but solely moved by love which has no other measure than to be without measure. You instituted this Sacrament because Your love exceeds all words. Burning with love for us, You desired to give Yourself to us and took up Your dwelling in the consecrated Host, entirely and forever, until the end of time. And You did this, not only to give us a memorial of Your death which is our salvation, but You did it also, to remain with us entirely and forever."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mutual Attraction Between Jesus and the Souls of Men

The Beloved longs for us and to give us His love and forgiveness.  Our poverty, weakness and sin does not lessen His desire to give Himself to us or weaken His longing to bring us healing and wholeness.  What Fr. Faber puts forward below we must acknowledge especially when responding to the Church's call to evangelize.  It is Christ and His grace - - not human eloquence, learning or controversy - - that lures the soul.

..."The Blessed Sacrament is the magnet of souls. There is a mutual attraction between Jesus and the souls of men. Mary drew Him down from heaven. Our nature attracted Him rather than the nature of angels. Our misery caused Him to stoop to our lowness. Even our sins had a sort of attraction for the abundance of His mercy and the predilection of His grace. Our repentance wins Him to us. Our love makes earth a paradise to Him; and our souls lure Him as gold lures the miser, with irresistible fascination, . . . 

He draws us to Himself by grace, by example, by power, by lovingness, by beauty, by pardon, and above all by the Blessed Sacrament. Every one who has had anything to do with ministering to souls has seen the power which Jesus has. Talent is not needed. Eloquence is comparatively unattractive. Learning is often beside the mark. Controversy simply repels... All the attraction of the Church is in Jesus, and His chief attraction is the Blessed Sacrament."
- from "The Blessed Sacrament", by Fr. Frederick Faber, C.O.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Heart Consumed by the Living Fire of Love

The saints have long held out the value of meditating upon the Passion of our Lord as a means of deepening our desire and love for God.  Here is the lesson, as it were, that we can reflect upon endlessly.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus is consumed with love for us and His desire for our salvation and is the crucible in which our sins are purged.
"The Passion and Death of Christ involved his whole body.  They were effected through all the wounds which he received during the Passion.  However they were above all accomplished in his Heart, because it agonized in the dying of his entire body.  His Heart was consumed in the throbbing pain of all his wounds.    In this despoliation the Heart burned with love; a living fire of love consumed the Heart of Jesus on the Cross.
This love of the Heart was the propitiating power for sins.  It overcame and overcomes for all time all the evil contained in sin, all estrangement from God, all rebellion of the human free will, all improper use of created freedom which opposes God and his holiness.
Jesus is the willing victim because he offered himself "freely to his passion" (Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer II), the victim of expiation for the sins of mankind (cf. Lev. 1:5; Heb. 10:5-10), which he purged in the fire of his love.
Jesus is the eternal victim.  Risen from the dead and glorified at the right hand of the Father, he preserves in his immortal body the marks of the wounds of his nailed hands and feet, of his pierced heart (cf. Jn. 20:27; Lk. 24:39-40) and presents them to the Father in his incessant prayer of intercession on our behalf."  (Blessed John Paul II)

The School of Christ is the School of Charity

As we have begun to gather together for what we call the "Schola Christi" or School of Christ, it is good to remind ourselves about who and what we are seeking in and through our discussions.  Indeed, we have sought to emphasize from the start that we come to sit at the feet of Christ prayerfully and to listen to the word that He desires to speak to our hearts.  From this silent and attentive listening we then seek to speak and tell the world of His goodness and love.

Today is the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine who directs us toward this same purpose: "The school of Christ is the school of charity.  On the last day, when the great general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian.  Charity will be the whole syllabus. . . . If you are wise, then know that you have been created for the glory of God and your own eternal salvation.  This is your goal: this is the center of your life; this the treasure of your heart."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

God's Desire for Our Salvation is Infinite

 Confession: manifestation of God's mercy

"The soul also receives Baptism in another way, speaking in figurative terms, by special providence of my divine love. I was well aware of human fragility and weakness, that leads human beings to offend me. Persons are not constrained by this nor by any other thing to commit the fault, if they do not wish, but being weak they commit mortal sins, thus losing the grace they received in holy baptism by virtue of the Blood. For this reason it was necessary that Divine Love should make available a continual baptism of the Blood. This baptism comes about through a contrite heart and through confession of sins to a priest, when possible, for they have the keys of the Blood, the Blood the priest pours upon the soul when he absolves the person. If some one is unable to confess, contrition of heart is sufficient. Then my mercy bestows on you the fruit of this precious Blood, but if you can confess I want you to do so, and whoever being able does not confess, will remain deprived of the benefit of the Blood. However, it is true that whoever, at the moment of death wants to confess and is unable to do it, he likewise shall receive the fruit of the Blood. But let nobody be so foolish at life's end, hoping to set his soul in order, because it is not certain that I, due to his obstinacy, may say in consonance with my divine justice: "You did not remember me during your life, when you had time. I do not remember you now at the point of death!"

Let no one procrastinate it, but even if there should be somebody who has wilfully done so, he ought not omit baptizing himself with hope in the Blood even if it were the last day. You see then how this baptism is continual and the soul must be baptized in it until life's end, as I have indicated. Through this baptism you can understand that the torment of the cross ended, but the fruit of this torment, which you received from me is infinite. This is due to my infinite divine nature, united to finite human nature. This human nature suffered in me, Word, clothed with your humanity. Since one nature is joined and kneaded with the other, the eternal divinity brought upon itself the torment which I bore with such ardent love.

That is why this my action can be said to be infinite, not because the torment suffered bodily is infinite, nor the torment of my desire of accomplishing your redemption, which really finished and came to an end on the cross when the soul was separated from the body. But the fruit that sprang from that torment and the desire for your salvation are infinite. That is the reason why you can unsparingly receive this fruit. If it had not been infinite then humanity would not have been redeemed: people of the past, the present and the future. It would not have been possible for persons who sin to be purified from their sins, if this baptism of blood had not been offered without measure, because the fruit of the Blood is infinite.

I showed you this in my open side, where you discover the secret of my heart: namely, that I love you much more than what I could show you with the finite torment. I have shown you that my love is infinite. In what way? With the baptism of the Blood, joined to the fire of my charity, that out of love was poured out; and through baptism, understood in the common sense, given to Christians, to whoever wishes to receive it, baptism of water joined to blood and to fire, in which the soul is kneaded with my blood. To show you all this I wanted blood and water to flow forth from my side. Now I have answered your request."

St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church: The Dialogue LXXV

At the very heart of the universe is God's desire to give and forgive.

Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), mystic and Doctor of the Church, makes us contemplate the Incarnation: God's desire, his love that came to embrace our humanity.

"If I consider your lofty counsel, O eternal Trinity, I understand that in your light you saw the dignity and noble nature of the human race, so that, as love had compelled you to draw man from yourself, it was love also that compelled you to redeem him when he was lost through his own fault."

"Seeing that his will [to give us eternal life] was thwarted because of sin but sustained by the passionate love he had towards us, he sent his only and beloved son [...] so that in Mary's womb, his Word might be grafted in our humanity."

"O fire, abyss of charity: so that we would not remain separated from you, you wanted to make a graft of yourself in me. This is what happened when you planted your Word in Mary's field."

"We are of such value to God that He came to live among us…and to guide us home. He will go to any length to seek us….We can only respond by loving God for His love.

"At the very heart of the universe is God’s desire to give and to forgive."

My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.

 In light of next month's topic, "The Hunger of the Lord", I thought this quote from Elizabeth particularly apt.

"The Divine Master, in his discourse after the Last Supper, that last love song of the Master's soul, utters to the Father those beautiful words: 'I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do'. We are His brides and consequently, ought to identify ourselves totally with Him and ought to be able to repeat these same words at the close of each day. Perhaps you will ask me, how are we to glorify Him? It is very simple. Our Lord told us the secret when He said: 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent me'. Be devoted then to the will of this adorable Master; look at every suffering and every joy as coming directly from Him, and then our life will be a continual communion, since everything will be like a sacrament that will give you God. This is very real, because God is not divided; His will is His whole being. He is wholly and entirely in all things and these things are, to a certain extent nothing but an emanation of His love! You see now how much you can glorify Him in these states of suffering and listlessness that are so difficult to bear! Forget yourself as much as you can, for that is the secret of peace and happiness." 

(Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity)

Jesus Desires Us, He Awaits Us . . . 

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15). With these words Jesus began the celebration of his final meal and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus approached that hour with eager desire. In his heart he awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world. In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God himself – his expectant love for mankind, for his creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfil the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:19).

"Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things? From Jesus’ banquet parables we realize that he knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness. For us, the empty places at the table of the Lord’s wedding feast, whether excusable or not, are no longer a parable but a reality, in those very countries to which he had revealed his closeness in a special way. Jesus also knew about guests who come to the banquet without being robed in the wedding garment – they come not to rejoice in his presence but merely out of habit, since their hearts are elsewhere. In one of his homilies Saint Gregory the Great asks: Who are these people who enter without the wedding garment? What is this garment and how does one acquire it? He replies that those who are invited and enter do in some way have faith. It is faith which opens the door to them. But they lack the wedding garment of love. Those who do not live their faith as love are not ready for the banquet and are cast out. Eucharistic communion requires faith, but faith requires love; otherwise, even as faith, it is dead."

~ Pope Benedict XVI; excerpt from Holy Thursday Homily on April 21, 2011~

The Hunger of Our Lord for Our Faith

As I have prayed about it I have begun to wonder what Divine Wisdom should make known to us about the Hunger of Our Lord in regards to our relationship with Him and our willingness to unite ourselves with Him in His sufferings. Do we satisfy that hunger for our faith in our own sufferings and satisfy it by our meeting with tenderness those in whom we find our suffering Lord?

Like Therese of Lisieux, Elizabeth was not a stoic, trying to step out of her pain.  Her suffering was so great that she could understand how people feel like they are at the end of their rope.  It may be feebly that we suffer or feel that we are cowardly, but when we heed Christ and embrace it as our dwelling, He who is the Fullness of Love, who suffered all on the Cross and whose Heart embraces all our suffering, visits us.

"I am more overwhelmed by happiness than by pain: my Master has reminded me that it is my dwelling place and I am not to choose my sufferings; so I immerse myself with Him into immense suffering, with much fear and anguish.  

Your victim is suffering very, very much; it is a kind of physical agony.  She feels so cowardly, cowardly enough to scream!  But the Being who is the Fullness of Love visits her, keeping her company."

(Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity)

God's Sole Desire: to Lead You More Deeply Into Love


"Abandonment - - that is what gives us to God. I am very young, yet it seems to me that I have really suffered at times. Oh! then, when everything was dark, when the present was so painful and when the future looked more somber, I closed my eyes, and abandoned myself, like a child, in the arms of this Father who is in heaven.

We look at ourselves too much; we want to see and understand; we do not have enough confidence in Him who enfolds us in His love. We must not stand before the cross and look at it in itself, but recollecting ourselves in the light of faith, we must rise above it, and consider it as the instrument which is used by Divine Love. . . You must believe that His sole desire is to lead you more and more deeply into Himself. Surrender yourself to Him with all your preoccupations."

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Fathers of the Oratory have long desired to offer such a group for adults and young adults. In praying about this and discussing the matter with the Adoration Committee it became clear that the obvious path was to build upon the great blessing that God has bestowed upon us in recent years in drawing us close to His Sacred Heart and through being able in Adoration to gaze upon His Eucharistic face. This blessing has borne such fruit in our lives and the lives of those who come to the Oratory and when thinking about the group we wanted to establish something that would strengthen that devotion and lead others to a deeper intimacy with Christ. The group is called "The School of Christ" and expresses our desire to sit at the feet of the Master and listen attentively - our desire to choose the better part. 

Therefore, each meeting will center on a topic that revolves around the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith life and leads us back to it. The group will begin with a Eucharistic colloquy which is a conversation between Christ and the soul; meant to enflame our minds and hearts with love for Him. Thus prepared, we will together consider through familiar and informal discussion (in the spirit of St. Philip Neri) a brief meditation on our identity as Catholics as rooted in and strengthened by the Holy Eucharist. Given that we will be meeting on the first Saturday of each month, it also seemed appropriate that we should end the hour with a brief Eucharistic reflection on one of the mysteries of the Rosary and recite one decade together.

In and through this group, we hope that our time together will help to establish and strengthen a bond of friendship among all found through our shared love of Christ and His holy Church. 

Gaudete Semper!

Yours in Christ and St. Philip Neri,

Fr. David

Next Meeting - October 6th

"The Hunger of Our Lord"