Posts Tagged 'New Evangelization'

“Which Means Sent”

Isn’t it funny that I’ve overlooked that little phrase from this Sunday’s Gospel even though I’ve read or heard it dozens and dozens of times? I readily focus on the story of the blind man—the miracle performed by Jesus in restoring his sight, the very odd dialogue that happens between him and the Pharisees, the strange relationship he seems to have with his parents, even the dynamic that he finds himself immersed in through a chance meeting of this miracle-worker named Jesus Christ. But not until today have I ever taken note of a simple little phrase thrown in by St. John as Jesus is actually in the act of healing the man. “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, ‘Go wash in the Pool of Siloam’—which means Sent. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.”

Which means ‘Sent.’ Strange detail to include, John. Just a translator’s note? A geographical reference? An idiosyncratic side comment? I think not. Indeed, I think not! And it seems to me Pope Benedict might agree. He writes in his Lenten reflection for this week that the man born blind joyfully exclaims, “Lord, I believe!” thus “giving voice to all believers.” Is that merely to say that his proclamation of faith is one echoed down through the centuries? Is the pope implying that the courage of the healed blind man spurs the rest of us believers on to profess faith in a God even when that faith might meet with resistance, if not outright opposition? Perhaps. But as I read both the Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Lent and the Holy Father’s reflection on that Gospel, I understand something a little bit different…something more. When Jesus healed the man born blind, he did so with a commissioning. Go and wash in the pool that will both heal you and send you. Be sent. Receive your sight, and then go out and profess your faith, that all might believe. After all, you didn’t just receive your sight today. You received vision.

Jesus’ Baptism and the Desert

How are baptism and Lent connected? There is a saying in Spanish that can be translated to read something like this “tell me who you’re with and I will tell you who you are.” This saying will help us understand the connection between Jesus’ Baptism and his time of temptation in the desert, since both have to do with who he is. In all three synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) we read that before Jesus begins his ministry he first goes to get baptized by John. After his baptism, he then goes into the desert where he is tempted by the devil. How are Jesus’ baptism and his time in the desert related? The connection between the two can be found in what happens at the end of the baptism.

In Mark 1:11 we hear a voice calling out from heaven, which says: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Likewise, in Matthew 3:17 we read that there was a voice from heaven which said: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Father asserts his love for his beloved son and this assertion gives meaning to everything Jesus does. Jesus is the Father’s delight and his identity is wrapped around his relationship with his Father. The scriptures tell us that the spirit lead Jesus into the desert, not despite his mission but as the very beginning of his mission. He is sent into the desert to encounter the temptations that rule men’s hearts (hunger, power and safety), but he confronts these temptations with the trust that he is loved by the Father. The period of temptation and trial is anticipated by one of grace and affirmation in the baptismal experience.

As Christians we walk the Lenten journey following Christ into the desert, but often we forget how this journey begins. It does not begin with promises of grand penances or change, it begins by asserting how much we need the Lord and the Lord asserting how much he wants to be with us. This synergy of God and man culminates in the Easter Mystery, from which we draw our ultimate hope to die with Christ so we can rise with him. In Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten Message of 2011 he offered the following words on what happened at the moment of our baptism: “we “become sharers in Christ’s death and Resurrection”, and there began for us “the joyful and exulting adventure of his disciples”.

Like Jesus, let us recall the affirmation we received at the moment of our baptism, in which the Lord asserted in us the following words: “In Jesus, my son, you have become my beloved child and I will lead you into the desert of penance so that you may remember who you are meant to be.” Lent is a time of renewal to seek out our life mission based on this baptismal identity as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

St. Teresa of Avila: Transverberation

In chapter 29, inThe Life of St. Teresa of Avila, we read the following description of St. Teresa’s mystical ecstasy, also known as “transverberation”. In this description we hear St. Teresa narrate her mystical experience, in which she was spiritually consumed by God’s love:

“In his hands I saw a long golden spear
and at the end of the iron tip
I seemed to see a point of fire.
With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times
so that it penetrated to my entrails.
When he drew it out,
I thought he was drawing them out with it
and he left me completely afire with a great love for God.
The pain was so sharp
that it made me utter several moans;
and so excessive was the sweetness
caused me by this intense pain
that one can never wish to lose it,
nor will one’s soul be content
with anything less than God.
It is not bodily pain, but spiritual,
though the body has a share in it–indeed, a great share.
So sweet are the colloquies of love
which pass between the soul and God
that if anyone thinks I am lying I beseech God,
in His goodness, to give him the same experience.”

Discernment- Like a pair of old boots

There was a romantic comedy film I watched a while back in which the male protagonist said to the female protagonist “you and I belong together like a pair of old boots.” In a sense, a vocation can be seen as the right paring off of the one who is called and the vocation they are called to live out to follow.

We don’t always know how the Lord is calling us to server Him, but what we are always discerning is how a vocation “fits” our particular life. Discernment is not about an ideal situation we want to live in, rather it concerns our life, seen with honesty and humility.

If we are called to the priesthood or the consecrated life, God usually provides some type of moment in which we find these lifestyles desirable, even if we had never found them attractive up until that moment. Some people feel very gravitated to the call to serve the Lord and follow Him immediately, like St. Matthew did (Mt. 9,9). For others, it is a slow process of recognition and prayerful reflection, along with insightful conversations with a priest, sister, brother, deacon or other consecrated person.

The Lord’s plan for us is perfect, so let’s prayerfully and actively search for the right “fit” for our lives so that one day we can say that “our vocations and us belong together like an old pair of boots.”

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In the past three to four hundred years, many Spiritual Directors have entrusted those discerning a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion, which is composed of eucharistic adoration, reparation and consecration, has led many closer to the Lord (regardless of where their discernment has led them).

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has always been a foundational part of Catholic spirituality and devotion, as far as this particular devotion is understood to be based on Divine Revelation’s message that God is love and in the mystery of the incarnation God has loved us with a human heart (Gaudium et Spes #22). As Pope Benedict XVI stated, concerning the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: “Moreover, not only does this mystery of God’s love for us constitute the content of the worship of and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but in the same way it is likewise the content of all true spirituality and Christian devotion. It is consequently important to stress that the basis of the devotion is as old as Christianity itself.” (Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI on occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical Haurietis Aquas)

To adore the Lord through this venerable image of his wounded and fiery heart calling us to communion with Him is a gateway to discern how exactly the Lord wants us to serve Him. Discernment requires a true “trust” in the one we are discerning with, namely the Lord. He must have free reign in our hearts and lives in order to lead us, without bypassing our freedom. Discernment is an act of freedom to transcend one’s circumstances, limitations and inadequacies to follow the Lord wherever He may lead us. Let us commend ourselves to the Heart of Jesus, whose wounded heart calls us to trust in the abundance of His sacrificial love. “It was only the experience that God first gave us his love that has enabled us to respond to his commandment of love” (cf. Deus Caritas Est, # 17).

We’ll close with the words of Pope Pius XII:

“Consequently, it is clear that the revelations made to St. Margaret Mary brought nothing new into Catholic doctrine. Their importance lay in this that Christ Our Lord, exposing His Sacred Heart, wished in a quite extraordinary way to invite the minds of men to a contemplation of, and a devotion to, the mystery of God’s merciful love for the human race. In this special manifestation Christ pointed to His Heart, with definite and repeated words, as the symbol by which men should be attracted to a knowledge and recognition of His love; and at the same time He established it as a sign or pledge of mercy and grace for the needs of the Church of our times.”
(Encyclical Haurietis Aquas by Pope Pius XII, #97)

Silence

In the Pope Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, he speaks about the importance of silence in relation to the word of God, “In their interventions, a good number of Synod Fathers insisted on the importance of silence in relation to the word of God and its reception in the lives of the faithful.[231] The word, in fact, can only be spoken and heard in silence, outward and inward. Ours is not an age which fosters recollection; at times one has the impression that people are afraid of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the mass media. For this reason, it is necessary nowadays that the People of God be educated in the value of silence. Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence.[232] Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence. Our liturgies must facilitate this attitude of authentic listening: Verbo crescente, verba deficiunt.[233]”

The priesthood and consecrated life embrace the Word of God and give it particular attention through the Liturgy of Hours and through forms of meditation and contemplation, such as Lectio Divina. May you find the Person of Christ, the Word made Flesh, more fully through your prayer with Sacred Scripture!



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