“Love that cannot suffer is not worthy of that name.”

Version 2

While in Assis I came across a quote from Santa Chiara (St. Clare) that I had never heard before. Immediately I was struck by the quote as it had a way of succinctly summing up something so very true and important in just a few simple words. It was inscribed somewhere in the Basilica of St. Clare and it was given to me by a friend just a few days before my trip to Assisi. On my way home I began to look for it again on the Internet in order to reflect on it further.

Love that cannot suffer is not worthy of that name.

This quote has continued to return to me several times over this last week. Maybe the first thing that comes to me ask reflect upon it is how much it is both based upon the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ and how much it continues to point back to that same love. It is enriched by Christ’s great and sacrificial love and it illuminates the depths of His great love for God the Father and for us, His brothers and sisters. No one, not even Jesus, loves suffering or death that comes as a result of such great suffering. So why then would God desire to suffer in such a way as He did in Jesus the Son? Why would He endure such horrible suffering in the passion and the cross? For Love. For the sake of His beloved. For the Father, whom He abides with always in loving communion and for us His beloved ones. He would go through such great suffering for our sake and for the sake of the whole world to see us live, to see us free!

I am reminded of a similar and helpful saying attributed to St. Francis that I read years ago and continue to reflect upon over and over again.

The cross is pure joy.

When I first read this many years ago, I didn’t understand a thing about it, yet, even then, there was something that rang true in my heart when those words first entered therein. Years of reflecting upon those words have brought slow insight into the wisdom they express… Similar to St. Clare’s quote, the wisdom is likewise rooted in the person and love of Christ – especially as it is revealed through His cross. How can there be any joy in suffering? In the cross of all things? It is not the instrument or source of torture that animates ones joy it is the love for whom one gladly suffers that does so! Love of God and live of neighbor to the end! This is the charity of Christ! Is is the definition of love – of God who is love! Love that is total, free and faithful! It is this love that is fruitful and fills us and others with joy! It is this love that gives life even to the dead!

So called love, love that is unwilling to suffer, is exposed as selfishness instead. This easily becomes clear when one considers a so-called love that is unwilling to help, sacrifice, suffer for or even with another person – with the so called beloved. It is evident in this distortion of love, that the person who is unwilling to suffer, is only there for themselves – sadly I think tha this also expresses their unwillingness to suffer even for themselves – to live with discipline where it is good for them to do so.

Going back to the original quote, and to St. Clare and St. Francis: I think that they lived this love in such a profound way. First and foremost towards God as both of them willingly and even joyfully suffered and sacrificed much for the sake of Christ and His gospel. It was also their profound love for God that purified and transformed their love so that they, like and with God, were able to love others too. They did not love only a single person totally but all people and even all of creation! They endured and sacrified much for the love of others too. Think of St. Francis binding up and wounds of the lepers and begging on their behalf in for them to be able to eat or of St. Clare washing daily the feet of her sisters (they went barefoot by the way) as an expression of her love for them. These are profound expressions not only of true love but I would dare say truly happy people, full of not only the love of God but the joy of the Lord as well.

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“Better for you”

I was struck this week by the numerous comparisons of Jesus especially because He returns several times to telling His disciples what is “better for you”. It might surprise us to realize what Jesus actually teaches is better for them! 
He says for instance that it would be better to be maimed than to have two hands or two feet or two eyes one of which is causes us to stumble and fall in our faith; to be scandalized (literally a stumbling block)! Maybe even more incredible than this is the statement he makes about causing another believer, Jesus’ little ones who believe in Him, to stumble or to create an obstacle between them and God! He says, in this case, that it “would be better if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” In plainer words: It would be better if you were dead! Remember the words of Jesus from last week: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me!” How we treat one another, especially believers, is how we treat God.
The implication to what Jesus is saying is testifying not only to the fact that love and service of God is tied intrinsically and totally tied to love of neighbor but also that there are eternal and serious implications if we put an obstacle between another person and Jesus! 
What kind of effort and care for our relationships with others and with God does Jesus teaching imply? What is the greatest priority then in each persons life? What should we be striving for? Jesus is indicating that we should, above all things, strive for right relationships with God and with others. Do not His words seem to suggest that friendship with Jesus and faith in Him is to be prized and sought above anything else – even above life and bodily health? I think so. Doesn’t this teaching radically change our picture and understanding of what it means to be healthy? Is the healthy person the one with the fit body? Is the healthy person the one with all the riches in the world? No, not according to the Lord. The measure of health comes from a persons relationship with God and others! Interestingly enough, when we speak of salvation and the importance of being saved the root hat word is the word ‘safe’ which actually means health! Salvation is the true health! Right and faithful relationship with God and God’s little ones is the measure of health! 
In light of this new understanding of health, of what is truly better for us, maybe we might also better understand the other readings we heard. Moses spoke, “Would that all the Lord’s people were Prophets! And that the Lord would put His spirit on them!” Why? Because they would all be close to God and work in accord with His spirit to lead others to Him! Would that all God’s people were so very close to God and strived to bring God’s word to the hearts of others! So to, in St. James condemnation of the rich and their selfishness, it is principally because they have caused others – especially the poor and the little – to stumble and suffer. Their riches do not lead them to deeper communion with others, rather the opposite, their wealth is a scandal for others and a cause for rejecting the ‘little children’ of faith that Christ equates with Himself! Their riches destroy their health and become an obstacle for their own salvation and for others!

All of this underscores for me what the most important work is – every other work needs to be seen and understood as subordinated to it. That work is to grow in relationship with Jesus through faith and to spread that same faith in Jesus to others. To go to God and live faithfully in communion with Hm and to bring others, welcoming them in His name, to the same beautiful reality. This is the picture health! His communion might also be said to be the source of our full and lasting health since, close to God, we will draw life and continual grace from Him. So, even if it costs us a limb or two, “It is better for [us]!”

“A life worthy of the calling”

Here is an incredible plea from St. Paul to the church in Ephasis, a plea that is extended to us today: “I, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called”! I beg you he says! I There are all kinds of questions that arise from this plea: What kind of life are we to lead? Apparently I have been called to do so, but by whom?

Maybe there is a bit of a surprise when we hear that somebody is calling us. Me, called? Yes, you! The Lord has and is calling you – each of us – to a new and full life. The reason it must be a call is because God will never force any of us. God’s respect for human freedom and the human will is profound! All Christians are called continually to conversion of life. It is this that St. Paul is begging of the Ephesians and which through his letter we too are being begged to respond to.

There are many mistaken or incomplete notions of what this “life to which we have been called” looks like or what this calling actually pertains to. Perhaps one of the best ways to begin to understand this is to look at the first reading toady on this feast of the Ascension – that is the return of Jesus to God the Father. Jesus is telling the apostles, “you will be baptized (bathed) with the Holy Spirit not many days from now”, and that, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After Jesus gives them these words it ways that, “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight,” meaning that Jesus returned to God (to heaven). The simple thing that I want to draw your attention to is first the promise of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit in power upon the apostles and, subsequently, that they will be Jesus “witnesses” (literally martyrs) to the ends of the world! Here is a way is seen both the one who calls and the calling. We are called by God through Christ and we are called to be Christ’s witnesses! We are called to be Christ Body! This then is why St. Paul is begging us to live a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called! We are called to be Christ’s witnesses to the world! This is a high calling!

What does this calling and life look like? We see, through persons like St. Paul, the saints, and others in the early church, that the response to Christ’s calling and the life of grace is. They respond amazingly and are fruitful despite every situation and all the odds stacked against them! Unity and strength, faith and prayer all in communion with God in the Holy Spirit establishes and builds up the Body of Christ (which we are still a product of today!)

Our response and our work begins with God and in response to God. We must be close to Him first and listen to Him before we can hope to respond to God’s grace and live according to the Holy Spirit! Open to grace my freinds!

“You rejected the Holy and Righteous One”

  

The beginning of the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel is quite confrontational and profoundly striking. St. Peter, after the event of Pentecost (the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church), addresses the people with these words: “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our anscestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected…” He ends by telling them to, “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.” What strikes me to ask, as someone entrusted with a similar mission that the apostles were entrusted with in the proclamation of the Gospel, is: How can this kind of preaching bear fruit and be fruitful in converting hearts to God?

I immediately thought of several experiences that I had in my life that maybe resemble this confrontational dynamic in St. Peter’s preaching. I remember two particularly moving experiences for me when I was growing up. Both of them involved me doing sominthing wrong, some sin, that deeply hurt on one instance my parents and on the other more particularly my mother. In both instances they could have done what we always want to do if someone hurts us – we protect ourselves, maybe put on a strong face, and often we return or reciprocate their hurt as an act of vengence and justice (so we think!).  But, in both of these instnaces my parents did not react this usual way. Instead, they let me see the hurt that I had caused them – I can still particularly see my mother crying on the one instance… That is hard for any son to see.  What did these instnaces do for me? How did they affect me? Well the first thing that it effected in me was deep sorrow and regret for my actions. I was contrite – truly sorry and you can bet that in my heart I resolved never to offend in such a way again. In a simple but very profound way, my heart was converted to them. Instead of enacting a human form of justice in these instances my parents were cooperating with the grace of God and they followed Christ and in a very tangible way witnessed to His love and mercy.

I had rejected them and they had, through their love, let me see this fact. I was confronted with my own ignoracnce and selfishness. I saw clearly the cost of my selfishness and they let me come to that realization without judgment and condemnation or retaliation. I saw that the one(s) I had rejected were deserving instead of my love. How much more then is this true of us when we come to this realization in front of God? To be honest, in that moment I did not think of how my sin had affected my relationship with God (at least not right away). But, truth be told, every instance of sin in our lives, no matter who we hurt or reject (others or even ourselves) is most fully an offense against God – God who is Love! Those words of St. Peter are aimed too at us: “You rejected the Holy and Righteous One!” How often do we do this through our selfishness and through our rejection of others or our self-harm?  It is only when we realize this deep truth that we begin to open our hearts to the Love of God and to the grace given us through God’s sacrifice for our conversion. 

What is revealed by St. Peter’s preaching today as an echoing of Christ’s own teaching in today’s gospel is that it was God’s plan for the “Messiah to suffer and rise on the third day”, so that “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to proclaimed in his name to all nations”. What Jesus and St. Peter are saying is that the rejection and death of Jesus on the Cross is meant to move human hearts to repent and convert and that the resurrection from the dead is for our forgiveness and for our salvation! This is the heart of the Christian proclamation – the Good News! Jesus suffered at our hands and for our sake – for our sins – and He did so willingly to show us the abiding love of God the Father! The crucifixion shows us both God’s love but also the true and full consequence or effect of our sins. We reject not only others and our own selves but even God and God’s love!

If we refuse to look upon the Holy and righteous one whom we have pierced then we will not be converted to God through a contrite spirit of repentance. To see firsthand the horror of our sin – in the pierced and wounded Christ – gives way to seeing His love and His mercy. Instead of being led to despair we are led to faith and hope in His love – He is forgiving?! He is loving still! I can be truthful and honest before Him – He will not spurn or cast me off! I am loved still! I can let Him love me, I can love Him!

This is the heart of our proclamation of the Gospel my friends. All of us are entrusted with preaching and proclaiming this beautiful and mysterious truth. In order to do this though we must first be converted to God in this way – we must know it from the inside! Only then will be be able to preach Christ convincingly to others because we ourselves will be converted to Him through repentance and merciful love. By coming in this way to know Him – to know Him as merciful love! – we will also come to love Him as He is and to listen and obey Him. We will slowly, through God’s love and grace, come to love as He loves. This maybe is the principle point and the full measure of our preaching of the Gospel – when we come to love as He loves – to give our live completely for others, even those who do not love us! We know we are drawing close to this by how we respond not when we are loved but rather when we are rejected or put on trial. It is then most fully that Christian witness is to be seen and manifest! Full of the love of God, and abiding in His love, we can with Jesus and through His merciful love for us, offer and extend the same merciful and forgiving and enduring love to those persons that reject us and scorn us and put us on trial. We at the same time though need to be ok with letting them see our hurt and pain – do not be to proud to show them this – look and see how Christ was stripped of everything and was sorrowful and grieved in the passion. We have to see our sin and it’s deadly effects if we are to be converted from it but so to we need to see the merciful and enduring love of God for us if we are not to be driven to despair.

My beloved friends, we must come to God in this way and only then converted by His love can we be an instrument of true Christian witness to that same love of God manifest in Jesus Christ. Never forget that in every Eucharist this same mystery of God’s love is given or poured our for us anew – we come to stand at the foot of the crucified Christ in order to see our sin but we see also that the Lord is alive and risen from the grave and living gives Himself to us as food and purification so that we might be converted at last or anew to His living and eternal love! Prasie be to God for such love as we have never known! To Him be praise and Glory! Love is Risen!

“Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?”

I admit that the second reading from this the second Sunday of Lent is very powerful and moving for me. We would do well to consider the words of St. Paul to the Romans and their implications – they are truly profound!

He says, “Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?”, and further, “If God is for us who can be against us? He who did not withhold his only Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?” In other words God has chosen us knowing full well who we are and if He has given us His only Son what else could He possibly withhold from us?! This is pretty profound when we contemplate the deepest truth about ourselves in God! What’s more, God as even sacrificed for us and in so doing has proved or demonstrated to what extent He will go for you and me. See in Abraham an image of what St. Paul is saying: Abraham was tested by God to see His fidelity to God’s command – He was even willing to sacrifice his son Isaac who was the son God had given him in his old age and the son of the promises God had made to Abraham. He demonstrated himself through this test as faithful to God even to an extreme. God likewise, and even to the end, proves His fidelity to us His chosen ones by actually asking His only begotten Son to sacrifice His life for us. Only when we grasp the depths of this sacrifice do we, with St. Paul, start to understand how profound God’s grace and favour is for us – again, despite who we are! 

 Maybe by painting a bit of a picture i can help us to understand this a bit better. Let’s say that Fr. Michael has a wife….I know a little hard to imagine, but bear with me for examples sake. Let us say that one day while I’m working in the Church a bunch of you come to me and say, “Fr. Michael, we just heard something horrible…. Did you know that your wife used to be a thief?” Or did you know that she used to be an addict?” You can substitute whatever disgusting or revolting thing you might think of or any sin that you want to put into that statement. In a way you’d be saying, “Did you know what kind of life she used to live? Surely you didn’t know? why else would you have married her?”

And I say to you in response, ” Yes; yes, I know her past, I know what she has done…” You cut me off, “And you still married her?” “Yes,” I say, “I still married her.” You might respond, “But why?” I will simply say, “Because I love her and I have chosen her.”

We could take this even further in a way and we might make the discussion current… “Did you know Fr. Michael that your wife is a sinner!” Did you know that she is a drunk? Did you know that she is having an affair with someone else?” Again, I would say, “Yes, I know, I love her and I have chosen her.” “Well, why don’t you be rid of her Father?” My response might come, “Because I lover her, because I promised myself to her, because she is beautiful to me….” In other words, “You cannot shake my love for her – I will sacrifice all for her sake.”

In this analogy we begin to understand the implications of what St. Paul is saying about God’s love for us – it is demonstrated to such an extent in the sacrifice of His only Son Jesus! He has not withheld His only Son! 

There is something else here too that relates more to the transfiguration which was proclaimed to us in the gospel. For just an instant these three disciples were given a glimpse of the full identity of Jesus the Son. The veil was pulled back and they were permitted to see the Son’s true identity and glory. He is the Son! The beloved Son! But the profound truth of the matter is that in Him we are to live! Like Him we are to become, but we do this only by abiding in Him and in His love! By sacrificing for us so much – by testifying in such a profound way His fidelity for us – it is as if God is saying – “I see who you are – I see your potential – what you are meant to be! It is worth it! I will take all you sins! I will bare them if you will let me!”

Similarly, returning to my analogy (of my pet end wife), the reason I might put up with her, why I can stay faithful to her even though she is unfaithful to me, is because of the hope I have for her and how I see her. I might say to you, “You only see her sin and her shame! I see her beauty! I see her potential – who she could be, who she is becoming! It is worth the wait. It is worth the suffering if she becomes even a little of who she is meant to be or of what is within her.” In some way this is most poignient for me as a priest when I come to the truth that, in a way, I do have a spouse… “What? you say! You father?” “Yes, as a priest, who is called to act in and as Christ in the community – you (the Church) are my spouse!” I am called to serve you as Christ serves Hus bride. God is faithful to us in a profound way – what is most profound is how He is faithful to us despite us – this might be realized even in some of us despite the fact that we will never change! What God doesn’t have control over (or take control of) is whether we stay, but as long as we come back to Him He will love us and remain faithful to us! Like you, I cannot keep you here with me in the Church, you are free to leave me (to leave God really) but as long as you are here I will love you – even if you struggle to change!

The Church and the Evangelical Councils

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In an era where there are so many people saying so many things in so many different ways with a multiplicity of medias I could not but think about the message of the Gospel amidst those other voices. Not only is the Gospel rarely heard by so many of our contemporaries but when it is heard it is rarely heard as truly good news. Could it be that the Church just can’t compete with the use of modern media?

In light of this dilemma I was reminded of the three sisters; sister poverty, sister chastity and sister obedience -otherwise known as the Evangelical Councils. Why are these councils so important? I believe that they are more important than many in the Church have recently thought them to be. The fact that most Christians don’t even know what is meant by the name Evangelical Councils is a strong indication that they are completely out of favour today – at least in our culture. I’m not surprised. There are no voices advocating living life in that way, according to these councils, and why should there be any voices advocating? Apart from Christ the evangelical councils make little or no sense anyway.

Why then are they so important for our time and for our culture? Why are they needed now? I believe that their name, ‘evangelical’, points to the answer. The name or word ‘evangelical’ is rooted in the Greek word euangelion – meaning of course, Good News! Does that mean that poverty, chastity and obedience are themselves the good news that is meant by their name? No, but they in some way proclaim that neither are riches, power, and sexual pleasure the ultimate good news. The other word, ‘council’, is used to speak of a body or committee serving an administrative capacity. See then these three ‘councils’, these three sisters, advise or provide direction with regards to the Good News. The ensure that we don’t forget where our happiness really lies.

Think about it. Is there any better way to demonstrate or give witness to the faith of the Church, the conviction of Christians, than in the Evangelical Councils lived with joy, that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and that in and through His Salvation we find our complete joy and fulfilment right now and in heaven? In the joy of Christ, the joy of His abiding presence and love, I am freed from the need for anything else. In the words of Psalm 23: “I shall not want.” The Lord is my treasure, He is my joy. I am freed also from selfish pursuits – free to live for Him and for others as I remain in Him and He in me. I can truly be satisfied – even satiated!

As Christ spoke about celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom in Matthew 19 so also I believe he says to us now in this time: “Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” To do so in order to find Christ and in Him our fulfillment and our freedom for Him and for all!

Christ is Risen! So will we if we are buried with Him in a death like His!

The need to pray always.

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What is our own experience of prayer? I think that too often people hear the word “prayer” and they immediately think of some of the most simple and basic prayer or prayers that we are taught as children – the Our Father, the Hail Mary or the Rosary. The sad thing is that Catholics often don’t move past those early forms of prayer that we have learnt as children and too often we tend to think of prayer in terms of mechanics or because of the influence of new age spirituality we understand prayer only in terms of self discipline or personal achievement since the focus is on self and self attainment.
Contrast this very common notion or perspective on prayer with the images of prayer that we see in the scriptures today. First there is a connection between prayer and battle – involving defence against enemies and remaining steady in the face of great difficulty. Then St. Paul makes a strong connection between study and prayer of scripture and our own personal growth and then ability to reach others in the faith. Then in the gospel, Jesus again reminds us of the relational dimension of prayer.
The parable of the widow and the unjust judge is preceded by Christ’s teaching to the disciples about “their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” This is an interesting teaching because it connects prayer with a basic need within us and I believe that this is something new for us to think about. Do we realize that we need to pray? Not just that we should for some reason, because it is good to pray, or because we’ve been told to, but that we truly need to pray – and to “pray always”.
First then, why do we need to pray and to pray always? One can approach this from many angles but I believe that we need to realize that prayer is connected to our salvation (which we cannot accomplish on our own), or for and increase of virtue (especially the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity), prayer is necessary for our growth in sanctity and holiness and to allow us to remain steady or steadfast and not lose heart. All of this I believe is rooted in us being chosen by God as Jesus calls us His “chosen ones”. We are chosen for relationship and for love. Think about what that means though. If I am chosen to play on a team (like we used to do when we were children) and I don’t respond to the one who has chosen me but stay where I am, don’t speak back don’t move over to the one who has called me then I in fact remain outside of relationship and in a way unchosen. Prayer is incredibly important for our relationship with God. Notice how Jesus contrasts the results of prayer with an unjust judge against God who is the source and author of all good and all justice! Prayer is fundamental then for maintaing and growing our relationship with God. What I appreciate about the widow is that her prayer is for justice – not for her way or for whatever she wants, but simply for justice. She wants nothing more than what is right.
The other consideration is how do we pray always? I think the easiest way to consider this is to think again of prayer as a relationship. We need only look for analogy at our relationship with others to see how I can maintain a relationship and an availability to another person even if I am not always speaking to them or they are not always speaking to me. But in order for this to happen I must have specific times set aside for communicating with them, interacting with them. So too in prayer, I believe that we must, we need to have specific times set aside daily for communication with God – to be in communion with Him. This will help us to remain in communion with Him and to recognize His nearness to us even when we are not engaged in a specific time of prayer. This is one big difference between our relations with other and out relationship with God: He is present to us always. The key is that we remain aware or attentive to God’s presence always: sometimes called practicing the presence of God.
It is key to realize that when we sin we usually are not aware of the presence of God and if we are I will be that we are not experiencing or aware of His deep and abiding love for us.
I could not help but hear the echoes of Pope Emeritus Benedict in writing about the Year of Faith when he mentioned that our communities need to become “schools of prayer”. I know that this cannot happen unless we are praying personally everyday. Before we can be a school, we must first be formed or educated in the faith and specifically in prayer. I challenge you to plan, very specifically plan, for times of prayer each and every day. Put aside time for the Lord, for the reading of scripture. If you don’t know how, or where to begin, speak to me or read the lives of the saints – those who knew how to pray and in whose lives the fruit of prayer and intimate relationship with God is evident. Do this and the new attentiveness and openness to the Lord will bear fruit in you lives.

The Life of Man – To Know and Love God

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs to his blessed life.

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 1

This first paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is interesting to me because it not only introduces the whole work of the Catechism but it also suggests the whole purpose and orientation of human life; namely blessedness. Blessedness is used interchangeably by the Catechism to describe happiness or more fully eternal happiness in heaven. Who does not desire or seek always and at all times to be happy? Who of us is not always discerning and seeking the good that we believe will bring us happiness? This paragraph speaks volumes then about the source of all blessedness or happiness and of how human beings attain it. At the same time however it also gives us a hint or introduction of the key problematic or obstacle mitigating mankind’s attempt to share in God’s blessedness. In a word that obstacle is sin.

First we hear of God’s blessedness. God is completely and perfectly happy or blessed in himself. God needs nothing. Gods act of creating the entire cosmos, and very specifically or uniquely mankind within his creation, is a completely free and unnecessary act of total generosity and grace. God wills for others to share in the complete and total blessedness that is his – men and women are unique in their capacity to be able to do this. There is therefore, because of the will of God that mankind share this favor or gift, no doubt that God is continually, in all times and places, drawing close to men and women. In drawing close, God calls, or invites all people to seek him, know him and love him with everything that they are. It is in God, in communion with him, that men and women share in the blessed life – both now and fully in heaven (as heirs to his blessed life). This is only possible in and through the redeeming and saving action of God brought about through the sending of Jesus his Only Begotten Son. We share in his life through the gift of rebirth in baptism and the free bestowal of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, and, remaining in him, we therefore share in his eternal blessedness.

At odds with the life of blessedness and happiness lies the problem of sin. Sin, described as scattering and dividing all people, removes from the human family the original blessedness and happiness God originally intended for it. God’s plan is to reunite all that has been scattered due to human sin by gathering all together again in unity as family, as Church. In Christ and through him, the Church is formed and is called to follow him into eternal blessedness as his adopted brothers and sisters and through life shared with God in the unity of the Holy Spirit, we are to live a life of pure goodness and happiness by responding to the help of God’s Grace (with the help of God’s grace) thereby bringing an end of all sin and division.

We lose nothing

“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? . . . No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.” – Pope Emeritus Benedict

I was putting together my homily for this upcoming Sunday (Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time) and I couldn’t help but be reminded of this quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict. It is a truly amazing and moving quote for me. I believe it s such because of the way that it resonates with the truth of our faith, the truth that I know and have experienced. Does this quote not strike at the heart of the gospel and at our fear to embrace it? I think we know that this is such an important choice. I think we know that there is a lot at stake with this choice. I think this is why this choice is so hard to make it. My friends, I invite you to make it. If you have already made it, make it again. Renew you choice for Him. I will today make it with you. Lord, I am afraid! Lord, I choose you. I invite you fully into every aspect of my life. I choose you Lord and I give myself to you. I choose true life! Lord, give me the confidence that you had in the Father when you went to the cross, and my salvation will be assured.

A beautifully prayerful album

20130821-183450.jpgAfter reading Fr. Darryl Millette’s blog about Audrey Assad’s new album, called Fortunate Fall, I was very curious about it and so I went out and purchased it right away. I have been listening to it since then – in fact I’m listening to it right now as I right this. I have had several chances to listen to the album all the way through, especially with all my driving that I do now between the three parishes I serve. Well, what can I say? It’s beautiful. I love it.

Well to start, I think I should begin with but Fr. Darryl Millette said, and I want to quote him from his blog saskapriest.com:

It is much more than an album: it’s a journey of prayer.

I couldn’t agree more with Fr. Darryl. When I read his summation I was instantly captivated because I have recently come across another Christian album that I would classify in the same way. The other album, by the way, is Rest by Beckah Shae. I also highly recommend it – the first two songs on the album are profoundly prayerful. Beautiful!

As I posted yesterday the quote on prayer from Saint Faustina, I cannot help but believe that part of what makes this, and the Beckah Shae album, so beautiful is that they are definitely born out of the labour and fruit of prayer. What is beautiful is what is being communicated by both girls – a personal encounter with the love God and that what they sing about they have personally experienced. They know firsthand the and mercy that they sing about. This is why they, through their music, can lead others to that friend whom they know – why they can share His tenderness with others and lead them to that same tender friend.

I want to thank both of these young women for sharing their gifts with others and doing so in such a way that truly gives Glory to God and at the same time serves the good of others by encouraging them to draw closer to God themselves. Thank you and may God bless and protect you both, keeping you always in communion with Him and accepting of His love.