The opening verse of this Sunday's second reading from St. Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome (believed by the majority of scholars to have been written between 55 and 57 AD) is one of the more liberating statements in the New Testament.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
How many of us struggle to pray? How many of us find it challenging to engage our invisible God? I do! St. Paul mercifully reminds us that prayer is a super-natural act. It is not like eating or walking or talking or even feeling for someone. It does not and will not come easy. How liberating to know.
To engage our invisible God, we need assistance. Assistance is provided. We have been endowed with three gifts that enable us to be in relationship with God: faith, hope and love. These gifts ennoble and dispose our hearts and minds to God. But, even so, even as we believe, hope and love, we need God. In a particular way, the Holy Spirit assists us. The Holy Spirit moves us such that there are times even when we pray without fully realizing it. The Holy Spirit is lifting our tired, discouraged hearts to God: "the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:27).How liberating to experience.
And so, we rejoice, and we engage our invisible God, believing two most wonderful truths, namely that: 1. "all things work together for good for those who love God" (Romans 8:28) and 2. nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39). How liberating.
Yours in Christ,
ABBA (not the Swedish musical group)
This Sunday’s second reading (Romans 8:12-25) is most encouraging. You have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.
Through no merit of our own, by the gracious gift of a God who can only love, we have been drawn into the divine life, adopted as children of God. By the Holy Spirit within us, we are able to cry “Abba, Father”—a cry more intimate than we realize.
May this cry be the leitmotif of the upcoming week. May this be the simple prayer that we weave throughout our day. And, from this cry and place of intimacy, may we engage the world with truth and mercy, willing to extend the same divine goodness that we are blessed to experience.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Dominique Rector
We have the blessing of babies in our midst (most recently, Daniel Vish and Carter Harris) and of little children who play and giggle during our time of fellowship following our main service (the 10:00 AM Mass). Jesus has more than an eye on them. And, Jesus makes wonderful use of them to speak to us-in many ways. Indeed, Jesus presents them as models for our relationship with Him. But, what is it about them that it behooves us to imitate? They are a living metaphor for what exactly regarding the spiritual life? There is something about them that disposes them-and us, when we imitate them-to receiving the secrets of God.
In this Sunday's gospel, we read
At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will".
Saint Augustine (+430) asks, "Who are 'infants" but the humble?" Oh, humility.
Saint Hilary (+368) speaks along similar lines in commenting on this passage: "the hidden things of heavenly words and their power are...hid from the wise because of their presumption of their own wisdom, not because of their wisdom".
Humility of heart is the key to intimacy with God, to being friends of Jesus. A humble heart is a heart that is open and receptive, and thus a heart into which Jesus can deposit the secrets of divine love. "I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father".(John 15:15)
A humble heart-which does not preclude being strong-is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Indeed, humility is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, per St. Paul (Galatians 5:23). We must ask for humility. True humility can only lead to greater love. Such is why C.S. Lewis declares: "True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."
The love to which humility leads is the same love that binds us to one another as Sisters and Brothers in Christ. Hence the words of St. Peter (I Peter 5:5-6): "all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time."
Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward. (Matthew 10:42, from this Sunday's gospel)
What encouraging but mysterious revelation from Jesus. One, of course, might consider this in rather simple terms and not as terribly mysterious: helping others is a good thing and God rewards this. Giving water to the thirsty is a good thing. This is true, but there can be a temptation to reduce the Christian life to being good, and God sprinkling blessing atop our goodness, our good actions-like sprinkles on an icecream Sundae.
I am inclined to ask if Jesus is revealing something else, something more. Is Jesus not, in fact, revealing his "identification" with the thirsty? I recently saw a bumper sticker that I found clever and liked: "It's not a religion, it's a relationship". Indeed. The reward that God always ultimately gives is Himself. The reward that awaits us in giving water to the thirsty is an encounter. Jesus awaits us-and, this is mysterious.
I might do best simply to let Mother Teresa say it:
Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.
With you, finding Jesus in all sorts of places and all sorts of people,
From the desk of the Rector