“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors”, Jesus tells us in this Sunday’s gospel (Luke 14:1, 7-14). This sounds like a recipe for dinner party disaster. What is Jesus thinking? What is Jesus saying?
Well, Jesus is not seeking to oust the likes of Martha Stewart or any of the other lifestyle gurus. This is not advice for hospitality or entertainment. Jesus is revealing the Kingdom of God, and thus what it is to happen in the hearts of those who belong to the King.
The Kingdom of God, that is, the life of God in which we so graciously participate, is about a love that transcends natural ties—those of family and friends. Divine love is certainly to take hold of and transform these ties, but there is an other love bestowed upon us. And, the resulting opening of the heart of the children of God ought to know no bounds. Why? Because this love from above, divine love that makes of us children of God, know no bounds. Recall the mysterious counsel offered in Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Jesus is not giving advice for hospitality or entertainment. Jesus is expressing his desire that our hearts be wide open, with a wideness that He makes possible, a wideness that leads to unconditional welcome of whomever He sends our way—including persons for whom we have no natural affinity, a wideness that leads to entertaining angels.
Yours in the hospitality of Jesus,
These are Jesus' words in this Sunday's gospel (Luke 13:10-17) to a woman who appeared as he was teaching in the synagogue. She had been crippled for eighteen years, and was unable to stand erect. She enters the scene, and says nothing. She requests nothing. She simply appears. And Jesus responds.
Woody Allen is credited with saying, "showing up is 80 percent of life". The same holds largely true in the spiritual life: "showing up is 80 percent of life with God". If we simply show up, if we are faithful in this way, Jesus responds. Jesus sets us free. Such is the nature of divine love. This may sound too good to be true. Let's just say that it is good and it is true.
Yours in Christ,
St. Catherine of Siena (+1380), Italian tertiary of the Dominican order, philosopher and theologian, and, most importantly, mystic lover of Jesus, prays, "You are a fire always burning but never consuming; you are a fire consuming in your heat all the soul's selfish love; you are a fire lifting all chill and giving light".
In today's gospel Luke (12:49-56), Jesus speaks of fire. He does so, however, in-at least initially-terrifying terms:"Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!" Oh my.Where are You Prince of Peace?!?
The fire of which Jesus speaks is that of divine love. This may seem terrifying, but Jesus seeks to make the point that His love is all-consuming, and that because it comes directly from the Source, it can be no other way. Divine love is an absolute. And, divine love is to be freely received, and not all may wish to receive it. Hence, the "division" which Jesus mentions. If only we knew more clearly that a mysterious peace, a peace that surpasses understanding, follows such love, we would not hesitate to say "yes".
St. Catherine of Siena further prays, and, in her prayer, encourages us to say "yes": "In your nature, eternal Godhead, I shall come to know my nature. And what is my nature, O boundless Love? It is fire, because you are nothing but a fire of love. And you have given humankind a share in this nature for by the fire of love you created us."
"Come...enkindle in us the fire of Your love..."
Yours in the Prince of Peace,
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration (having respectfully moved it from its August 6 date). Why such a move? Because it is a grand celebration, a celebration of light, a celebration of glory, and we because probably need to hear its message.
St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) speaks of the Transfiguration (ST, III, Q. 45, art. 4, resp. 2) as a mystery of the "second regeneration". If I understand correctly, the first regeneration, the first rebirth, occurs for us in Baptism, when, by immeasurable grace, we are introduced into the divine life, i.e. into the very life of God. Our second rebirth, so to speak, will occur when are definitively introduced into the very life of God, the life of heaven.
In the Resurrection, Christ's body is definitively introduced into the life of heaven where "God will wipe every tear...Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4).The Transfiguration foreshadows this, and so is a mystery of the "second regeneration".
The Transfiguration reveals what awaits us. We look forward, at the Second Coming, to the "resurrection of the body" (Apostle's Creed), of our body, and thus to our whole person being definitively introduced into the life of heaven. As St. John says in his first epistle, (3:2) "we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is".
And so, we look forward to unfathomable bliss in the whole of our person-glory (divine love overflowing) having irrigated every fiber of who we are. When Christ comes, and "all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all" (I Corinthians 15:28).When God is "all in all", then there is only light and love. In the meantime, we are given, in the midst of whatever we may be experiencing, foretastes of glory, in little, often hidden (sometimes very hidden!) ways: in the Eucharist, in our encounters with one another, in the bestowal of quiet blessings.Let us rejoice and be full of hope.
Yours in hope,
From the desk of the Rector