The Heavenly Call, The Eternal Embrace
March 29, 2022
This coming Sunday’s second reading, Philippians 3:4-14, is a powerful one.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Allow me to try to summarize some of what Saint Paul may be telling us. Jesus is God incarnate, come to us. In this divine encounter, Jesus awakens in us a desire to know Him (not simply about Him) and to belong to Him. He pours forth His love, divine love—even in our suffering. If Christ is risen, then He suffers no more. “The sharing of his sufferings” of which Saint Paul speaks, must then be the sufferings of the members of His Body, the Church, our own suffering, which, if a special place to receive God’s love, can be a pathway to heaven.
We all carry burdens and scars. But looking back too much serves little purpose. Indeed, our encounter with Christ, always in the present, ought keep us from dwelling on the past. We are to “strain forward to what lies ahead, the prize of the heavenly call”, which is the fullness of divine love in God’s eternal embrace. We already experience this love in the depths of our hearts, even in our suffering. One day, the love will definitively triumph.
Yours on this Lenten journey,
Home Sweet Home
March 22, 2021
This coming Fourth Sunday of Lent, we are blessed with the parable of the Prodigal Son, a familiar story of being lost and being found, a revelation that we all need. We need it because we struggle to believe that God’s love is truly unconditional. We struggle to believe that God’s love is truly unconditional because we have no other experience of a relationship of purely unconditional love. Even in the best of relationships, there are strings attached. And, in the best of relationships, we, of course, cannot expect to be celebrated when we have gone astray.
But St. Paul tells us in Romans, chapter 8, verse 39, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”. “Nothing” means no that there are no conditions, and that, thankfully, God’s heart is beyond breaking.
To acknowledge oneself as prodigal (from the Latin prodigere, “to squander”) is to acknowledge oneself a sinner. Doing so can be uncomfortable, yet doing so is liberating. I know that I am a sinner, that is, I know that I do not always love. I also know, in faith, that God is in loving pursuit of me when I break my own heart because I choose not to love.
We are children of God who dare to believe that, when we squander and go astray then return home, although unworthy, we will be received, embraced, and celebrated unconditionally. Every time we receive the Eucharist, we have this type of experience. The Eucharist is our “welcome home”.
Henri Nouwen, Dutch priest (+1996), in his book “The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming” speaks eloquently of being found and being welcomed home:
I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
Lent is homecoming…
Gratefully yours in Christ,
Lent: Deep in the Heart
March 15, 2022
Ekaterina Fyodorovna Kolyschkine de Hueck Doherty, a Russian-Canadian Catholic Christian woman of deep prayer, in 1932, gave up all her possessions to live among the poor in Toronto. In 1947, she moved to rural Canada, where she founded Madonna House, a celibate community of men and women, who seek to serve Christ in one another and the poor. Their daily life is simple: morning prayer, a day of work, Mass and dinner. Work at the main house generally consists of maintenance of the community, care of a farm, and the sorting and distribution of donations to the poor. Ekaterina, or Catherine, died in 1985. She says,
Lent is a time of going very deeply into ourselves… What is it that stands between us and God? Between us and our brothers and sisters? Between us and life, the life of the spirit? Whatever it is, let us relentlessly tear it out, without a moment’s hesitation.
What do we need the Lord to remove from our hearts, that stands in the way of surrender in love, that stands between? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you, and then to remove it. Bear in mind, however, that you need to do this more than once, day after day. The purification of our hearts will not be fully achieved until we are definitively in the Lord’s embrace, i.e., Heaven!