Refreshment for the Soul
August 30, 2022
Somewhere between AD 57-62, Saint Paul wrote a letter to Philemon, “dear friend and co-worker”, a wealthy man in Colossae, to Apphia, likely Philemon’s wife, “our sister”, and to Archippus, “our fellow soldier”, some have speculated to be the son of Philemon and Apphia. In it, he says something that I hope someday someone may be able to say of me.
I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love,
because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.
How I wish that my love bring joy and encouragement to others, and refreshment to the hearts of the saints, i.e., fellow believers around me. In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus invites, by grace, the complete gift of ourselves to Him. If we place our hearts freely in His hands, in His heart, He promises that “the water that I will give will become a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4: 14). How refreshing…
Yours in Christ,
“Lead me to praise you with all your saints.”
July 26, 2022
This Sunday is the Eight Sunday after Pentecost. Hidden behind it is the feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. A young Spanish knight become priest/mystic, he founded a community called the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), with a missional emphasis on evangelization and guidance on the journey of faith. Like all the saints, Sant Ignatius was (is!) in love with Christ. He died on July 31, 1556.
I am one who believes that the saints are not simply models of impossibly good behaviour. The saints are friends, who actively journey with us. They are quiet, for they would never engage us in such a way as to diminish our freedom. They work in perfect concert with Jesus.
The following prayer, called the “Anima Christi”, is often attributed to St. Ignatius. It was composed well before his time, however, which allowed him to include it in his famous work, the “Spiritual Exercises”. Its author is unknown. It is carried in the heart of the Church, part of our spiritual patrimony. It is the prayer of someone in love with Christ:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O Good Jesus, hear me
Within the wounds, shelter me
from turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever
Yours in the heart of the Church,
And Who is My Neighbor?
July 5, 2022
"And who is my neighbor?" asks a lawyer of Jesus, in this Sunday’s gospel (Luke 10:25-37). The lawyer sought not to deepen his understanding of love and mercy but to justify himself, that is, to be able proudly to say that he “gave at the office.”
Regardless of his motive, Jesus lets him know, in no uncertain terms, who the neighbor is. My neighbor is the person right on my path: my family member, the person in the check-out line, my co-worker, the parishioner three pews behind me, whom I have yet to greet in two years. We need not look far to know whom we are called to love. Folk-rocker Stephen Stills, back in 1970, summarized it in his own way, in a well-known song he penned: “love the one you’re with.” St. Thomas Aquinas, 700 years earlier, says that, “in matters concerning relations between citizens, we should prefer our fellow-citizens”. In other words, well-ordered charity begins at home. Of course, “at home” those most vulnerable beckon our love in a special way. And, when we love, we are then neighbor.
Jesus, thankfully, gives us the love with which we can love all those whom He brings across our path—including people with whom, humanly speaking, we have little in common, people whom we find annoying, people even who have hurt us. Divine love, an unconditional, liberating gift, is offered to us at every moment, and, in a special way, in the Eucharist. Do we ask for it? Try doing so, first thing in the morning, on your knees, if possible. Your life will change, for the oh-so-much-better.
The Fruit of the Spirit
21 June 2022
Saint Paul tells us his letter to the “churches of Galatia” (our first reading this Sunday, chapter 5, verses 13-25), that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. The fruit of the Spirit is what the Holy Spirit does in us. In other words, the more we are moved by the Holy Spirit, the more we are children of God (“all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” Romans 8:14), and children of God are loving and joyous and peaceful and patient, etc. A life transformed in Christ looks like this.
If we find ourselves lacking in any of these qualities, we ought earnestly and hope-fully to beseech the Holy Spirit. We must do our part by seeking to become more virtuous, that is, interiorly stronger. And, we must intend to love. Yet, building upon our efforts and beyond them, the Holy Spirit is at work, (re)fashioning our hearts. Indeed, Dietrich Bonheoffer, the German pastor-theologian, executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 for his supposed association with a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, says, “The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it.”
Let us be open to the loving action of the Holy Spirit Who indwells us. Let us rejoice that this fruit, if a gift of God, depends, first and foremost, on our side of the equation, on a deep desire. We can all, always desire. It is the act of deliberately wanting, beyond any feelings, which no person and no circumstance—exterior or interior—can stop. This is really good news!
Yours in Christ,
pilgrim of desire with you
Adore and then Partake
June 14, 2022
Saint Augustine (+430) says, “No one partakes of this Flesh before he or she has adored it.” This coming Sunday, Corpus Christi Sunday, before we partake, we shall adore Jesus in the Eucharist.
This feast day was established in 1264. In certain churches, so to honor Jesus in the Eucharist, following the Eucharistic celebration, there is a Eucharistic procession. In pondering this noble tradition, however, I found myself wondering about the order of service, the sequence and progression of the liturgy. And the question arose: how fitting is such a procession after the Mass, having been loved and empowered by Christ in Communion, and sent forth to carry Him into the world in the final “dismissal”? A procession of the Blessed Sacrament (which, by the way, can indeed be a compelling testimony to neighbors) is a time of honor of Christ in this gift. Does it make sense, however, to do this before or after receiving the gift?
For the second year in a row, as a prayerful “experiment”, we will have a time of honor of Christ in this gift before we partake. Instead of a procession, we will, essentially, extend the pause before receiving Communion, to enjoy the Real Presence and to ask that our hearts be readied for encounter. The consecrated host will be displayed in what we call a monstrance (from the Latin verb monstrare, “to show”). Then, we shall partake.
Yours in Christ,
“Tongues, As of Fire”?!?
May 31, 2022
This Sunday is Pentecost (from the Greek for fifty). Fifty days after Easter, we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit in wider, more manifest fashion (the Holy Spirit had already been given more quietly to the Apostles in Jesus’ appearance to them after the Resurrection, as described in John 20:22). At Pentecost, “the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and…divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.” (Acts 2:1-3). Quite a sight! Quite an experience!
We are each and together invited to receive and experience afresh this Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is to animate our hearts and lives, thus making of us true children of God. By the Holy Spirit, we can cry out to God, “Abba” (Aramaic for “father”, implying both the deepest intimacy and reverent submission).
Let us, with awe and with hope, beseech the Holy Spirit—perhaps making use of a portion of an ancient (4th-century) litany:
Come Holy Spirit
Author of all good
Source of Heavenly water
Spirit of truth
Spirit of wisdom and understanding
Gift of God the Most High
Who fills the universe
Come Holy Spirit
Yours in the Spirit,
May 10, 2022
This past Sunday, we had our “May Crowning.” What is this tradition, you may ask? If you were raised in a different part of the Christian Church, a different “denomination”, or are simply new to Church, this may be rather foreign to you. Placing a garland of flowers on a statue of Mary? Really? “Quaint”, but…? Border-line idolatry? It all depends on whom you believe Jesus wants Mary to be for you.
Mary is Jesus’ mother. The Council of Ephesus, in 431, a mere 50 years after the the early Church discerned which books would comprise the Bible as we know and read it today (the Council of Rome, 382), prayerfully deliberated about Mary. Jesus’ mother but, given the oneness of Jesus’ person, Mary was declared not simply Christotokos, "Christ-bearer" but Theotokos, "God-bearer": “Mother of God.”
Now, at the Cross, Jesus gives Mary to John, “Behold your mother.” (John 19:27). This extends to us. Mary, “Mother of God”, is also our spiritual mother. She is given care of our souls, of our faith journey. And interestingly, Jesus speaks in terms of a command, not an a la carte option. “Take her.”
Over the centuries, as the relationship of Christians with Mary has deepened, the Church has better understood her and her role in our lives. One of her titles is “queen”, used in the Roman Catholic and Easter Orthodox Churches, and some Episcopal and Lutheran congregations. We find this title in the writings of early third and fourth century Church Fathers (Origen, Jerome, Peter Chrysologus...). The title stayed. At ASA, we sing the “Salve Regina” at the end of Compline, a hymn composed in the eleventh century. You will also notice a large sign in our Lady Chapel, high above its altar, “Regina Caeli”, Queen of Heaven.
The month of May is the traditional time for the simple ritual of crowning, to express honor and gratitude, an opportunity, for each of us, to welcome anew our spiritual mother and queen.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Yours in Jesus and Mary,
The Holy “Three Days”
April 12, 2022
The Paschal Triduum, the holy “Three Days”, is nearly upon us, the unique journey of the entire Church in which we, as friends and disciples of Christ, seek to participate in the mysteries of His passion, death and resurrection. As we journey, we will read and re-read the scriptural accounts which are not only momentous, but also deeply relevant for they reveal how we are loved, how Jesus is King and Messiah. We will, by our prayerful liturgical gestures, draw close to Him who “gives His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
In a sense one celebration with different parts, we go from Maundy Thursday, when Jesus bestows the gift of Himself in the Eucharist and shows us how love translates into service of one another, to Good Friday, when Jesus effectively gives Himself completely, unto Easter, whereby that same love raises His body from the grave, and Life is definitively victorious over death.
To know that this week is holy because one of overflowing love, we, of course, need faith. It is not immediately obvious! It is not obvious because the events that we celebrate, from the outside, do not always seem terribly loving. I wish you an increase of faith and I invite you to participate as much as possible, to set aside time for our Lord, to be together in His love.
Yours in Him,
The Most Overwhelming Work of God’s Love
Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday 2020
The Palm Sunday celebration always begins
by recalling the “triumphal” entry of Jesus into Jerusalem,
cloaks and palm branches covering His pathway...
Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!
Jesus’ arrival fulfills a prophecy from the prophet Zechariah (9:9):
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey.
I can’t help but think of buck-tooth Donkey from Shrek.
Why not a little more Marvel super-hero,
with Jesus seated upon a noble and strong white horse,
like that magnificently referenced twice in the Book of Revelation?
In chapter 6 (verse 2):
… a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him,
and he came out conquering and to conquer.
In chapter 19 (verse 11):
… a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True,
and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
Now we’re talking triumphal. But a donkey? Really? Why?
Perhaps, because the King of Peace, not a super-hero, not here to make war,
as we understand and tragically experience it.
The apparent lack of triumph may perhaps be disappointing for some of us.
Jesus’ arrival also fulfils the first part of the same prophecy from Zechariah:
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.”
We need not be afraid.
God always keeps His promises!
Our King is coming and coming humbly.
The humble arrival means that Jesus enters
every frightening situation that may be ours,
When it comes to God, to Jesus, “triumphal” refers to love not power.
True love can reach that which we deem unreachable. That is triumph.
Jesus is definitely powerful, all-powerful,
but His power is always at the service of His love.
He has no ego issues, no need to manifest prowess.
As suggested, we are not simply remembering a past event.
We continue to celebrate, to experience triumphal entry
each time the Lord comes.
We do so in a special way when we gather around this altar.
Indeed, as we move to the altar in our celebration, we proclaim
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
The Eucharist, Communion is a “triumphal” entry.
The Eucharist is our King coming, humbly, in the silence of divine love.
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.”
Today’s celebration opens this Holy Week.
Love is what makes this week holy.
I know that I’ve referred to this definition many times…
I will continue to do so until it makes its way onto your fridge
or into your diary or even somewhere in your phone:
“Holiness is the purity of divine love” (St. Thomas Aquinas, +1274),
And, as St. Paul says in I Corinthians 13: “Love never fails”.
And, as St. Paul of the Cross, 17th-century Italian monk and mystic, says,
The Passion of Christ
is the greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love.
Jesus is King in laying down His life for us.
This is what love does—and love must do.
Our King of Peace, comes to reign in mercy, not by “lording it over us.”
He comes to reign from within, in our hearts.
Not always easy to believe or grasp, for triumphant kings normally do not die.
Our King suffers and dies--in order fully to reign as king.
And, along the journey to His death, Jesus willingly suffers
everything that normally “kills” the human heart:
If you think that there are deal-breakers in your life: this isn’t really for you,
this much love is impossible, think twice.
The Christ Who is coming to us loves even the betrayer,
and He suffers our insults with love’s ultimate expression, forgiveness.
We worship a Savior who “did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited”, but humbled and emptied himself
“to the point of death, even death on a cross”,
a Savior Who thus can save us from death and its cause, sin,
Who can save us, when needed, from our selves.
We worship a God who pursues us with relentless, daunting love
and Who ultimately will enter the darkness and dankness of the grave
to say even here, here I will not be without you.
Although the suffering in our lives and world may incline you to think
that God stands an observer at a distance, on safe sidelines, think twice.
His abundant grace is hiding in, with, and under all the brokenness.
Let us lay our hearts on the path for Christ, and be in awe of
and surrender to the One Who “cometh in the name of the Lord.”
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,