Lent, Suffering, and the Death that Brings Life

Lent is here, and quite frequently the weather suits the sombre tone of the season. Ashen gray skies and the bare reaching arms of trees create an atmosphere that is at once stark and solemn.

Yet this season is not entirely bleak or without hope. Warmer days replete with sunshine break up the gloom, and bird songs welcome the green buds shooting forth from once barren trees. Green grass breaks forth in clumps among the coarse and yellowed remnants of the year before. Spring is a time of death mingling with new life—the dormant world waking up with a lingering yawn.

It would be difficult to imagine a time more suited to the Lenten season, in which we remember the death of Christ, but also look forward to his glorious resurrection. It is a time when we remember the death that brings new Life. For the great paradox at the heart of Christianity is that a Death was the remedy for death. It was in losing his life that Christ brought new life to the world.

…. Catholic theology operates on the idea of participation. That is, Christ came to earth and died on the cross, not so that we could avoid death and suffering, but so that he could transform the inevitability of death and suffering from the inside out. By communion with him, by participation in his cross, we could receive eternal life.

After all, what is the fate of each and every human being? Death. It is the great equalizer. No matter how rich, famous, beautiful, or healthy we are, we will all die sooner or later. Death is the consequence of sin, for sin is a movement away from God who is Life itself. Sin is therefore by definition non-Life. It is death by its nature. And because our first parents chose sin, death is the fate of every human being.

Our enemy was gleeful at our demise. He meant for our death to be eternal, and for our physical death to be the gateway into eternal doom. But Christ came and changed all that. He embraced death and death could not hold him. He transformed it from the inside out, changing it from the gateway to eternal death to that of eternal life. In the words of the Byzantine liturgy, “He trampled down death by death.”

Put another way, Christ did not suffer and die so that we do not have to—he suffered and died so that our suffering and death could be transubstantiated into a means of life. He embraced the cross not to keep us from it, but so that our crosses could be changed from instruments of death into healing remedies that bring life.

As baptized Christians, we are members of the body of Christ. We are incorporated into him and we live in communion with him. This communion means that we share in his life—not by making some act of intellectual assent, but by living his life after him. And living his life after him requires carrying the cross after him and sharing in his death. The cross is the price of eternal life.

This is the meaning of Jesus when he said, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Could there be any clearer sign that he did not come to keep us from the cross? No, rather he came to transform our crosses into the means of life.

Having been instructed by Christ himself, St. Paul understood this well. “I die daily.” “I have been crucified with Christ.” “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “The cross is foolishness to them that are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God and the Wisdom of God.” The cross was always in his heart and on his lips, for it was to him, as it is for us all, the means of eternal life.

Suffering is inevitable. To varying degrees, we will all suffer. And with a similar certainty, we will all die. It could be said that a cross lies at the heart of human existence. But the cross need not be a fate to be feared. Our Lord trampled down death by death. In the greatest paradox of all, he changed death into a means of life. What was once our doom is now our salvation.

“You must accept your cross,” said the holy St. John Vianney, “If you bear it courageously it will carry you to heaven.” This Lent, let us not fear or flee the cross, but carry it with love and with hope, as the means not of death but of eternal life.


(c) Sam Guzman | Link | Note: The entire article is available in the given link.

Advertisements

Peter Kreeft: St. Augustine ‘Is a Man for Our Times’

Philosopher Peter Kreeft has published 75 books on the Catholic faith. In his writing and his teaching (he is a professor at Boston College), he often revisits the works of classic philosophers and thinkers, such as Socrates, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine and C.S. Lewis, introducing their inexorable logic to a new generation.

In I Burned for Your Peace: Augustine’s Confessions Unpacked, Kreeft explores timeless questions and leads his readers into a deeper understanding of the saint and his God.

Kreeft spoke recently with the Register about his most recent work, which looks at some of the “big ideas” found in the fifth-century writing of St. Augustine of Hippo.

 

There are so many vital works from Catholic intellectuals throughout the ages — from St. Thomas Aquinas to St. John of the Cross and St. John Paul II. Why do you consider Augustine’s Confessions the most beloved book in the world next to the Bible?

Well, first of all, polls support that. Augustine’s Confessions has been the single most read, reread and quoted post-biblical Christian book ever written. But, secondly, the reason the book is held in such high esteem is Augustine himself.

Historically, Augustine has probably influenced Christians more than anyone else outside of the Bible. Psychologically, he is a complete, compound and compassionate human being. He combines a compassionate heart and a great mind — and he’s a saint! He used the burning light (his mind) and his heart to get through to God. Augustine shows us the errors and truth — the byways, not just the main ways.

I would say that Augustine’s Confessions is actually the single most compelling and attractive and fascinating book ever written by a saint. It is, to the books of the saints, what A Man for All Seasons is to movies about saints — it’s No. 1. And that’s mainly because of the incredible conversation between brilliant thought and genuine love and passion, agony as well as ecstasy. His heart and his head are both at work.

 

What is the chief reason for Augustine’s broad appeal? Why does his message resonate with both Protestants and Catholics, with both men and women?

He’s a mirror. In reading Augustine’s story, we recognize ourselves. He shows us who we are or who we can be — our heads and our hearts; our sins and our virtues; our darkness and our light; our mistakes and our truth. He asks the questions that everyone asks: “How can I possibly conceive God? How can I find him?”

 

Augustine was one of the most prolific writers in the history of Christianity. Why do you consider his Confessions his most important work?

It’s important because it attracts people to a life of sanctity. It’s important because it has helped to shape the public history of Western Civilization — although for that, it’s not as important as City of God, which almost singlehandedly created the Middle Ages. But City of God is about 1,000 pages, so Confessions — with just over 300 pages — is much more accessible.

 

There are many nuggets or truths offered by Augustine in Confessions. Is there a single message that stands above all the others?

If you could state the theme in a single sentence, it would be the sentence on the first page of Confessions, which has been quoted more than any other: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

 

Is that message — as profound and as universal as it may be — becoming less and less relevant in a world that seems to focus more each day on itself and less on God?

No, I think exactly the opposite is true: The more lost you are, the more relevant is a road map. So Augustine is a man for our times — not only because he shows us the twistings and turnings of the dark and crooked mind, but because he shows us the way out of sin and debauchery: the way back to God. Augustine is also extremely relevant in the modern world because he was a sex addict [before his conversion].

 

Augustine knew what it was like to push God away — to hold him at bay — while he experienced the attractions of the world. The danger inherent in this is that one may fall too much in love with the world and never know the joy of falling in love with God. What would Augustine say to those today who have fallen too much in love with this world?

The first thing he’d say is: “Be totally honest.” Experience — even the experience of sin — is a teacher. The world promises what it can’t deliver. What it promises is freedom, and what it delivers is addiction and slavery. Whether we’re talking about pride or lust or greed or any of the sins, they’re all addictive.

 

A recent CARA study reveals that children as young as 10 years old are leaving the faith, being drawn into the secular culture. The 500th anniversary of the Reformation is being celebrated around the world. Given that, may I ask you to reflect on your own conversion?

Well, first, I don’t buy that [about children being drawn into the culture]. What I mean is that the facts are there — children and adults are really being drawn away from their faith — but the explanation is wrong. The so-called “war” between science and religion is a fake war, which has absolutely no casualties. There is no study in the Christian world that supports that hypothesis. The real reason that people leave the faith is personal.

As for my own conversion story, I was motivated by facts, by truth. As an undergraduate at Calvin College, I read the Early Church Fathers. My goal had been to persuade myself that I was in the right church; but the continuity, the historical case, the seamless web of Catholic doctrine was overwhelming.

The best professor I had during my years at Calvin College taught philosophy. We became good friends, and I confided to him that I was thinking of becoming a Catholic. It turned out that he had almost converted when he was my age; and he was most sympathetic.

 

You point out that what Augustine confesses is, most fundamentally, God and his grandeur, not just himself and his badness. Isn’t Christianity’s journey a metaphor for the Christian pilgrimage from love of self to love of God, from the city of the world to the city of God?

Yes. What attracts most people to Augustine is the hope of redemption from a life of despair to a life of meaning. He’s not just conventionally confessing his faith in God; the reader senses that he’s truly standing in the presence of that God.

There’s a line in which Augustine says, “Don’t leave — read this book! Have your ear to my heart.” His heart is absolutely, fanatically in love with God. Augustine is like Job: His wildness gets him into a lot of suffering, but his restless heart — that famous line — is the key to the story. He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t substitute a smartphone for a real encounter with God.

 

You offer a template for the reading and appreciation of your book — one that encourages individual thought and consideration on the part of the reader. Have you used this template effectively in any other venue? In a class, perhaps?

Definitely. I’m a bridge builder because great books are written for ordinary people, despite our obstacles. If you can get in dialogue — Augustine is in dialogue with God — it’s an exciting thing, to read this book. Confessions is not just a research tool full of dusty old facts; you encounter a real person.

 

What is your next project? What can we look forward to in the months and years ahead?

Well, first let me also recommend a movie on Augustine put out by Ignatius Press, called Restless Heart. I’m skeptical of most religious movies, but this is truly excellent.

I’ve got a book coming out from Ignatius Press: Ecumenical Pensees: How Protestants and Catholics Can Learn from Each Other Without Compromising.

And at long last, a four-volume History of World Philosophy will be coming out, published by St. Augustine Press.

 

What question have I not asked that you would like to answer? What would you like to say about Augustine that you would like everyone to hear?

One thing I can tell you about my conversion that differs from some people’s experience: Typically, when Jews convert to Christianity, they’ll describe themselves as “completed Jews.” But when I converted, I didn’t become any less evangelical, but more.

When Augustine is depicted in art, he is always shown with a heart on fire in one hand and a Bible in the other. That image aptly describes the urgency of his search for God.

But, most importantly, read Augustine’s book. You’ll fall in love with him; he will change your life.


(c) Kathy Schiffer | Link

iPray with the Gospel: I Will Make You Fishers of Men

Jesus saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Matthew 4:12-23

Dear Apostles, what an astonishing reaction of yours. We don’t know ‘why’ Jesus decided to choose you and no others. We don’t know of any special talents you had or whether you could write, read, speak in public or answer basic religious questions about your faith… But there is something we know about you. When Jesus called you, you responded immediately. We don’t know what Jesus saw in you but maybe it was just that: that you were ready to say ‘Yes’ without delay. Perhaps Jesus called many others, but only you twelve were ready to leave everything and follow Him immediately.

Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip, Nathanael, all the Apostles!…Your reaction is astonishing. There was no dialogue, no negotiation, no questions and answers. You just left everything to follow Jesus and you didn’t care where or how, what for or for how long, who else was coming with you, what you would eat or drink or wear, where you would sleep, whether you would have holidays of any kind or a salary…

God could count on you, His Apostles, because you trusted Him. You help to understand it well: in God’s projects, you don’t see the plan and then follow Him; you follow Him and then you see His plan. We could say that in God’s plans, the ‘light switch’ is behind the door. You need to enter the room in darkness, to grope along the wall until you find the switch, turn on the light and, then, you see the room into which God called you. We don’t follow our vocation when we are 100% sure, because we can only be 100% sure when we first ‘follow’ it. Peter, Andrew, James, John and all the other Apostles, I ask your help today, with the powerful intercession of Mary, Queen of Apostles, to be able to follow God immediately, leaving behind everything He asks me to.


By Rev. George Boronat

Link: http://stjosemaria.org/ipray-fishers-of-men/

Pope Francis: Get moving if you want to follow Jesus

 

Commenting on the Gospel account of the paralytic who is lowered from the roof of the house where Jesus is teaching, the Pope said people follow Jesus out of self interest or because they are looking for a comforting word. Even if no intention is totally pure or perfect, he said, the important thing is to follow Jesus. People were drawn to Him because of the “things He said and the way he said them. They understood Him. He healed them and many people followed Him to be healed”.

There were times, said Pope Francis, when Jesus admonished people who were more interested in their own well-being than in the Word of God.

Don’t be Christians to look at life from the balcony and judge others

There were other times, continued the Pope, when people wanted to make Jesus King, thinking He was “the perfect politician!”. But they were wrong and Jesus “went away and hid”. Even so, the Lord let anyone follow Him because He knew that we are all sinners.

The bigger problem, confirmed the Pope, “was not with those who followed Jesus”, but with those who stayed where they were.

“Those who didn’t move…and watched. They were sitting down…watching from the balcony. Their life was not a journey: their life was a balcony! From there they never took risks. They just judged. They were pure and wouldn’t get involved. But their judgements were severe. In their hearts they said: What ignorant people! What superstitious people! How often, when we see the piety of simple people, are we too subject to that clericalism that hurts the Church so much”.

Reflecting on those who don’t move in their lives, Pope Francis referenced the man who “sat beside the pool for 38 years, without moving, embittered by life, without hope…someone else who failed to follow Jesus and had no hope”.

Encountering Jesus means taking risks

But those who did follow Jesus, continued the Pope, were ready to risk in order to meet Him, in order to “find what they wanted”. Going back to the day’s Gospel reading, Pope Francis said “the men who made a hole in the roof took a risk”. They risked the owner of the house suing them and taking them to court to pay for the damages.

They were ready to risk because “they wanted to go to Jesus”.

The woman who was sick took a risk when she furtively touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak: she risked being ridiculed. But she risked: because she wanted to be cured, “she wanted to reach Jesus. Remember the Canaanite woman: women risk more than men do! That’s true: they are better at it! We have to admit that”.

Following Jesus, the Pope went on, “isn’t easy, but it’s wonderful! And it’s always a risk”. There are times, he said, when we risk “being ridiculous”. But we achieve what counts: “our sins are forgiven”. Beneath whatever request we are making, whether it be for good health or for a solution to a problem, “there’s the desire to be healed in spirit, to be forgiven”. All of us know we are sinners, said Pope Francis, “and that’s why we follow Jesus: to meet Him. So we take risks”.

Beware of a soul that is static, closed and without hope

Let’s ask ourselves, concluded Pope Francis: “Do I take risks, or do I follow Jesus according to the rules of my insurance company?” Because “that’s not the way to follow Jesus. That way you don’t move, like those who judge”.

Do we follow Jesus because we need something, or do we follow Him because we are ready to risk? “This is faith: trusting in Jesus, having faith in Jesus. And with this faith in Him, these men cut a hole in the roof and lowered the stretcher down in front of Jesus so he could cure the sick man”. “Do I put my faith in Jesus?”, asked the Pope. “Do I entrust my life to Jesus? Am I walking behind Jesus even if sometimes I seem ridiculous? Or am I sitting still, watching what others are doing?” Am I watching life with a soul that is static, “with a soul that is closed with bitterness and lack of hope? We should each be asking ourselves these questions today”.

Link: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/01/13/pope_francis_get_moving_if_you_want_to_follow_jesus/1285450

Abandonment to Jesus

Per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso: through Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus.

“Without me, you can do nothing.”

“With You, Jesus, I can do all things.”

Renew these thoughts which bind you to Him and which plunge you into the abyss of love which is His Heart. The logical and necessary consequence of the complete confidence which I have preached to you until now is total abandonment.

Since it is through Jesus that everything must be accomplished, the more I let Him do, the more the work of grace will be beautiful and perfect.

What is this work of grace? The transformation of our souls into Jesus through love. St. Thomas shows us, after St. Augustine, that the Eucharist transforms our souls into Jesus through love. It is there that I find the definition of sanctity, the final word, if I may put it that way, of our divine predestination.

Jesus transforms us into Himself. Our intelligence is no longer our intelligence, but His: we see things as He sees them. Our will is no longer our will but His: we will what He wills, and we reject what He rejects. Our heart is no lon­ger our heart, but the Heart of Jesus: we love what He loves, and we detest what He detests.

“And I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.” Mihi vivere Christus est: “For me, to live is Christ.”

Perhaps you will say to me, “You claim that we are continually transformed more and more into Him, but I do not notice it; I cannot put my finger on it. And even, some days, seeing myself so miserable, I am tempted to believe the contrary.”

Yet, do you not see things more than ever as He does? Of course, you do. Do you not want what He wants, more every day? Of course, you do. I am sure that today, more than ever, you want to love Him and make Him loved, with a will even more sincere, even more profound, with a desire even more sure than ever, although perhaps not felt. You would not say, “I have less desire to love Him and make Him loved than yesterday.”

What trips us up is that we mistake sensible fervor for sanctity. But it is not. Sanctity is a disposition of soul, ani­mated by grace, which is the life of the soul, under the ac­tion of infused virtues and under the influence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; a disposition to belong to Jesus more than ever, to accomplish His will, to know Him and make Him known, to love Him and make Him loved more.

He looks much more at what we are than at what we do; and we are, in His eyes, what we sincerely want to be for Him.

We understand now why so many Communions — those Communions which transform us into Him — do not bring us all the supernatural fruits they could. We open our arms to Him, yet we close the doors of our intelligence, of our will, of our heart, by not living in this abandonment. We bid Him come, but we do not permit Him to enter. But if, in receiving Him, we grant Him, by perfect abandonment, all the controls, all the keys to the house, that He may be Master in us with full liberty to act, then, oh! what marvels will His omnipotence not accomplish in our souls in the service of His love!

Rightly Understood

Abandonment, rightly understood, includes everything. It requires a great humility, since it is submission of ourselves to creatures and events, seeing Jesus Himself in them. It requires an immense faith, confidence every moment, to tear open the veil of secondary causes, to break through the screen of creatures which too often prevents us from seeing Jesus behind them, who governs everything, since nothing — nothing — happens without His having willed or permitted it.

Abandonment is nothing but obedience pushed to its extreme, since it consists of submission to everything within the limits of the possible and the reasonable, in order to obey God, who has foreseen and willed it all.

Finally, it is in abandonment that our great desires find their perfect fulfillment. I spoke to you of the splendid pas­sage from little Thérèse where she says that she would have liked to “enlighten souls as did the prophets and doctors, to encircle the earth and announce the Gospel unto the remot­est islands, to have been a missionary since the creation of the world and to be one until the consummation of the world, to have suffered all martyrdoms.”

She finds the means to realize all that by being the love in the heart of the Church, her Mother. And how was she the love in the heart of the holy Church? By living in com­plete conformity with the will of God, who is nothing but Love.

To live with abandonment is to rediscover a perfect har­mony in God; for, after all, it is God, it is Jesus, who writes all the lines, all the words, and all the letters of our lives. It is striking to see how the sanctity of all the saints is con­summated in total abandonment. All their efforts, all their prayers, all the lights which they have received from Heaven, have led them to this.

When our Lord makes some reproach to the saints, to St. Gertrude, to St. Margaret Mary, for example, it is most often their lack of abandonment which He laments.

St. Margaret Mary, shortly before her death, wrote that she had finally understood what He expected of her when He said to her, “Let me do it.” “His Sacred Heart,” she wrote, “will do everything for me if I let Him. He shall will, He shall love, He shall desire for me and make up for all my faults.”

Like St. Margaret Mary, you may hear Jesus a hundred times a day, saying to you, “Let me do it.” In your difficulties, in your problems, in all those things in your daily life which are sometimes so difficult, so distressing, when you ask your­self, “What shall I do? How shall I do it?” listen to Him say­ing to you, “Let me do it.” And then answer Him, “O Jesus, I thank You for all things.” And it will be the most beautiful dialogue of love between a soul and the all-powerful and all-loving God!

Little Thérèse came in this way to the point of no longer having any other desire than to love Jesus to the point of “foolishness”:

I desire neither suffering nor death, yet I love both; but it is love alone which attracts me. Now it is aban­donment alone which guides me. I have no other compass.

My heart is full of the will of Jesus. Ah, if my soul were not already filled with His will, if it had to be filled by the feelings of joy and sadness which follow each other so quickly, it would be a tide of very bitter sorrow. But these alternatives do nothing but brush across my soul. I always remain in a profound peace which nothing can trouble. If the Lord offered me the choice, I would not choose anything: I want nothing but what He wants. It is what He does that I love. I acknowledge that it took me a long time to bring myself to this degree of abandonment. Now I have reached it, for the Lord took me and put me there.

Yes, I ask the Lord to take you, also, and to put you there, in the depths of His Heart!

This simple abandonment is the peak of holiness, the peak of love. When St. Teresa of Avila, in the Interior Castle, speaks of the spiritual marriage, the culminating point of the mystical life, she depicts it as a union of likeness in charity. “Such is the ineffable ardor with which the souls desire that the will of God be accomplished in them that they are equally satisfied with anything which it pleases the Divine Spouse to command.”

By: FR. JEAN C. J. D’ELBÉE

Link: http://catholicexchange.com/abandonment-jesus

The Pope’s homily on the feast of the Epiphany

Pope Francis presided over Mass for the feast of the Epiphany which was celebrated on Friday in St Peter’s Basilica.

Below is an English translation of the Pope’s homily.

“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we have observed his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Mt 2:2).

With these words, the Magi, come from afar, tell us the reason for their long journey: they came to worship the newborn King.  To see and to worship.  These two actions stand out in the Gospel account.  We saw a star and we want to worship.

These men saw a star that made them set out.  The discovery of something unusual in the heavens sparked a whole series of events.  The star did not shine just for them, nor did they have special DNA to be able to see it.  As one of the Church Fathers rightly noted, the Magi did not set out because they had seen the star, but they saw the star because they had already set out (cf. Saint John Chrysostom).  Their hearts were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness.  They were open to something new.

The Magi thus personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland.  They reflect the image of all those who in their lives have not let their hearts become anesthetized.

A holy longing for God wells up in the heart of believers because they know that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present.  A holy longing for God helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life.  A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom.  That longing keeps hope alive in the community of believers, which from week to week continues to plead: “Come, Lord Jesus”.

This same longing led the elderly Simeon to go up each day to the Temple, certain that his life would not end before he had held the Saviour in his arms.  This longing led the Prodigal Son to abandon his self-destructive lifestyle and to seek his father’s embrace.  This was the longing felt by the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in order to seek out the one that was lost.  Mary Magdalen experienced the same longing on that Sunday morning when she ran to the tomb and met her risen Master.  Longing for God draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change.  Longing for God shatters our dreary routines and impels us to make the changes we want and need.   Longing for God has its roots in the past yet does not remain there: it reaches out to the future.  Believers who feel this longing are led by faith to seek God, as the Magi did, in the most distant corners of history, for they know that there the Lord awaits them.  They go to the peripheries, to the frontiers, to places not yet evangelized, to encounter their Lord.  Nor do they do this out of a sense of superiority, but rather as beggars who cannot ignore the eyes of those who for whom the Good News is still uncharted territory.

An entirely different attitude reigned in the palace of Herod, a short distance from Bethlehem, where no one realized what was taking place.  As the Magi made their way, Jerusalem slept.  It slept in collusion with a Herod who, rather than seeking, also slept.  He slept, anesthetized by a cauterized conscience.  He was bewildered, afraid.  It is the bewilderment which, when faced with the newness that revolutionizes history, closes in on itself and its own achievements, its knowledge, its successes.  The bewilderment of one who sits atop his wealth yet cannot see beyond it.  The bewilderment lodged in the hearts of those who want to control everything and everyone.  The bewilderment of those immersed in the culture of winning at any cost, in that culture where there is only room for “winners”, whatever the price.  A bewilderment born of fear and foreboding before anything that challenges us, calls into question our certainties and our truths, our ways of clinging to the world and this life.  Herod was afraid, and that fear led him to seek security in crime: “You kill the little ones in their bodies, because fear is killing you in your heart” (SAINT QUODVULTDEUS, Sermon 2 on the Creed: PL 40, 655).

We want to worship.  Those men came from the East to worship, and they came to do so in the place befitting a king: a palace.  Their quest led them there, for it was fitting that a king should be born in a palace, amid a court and all his subjects.  For that is a sign of power, success, a life of achievement.  One might well expect a king to be venerated, feared and adulated.  True, but not necessarily loved.  For those are worldly categories, the paltry idols to which we pay homage: the cult of power, outward appearances and superiority.  Idols that promise only sorrow and enslavement.

It was there, in that place, that those men, come from afar, would embark upon their longest journey.  There they set out boldly on a more arduous and complicated journey.  They had to discover that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere, both existentially and geographically.  There, in the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved.  For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, is it possible to realize that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us.  To realize that the gaze of God lifts up, forgives and heals.  To realize that God wanted to be born where we least expected, or perhaps desired, in a place where we so often refuse him.  To realize that in God’s eyes there is always room for those who are wounded, weary, mistreated and abandoned.  That his strength and his power are called mercy.  For some of us, how far Jerusalem is from Bethlehem!

Herod is unable to worship because he could not or would not change his own way of looking at things.  He did not want to stop worshiping himself, believing that everything revolved around him.  He was unable to worship, because his aim was to make others worship him.  Nor could the priests worship, because although they had great knowledge, and knew the prophecies, they were not ready to make the journey or to change their ways.

The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare.  They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day.  But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuitousness.  There something new was taking place.  The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out.  And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable Infant, the unexpected and unknown Child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God.

Link:

http://www.news.va/en/news/the-popes-homily-on-the-feast-of-the-epiphany

Did you know Mother Teresa experienced visions of Jesus?

.- Even her friend of more than 30 years, Father Sebastian Vazhakala, did not know Mother Teresa had conversations with and visions of Jesus before forming the Missionaries of Charity.

It wasn’t until after her death, for the vast majority of people, that this part of Mother Teresa’s spiritual life was uncovered. “It was a big discovery,” Missionary of Charity priest, Fr. Vazhakala told CNA.

When Mother Teresa’s cause for canonization was opened, just two years after her death in 1997, documents were found in the archives of the Jesuits in Calcutta, with the spiritual director and another of Mother Teresa’s close priest friends, and in the office of the bishop, containing her accounts of the communications.

Fr. Vazhakala, who co-founded the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity alongside Mother Teresa, said he has a document handwritten by Mother Teresa where she discusses what Jesus spoke to her directly during the time of the locutions and visions.

During a period lasting from Sept. 10, 1946 to Dec. 3, 1947, Mother Teresa had ongoing communication with Jesus through words and visions, Fr. Vazhakala said. This all happened while she was a missionary sister in the Irish order of the Sisters of Loreto, teaching at St. Mary’s school in Calcutta.

Mother Teresa wrote that one day at Holy Communion, she heard Jesus say, “I want Indian nuns, victims of my love, who would be Mary and Martha, who would be so united to me as to radiate my love on souls.”

It was through these communications of the Eucharistic Jesus that Mother Teresa received her directions for forming her congregation of the Missionaries of Charity.

“She was so united with Jesus,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “that she was able to radiate not her love, but Jesus’ love through her, and with a human expression.”

Jesus told her what sort of nuns he wanted her order to be filled with: “’I want free nuns covered with the poverty of the Cross. I want obedient nuns covered with the obedience of the Cross. I want full-of-love nuns covered with the charity of the Cross,’” Fr. Vazhakala related.

According to the Missionary, Jesus asked her, “Would you refuse to do this for me?” “In fact, Jesus told her in 1947,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “’I cannot go alone to the poor people, you carry me with you into them.’”

After this period of joy and consolation, around 1949, Mother Teresa started to experience a “terrible darkness and dryness” in her spiritual life, said Fr. Vazhakala. “And in the beginning she thought it was because of her own sinfulness, unworthiness, her own weakness.”

Mother Teresa’s spiritual director at the time helped her to understand that this spiritual dryness was just another way that Jesus wanted her to share in the poverty of the poor of Calcutta.

This period lasted nearly 50 years, until her death, and she found it very painful. But, Fr. Vazhakala shared that she said, “If my darkness and dryness can be a light to some soul let me be the first one to do that. If my life, if my suffering, is going to help souls to be saved, then I will prefer from the creation of the world to the end of time to suffer and die.”

People around the world know about Mother Teresa’s visible acts of charity toward the poor and sick in the slums of Calcutta, but “the interior life of Mother is not known to people,” said Fr. Vazhakala.

Mother Teresa’s motto, and the motto of her congregation, was the words of Jesus, “I thirst.” And that they could quench the thirst of Jesus by bringing souls to him. “And in every breathing, each sigh, each act of mind, shall be an act of love divine. That was her daily prayer. That was what was motivating her and all the sacrifices, even until that age of 87, and without resting,” he said.

Mother Teresa never rested from her work during her life on earth, and she continues to “work” for souls from heaven. “When I die and go home to God, I can bring more souls to God,” she said at one point, Fr. Vazhakala noted.

She said, “I’m not going to sleep in heaven, but I’m going to work harder in another form.”

Mary Shovlain contributed to this report.

Article by Hannah Brockhaus

Link: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/did-you-know-mother-teresa-experienced-visions-of-jesus-60088/