Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Allowing God to Change Us

The Solemnity of the Ascension celebrates the return of the Lord into heaven, where He is seated in glory at the right hand of the Father. With the apostles who stood gazing into the clouds, we are prodded by the angels to prepare ourselves for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The days between the Ascension and Pentecost are meant to be a time of prayer. We need to be willing to receive whatever gifts God intends to give us. Then, having received them, we need to use them for the building up of the Kingdom. Through His death and resurrection Jesus has overcome the powers of sin and death. By means of His ascension into heaven, he has brought the human race back into communion with the Father. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the Father and the Son continue to renew the face of the earth.

Each of us has a part to play in God’s plan to build up His kingdom. But in order to do our part, we must wait upon the movement of the Spirit. This is where patience is required because no one can declare Jesus Christ as Lord unless the Spirit move him or her to do so. The Acts of the Apostles tells of the enthusiasm of Apollos. Albeit he was a scholar of the Jewish Scriptures, he had to experience the Risen Lord. He had to go beyond the letter of the Word to encounter the Person of the Word. Faith is not mere knowledge of doctrines but a personal relationship with the Living God. In order for this relationship to grow in depth, we need the support of the community of faith. It is not good for us to be isolated from others. As Adam needed Eve, as Apollos needed Priscilla and Aquila, so we need our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

In order to grow to the full stature of Christ we need to be open to the Word that echoes in the heart of the Church. The history of persecution has demonstrated that no one can take away the deepest hunger of the human heart -- the longing for God. As members of the Body of Christ we must be willing to accompany one another in the pilgrimage of faith. Through this shared journey we are drawn deeper into the mystery of divine love. Drawing strength from the communion of faith we learn to walk in the light of Truth. Having known the joy of the Spirit we encourage one another to make even greater progress. Because we have been conformed to the Incarnate Word, all that is human concerns us and finds a way into our prayer. Not only that, the cries of the human heart compel us to become a people of mercy and compassion.

Jesus says that everything has changed now. Now we can come to the Father through Jesus. We can ask in Jesus' name, and we will receive. Before Jesus came to redeem us, we did not have this path. Before Jesus came to tell us about the Father and about the way, we did not know it. But now we do. Given the events of  Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have to change the way we think and what we know. We can build on our past, but we have to change with our experience and let Jesus lead us on the right path.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Share the Message of the Kingdom of God

In the days following the resurrection, the Church continues to re-present the Paschal victory of Christ. Just as the tomb could not hold captive the Lord of Life, fear was not to hold captive the proclamation of the Good News. Jesus conquered death by entering into the kingdom of darkness and gloom to free the world from the power of sin and death. Walking in the freedom of the children of God, we are to be agents of healing and reconciliation for all who find themselves on the margins of society. Like the Good Shepherd, we are to seek and find the lost and rejected. If we succeed, the Psalmist reminds us that the victory is not ours, but His. “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to Your name give the glory because of your faithfulness and love” (Ps. 115: 1). The One Who raised Jesus from the dead is the One Who produces this good work in us.

The fruit of our labors is produced by the power of God who raised Christ from the dead. Just as in the passion and death of Christ, God manifested His victory over the powers of the world, so through our weakness God manifests His strength. Saint Paul put it quite beautifully: “I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Any good we do is done to the glory of Christ who is risen form the dead. The victory of Christ reminds us that of ourselves we can do nothing but in God we can build up of the Kingdom.

Through the waters of baptism we have been made members of the Body of Christ. In us and in our outreach of love God continues to glorify His name (Cf. Jn. 12:28). Just as Christ redeemed the world by taking to Himself the form of a slave, so now He sends us forth to continue the great work of redemption until the end of time. Saint John underlines the reason for our confidence in carrying out this great mission. “You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1Jn. 4:4). God desires communion with us so that the world might come to know His great love.

Through word and action He makes His presence known. It is the duty of those to whom he has shown himself, to let others know what he has done for their souls. It is important that we support one another by share our experiences with fellow-believers. Having been grafted to Christ, we are commissioned to share our faith with others, testifying to the wonders He has done in our lives. By performing random acts of love may we manifest God’s compassion and love. May we serve as Christ’s hands and feet drawing others into a relationship with the Risen Lord.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Intimate Indwelling of the Trinity – Perichoresis

As we continue our journey towards the feast of Pentecost, the Church reminds us of the reason for our joy: God, Who is rich in mercy has brought us, one and all, to newness of life in Christ. By means of the Paschal Mystery, we have been united to Christ and have become sons and daughters in the Son. Jesus’ comment is quite remarkable. “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” The relationship between the Father and the Son is not static but it is dynamic and life-giving. Living in a world that is consumed with greed and self-centeredness, it is hard to imagine what it means to be loved in a living and life-giving way. If we are honest, this is actually the deepest longing of our heart, to be loved into life. Perhaps St. Augustine had it right. We were made to make our home in that love and our hearts are restless until they rest in him.

The love that Christ offers us sets us free to be the individuals we were meant to be. Life is not a thing we possess; rather, it is a relationship we live. It means clinging to the One who has called me by name since before time began. Jesus says, "I love you with an everlasting love," and each one of us is facing the opportunity to welcome it and to make our home in it. When I'm at home in, when I remain in his love, I'm in a peace that I know and can feel. It feels centered. I can feel what being loved allows me to do. I'm no longer afraid. I have courage. And my heart is again capable of compassion and mercy. The love of God has made us human again. God dwelling within us allows us to relate in love with one another.

The early Church had a word for the intimate indwelling of the Trinity – perichoresis. This word was used to provide a dynamic, rather than static, description of the inter-penetrating, indwelling relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit in both a deeply personal and spiritual way. It is a movement of love that has broken forth into our existence in Jesus Christ and has drawn all creation into this glorious yet mysterious Divine life. Having been drawn into the bond of love by baptism we are able to embrace in love and harmony all that God loves. This communion removes fear and hiding and creates freedom to know and be known. In this freedom arises a fellowship and sharing so honest and open and real that persons involved dwell in one another. There is union without loss of individual identity. The love with which we have been loved allows us to love one another and to journey along the road that leads to our heavenly homeland.

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.”
(Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass)

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCP

Friday, May 1, 2015

Lordship of Christ, the Good Shepherd

Jesus Christ was sent to the Jewish people, to be their Messiah in accordance with God’s ancient promises to his Chosen People. Yet, God was not satisfied to save only one people; he wants his blessing to reach all nations, every corner of the earth. This is why Jesus says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold; these also I must lead.” 

Christ the Savior, then, has received lordship not only over the little flock of Israel and Judah, but over all the flocks of the earth. In him we all come under one lordship, that of the good shepherd, who is the one pastor of the one flock. The effect of the wolf, the devil, is to catch and scatter the sheep; Christ frees and unites us. And even if the wolf attacks the shepherd himself, as he did in Christ’s passion, the shepherd has the power both to lay down and raise up his life, so the one flock will never perish. 

Because Christ the good shepherd is our Lord, the Church, the one flock, will never fail. Our membership in this flock is perhaps the greatest gift we have received from the Lord after the gift of life itself. This is one of the most compelling reasons behind the Church’s missionary mandate.

We are all called to spread the good news of Christ, and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), bringing everyone into this one flock. Only the Catholic Church has been given the divine guarantee that it will never fail, never be permanently scattered and destroyed by wolves. Other churches and other religions may have sincere believers and parts of the truth, but only Christ’s one flock, gathered around his visible shepherd’s staff - the pope, is guaranteed never to fail.

--Deacon Mr. Reverend Joseph Pasquella

How Much Does God Love Us?

While giving a retreat one day to a Confirmation Class, in Antrim, Ireland, a priest put a leading question to them ‘How much does God love us? This much, maybe…’ and  he opened my hands until they were about shoulder-width apart. ‘No! – more!’ they chorused. The hands went wider, and again the same answer. At last the hands were outstretched as if on the Cross, and they answered ‘Yes, that much!’ As he stood there with the hands still outstretched, one girl over on his left spoke up: ‘But you can’t even begin to describe how much God loves us!’   They were all stunned into a silence, with the wisdom and truth of what she had just said- ‘you can’t even begin to describe how much God loves us!’

If I had just one verse of the Scriptures to take with me to a desert island, it very probably would be John 15:9, ‘As my Father has loved me, so I have loved you!’, but more like this: ‘The way my Father has loved me, that is how much I have loved you!’  ‘As much as my Father loves me and has always loved me, that is just how much I have loved you, and have loved all of you!’,- that is, with a love that has no limits at all. When we ponder and contemplate the first part, and wonder at just how much the Father loves His Son Jesus from all eternity,- as the awesomeness of this fills us, then we hear what Jesus is saying to us in the second half, about his relationship with us,- one of love without limits, like the Father’s.  And then he says: ‘Live in my love’,- or ‘Abide in my love’, or ‘Make your home in my love’,-  or maybe, like a fish in the sea, we swim in the ocean of God’s love that knows no shores nor horizons. 

And then, as we awaken to ‘as I have loved you’, in all its depth and width and height and length, he tells us to ‘love one another’ with the same depth and width and height and length.  And to help us to do this, he says (in the same chapter) ‘make your home in me as I make mine in you’. What a relationship, what an intimacy! He invites us to live in each other.

Love is a word which is often over used and misused in modern western culture. God’s love is unconditional love, Divine Love is only possible in a person who has been baptized with water and the Holy Spirit. A soul that is maintaining its ability to love with agape love is a soul that remains in the state of grace. Jesus tells us, “If you love me, keep my Commandments”. We cannot say we love God and continue to walk in the darkness of sin. And should we confess our sin, we must wish with all our hearts never to commit such sins again--this is true repentance and contrition. 

Jesus truly demonstrated his love for us in the cruel agony he suffering in the garden, in the betrayal of Judas, in the Scourging at the Pillar, in his carrying of his Cross, in his crucifixion and death. For God, who is the greatest lover, so loved the world so that the greatest number (that whosoever believes in him which is the greatest invitation) shall have ever lasting life, the greatest gift. What are we willing to do do manifest our love to Him?

 ‘I am alive, or rather it is not I who am alive, but it is Christ who is alive in me! I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.’ (St. Paul, to the Galatian disciples, in Galatians 2:20)

--Rev. Deacon Mr. Joseph Pasquella