Living Flame

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ARTICLE: Ascension of the Lord Year: B

 

Ascension of the Lord

Year: B

Acts 1.1-11; Ps 47; Eph 4.1-13; Mk 16.15-20

Marathon of Hope

Terry Scott born in Winnipeg (Canada) in 1958 and was raised in Port Coquitlam. A top athlete as a youth, at 18 he was diagnosed with bone cancer in his right leg and it was amputated above the knee. In hospital moved by the suffering of other patients Fox wrote the Canadian Cancer Society, asking for support to a run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. It would be called the Marathon of Hope. In April 1980 he launched his run in St. John’s N.L., by dipping his artificial leg in the ocean. After running for 143 days, covering more than 5000 kilometres, Fox stopped his trek in Thunder Bay Ontario, because the cancer had spread to his lungs. In 1981, his dream of raising $ 1 from every Canadian was realized when the Marathon of Hope raised $ 24 million. Shortly after, he died on June 28th at the age of 22.

In 1999, Fox was voted Canada’s greatest hero in a national survey. To date, more than $ 550 million has been raised for cancer research in Fox’s name.

The name Terry Fox reminds many, of his determination to achieve something to save before he knew that he is going to be the victim of cancer.

Final Instructions

After giving his final instructions to his apostles, the risen Christ is taken from their sight – "taken up", "hidden by a cloud", "into heaven", "exalted" and "seated at God´s right hand". The very multiplicity of the ways the sacred authors strive to describe the indescribable warns us that the way the mystery is too readily visualized – a rocket - like Jesus lifting off from a launching pad in the Holy Land, as the curtains come down on his earthly sojourn – is inadequate and fails to do justice to its rich content. The second reading already begins to spell out the early understanding of the Church, that will develop over time under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, of an event that is at once "historical and transcendent" (CCC 659).

Christ is with Us Always

Christ remains with us. Paradoxically, when Jesus takes his place beside the Father, his presence among us is perpetuated and confirmed. For by being glorified, Jesus´ humanity is no longer subject to any created power (it is "high above every principality, power…") – including space and time. During the days of his earthly existence, he remained confined to a small corner of the earth, a brief span of thirty some years. But now, "he fills the universe in all its parts", so that Christians of all times and all places can enter into living contact with him.

Human Experience

At the moment of his Resurrection Christ’s body was glorified, and moved beyond human experience. But for the forty days God allowed the appearance of ordinary humanity to veil his glory, so that he can eat and drink familiarly with his disciples What for? To leave the disciples in no doubt that Christ is "truly risen"; that he is alive; that he is "always with them". Even now that he has been glorified. Even more than before.

Faith must Mature

Throughout those forty days, Jesus, now present now absent, was training his apostles to discover his presence even when their corporal senses would no longer help them do so, but only their faith. In fact, even when they "saw" him they had difficulty being sure it was he; they always had to "believe" as well. The "seeing" ceases with his ascension; now they must depend on faith alone. With his training, they became models and teachers for all those who would be "blessed" because they "would believe without seeing" (John 20:29). A necessity for us, for the Ascension is the irreversible entry of Jesus´ humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud –which hides him from our sight. From now on his glory veils his humanity. And therefore the Christian must live in faith.

Heaven is a State of Life

Christ is in heaven. Heaven, of course, is also a fundamental part of the message of the Ascension. That he has gone before us as our head is the foundation of the "great hope to which God has called us". But where is heaven? Pope John Paul II once said that heaven is not, as many people imagine, "a place in the clouds". Certain representatives of the secular media, predictably, got in a tizzy, and would have had us believe that heaven had been abolished. Fortunately for all of us, it’s still there. Of course, it´s not a "place" peopled by a benign, bearded Grandfather on a throne in the clouds, surrounded by plump babies with wings and larger ones in their nighties blowing trumpets: an image that is not only difficult to place in the cosmos but also singularly unattractive to most of us. 

 

Heaven is an Unending Experience

Heaven is much more than a "place". It’s a state of total happiness that transcends anything we are familiar with. The Holy Father described heaven as "the fullness of communion with God which awaits all those who have welcomed him into their lives and who have sincerely opened themselves to him. Divine revelation teaches us that heaven is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living and personal relationship of union with the Holy Trinity. Heaven is our definitive meeting with the Father which takes place in the Risen Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit". If we were to say that heaven is the most dizzying love affair with the most marvelous Person we will ever know, in its most exhilarating expression and with the certainty that it will go on forever, or to say, with the Catechism, that it is "definitive, supreme happiness," we would still come up very short. Because "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1Cor 2.9). 

Proclaim the Kingdom

With Jesus departure, the mission of the Church begins. The apostles are not to stand around looking up into the heavens; before his return in glory at the end of time, but "go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all". Essential: because the Church is Christ´s body through which alone he is present throughout the universe (Second Reading). In this work they, and we, were not left alone: "the Lord continued to work with them throughout…". And a new "power" is given to us.

Faith is What Keeps Us Alive

The mystery of the Ascension is a celebration of the maturity of Christians in the faith. A faith that can believe "without seeing", or feeling, or touching… - such a Christian acts constantly in the firm conviction that Jesus is not "absent" but in fact is always with us (Matthew 28.20). And a faith that seeks the Lord where he is to be found: in and through his Church, the guardian of his word, celebrant of his sacraments, home of his Spirit, stadium of his commandment of love.

Jesus is Heaven

Heaven is wherever Jesus is. If Jesus is on earth, heaven is to be found on earth too, even if veiled, without a doubt, and so far from its full realization to be difficult to compare. But the first intimations of the fullness of joy that heaven offers is already on offer here, to those who do seek him out, and remain in him by being where he is: wherever his Father’s will is done.

Practical Conclusion

The paradox is this: if you want to live, you must die. Dying you live. What does this mean? Simply this; as long as there is a lack of the inner discipline that brings calmness of mind, no matter what external facilities or conditions you have, they will never give you the feeling of joy and happiness that you seek. On the other hand, if you possess this inner quality, a calmness of mind, a degree of stability within, then even if you lack various external facilities that you would normally consider necessary for happiness, it is still possible to live a happy and joyful life. The seed has life within and that life must be healthy. If not, external factors cannot make it live. Death is to the external world, and life then springs from within. Hence, never do to anyone what you would not want done to you.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

ARTICLE: 6th Sunday of Easter Year: B

6th Sunday of Easter

Year: B

 Acts 10.25-27, 34-35, 44-48; Ps 98; 1 John 4.7-10; John 15.9-17

 

"Jim...I knew You'd come."

 

Horror gripped the heart of a World War-I soldier, as he saw his lifelong friend fall in battle. The soldier asked his Lieutenant if he could go out to bring his fallen comrade back.

 

"You can go," said the Lieutenant," but don't think it will be worth it. Your friend is probably dead and you may throw your life away. "The Lieutenant's words didn't matter, and the soldier went anyway.

 

Miraculously, he managed to reach his friend, hoisted him onto his shoulder and brought him back to their company's trench. The officer checked the wounded soldier, then looked kindly at his friend.

 

" I told you it wouldn't be worth it," he said. "Your friend is dead and you are mortally wounded." "It was worth it, Sir," said the soldier. "What do you mean by worth it?" responded the Lieutenant.

 

"Your friend is dead." "Yes Sir," the soldier answered, "but it was worth it because when I got to him, he was still alive and I had the satisfaction of hearing him say...."Jim...I knew you'd come."

 

When we speak of the law of gravity, it simply happens without our knowledge. So when we speak of the law of love, it also happens spontaneously whenever we feel the inner pull in our hearts for love.

 

The Law of Love

The New Law is a law of love (Gospel) that is valid for everyone. It is universal and requires universal love, for theological love, by nature, cannot exclude. This is made manifest in the opening of the doors of the Church to non Jews (First Reading), in which Peter discovers that “the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power” (Responsorial Psalm). Knowledge of God through faith leads to an all-giving love for God (Second Reading), and here we see that the fulfillment of the New Law is tantamount to a life of the theological virtues.

God is Love

“God is love.” Such an affirmation is simple and absolute. Nonetheless, to enter into this mystery and truly understand it requires more than intellectual knowledge. To know that God is love requires our participation in his divine love. Authentic knowledge of God is only born in a simple heart that is open and attentive to him. Ultimately, this knowledge of God, of divine Love, is a personal experience.

Love is the Source of Life

Initial knowledge of divine Love might begin with opening Sacred Scripture and discovering the Creator who finds joy in his creation. In the beginning, creation was in harmony, a sort of silent dialogue between the Creator who contemplates the goodness of his handiwork, and creation’s loving response to God (see Genesis 1; Proverbs 8.22-36; Job 38-39; Daniel 3.52-90). Divine Love is the source of all life. It is an inexhaustible life whose characteristics are gratuitousness and gift: bonum diffusivum sui (by its nature, goodness is expansive), as the Scholastics said. This self-generating love brings about a beloved with the capacity to love in return, because Love is not satisfied in loving. It desires love in return. Man’s response to divine Love establishes a communion between Lover and beloved that results in peace and mutual benevolence. Nonetheless, the mystery of evil has ruptured this communion through original sin. “Man”, says late John Paul II, “is constantly tempted to distance himself from the source of love” (Veritatis Splendor). The harmony is broken, and man still searches for peace, life, and a solution to this tragedy.

Love Revealed in the Son

 

Beyond man’s own grasp, God turns to the world once again with his immeasurable love, revealed in his Son as an authentic passion. The whole life of Christ is “passion”: the ability to suffer. His whole life was a progressive and ever-increasing revelation of the love of the Father which peaked on Calvary: the ultimate act of self-giving and expansion of goodness in the form of shedding his Blood. His self-oblation is his gift and gratuitousness. “It was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was” (John 13.1). Out of love Christ offers himself to the Father as innocent, expiatory victim for the sins of the world: “Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies the punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53.5). Upon giving his life, he not only re-opens the gates of heaven, but he gives us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15.12).

 
This is the New Law

 

This new commandment is a compendium of the New Law, which, like goodness itself, is given to creatures. And it is in living this new commandment that man rediscovers his happiness and peace, his very life. “Jesus asks us to follow him and to imitate him along the path of love, a love which gives itself completely to the brethren … to the end.” Nonetheless, “Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being…. To imitate and live out the love of Christ is not possible for man by his own strength alone. He becomes capable of this love only by virtue of a gift received. As the Lord Jesus receives the love of his Father, so he in turn freely communicates that love to his disciples” (Veritatis Splendor 20-22).

Gift Given to Us

 

This gift is the Holy Spirit. After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles in the cenacle and breathed on them saying: “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20.22). The reception of the Holy Spirit regenerates the human person and, in putting him in a state of grace, makes him a bearer of the Blessed Trinity, of divine Love itself.


God is Dwelling in our Heart

The danger of love becoming a nebulous term, or remaining on the level of a platitude, is overcome by the fact of the divine indwelling: the real presence of God dwelling in the human soul. Regardless of the fact of God’s presence in some souls and his potential to dwell in all souls, experience has shown us that his loving presence is not enough for us to fulfill his commandment of love. It is only the condition. Each one of us has experienced how there is an interior struggle if God’s law is to come to fruition in us: “in my inmost self I dearly love God’s Law, but I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates” (Romans 7.22).

Real Love is Sacrificial

 

If God’s presence is the prerequisite for the fulfillment of the commandment of love, our will is not far behind in this common enterprise of love. There are two principles of growing in the love of God:

 

  1. Learning when to give in to God, what to give to God, and what to give up for God. Weaning ourselves from self-love will require the surrender of our hearts to him.
  2. Showing this in deeds. Such a love becomes more sacrificial in its relationship to goods and more enduring in trials.

 

Growth is the Proof of Love

In the spiritual life there is a law of continual growth: If we are not advancing we can be assured that we are falling behind. God demands such growth of us, with our whole heart, mind, and strength. On the one hand, outside of God’s grace there can be no merit and no growth. On the other, the more profound our love in our actions, the more meritorious they will be. Divine Love in our souls is a measure of holiness: God’s grace in our soul increases to the degree in which we let God live and love in us and through us.

The Path of Love is Strenuous

Since our love for God determines how much we love our neighbor, nowhere else in Christian spirituality is God’s grace more necessary to continue to love one another. God makes sure to place unlovable people in our path so that we can exercise the supernatural and theological virtue of charity and imitate his Son Jesus Christ in all his works and relationships. The love of God in our soul makes us love those unlovable, humanly speaking possible only when we open our hearts to the grace of God. In this case it is God’s love that propels us to love in a virtuous, selfless way. It is God himself, together with our cooperative will, who loves those souls through us.

Practical Conclusions

An act of love can transform our environment. It can be accomplished through hidden acts of love in our homes, communities, and in our society. It could be paying a visit to a sick person, consoling someone who is desperate and in pain; or caring the elderly in our neighbourhood.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

6th Sunday of Easter- Year B - John 15:9-17

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6th Sunday of Easter- Year B - John 15:9-17