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ARTICLE: WHAT IS PRAYER (con’t)

III. WHAT IS PRAYER?

 

(Continued.  Here is the beginnng of the article. Click here now)

‘During my prayer time, I read a lot, recite at least three Rosaries and then try to spend time uttering words of praise and thanksgiving’ says Sister Hilda from one of the convents around our parish at Mira Road (E). Nothing is wrong about it. We are all endowed with different type of capacity to spend time in prayer. But we also need to know what is true prayer.

 

Prayer is Awareness

 

Authentic prayer is basically a prolonged friendly awareness of the divine presence in the depths of our heart. This awareness is extended, enriched and strengthened each time we encounter God in prayer. God cannot be absolutely absent from our lives. Therefore we need to deepen the experience of God in our lives through awareness. God is creatively present in everyone at every moment whether we are aware of Him or not. But when we are in a state of silent gratefulness, we are aware of His presence either in a mysterious way or in a clear way through the grace provided. In this awareness of the divine we experience an elevation of life which we cannot attain by profuse words of thanks or praise; it can happen to us if we are gratefully open to it. In general, awareness in prayer is nothing but knowing, loving, and looking at God who loves us and ‘looks’ at us secretly in the depths of our heart (cf. Mt 6.6). The word ‘look’ should not be confused with the ordinary sense of the word, because God cannot be seen with the naked eyes; “no man can see Him and live” (Ex 33.18-23). For all those who ‘look’ with the eyes of faith, God is made visible in the very teaching and person of Jesus. “This is eternal life; to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent” [Jn 17.3].

 

Experiencing God through awareness is authentic prayer. All are called to this awareness. However, this awareness of God is not exhaustive and it cannot be. Such awareness requires purified mind and heart. For Teresa of Avila, prayer was living in eternity while living on earth. Therefore she advises her sisters: “I am not asking you now that you ‘think’ about him or that you draw out a lot of ‘concepts’ or make long and subtle ‘reflections’ with your intellect. I am not asking you to do anything more than look at Him. In the measure you desire Him, you will find Him” (Way of Perfection 26,iii). This signifies an added effort at awareness, tuning to the Divine when engaged in various activities in the material world. The author of the Acts writes “in him we have our being and live and move” [Acts 17.28]. We cannot become aware of God if we do not direct our actions and thoughts towards Him. Awareness of God becomes a reality when we begin to find God in all things of life with added interest in Him. Spiritual wakefulness demands only the habitual awareness of Him that surrounds all our actions in a spiritual atmosphere.

 

Awareness is becoming conscious of God in our daily life through the activity of our exterior and interior senses, as Jesus himself pointed out “So do not start worrying: Where will my food come from? Or my drink? Or my clothes? These are the things the pagans are always concerned about. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things” (Mt. 6.31-33). Awareness is nothing else but allowing our consciousness to expand spiritually to the maximum level of its capacity in its efforts to find God’s Kingdom at every moment, in events and circumstances, even in our difficulties, sufferings, defeats and sickness. It is a search for God everywhere with the maximum consciousness with all its reasoning and reflection. This allows us to be also fare to all the spheres of life where we are destined to take decisions. Through this awareness, we will never drift away from God; rather we become his friends, like Patriarch Job in the Old Testament. Awareness allows us to decide as God Himself would decide in a particular given situation.

 

Prayer Dynamism

 

The first step in prayer is always taken through the use of words. When we speak of praying, we do not always speak of the same thing. Anything from requests made to God to messages received from God come under the topic ‘prayer’. In the Christian tradition words like prayer, meditation, contemplation and mysticism are sometimes used interchangeably and at other times they denote carefully nuanced distinctions. Prayers are said at times without even understanding the meaning of the words uttered. Then we switch on to pious images, gazing at them and even forming in our imagination the replica of that image. This has led many to understand prayer as nothing but trying to imagine the holy and pious images. In my conversation with many people, participating in retreats and seminars on prayer, I have discovered that prayer has been understood as imagining an episode from the Gospels. This has led many to come to a stagnant stage where they felt absolutely helpless in producing these pious images in their mind and consequently leading to a sad conclusion, as ‘not making progress in prayer’. Such people know fully that prayer is nothing but “friendly dialogue with God” but they continue to be static in their imagination instead of dialoguing in a friendly way. Imagining is a monologue and cannot be a dialogue. In addition to this, when the use of imagination is not possible we resort to making reflections and considerations during prayer, at times even straining and squeezing our brains out for more ideas. Such a prayer can be described as follows: If one hour is available for prayer, the first step towards recollection is made by reading a Gospel passage, then this act is followed by reflections if not imaginations and finally it is concluded with certain resolutions. This has been the practice of many people for long years. Consequently prayer largely has been understood as merely an intellectual exercise or an exercise of the imagination.

 

Prayer and Detachment

 

The usual problem we face in prayer is that we are not able to continue our prayer experience for a long period of time. This is because quite often we are much worried about what we must do in prayer and are not actually interested in what God does for us. This is an attachment to our own conclusions about prayer. This worry has led many to regard prayer as tedious job. Often we are ignorant of Divine pedagogy of prayer. We never think of allowing God to shape our being, rather we want to shape ourselves according to our understanding of prayer. It is very true that many people are gifted with wonderful capacity for prayer but this has not been discerned well, due to lack of well-trained spiritual directors or lack of interest shown in spiritual direction. People often consider praying means ‘feeling good’, ‘satisfied’, ‘having no distractions’, and ‘enjoying plenty of spiritual entertainment’,  ‘having good imaginations’, ‘fantasies on heaven, angels, saints’ etc. This is truly not prayer. This is what I call attachment and an attachment to experiences. Maybe these experiences can be regarded as just a preparation for prayer. In this connection St. John of the Cross warns such people saying: “They would be very foolish, who would think that God is failing them because of their lack of spiritual sweetness and delight, or would rejoice, thinking they possess God because of the presence of this sweetness. And they would be more foolish if they were to go in search of this sweetness in God and rejoice and be detained in it” (Letter of St. John of the Cross no. 13; Segovia April 14, 1589). Our prayer should be an experience of inner silence and solitude. It is being fully present to the Lord. God speaks to us in the night or in silence as he spoke to prophet Elijah on mount Horeb. Therefore, the education, control or training of senses and imagination/fantasy is an absolute need for ongoing genuine prayer. “Control” does not mean rejection, but becoming aware of them and educating them channelling their energy towards the Lord. To pray, we need the spirit of detachment.

 

Detachment is a big factor in prayer nurturing a sense of inner peace. Having things in life is wonderful, but depending on them is attachment. Having loving people in life is phenomenal, and it is important to value and celebrate them everyday, but owning or controlling them is attachment. If we are suffering in life it is certain that this suffering is tied up with some kind of attachment to how things should be going. An attachment is a state of clinging that comes from the false belief that something or someone is necessary for your happiness. Prayer requires stillness and this stillness can come when we are full. The ocean is always still with the exception of a small amount of surface vibration, because it is full. We can be continually open to new growth and remain still, unless we choose to be disturbed by all of the things that are perpetually entering our consciousness. The disturbances are caused by our attachment to an idea that somehow, things should be different than what they are. All human relationships and even God relationship can be happier from a position of detachment. We are when we attempt to determine for others what their spiritual choices should be, based on what we were taught to believe. We are attached when we determine for others what vocation they should choose, who their friends should be, how they should live, what they should wear, how they should speak, and even how the others should choose to think, are often determined by attachments to certain traditions we have nurtured. All these elements constantly disturb our prayer daily. Therefore, St. John of the Cross-says “a person attached to creatures/traditions is nothing in the sight of God, and even less than nothing, because love causes equality and likeness and even brings the lover lower than the object of his love. In no way then is such a person capable of union with the infinite being of God” (Ascent of Mount Carmel I,4,iv). Purity of heart is a condition for prayer; we cannot be intimate with God so long as we cling to unlawful attachments. The needed purity for prayer must be fourfold. First, purity of conscience so that we will never offend God; then purity of heart, so that we keep all our affections for God; then comes purity of mind so that we preserve a continual consciousness of God. Finally, the purity of action, that will lead to do the will of God always. There is a moment in every good prayer when God-life enters our life, and our life enters God-life in total purity.

 

Prayer, Place and Time

 

St. John of the Cross recommends that our prayer in no way should be restricted to one place or to certain time or to certain ceremonies; rather a regular practice of prayer is a ‘must’ to initiate us into authentic prayer life. But later this regular and external practice should not be taken as a guarantee for faithfulness in prayer. He writes: “our prayer should be made either in the concealment of our secret chamber (where without noise and without telling any one we can pray with a more perfect and pure heart), as Jesus said: ‘when you pray enter into your secret chamber, and having closed the door, pray’ [Mt. 6.6); or if not in one’s chamber, in the solitary wilderness, and at the best and most quiet time of night, as He did [Lk 6.12]. No reason exists, hence, for designating fixed times or set days or for choosing some days more than others for our devotions; neither is there reason for using other kinds of prayer, or phrases having a play on words, but only those prayers that the Church uses, and as she uses them, for all are reducible to the Pater Noster” (Ascent III,44,iv). The best and very effective method would be to resort to “praying everywhere” (Ascent III,41,i) without fixing any limits. This is what the modern spiritual theology recommends saying “finding God in everything or finding God in all things”. Thus we never lose sight of God who cannot be absent from our lives. The real problem with our prayer is that we are normally absent to God out side of formal prayer. Training ourselves to be always in the presence of God can lead us to quietude and the enjoyment of peace everyday and everywhere. It can take place in the garden, kitchen, in the classroom, office, bus stand, and railway station, anywhere and at any time.

 

Prayer is a Need

 

Prayer is not to be taken in the narrow restricted sense of formal prayer, but in the sense of intimacy and union with God through love that leads us to be His friends. When we do not have friends we feel the pinch of such an experience. God is always there and does not need any introduction. The moment we express our desire His presence is felt. He is the unfailing friend. We need friendship with God. In fact no need can be so acute as the need for God in our life.

Union with God, obviously, is not restricted to formal prayer; it can also exist in activity. Prayer is fixing our inward gaze on God who cares and loves us. In our relationship with God beyond all doing, talking and thinking, there need to be times when we are simply present to Him in the fullness of our being, experiencing the immediacy of his loving and life-giving presence to us. If the meaning of our life, of our whole existence, is to love and to develop a friendly relationship with God, then we need prayer more than we need food or sleep or anything else. It is essential if we are going to function in a reasonable way as humans in society. We need prayer in our daily life to improve the quality of our lives. It is a demand of our very nature, of our very being; it is something that has to be there. We can skip a meal more easily than we can skip prayer. If we are really in touch with ourselves, we will realise it is not only something we need - it is something we want. It fulfils our deepest longing and desire.

 

(to be continued…)

ARTICLE: 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER: YEAR A

 

6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER: YEAR A

John 14:15-21

The Commandment of Love

Todays Gospel is an invitation to love and attain perfection of love of God. In this brief but powerful passage, Jesus reiterates his favorite theme: love. He also promises the Holy Spirit. Finally, Jesus emphasizes the intimate unity of Jesus, God, the Spirit, and the believer.

This unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit that overflows and penetrates the humanity is a wonderful power that helps us to achieve marvels in our lives. Let us use an imagery: If we were to take out a pen and begin writing, I could record anything I wanted to record. But if I removed my hand, the pen would simply fall on the paper and lie there. My pen has no life of its own. My pen contains all the raw materials I need to write with, but it has no writing ability on its own. In order for this pen to function, it must be joined to the life in my hand. When that happens, my pen can form letters it could never form by itself. I can compose clauses and phrases and put them together to make sentences because it is in my hand, and my hand is alive. When you connect your life to the life of the Holy Spirit, He can write things that you could never write on your own. He can achieve things you could never achieve on your own. When you connect your life to the life of the Holy Spirit, he can write things that you could never write on your own. But if you live in the flesh and rely upon your own power, you will drop like a discarded pen because there is no spiritual life in your flesh, your unredeemed humanity. God helps those who help themselves to Him. 

Love

Fifty-seven times Jesus uses love verbs (agapao, phileo). Add to that all of the occurrences of "friend" (which is the translation of philos) as well as the fact that the primary disciple in the Fourth Gospel is an unnamed character called "the beloved disciple," and we might accuse the author of touting a single issue. And why not, for is it not the case that "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life"? (John 3.16).

The passage begins and ends with love. In v. 15 Jesus declares that if his disciples love him, they will keep his commandments. The reader may ask, "What commandments?" Unlike, say, Matthew, nowhere in John does Jesus command us to go the second mile, turn the other cheek, render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. Famously, Jesus gives only a single commandment in John and it occurs in the chapter just before ours: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (13.34-35). He reiterates this in the chapter just after ours: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. (John 15.12-13). We see, then, the overwhelming, repetitive, circular emphasis on love. So, if the preacher is to preach this text, she will have to take up love. Perhaps John would have exulted to hear Bill Coffin's claim to his fellow Christians: "If we fail in love, we fail in all things else."

It's worth noting that love is tied to John's realized eschatology. Jesus gives one commandment: to love. Therefore, judgment and eternal life begin now. At the end of each day, and during each moment of each day, for John, there's only one question to ask yourself: "In what ways did I or did I not love today?" As you reflect upon that, judgment happens. Where you did not love, there lies judgment. But understand that for John judgment is merely diagnostic, not retributive. Jesus constantly asks the characters questions that help them understand their lives and motives more clearly. To the sick man in ch. 5:6: "Do you wish to be made well?"; to Martha in 11.26 "Do you believe this?". He asks questions not because he doesn't know the answers (since John 2.24-25 assures us that Jesus already knew everything); rather, he asks so that we might know, and therefore move forward with clear vision into the truth, light, glory, love, abundant for which God has created us. It's all of a piece.

The Holy Spirit

Admittedly, John's pneumatology is unusual compared to other NT texts. In contrast to Luke, who depicts the Holy Spirit as heavily active in the lives of characters from the beginning of his Gospel until the end of Acts, John insists that the Holy Spirit will come only after Jesus himself departs. Why is this? A clue lies in Jesus' referring to the Holy Spirit not as The Paraclete, but rather as Another Paraclete. Jesus was the first; for the Spirit to be active among them while Jesus was there would have been redundant since they each serve the same revelatory function. What appeared to be bad news to the disciples, namely Jesus' departure from them, turned out to be the best of news for both them and us. While Jesus walked the earth, his ministry was limited to one locale and one person, himself. Upon his departure, his disciples are given the Spirit and moved from apprentices to full, mature revealers of God's love. And this happens not just to the first disciples, but all those who would come later, those who never saw the historical Jesus. You see, the evangelist insists that present believers have no disadvantage in comparison to the first believers. Everything they were taught and they experienced is available to the same degree and with equally rich texture to us.

The word parakletos presents notorious translational difficulty because it has a range of meanings in the Greek, all of which are meant by the author. English translations variously translate it Comforter, Advocate, Counselor, and Helper; perhaps it would be best to keep it in its transliterated form, Paraclete, so as to catch the attention of the hearer with the strangeness; after all, it's strange among biblical authors, too. It appears only five times: four times in John 14-16 and once in 1 John 2:1. It's also best not to shut down possible meaning for the listener by narrowing the word to one meaning. The Holy Spirit is specifically said to do the following: teach, remind (14:26), abide (14:16), and testify about Jesus (15:26). Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit deals in truth.

The Quat-trinity

Christians are familiar with the Trinity, but perhaps the most stunning feature of the Fourth Gospel is what we can term the experiences as Quat-trinity. In John’s Gospel, Jesus insists that the intimate relationship that exists between him, God, and the Spirit also includes believers. The believer does not stand close by admiring the majesty of the Trinity; rather, he/she is an equal part of it. John tries to push at this by grabbing hold of a number of terms and repeating them: abide, love, the language of being "in" (14:17 and 20), and later in the Discourse, an emphasis on "one-ness" (cf. 17:21-23). Johannine believers don't "imitate" Jesus; they participate in him wholly. If the passage is read aloud and preached, the reading should go through v. 23, the pinnacle of the passage: "Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." If God and Christ have made their home with us (John 1.14), how can we imagine there to be any distance between us and God? This, in turn, affects our eschatology. Everything that matters, that is, ultimate intimacy with God and Christ, is available now. What might one hope for beyond that? God is not currently holding out on us in any way--life, abundant life, is available for living from this moment into eternity.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

www.LivingFlame.ca

WHAT IS PRAYER?

WHAT IS PRAYER?

Once Mrs. Agnes of our parish approached me and complained, ‘Father, I have been praying since 15 years. I am a bit disappointed because nothing is happening in my life’. I asked her, ‘what do you mean nothing is happening in your life’? ‘I mean, father, that I wanted to have a vibrant experience of God, but it is not happening’. That is the moment I thought, that there are a number of people in the Church today, praying and expecting something to happen to them. Can we say their approach to prayer is wrong? Or are they mistaken about their approach to God in prayer? What is prayer? How we ought to pray? What happens during and after prayer? Some of these questions will be answered in the following pages on prayer. The Archdiocese of Mumbai is gearing towards introducing people into Contemplative personal prayer. A team of specialized persons in this area of prayer and contemplation has been set up for the purpose and a lot of work has been done so far. Here, I would like to make a humble effort at clarifying certain notions of prayer through a few articles, and lead our people into understanding Christian prayer so that when we pray we know that we do not waste time.

 

What is the Goal of Prayer?

 

The goal of every prayer is union with God through love. We might ask, what is prayer and what is contemplation? Is it just being there hours together in the presence of God in a place of prayer? We know that every genuine prayer should lead us to contemplative experience of God. Do we perhaps at times have a wrong notion regarding prayer and contemplation? Mystics and Saints often define prayer as “dialogue with God”; “speaking to God”; “intimate relationship with God”; “friendship with God” etc. and contemplation as “just being there”, “gazing at God” or “being present to God”. Can this ‘dialogue with God’ or ‘just being present to God’ take place at any moment of our life or only at prayer?

 

In our catechism classes we have learnt that God is everywhere and he is present in every bit of creation, in every cell and atom. If that is the case are we present to Him who is always present everywhere and at every moment? In reality, rarely are we present to God in a concrete way because we are busy with our own daily affairs. We have an experience of this, that when we are busy with others we forget ourselves, and when we are busy with ourselves, we forget others. This is what happens in our search for God. Often when we approach God in prayer we search our own comfort and satisfaction even in our search for God. Genuine prayer in fact is, being fully involved with God always and everywhere who is always fully alive and active. This way of praying is nothing else than maximizing God’s presence in our day-to-day activity as much as possible. In prayer we try to magnify God to such an extent that we do not live; rather ‘God lives in us’. We let God live in us and He becomes the hub of our entire life. Thus, we never pray in vain but pray with God who is always within us.

 

Examine your Motives

 

At times, it is necessary to examine the motivations of our prayer to arrive at such an attitude. Genuine prayer always develops and matures our relationship with God and changes our attitude in life and never looks for personal enjoyment or satisfaction. Authentic prayer should be totally loving God and not trying to get something from God. If we truly seek genuine friendship with God we should never expects a thing from God, rather it should be our total self giving and surrender to the Other, because God knows already what we need (cf. Mt. 6.8).

 

Power of Prayer

 

Late Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic letter Fides et Ratio writes, “Driven by the desire to discover the ultimate truth of existence, human beings seek to acquire those universal elements of knowledge which enable them to understand themselves better and to advance in their own self-realization. These fundamental elements of knowledge spring from the wonder awakened in them by the contemplation of creation: human beings are astonished to discover themselves as part of the world, in a relationship with others like them, all sharing a common destiny. Here, begins then, the journey that will lead them to discover new frontiers of knowledge. Without wonder, men and women would lapse into deadening routine and little by little would become incapable of life which is genuinely personal” (Fides et Ratio). This attempt at knowledge by human beings is a desire to deepen the purpose of our existence through prayer and God experience. Therefore, prayer should not be just an isolated activity in our daily life but it ought to be integrative, continuous and contemplative. Prayer becomes integrative when the effects of prayer are lived. It becomes contemplative when it is unceasing. Prayer is unceasing when its influence permeates the whole of our life. The qualification “unceasing” directly refers to the continuity or permanence of prayer throughout the whole life. But such continuity cannot really occur unless prayer permeates the whole personality, reaching to the spiritual depths and remaining there as a permanent attitude of the Spirit. If we could spiritually go down into the depths of our own being or of any being such as, a grain of sand, a leaf, a flower, we would come upon the eternal mystery of God. Beyond the molecules and atoms, beyond the protons and electrons, beyond the living cells with their genes and chromosomes, there is a tremendous energy, a force of life. Through prayer we begin to discover the power of God in every bit of creation. This energy or force is continually welling up from the abyss of being in the Father, continually flowing back to its source in the bliss of love. If we could be free from personal desires in prayer, we would see the majesty of the Creator in us through His grace. This mystery in fact is hidden in the heart of every one of us, but we fail to see it: “the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17.21). But sadly we are often selfishly turned in on ourselves and consequently are not touched by the grace of the Creator. God experience is nothing but entering into this continuous flow of love in every bit of creation and within ourselves until we have a unifying experience of finding God everywhere. Such experience becomes more and more prominent at prayer. When outside of formal prayer (recitation of Rosary, Angelus, and other devotions prayers) we cherish this energizing experience and this leads us to discover the author of these manifestations, seen heard and sensed everywhere; and then we are ‘enlightened’ and therefore we remain attuned to the Divine source of energy that makes us instruments of God’s love on this earth.

 

II. WHAT IS PRAYER?

 

(Continued…)

Mr. Hilary told me once that he had been to Vipassana course at Nasik centre and he found that course very interesting and helpful. Moreover, he also told me that the practise of Vipassana has made him to pray better and lead a tension free life. I appreciated Mr. Hilary for making genuine efforts at learning to pray and to live a life of fewer tensions.

Many people today have a keen desire to learn how to experience deeper and authentic prayer despite various and considerable difficulties offered by the modern culture. There is a felt need for silence, recollection and meditation. A lot of people have come to understand the worth of prayer leading them to serenity, silence and tranquillity. Of course, these values can give us orientation and true security. Ultimately, in all these deeper aspirations what we basically crave for, is God-Experience. It is not so much the activity of prayer that attracts us, but God, who can be contacted in prayer and can certainly saturate the unnamed infinite thirst in us, as St. Augustine cried, “Our hearts are restless O, Lord, until they rest in Thee”. It is a known fact that nothing can quench our heart outside of God. To whatever we cling to, material or spiritual, it is ultimately an inclination and constant desire to cling to God. God alone can satisfy our heart. All other things and beings available for satisfaction, company and pleasure are merely crumbs that fall from the Divine.

 

Prayer and Methods

Methods and techniques contribute to any successful outcome. They are needed for growth, achievement, success etc. For higher efficiency and effectiveness we have methods for study, work, art etc. Then do we need methods also for prayer? Since prayer is a means of communication and communion with the Divine we certainly need methods. Without a method we do not even succeed in speaking properly to a person. In our daily life we have certain implicit traits and methods such as language, expressions, gestures, postures etc. In order to learn to commune with God we need methods or at least an understanding of Divine pedagogy.

Now, considering the use of methods in prayer, do we find some methods not really functioning? Is prayer not successful because of the wrong methods we use? Is there a way out of our vicious routine that does not lead us to any change or improvement in our life? How can we pray well, so that our life becomes really worth living? Do we need to go back and examine the way we have been praying in order that our prayer becomes more effective and our relationship with God a means of living out our problems, our joys and sorrows in a deeper way? We need to ponder on these queries seriously.

First of all methods for the sake of beginning prayer are necessary. Without basic methods we cannot think of praying. The traditional method of prayer has three parts/stages: preparation, recollection and meditation. Preparation consists of remote preparation like: practising the presence of God, nurturing Christian virtues throughout the day, trying to be serviceable and loving; and the immediate preparation consists of reading a Biblical text preparing our minds and hearts for prayer. The Recollection consists of recalling to our mind again during prayer what has been read and trying to find source of prayer in that text. Finally, Meditation consists in the very act of prayer, where we praise God, present our requests and, give thanks to Him. These are the integral parts of the traditional method of prayer. Then there could be many other methods like silencing the mind, using our imagination, visualizing a particular episode of the Gospels, becoming aware of our body, concentrating on a holy image etc.

 

Methods of prayer are also known as partly techniques of prayer. Technique is good but it is secondary. The essential is the source and one must first look for the source and then the technique can follow. Techniques are good as far as they can take us closer to the essential and the source - God. They are dangerous when over emphasised, because we may forget the source completely and we may become obsessed with techniques. Techniques are good if we remain conscious that they are not the ends but only the means to the end. Too great an obsession with them is very harmful, because we can forget the source completely in the process. In prayer we can make use of techniques and methods but we need to be alert as to when the technique should be dropped to allow the spirit to take its course.

Of course, our life of prayer in one way or the other was initiated with little techniques of memorising or vocalising. These techniques later developed into reciting prayers and eventually became rather a sophisticated technique to satisfy our psychological need for prayer. Through a method we are accustomed to recite the breviary slowly, pausing on each word or verse. Can we say that we really pray? In any case we need to remind ourselves that technique kills the spirit of prayer. For instance, we never use a technique or a method to speak to our parents or our loved ones. We learnt the art of speaking through our parents, but we never use their technique. We are unique and we use our own personalised method spontaneously. That is why when we speak we are free in our communication and relationship. Why then do we need techniques and methods to speak to God who knows us better than we know ourselves? What we basically need is to look for authenticity and not the multiplication of words and methods because God will not talk to us as our companions and friends do. He has quite a different method of communication. He speaks to us in silence without words and gestures. Moreover, God-Experience does not mean aiming at satisfaction or enjoyment of spiritual favours in prayer. It is a moment of God’s mysterious encounter that is understood in absolute faith and hope. It is an openness to accept whatever happens during prayer and a challenge to understand, which cannot be understood, and it is a journey in the direction we know not.

Therefore, we must not concern ourselves too much with methods, techniques and preoccupy ourselves with what we do or with what is happening during prayer. We must turn our attention simply on God Himself and each time we are drawn to anything else, we must return simply, gently, to the Lord. This is one of the points we would like to emphasize strongly in the succeeding pages. The fruits of prayer are to be perceived and experienced outside the time of prayer and are perhaps the surest signs of the presence and continuing work of the Spirit of God in our prayer. In real prayer we do not seek ourselves or seek anything for ourselves. We seek the living God. In experiencing Him we experience all things and will posses all things. Learning to pray is learning to live and move with God. In prayer we seek to enter into the “now”; we live as fully as possible with Him who says “I AM who I AM” and “I will be with you always”.

Is Prayer Attractive?

The interest which in recent years has been awakened in people and also among large number of Christians in various forms of meditation associated with some eastern religions and their particular methods of prayer, is a significant sign of this need for spiritual renewal, recollection and attraction to prayer. A deeper and authentic contact with the divine mystery is always sought through moments of prayer in solitude and interior silence. Since prayer alone can lead us to that ‘living water’, it is attractive. In recent years psychologists and doctors of medicine have found a tremendous power in prayer through which operations have been successful, sickness have been healed and people have begun responding positively in so-called hopeless cases of cancer and Aids. Hence, prayer as such has become an attractive subject of discussion and practice.

Prayer and Life

More often than not we divide our life into two watertight compartments: one inside the prayer hall where we pray and the other outside of it where we are involved in our daily activities. Thus, quite often our prayer life contradicts our active life. There is no satisfactory blend between prayer and action. This has come to be realised through the years where we have seen or experienced no relevance of our prayer to our everyday life. We were taught how to pray. We learned the traditional methods of reciting long vocal prayers. We were satisfied with such prayers and perhaps drew a sort of psychological satisfaction out of it. Can we call such an act, ‘prayer?’ We do not deny that vocal prayer recited with devotion is prayer. We need to ask ourselves what actual change has this prayer brought in our life? Even a simple recitation of prayer should bring in some change in our mind, in our thoughts and actions; if not, that prayer has been nothing but a repetition of certain formulae and cannot have any relevance to our life (cf. Mt 7.21). Our life and prayer should not become two distinct spheres having no concrete point of contact.

 

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5th Sunday of Easter Acts 6.1-7; 1Peter 2.4-9; Jn 14.1-12

5th Sunday of Easter

Acts 6.1-7; 1Peter 2.4-9; Jn 14.1-12

 

Today’s Gospel presents Jesus as the guide in life, as the ‘way, truth and life’. The Christian centre is the person of Christ. Our work for Jesus and our love for people, no matter what our calling in life, flow from this. Mother Teresa was once asked why she did what she did, and she simply said ‘for Jesus’. This centre always holds, it cannot be unhinged. It is a deeply personal relationship. we are led by Jesus ‘one by one’, known by name, not as just one of a group. We follow him as one we know, not a stranger. Studying his life and times, getting to know the places and events of his life, becoming familiar with the gospels and getting to know him in the heart in prayer is the way of keeping our centre of conviction and motivation strong. As this happens freedom grows and we begin to find him everywhere.

To the extent that the Acts of the Apostles relates an idealized memory of how the earliest Church was established and grew, it provides interesting milestones of ecclesiastical evolution. Only slightly less important to Church evolution than the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and disciples at Pentecost was the fairly quick evolution from a Jewish Church to a Gentile (i.e., Non-Jewish) Church over only a few decades. But the catalyst of that shift from Jewish to Gentile was the remarkable effectiveness with which the Gospel spread and the consequent Church membership increased. The small number of original disciples who knew Jesus well at his death, burial, and resurrection increased exponentially beginning with the Church’s public launch at Pentecost. In last Sunday’s text from Acts, the summary note was made that “about three thousand” were baptized on that Pentecost Day. Indeed, that number was merely an indicator of the Church’s growth rate not only then but consistently over the years, decades and centuries to come. Today’s text recalls the evolution of specialized ministries which the Gospel community found necessary because of great growth. The intimate fellowship which Jesus’ original disciples enjoyed would be challenged by sheer numbers. New needs arose in that expanding Church to what 20th Century Christians call “social ministries” which are indicated in Acts by the care for widows and “the daily distribution.” Remember that those most idealistic earliest Christians were said to have “held all property in common” (see Acts 2.44) in a very simple sort of communal socialism. Thus, each individual and household would have received daily rations of food and supplies. But, the primary task of the apostles since Pentecost had become the practical and urgent preaching of God’s Word. It fell to the Twelve to reorganize the community and to divide up ministries and tasks. The Church’s first major change was from being a very small community to becoming an ever-enlarging community, sort of like moving from a domestic family to a regional society. True then and true still today. “To live is to change; to live well is to change greatly!” (Attributed to John Henry Cardinal Newman, 19th Century British Churchman). The Church is at her wisest when she learns how to change graciously, compassionately and intelligently. Many who embrace their religious faith actually forget how to change, and demonstrate that forgetfulness when they resist any and all good and healthy – and necessary! – change. The institution of the ministry of deacons was an example of effective and reasonable change. Note, too, that the setting of this change was in the Jerusalem Church, and that “even a large group of priests” had come to be involved in the Gospel community. These “priests” would have been Temple priests in Jerusalem for the Christian “presbyterate” would not be so visible until the apostles likewise needed assistance in presiding over the liturgical assembly.

Our weekly lesson from 1st Peter is a section which precedes last week’s lesson. It harkens back to the Old Testament rationale by which God’s Chosen People, the Israelites recently freed from Egyptian slavery, were instructed by God to be holy just as God was holy. Hence, their relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had become a very, very different relationship from what all other Old Testament era ethnic groups and religions typically had with their divinities. (Note. the Hebrew word kadosh translates as “holy” which literally means “different from.”) Peter reminded the Gentile Christians of Asia Minor that just as the ancient Israelites had been called to be holy, so too they as new Christians were likewise and just as much expected by God to live a vocation to holiness. Peter cited the text from Exodus 19.6 which was a practical, constitutional statement by God about God’s People. ‘You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own ...” These words are even used in the sacred eucharistic liturgy to remind our assembly in our own day of the dignity of the Christian Vocation. Thus, for the audience of 1st Peter, in an era when persecution was not unusual but was often dangerous, the Gospel community was a veritable home for the homeless, i.e., a safe community of Gospel fellowship in a society which was very often and very easily intimidated by and hostile to the Gospel’s genuine and profound goodness and love, justice and peace.

The Supper

The Gospel narrative today is again not a Resurrection appearance of Jesus, but rather part of John’s Gospel memory of the short hours just at the end of the Last Supper. John seems to presume that we know the supper details (bread, wine, blessing) and supplies to us instead a memory of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. After the example of foot-washing was explained as a metaphor for mutual service, he proceeded to teach and explain. These dozen verses show Jesus trying to encourage and support the Eleven and whoever is with them by first assuring them of “a place for you” in the kingdom. Thomas, famous a few days later for his skepticism about Jesus’ Resurrection, admited the fearful but private worry in each of them with “We do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Philip too was a disciple willing to risk embarrassment by suggesting that they have not really “seen” the Father but that they are willing to be shown. Jesus made significant use of metaphor as he provided them a glimpse of the profound mystery of the Divine Presence, of his Christological importance, and of the hope he had tried to instil in them. Jesus’ “I am the way, the truth, and the life...” was a huge summary of the reality of God’s Presence and of his essential oneness with God. “... no one comes to the Father except through me” seems addressed somewhat narrowly to those in the room with him. Thus, the “no one” becomes more strictly “on one among you” because they have already been given access to God, whether or not they appreciate it. Seemingly, Philip fails to the test of appreciation, at least that night. That line “no one comes to the Father except through me” has too often been used by literalist Christians to assert exclusion of non-Christians and even other Christians from eternal salvation. Jesus was more reasonably addressing only and principally that small group of the Eleven plus a small number more of disciples. He had no real reason to be talking explicitly to us today or against non-believers though history over the centuries. After all, he had just said that in his Father’s house there are many (!) dwelling places. Why would he assert the greatest hope only moments later to restrict that to the self-righteous? Logic should always paint Jesus as Savior in the business of successfully saving every one and excluding no one! Let God be the judge! Let us be the best examples possible of the community which has experienced and embraced God’s love! Let us imitate Jesus’ generosity and love of others just as we profess and hope for his generosity and love for ourselves!

Our gospel today (Jn 14.15-21) is very clear about “who” truly loves Jesus. Jesus himself says, “He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me.” So a pro-abortion stance, in and of itself being directly in opposition to the Lord’s commandments, nullifies any claim of true love of Jesus.

Thou Shall not Kill

Long before the officially approved “canon” of scripture was established, it was the constant teaching of the Church that abortion was a horrible violation of, and sin against, the commandments of God. For example “The Didache” – aka “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” – was written in the first century (probably between 70-80 A.D.), and says the following, in part. “Thou shalt not kill … commit adultery … commit fornication … kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born…” Nevertheless, many pro-choice people claim a “right” to kill, abort, fornicate, adulterate, all actions which are in direct violation of both God’s commandments and the constant teaching of the Church Magisterium (i.e., the teaching office of the true successors to the apostles). People with a “pro-abortion” stance are clearly giving more credence to man-made laws than they do to God’s directives.

What is Freedom of Choice?

Many times pro-choice people (each with their own definition of what “pro-choice” means) confuse their “rights” with their free-will “choices.” The “pro-choice, anti-abortion” reader must understand that it is the very idea that when they say it is okay for “others” to make that decision, they are directly and indirectly endorsing the evil effect on the community, their youth, and their own eternal life. The “right” to directly take an innocent human life belongs only to God. However, one can indeed make a free-will “choice” that selects an evil action instead of a loving action. If that negative choice is made and/or defended, then that person by the definition of Jesus himself in today’s gospel is without love for being a willing participant in evil. Pro-abortion people claim to “see” the truth, but are “blind” like the Pharisees in John’s gospel scenes. Jesus told them that since they claim to “see,” that their guilt remains (Jn 9.41

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! People taking a pro-abortion stance are outside the communion of love and do not have the Spirit of Truth alive in their hearts (CCC#2615). Those claiming to love Jesus, but using abortion services, have replaced His Truth with their own ideals for their personal convenience. Even the simple bystanders, who have not properly informed their conscience, have replaced Truth with a gravely misguided altruism. Evil acts can be chosen deliberately, or by erroneous judgments and invincible ignorance (CCC#1790-93); nevertheless, true love proceeds from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith (CCC#1794). Do not forget to intercede for those whose judgements appear to be faulty and lacking in love; by interceding we take our lesson from Jesus (CCC #2634).

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

ARTICLE: THE CALL TO BE A GOOD SHEPHERD

THE CALL TO BE A GOOD SHEPHERD

John 10.1-18

 

All of our life is a training to be good shepherds after the example of Jesus. How can we follow Jesus? When we approach Jesus we all feel that we belong. He never excluded anyone from his company. He is indeed the Good Shepherd. When we feel accepted, we feel as though we "belong", don't we? We feel as though we are on the same team; we have a place in the world, a purpose in being here; we feel aligned with others to whom we are connected in the most basic way. Therefore, doesn't it make sense that one of the simplest ways we can convey acceptance is by being inclusive and by helping others feel as though they belong as well? In short, we do this by saying yes to those we meet. We do this by including others in our thoughts, our prayers, and our actions; we do this by rooting out all the various shadowy forms of prejudice and intolerance in our own hearts. We do this by cultivating thoughts and wishes of well-being, loving-kindness, and compassionate concern for all that lives, breathes, and is. Let us then go through the words of Jesus:

 

  1. i) “The sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name” (verse 3): The reference here is to our Baptism. The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd: Hearing is a necessary attitude for a deeper relationship. To call by name the sheep is an attitude that creates a friendship relationship. In Baptism we are called by name. Of course our names are carved on the palm of his hand. He will never forget our names (Eph 1.4; Jer 1.1-2). God calls us personally by name.
  2. ii) “He leads them out” (verse 3b): Leading them out to the pastures. When he leads them out he strengthens them; this points to Confirmation. The sacrament of confirmation is to fortify us. We are led into the world to face the realities of the world. It is not by living isolated that we are able to proclaim the word, rather we need to face and challenge the world. “He goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice.” We are called to lead the sheep out into the world. Through our formation we are equipped to face the challenges and at the same time to help others to face theirs. Ultimately we should be able to lead them to pastures – God.

 

iii)  “Whoever comes in by me will be saved; he will come in and go out and find pasture” (verse 9): The reference here is to the Holy Eucharist. Jesus gives us food and nourishes us. We need to enter the gate to get our food. The gate is the Church. The food is the Eucharist. “I have come in order that you might have life - life in all its fullness” (verse 10).

 

  1. iv) “I am the good shepherd who is willing to die for the sheep” (verse 11). This refers to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus in fact died for our sins. He has given us this sacrament of reconciliation so that we might come back even when we are wounded. The good shepherd comes in search of the lost sheep.

 

  1. v) “I am the good shepherd. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me” (verses 14-15). This verse refers to the Anointing of the Sick. The doctor knows the sickness, the patient. His work is to suggest medicine. Strengthen him. Jesus knows us better than we ourselves know. The shepherd has to nurse the wounds of his sheep.

 

  1. vi) Jesus invites all of us to become the good shepherds. Peter was asked thrice “do you love me more than the others do?” (Jn 21.15-19). At the reply Jesus says, “feed my sheep”, which signifies, if Jesus is the shepherd we too are called to be the shepherds. This invitation is a call either to a lay person or to a priest to be the shepherd. (Religious life, Priesthood, and Matrimony.)

 

Being a Good Shepherd in my Community

 

  • Timetable (organizing our life; hobbies). Do I observe my personal timetable and the community timetable? In fact, observing the timetable helps others to be of help to you and you will be of help to someone else. It is necessary to be punctual. Just imagine how much tension you create when you are not punctual.
  • Putting order in our cubicles or rooms. Order in our personal life is the norm for order in a community. Disorder in my own room signals disorder in me; hence the natural consequence: I create disorder in my community.
  • Giving good example: responsibility, work, virtues, etc. Being a good shepherd is to give a good example not just for the sake of inspiring others but rather to generate interest in others.
  • Good intentions and goodwill. Often we never take the initiative to appreciate or appreciate our companions. We just take the goodness of others for granted. Often we express to a third party that the other person is good. Well, there is nothing wrong in appreciating people. Since we are human, a kind encouraging word has its own effect in the community.
  • Helping those who are weak; giving them time.
  • Consoling the distressed.
  • Respecting the others whom we do not appreciate or like.
  • Loving and caring for the house as if it were your own property.
  • Looking after the house. Shepherding the house (it is not only the responsibility of the superior, it is the responsibility of all).

 

Being a Good Shepherd in the World Outside

 

  • Teaching: Teaching is an art. This is acquired and one becomes a good teacher over years. Teaching is a commendable work at the service of the kingdom. This calls for a disciplined approach on our part. We cannot be good teachers if we fail to communicate with words and gestures. Our words should be meticulously chosen and our gestures should be filled with kindness and compassion. Rude gestures can hurt the listener. This is an art that is learnt over years. The effort we put into perfecting the quality of our service lifts us up from being mediocre.

 

  • Meeting with people, and relationship: We meet a lot of people and most of them seem to be just sheep. When you meet people look at them and listen to them. Refrain from making judgments in your mind. When you meet people try to control your thoughts. Do not be prejudiced. Relationships can be built only if you can be open and sincere.

 

  • Dealing with our family members: Family members are supposed to be your dear and near ones. They need you for guidance and inspiration. If you are a dictator they will not approach you. You need to understand them because you are more likely to be more knowledgeable and wiser than they are.

 

  • Trust: Trusting people is the primary characteristic of a good shepherd. The moment you begin to doubt, you cannot establish a lasting trust. Do not just be carried away by what others speak about a person. Try to find out the riches of the person through personal contact. This requires patience. It is easy to fall a prey to the comments of others. Well, we need to interact with the person in a responsible manner. The word trust has the letter “u” in the middle, which signifies that you need to balance your personality well when you deal with him.

 

  • Good example: Nothing speaks louder than your personal example.
  • Dealing especially with the opposite sex: Shepherding the flock means dealing with all types of people. It could be that often we tend to become rigid or too lax with the opposite sex. There are no hard and fast rules regarding our relationship with men or women. A healthy and balanced approach could be the finest norm that can guide us.

Christianity is a faith experience of joy that invites every human being to experience liberation from feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and worthlessness. It’s an experience that calls every one to be the light and the salt of the earth. More than underscoring our shortcomings, the teachings of Jesus open for us a deep appreciation of God's unfathomable love for every person. God's love does not depend on how good we are, how bright or promising, how conscientious or even caring. It's hard to believe it, but God loves us just because we are. How do we know this? Jesus, God incarnate, demonstrates this in his interaction with people.

Jesus surrounded himself with the "losers" of his day: prostitutes, tax-collectors (hated because they cheated the public), lepers (their disease made them total outcasts), and the poor and disadvantaged. His primary followers were a group of mostly fishermen who, he promised would learn to "fish for people." These followers often misunderstood Jesus, and when Jesus was being persecuted, they deserted and denied him. Jesus was amazingly patient, always forgiving, always meeting people on their own terms. He was slow to condemn and quick to bring out the best even in the least likely people. The transformation of these followers came as a result of their gradual appreciation for the mystery of God's love for them. If God could accept and love them despite their sins and shortcomings, perhaps they could learn to accept and love themselves!

Jesus does hold up ideals that are never possible to be fully emulated here on earth. His desire is to bring out the best in each of us and not to lay some guilt trap. Even those whom we call "saints" (the holy ones) are hardly without faults. What makes someone a saint is not his/her but the quality of his/her love for others. Those who live more and more for others, who, like Jesus, extend themselves to respect and value every other person, are God's saints.

Ironically, it is often when we do feel inadequate or sinful that God's love and grace come to reassure us and turn us around. "Blessed are those who know their need of God, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). What is important before God is not our perfection - as if that were possible - but our understanding that we need God in order to find our deepest selves. When we know our need of God, we understand that the world does not rest on our shoulders, that someone loves us deeply despite our many warts, that we will never be alone, and that our life is not a test we have to pass. Rather, life is a relationship with God we are called to live.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How can I become a good shepherd in the community in which I live?
  2. Have I tried to trust others or do I nurture a doubtful mind always?
  3. Can I think of losing my life for the sheep?
  4. Do I really feel let down when things do not go according to my plan?
  5. Why do I think that I can do better than others?
  6. The Son of Man came to serve and not to be served; has my life become service-oriented?
  7. Do you wish to be the centre of attraction always?
  8. Humility should be the hallmark of every shepherd. Has humility been a difficult virtue to practise?

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

COLLECTION OF REFLECTIONS FROM FATHER RUDY;  LAST WEEK OF APRIL 2017

COLLECTION OF REFLECTIONS FROM FATHER RUDY;  LAST WEEK OF APRIL 2017

 

 

 

WHY WAKE UP?

The spiritual journey involves going beyond hope and fear, stepping into the unknown territory, continually moving forward. The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving and waking up at every moment of our life. This will certainly help us get better each day and remain stronger in our aspirations. Maximizing our awareness to a total of highest percent can win us a great reward. There could be a question arising in our mind: Why Wake Up? A few life narratives will clarify this question.

TO BURN OUR SHIPS AND BOATS

A long time ago there was a great General who was faced with a situation which made it necessary for him to make a drastic decision to insure his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his army on shore to face a powerful enemy, whose men outnumbered his. He loaded his soldiers into boats, and sailed to face the enemies on shore. When they reached the shore, he ordered them to unload the soldiers and cargoes.  He then ordered for all the ships and boats to be burnt.

Addressing his men before the battle, he said, “You see the ships and boats going up in smoke. That means that we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win!  We now, have no choice – either we win, or we perish.” They won!

KEEP ON TRYING

Once a young boy came to me asking how he could study. I told him that he needs to work hard, read, memorize and then write. Well, the boy returend after his exams and said to me that his exams went on very well, and he wrote all the answers.

A fat man asked me how he could reduce weight, and I replied him saying that he needs to walk daily 45 minutes, and control his diet and then avoid fat filled food. What a transformation, he comes back after a month to show that he had lost more than 8 kilos.

Once a young man by name Norbert asked me how he could overcome the vice of anger. I told him that there is no medicine for anger. He needs to work at it. I told him that he will never succeed in changing the world. He needs to accept certain realities as they are and change wherever he can to bring a change without violence. I told him that he could not change certain of his own habits over night. So there are people around us who have certain habits that anger us, and we cannot change them either. He emails me that he is a better person now. He systematically worked at reducing his anger.

Failures should never deter us from going ahead in our life. In fact failures are mile stones of success. A baby never learns to walk if it does not fall several times. We are all trial and error beings to be perfected over a longer period of time.

EXPERIMENTS THAT DIDN’T WORK

Thomas Edison tried two thousand different materials in search of a filament for the light bulb. When none worked satisfactorily, his assistant complained, "All our work is in vain. We have learned nothing."

Edison replied very confidently, "Oh, we have come a long way and we have learned a lot. We now know that there are two thousand elements which we cannot use to make a good light bulb."

PLANT THE SEED

A man once caught stealing was ordered by the king to be hanged. On the way to the gallows he said to the governor that he knew a wonderful secret and it would be a pity to allow it to die with him and he would like to disclose it to the king. He would put a seed of a pomegranate in the ground and through the secret taught to him by his father he would make it grow and bear fruit overnight. The thief was brought before the king and on the morrow the king, accompanied by the high officers of state, came to the place where the thief was waiting for them. There the thief dug a hole and said, “This seed must only be put in the ground by a man who has never stolen or taken anything which did not belong to him. I being a thief cannot do it.” So he turned to the Vizier who, frightened, said that in his younger days he had retained something which did not belong to him. The treasurer said that dealing with such large sums, he might have entered too much or too little and even the king owned that he had kept a necklace of his father’s. The thief then said, “You are all mighty and powerful and want nothing and yet you cannot plant the seed, whilst I who have stolen a little because I was starving am to be hanged.” The king, pleased with the ruse of the thief, pardoned him.

WAKING UP IS HUMAN

Watching and waking up seem to be very closely connected words. Only when awake we can watch anything and everything. Consciousness is another word that helps us to understand watching. Well, in that case "awakening" is a moment of clarity in which a new insight or understanding is gained. With this new awareness the experience of life is seen differently, and new possibilities are opened. Changes in patterns of thought, emotions, and behavior occur. An awakening allows the possibility of growth to new levels of psychological and spiritual maturity

Waking up is human. Many sleep walk. They just live for something that can give them a type of remote satisfaction. Well, that is their misery. They live by that thing, may be craving for power, desire for appreciation, longing for greatness, to be someone on top of the world. All these empty aspirations have made human person a real sleep walker.

If we persistently listen to the demands of ego, we move away from our real source of life. The ego insists on pursuing more: more stuff, accomplishments, status, triumphs, and money. More is the mantra of the ego, fuelling endless striving with a false promise of eventually arriving. However, every assured arrival point is seductively transformed into a desire to strive for even more, unless we choose to make a shift in the direction our life is taking. The shift begins in the process of halting the momentum and self-importance of the ego, but then we must proceed with the work of derailing and rerouting it in the opposite direction. This does not mean that we lose our drive; rather, it signifies that our drive is realigned with a life based on experiencing meaning and feeling purposeful.

Life is much more than achievements, recognition and being a celebrity. Life is beautiful when it is lived, lived to the fullest extent. This is waking up to fullness of life within us.

TONGUE

There once was a king who loved to eat. When the castle cook grew too old to prepare the meals anymore, the king looked for a new cook. A young man applied for the job. The king said to him, "I want you to cook me the best and most important dish in the whole world." The night the king sat down at the table. When he looked at the special dish, he exclaimed, "Why, that’s cow tongue!"

The young man answered, "Yes, it is. Nothing is more important then the tongue if it is used correctly. The tongue is used to teach, to explain, to command, to defend, to calm. Tongues are used to sing to babies and to make bargains. Tongue has to be the most important thing for a king."

"I must say I didn’t realize that, young man. You’ve opened my eyes. Therefore, tomorrow night, I want you to fix me the worst dish you know."

The next night, the young man served the king cow tongue. The king said, "What goes on here? Last night, tongue was the best dish in the world. Tonight it’s the worst. How can this be?" "The difference is what you do with it, sir," said the young man. "Tongues make gossip, stir up trouble, and tell lies. Tongues are cruel and hypocritical. Therefore, tongue can be the worst dish in the world."

"Yes, I see. I also see that I need your wisdom in my court. I’ll get someone else to do the cooking."

PURPOSE OF LIFE

The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.

The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That’s because we typically begin at the wrong starting point-ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like what do I want to be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals, my ambitions, and my dreams for my future? But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose. The contrary to what many popular books, movies, and seminars tell you, you won't discover your life's meaning by looking within yourself. You've probably tried that already. You didn't create yourself, so there is no way you can tell yourself what you were created for! If I handed you an invention you had never seen before, you wouldn't know its purpose, and the invention itself wouldn't be able to tell you either. Only the creator or the owner's manual could reveal its purpose.

SEARCHING

I once got lost in a town. I could not get to my destination. I was lost. Then one elderly man said to me to start a new from a corner of the town and walk straight and read the sign boards. Well, the solution worked. He just had an idea and it worked. In the same way, you cannot arrive at your life's purpose by starting with a focus on yourself, on becoming important, richer and famous. You must begin with God, your Creator, your Saviour and your redeemer. You exist only because God wills that you exist. You were made by God and for God-and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning; our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end.

BIRTH - LIFE

I often think about myself. If my mother were not married to my father, I would not be born. Well, I tried in my thoughts to get back to my birth history. I asked my father why we all brothers and sisters; seven of us were born exactly at a 2 years gap. Papa answered me saying that he could come home to be with my mother only after each two years for his holidays. I got the point. In my case for example, if my father had postponed his coming by one more month, then I would not have been born into this world at all, this is my personal thinking. What a mystery when we go deep into the process of our birth.

Many people try to use God for their own self-actualization, but that is a reversal of nature and is doomed to failure. You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for his purposes, not you using him for your own purpose. Every birth is a mystery that unfolds with every minute and hour we live our life. We try to use what God has given us and in such attempts the mystery of God is made a concrete reality of love and realization.

YOUR OWN INSPIRATION

How, then, do you wake up to the purpose you were created for? It’s by constantly attuning to inspiration. Wake up to your goal of life. Do not copy others; do not look at others for inspiration that has driven them to achieve. Let them be models, but you look for your own inspiration. Often people live by the dreams of others, goals of others, look at others and want to be like others. No, you have to discover your own path, and that requires that you wake up from sleep, start walking on your own and be on your own, and you will discover your hearts’ desire, your heart’s pull and you are certain to enjoy every bit of your life.

You have only two options. Your first option is speculation. This is what most people choose. They conjecture, they guess, they theorize. When people say, "I've always thought life is ...," they mean, "This is the best guess I can come up with." For thousands of years, brilliant philosophers have discussed and speculated about the meaning of life. Philosophy is an important subject and has its uses, but when it comes to determining the purpose of life, even the wisest philosophers are just guessing.

The second one is waking up to the meaning of life. This one is powerful way of living life. You wake up and live your life fully today. When you begin to find meaning in every detail of your life, your quality of life just becomes better and you become a person of great sensitivity to people, environment and to every bit of creation around you.

YOU ARE WORTH

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill? Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.”He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air. “Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. Now who still wants it?” Many more hands went up.

“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. It did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.”

Dr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

LIVINGFLAME.CA

 

 

ARTICLE: IS PRAYING USEFUL?

IS PRAYING USEFUL?

 

Praying has always raised issues like, is it worth, not worth? useful, not useful? and so on and so forth in the lives of people. Nowadays there are so many experiments conducted on human brain trying to get useful results through silence, meditation, prayer, to over come stress, anxiety, depression, fear, and other such closely related psychological attacks. Therefore, all of us must be concerned regarding the real benefits of prayer.

 

Praying…does it really help? This is a million dollar question that has been around since the beginning of time. Some say yes and some say no. So, who is right? I guess it kind of depends on your faith in God and how convinced you are about God.

 
What do you pray for? You can pray for anything. People often pray for their loved ones who may be sick or going through a difficult time. You may ask for help on a problem at work, or help with passing a test for school. You may pray for yourself to be a better, more tolerant person, or you may be going through a personal crisis that you can’t handle on your own. You may pray for success. But keep in mind that the meaning of "success" to you may not be the same as what it is to God. You may pray for a Mercedes so you can go to church or take the kids to school. God will help get you to church and your kids to school, but not necessarily in a Mercedes.

The psychological benefits of prayer are obvious—focusing your emotions by praying can help to relieve stress, calm fears, reduce anxiety, and impart calm in the midst of a storm. Praying on a regular basis can have an enormous effect on your psyche by stabilizing your moods, giving you a feeling of well-being, both physical and psychological, improving how you interact with others, and positively changing how you conduct yourself.

But prayer can be a boon to physical health in addition to emotional health. The physiological benefits of praying can be very far-reaching. These benefits have been studied and fully documented in medical journals. There is also a wealth of information on the benefits of praying before risky medical surgery. In a number of important studies, patients who prayed before surgery came through their operations in much better shape than those who did not pray.

Some of the most powerful and successful political leaders all over the world have professed to praying on a regular basis. The power of prayer has helped them to overcome poverty in their countries, keep their people together, and stand up to their enemies with courage and resolve.

Does God answer all prayers? I believe that God does indeed answer every prayer. It may not be the answer we are looking for, but He does answer in His own way and in His own time. Often we become impatient and expect fast results. Sometimes it may take a lifetime to get an answer. Therefore, praying and patience must go hand in hand—praying on a regular basis teaches patience and strengthens faith in God, no matter who you think of as God. There are literally thousands of articles and stories published each year by publications such as  Readers Digest, Times, Out Look, to name a few, about people from all walks of life who have used prayer to benefit themselves or loved ones, often with the unexpected result of receiving more than they asked for.

So does praying really help? The answer is a resounding yes. There is an enormous amount of evidential, testimonial, and scientific proof that prayer really does help us emotionally and physically, not only in our time of need, but also—and most importantly—in our everyday lives. Prayer has untold benefits and can be experienced when done faithfully.

Meditation can help most people feel less anxious and more in control. The awareness that meditation brings can also be a source of personal insight and self-understanding.

Martin Luther said, "The fewer words the better prayer." “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (Rom 12:12). “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Eph 6:18). “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Col 4:2). “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Mat 6:7). “Pray continually” (Tess 5:17)

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, in The Practice of the Presence of God, has the resolution of the seeming difficulty in these two verses. He says that we should "establish ourselves in the presence of God, talking always with him" to "give ourselves entirely to God, whether in temporal or spiritual concerns" (30). He says that we "ought to act very simply towards God, speaking frankly to Him, and asking His help in things as they occurred . . ." (36). In other words, we should enter into God's presence and keep in it, as we would be in the presence of a friend at our side all day long, to whom we can talk in brief conversations throughout the day. Brother Lawrence goes on to say, "We need only to realize that God is close to us and to turn to Him at every moment, to ask for His help to learn His will in doubtful things, and to do gladly those which we clearly perceive He requires of us, offering them to Him before we begin, and giving Him thanks when they have been finished for His honour" (47). "You would think it rude to leave a friend, who came to visit you, alone; why then leave God alone?" (90).

Dr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

 

LivingFlame.ca

ARTICLE: 3rd Sunday of Easter 2017

3rd Sunday of Easter

ACTS 2.14, 22-28
1 PETER 1.17-21
LUKE 24.13-35

During the weeks after Easter, the church puts us in touch with the first men and women who experienced the risen Jesus in an attempt to deepen our appreciation and understanding of this, the linchpin of our faith. In describing those early believers, Gunther Bornkamm once remarked, “The men and women who encounter the risen Christ in the Easter stories have come to an end of their wisdom. They are alarmed and disturbed by his death, mourners wandering about the grave of the Lord in their helpless love. . . like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, their last hopes are destroyed” (Jesus of Nazareth, Harper and Row, New York. 1960). Therefore it is erroneous to think that the resurrection narratives can be explained away as a human invention or as a product of wish-fulfillment on the part of Jesus’ disciples. After Jesus’ death, they were at a loss; it was only through their revelatory experiences of the risen Lord that the disciples began to understand the Jesus event as a work of God which forever changed the course of human history. As the early believers explained in today’s first two readings, Jesus was sent according to the set plan and purpose of God; through his dying and his resurrection God has worked miracles, signs and wonders in our midst (Acts). All our faith and hope as believers are centered on this mystery (1 Peter).

In his assessment of the resurrection appearances and of the gospel narratives which have preserved these experiences, Bas Van Jersel suggested that these texts were intended not only to inform would be believers concerning the fact of Jesus-risen but also as an interpretation of his resurrection for the life of the disciple (“The Resurrection of Jesus”, The New Concilium, Herder and herder, New York. 1965). In other words, accounts such as the one recorded in today’s gospel help us to understand that faith in the resurrection is not confined to a past event; nor is it relegated solely to a future moment when we also be raised by God from death. Rather, the resurrection appearances represent the church’s understanding concerning the permanent presence of the risen Lord with us now. How and in what manner do we experience him among us? What are the implications of his presence? How must it influence our faith? our life style?

Matthew, in his gospel, told his readers that they would find and experience Jesus in the hungry when they fed them; in the thirsty when they gave a drink of water; in the stranger to whom they gave a welcome; in the naked whom they clothed, in the ill whom they cared for and in the prisoner whom they visited. In another passage, the evangelist assured his contemporaries of an experience of Jesus’ presence whenever and wherever two or three would gather together in prayer (Matthew 25.35-36, 18.20). For his part, the fourth evangelist offered the assurance of Jesus’ abiding presence in the gift of the Spirit. Like Jesus, the Spirit would teach the disciples, remind them of his words and works, guide them to the truth and be with them always (John 14.16).

In today’s gospel, Luke reminds believers that the ultimate encounter with the permanent presence of the risen Jesus comes in the breaking open of the Word and in the Breaking of the Bread which is the Eucharist.

ACTS 2.14, 22-28

The book of Acts has sometimes been called the account of how the proclaimer became the proclaimed. In Acts, Luke builds a bridge between Jesus. who came in human flesh with a ministry of healing and reconciliation. . . who died on the cross for the salvation of all peoples. . . who rose in victory over death and sin to live forever. . . and the church. whose presence in the world continues to manifest the saving plan and purpose of God in human history. In this excerpted pericope. Peter and the Eleven are portrayed as empowered by the Spirit and intent upon proclaiming the good news of salvation just as Jesus had been endowed with the Spirit when he inaugurated his public ministry (see Luke 4.14-21). Among the Israelites, there was a widespread belief that God had “closed the heavens” and that the Holy Spirit had descended on no one, prophet or leader, since the last of the canonical prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Jerome Crowe, The Acts, Michael Glazier Inc., Wilmington. 1983). Aware of this belief, Luke made it clear in his account of Jesus (Luke) and of the church (Acts) that God rent the heavens and came down (Isaiah 63.19) and has poured out his Spirit on all of humankind (Joel 2.1).

Like the other sermons or discourses in Acts, Peter’s reflects a Lucan hand. A literary technique, popular and well documented in Hellenistic literature, speeches or sermons attributed to key character in a story were actually a careful composition of the author and served a vehicle of the ideas he wished to convey to his readers. Constituting approximately one quarter of the book of Acts, the twenty-four discourses vary in form and content; by incorporating these sermons into Acts, Luke has addressed the missionary apologetic and ecclesial concerns of his readers.

In this particular section of Peter’s Pentecost sermon, Luke defends the manner of Jesus’ ministry and death on the cross as a part of the “set purpose and plan of God” (vs. 23) for our salvation. As Joseph Fitzmyer has explained, Luke focuses on “the inbreaking of divine salvific activity into human history with the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth among mankind.” Everything that happened to Jesus, even his ignominious passion and death, as well as everything that will happen to the church because of its faith in Jesus “is a manifestation of a plan of God to bring about the salvation of human beings who recognize and accept the plan.” (The Gospel According to Luke, Anchor Bible, Vol. 28, Doubleday and Co., New York. 1981). But God’s saving plan did not end on Calvary; indeed God raised Jesus to life thereby breaking the grip of sin and death upon believers.

By citing Psalm 16, Luke drew on the support of the Hebrew scriptures, as the other evangelists and Paul, particularly when the intended audience of the discourse was Jewish (vs. 22). This psalm and others like it (e.g. Pss. 22, 110, 118) were used extensively by the early church in their efforts to present Jesus as the promised Savior and authentic fulfillment of Israel’s messianic hopes. Today its words continue to strike a chord in the hearts of those who understand Jesus as the center and culmination of the two testaments (Old Testament New Testament) of our faith.

1 PETER 1.17-21

Someone whose uniqueness distinguishes him/her from the mainstream of human society or whose ideas and values are unsynchronized with those of the general population is often said to “march to the beat of a different drummer.” In his letter to the Christians of Asia Minor the pseudonymous author of 1 Peter encouraged his readers to aspire to a similar description. Having been delivered by Christ from the futility of their former way of life, Christians should subsequently conduct themselves in a worthy manner. More often than not, this required that they cease or forego certain activities while dedicating themselves to a life-style which was consonant with the grace of their Christian vocation.

Earlier in his letter the author had characterized the life of a person before being redeemed as one dominated by ignorance and inordinate desire (vs. 14). As William Barclay (“Peter,” The Daily Study Bible, The St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh. 1975) explained, the pagan world was suffocated by ignorance, convinced by its philosophers that God was unknowable. “It is hard,” said Plato, “to investigate and find the framer and the father of the universe; and if one did find him, it would be impossible to express him in terms which all could understand.” Aristotle spoke of God as the “supreme cause, by all men dreamed of and by no men known.” Coupled with this burden of frustrated ignorance was an attitude of self-abandon with regard to the senses. Whereas “desperate poverty prevailed at the lower end of the social scale,” the higher echelons were notorious for their “sheer fleshliness.” By their own historians’ accounts, Romans and Greeks were shamelessly indulgent. At one banquet, Emperor Vitellius served two thousand fish, seven thousand birds and thousands of dollars worth of peacock’s brains and nightingales tongues. Martial tells of women who had reached their tenth husband; Jerome wrote of a woman married to her twenty-third husband, she being his twenty-first wife. But believers in Jesus, having been rescued from such godlessness were to live otherwise!

In terms reminiscent of the exodus from Egypt, the author of 1 Peter called his readers to be reverent sojourners, faithful to their constant companion on their journey through life, viz. Jesus. By his blood they had been redeemed and through him they had the joy of knowing God. No longer simply the supreme cause who could not be known or understood but only dreamed of, God, the loving Father had revealed himself and his saving plan in the person and mission of Jesus.

Like the recipients of 1 Peter, believers on the brink of the twenty-first century live in societies that are often characterized by interests and values contrary to those of the gospel. This ancient Christian author reminds his readers that their baptismal commitment calls them to center their faith and hope in God (vs. 21) and to “march to the beat of his drum.”

Journey to Emmaus

Like the two disciples making their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, contemporary believers of Jesus live after the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and in the interim between his two advents. Like Cleopas and his companion, we search for the daily experience of Jesus which sustains and strengthens our hope and which inspires our faithful discipleship. In their encounter with the risen Lord, we learn of the manner in which he remains present until his climactic appearance in glory.

In this superb narrative, Luke has provided his readers with a treasure of Christological and apologetic insights drawn from the different levels of gospel tradition. At the very basis of the story was the experience of the first witnesses of Jesus, vindicated by God and risen from death to glory. Surrounding that primitive core of gospel kerygma was the ongoing experience of the church in Syrian Antioch in the mid-80s C.E. In the almost two generations following Jesus’ death on the cross, the Antioch Christians had been encountering the risen Lord in the sacramental breaking of the bread. For his part, the evangelist had structured this narrative in a recognizable liturgical pattern. In both word (vs. 27) and sacrament (vs. 30) the risen Lord is made known and communicated to the believing community.

Notice the motif of delayed recognition which informed this and most of the other resurrection narratives. Initially, the disciples did not recognize Jesus because he was transformed by the glory of his resurrection. Nevertheless, Luke was careful (as were the other evangelists) to underscore the continuity between the Jesus whom the disciples had known during his ministry and the risen Lord whom they were now encountering. He taught them, ate with them and open their eyes to the knowledge of his presence.

As Jesus broke open the word for them (“he interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to him”, vs. 27) the disciples’ hearts began to burn within them (vs. 32). They implored him “Stay with us!” (vs. 29). Then, in a manner which recalled his last supper with them before his cross, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them; at that point, they came to know him. The searching, hoping fire in their hearts was transformed into recognition and faith.

Luke draws attention to the significance of this moment by declaring, “with that, their eyes were opened” (vs. 31). Opened eyes (a term mentioned eight times in the New Testament, six of which are in Luke-Acts) indicated a deepened understanding of revelation. In this instance, the disciples’ opened eyes meant that they had begun to comprehend the mystery of Jesus, dead, risen and ever present. Jesus’ disappearance at the point of recognition (“he vanished from their sight,” vs. 31) was not a disappointment but yet another signal that the risen Lord would remain forever with his disciples in the breaking of the bread and in the sharing of his word.

The experience of those early disciples is ours at every Eucharistic celebration. With fire in our hearts, the word reveals who he is; in the blessed and broken bread the paschal experience is renewed, We who hear the word and share the bread are nourished and sustained. Jesus lives; he stays with us. Hope and faith are not in vain.

 

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2nd Sunday of Easter 2017

2nd Sunday of Easter

Year A 2017

Acts 2.42-47; Psalm 118; 1 Peter 1.3-9; Jn 20.19-31

Fear forms the part of each and every one of us. We fear of sickness, we are afraid of tragedies and fear enters practically every realm of our life.

Today’s Gospel narrates the impact of the Risen Christ’s presence on the fearful disciples. In symbolic language typical of St. John, the Gospel tells of Jesus’ greeting, his breathing on the disciples and his imparting of the Holy Spirit with the power to forgive and to retain sins. The story of Jesus’ later appearance to Thomas highlights the merit of those who will not have seen Jesus but will believe in his presence and his teaching. In this way Christians will experience “life” (v.31).

The Acts of the Apostles recalls the simple characteristics of Christian life. prayer and the Eucharistic sacrifice, instruction in the faith, life and possessions in common. This simple sincerity wins the admiration of others.

Psalm 118 rejoices in the presence and the power of the Lord. In particular, the Lord has protected and saved the just from persecutions and attacks. The rejection and apparent failure of the psalmist, comparing himself to a stone discarded by the builders, has been turned by the Lord into success and revindication, a cornerstone.

The First Letter of St. Peter speaks of an inheritance that is guaranteed for those reborn as Christians. Even now Christians are filled with a joy that is “indescribable and glorious” (v.8). This joy is capable of bearing the trials of this life, which purify and strengthen faith in our future inheritance. eternal life.

The Message

The experience of Jesus Christ. What is evident from the Gospel text is the emotional impact on the disciples of Jesus’ appearance. “the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (v20). Our faith is reflected not only in the intellectual content of our belief, but in the experience of the personal presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. We do not see Jesus but we can, and should, experience his presence in our lives. Our faith is not just a guarantee of future happiness; it should also open our minds and hearts now to a real experience of Jesus’ presence.

Catechism references. paragraphs 426-429 deal with Jesus Christ at the heart of catechesis; paragraph 1618 refers to Jesus Christ as the center of all Christian life.

The Christian way of living. The Acts of the Apostles describes the characteristics of Christian life. of living in and for a community. It is so strong that individual possessions are divided among all members according to need. Prayer, work necessary to sustain basic needs, and the giving and receiving of instruction in the faith are part of the Christian’s daily schedule.

Catechism references. paragraphs 787-795 deal with the Church as Body of Christ and communion with Jesus; numbers 949-953 refer to the communion in spiritual goods of the Christian community.

A time of trials. St. Peter reminds the scattered first Christian communities that they “may have to suffer through various trials” (v.6). The text suggests the durability of faith (which includes the experience of joy) even in the midst of suffering. In this sense the experience of faith is worth more than fire-tested gold. This is certainly the testimony of the first Christian martyrs who were sustained by the experience of a rock-solid faith. The text does not imply a “testing by fire” on the part of God, but the Christian’s sustaining experience of faith even though Christians may have to pass through earthly fire.

Catechism references. paragraph 157 refers to the certainty of faith; paragraph 163 speaks of faith as the beginning of eternal life; paragraphs 1817-1821 deal with the virtue of hope and its effects in our lives.

Practical Conclusion

Christians today suffer from reduced expectations. We have come to regard the Christian faith as something like an ointment to be rubbed on in times of need. The faith is reduced to some words of comfort and consolation when there is nothing else to say or to do. It has become a theoretical doctrine, an abstract explanation of ideas.

The center of Christian life is the experience of Jesus Christ. This contact is real, personal and overwhelming. It gives ordinary people a courage and a conviction that they know is worth more than anything they have. It also gives them a real joy that nothing can undermine. We need, as Christians, to have greater expectations; there is a treasure to be found. Christianity is not a present-day palliative for the woes of life, a mere opium for the people; it is the experience of fire within, an unbreakable all-conquering spirit. It is a love that always gives more.

When we consider the Acts of the Apostles’ description of Christian community life one may perhaps think it refers to some strange sect (of which there are many) with its cultish practices disconnected from normal life. We may also think that it is an impossible, impractical ideal of naïve simplicity. Have we become accustomed to a token form of Christian living? What do we think parish life is? Is it inspired by the desire to hold all things in common, to want to live together as Christian brothers and sisters, sharing a common experience of Jesus Christ? Our lives are certainly more complicated than the scattered Christian communities of the first century after Christ, but nothing should impede our desire to live and to build an authentically Christian life in community.

We have the desire to live in communion with others; we know how difficult real, intimate bonds are to achieve and to sustain. We need to re-examine the state of our Christian communion with others, starting with those nearest to us.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

LivingFlame.ca