Living Flame

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ARTICLE: Ascension of the Lord Year: B

 

Ascension of the Lord

Year: B

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

Marathon of Hope

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

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

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

Final Instructions

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

Christ is with Us Always

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

Human Experience

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

Faith must Mature

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

Heaven is a State of Life

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

 

Heaven is an Unending Experience

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

Proclaim the Kingdom

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

Faith is What Keeps Us Alive

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

Jesus is Heaven

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

Practical Conclusion

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

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

ARTICLE: 6th Sunday of Easter Year: B

6th Sunday of Easter

Year: B

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Law of Love

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

God is Love

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

Love is the Source of Life

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

Love Revealed in the Son

 

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

 
This is the New Law

 

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

Gift Given to Us

 

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


God is Dwelling in our Heart

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

Real Love is Sacrificial

 

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

 

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

 

Growth is the Proof of Love

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

The Path of Love is Strenuous

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

Practical Conclusions

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

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

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

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

5th Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 15:1-8

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5th Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 15:1-8

ARTICLE: 5th Sunday of Easter Year: B

5th Sunday of Easter

Year: B

Acts 9.26-31; Ps 21(22); 1 Jn 3.18-24; Jn 15.1-8

Do You Know Who I am?

The Los Angeles Times published the story of a commercial airline flight cancellation which resulted in a long line of travelers trying to get bookings on another flight. One man in the line grew increasingly impatient with the slow-moving line. At last, he pushed his way to the front and angrily demanded a first-class ticket on the next available flight. "I’m sorry," said the ticket agent, “First I’ll have to take care of the people who were ahead of you in the line." The irate man then pounded his fist on the ticket counter, saying, "Do you have any idea who I am?" Whereupon, the ticket agent picked up the public address microphone and said, "Attention, please! There is a gentleman at the ticket counter who does not know who he is. If there is anyone in the airport who can identify him, please come to the counter." Hearing this, the man retreated, and the people waiting in line burst into applause. We are like this man. We have forgotten how to wait patiently. In today’s gospel, Jesus invites us to learn his meekness and humility because he compares himself to be the true vine and we are the branches. He does not boast about himself to the supreme, but he says he is one who gives life to us.

Marriage Vows of Convenience

Once I blest a marriage and the couple had come earlier to allow me to slightly change the wordings of the wedding vows. According to them “to love and honor, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part” has been replaced by, “for as long as our love shall last.” It sounded pretty, but what are they really saying? “I promise to do whatever I feel like.” This shows that people’s view of commitment is only commitment to themselves, and their view of remaining is only to remain selfish. But that is not remaining and that is not love and that is not friendship. Jesus is calling us to remain in him, to the end! As he promised to remain in us to the end, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28.20)

I am the True Wine

I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener; he cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.... I am the vine, you are the branches. If a person remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

 

You are the Branches

 

I do not think that there is any better image of the Christian life and of what is supposed be like than this. I want to dwell on this image today and on the promise that is made with it, the promise that says: "If a person remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit". I find this image of what it means to be a Christian tremendously reassuring.

 

What We Are and Where We Are

 

There is so much grace in these words for people who are tired out from all their work or discouraged by the fact that they do not feel they are good enough for God or that they have not done enough for Him. The image of Jesus as the vine and ourselves as branches reminds that salvation and wholeness, and indeed all good things that we experience and produce, come not because of what we do, but because of what we are and where we are.

 

Abundant Fruits

 

Even obedience to the Law of God, that obedience which, as we were told in the Book of Deuteronomy leads to abundant prosperity and blessings upon the land, even this necessary obedience is transformed by the image of the vine and the branches from being something that we strive to do by our own power and might and effort to something that God produces in us when we are attached to him as a branch is attached to a vine.

 

The Plant Dying

 

An avid gardener told me one time about a plot he had planted: He had been very careful to select the best seeds, and plant each one at its proper depth. He fertilized and watered the plants, he worked the soil faithfully each week to prevent weeds from encroaching and he sprayed to prevent bugs and blights from afflicting the young plants. The season was a good one - just the right amount of rain and sunshine, and on the vines appeared broad green leaves and in due course the blooms. It looked magnificent. One day he noticed that here and there certain leaves were dying, certain blooms fading. Most of the leaves remained a healthy glossy green, but scattered among them were those turning brown. Why, he wondered, would some die in the midst of all the living? So he investigated.

 

Stepping carefully among the tangled mass of vines he traced the ones on which the leaves and blooms were dying, until he found that they were all connected to a single stem. There, just above the ground, cut-worms had severed the stalk. The entire vine above that point was dying because it was no longer attached to the roots and the stem that had produced it.

 

How We die Spiritually

 

It reminds us that we die spiritually, that we are incapable of producing fruit, when we are not attached to the vine, or when we are not connected to the roots which nourish us. It also reminds us that when we are attached that the fruit that we produce - indeed the prosperity of the land itself, comes to us naturally, as a gift of God.

 

The gardener does the work and the vine he plants carries the sap and all its nutrition to us, and we, because we are in the right place, prosper and produce for the world the fruit that it needs. All of us want to do good things, we want to produce good fruit, but many of us - in trying to do good things, end up feeling burned out, exhausted and even despairing. This particularly happens to many people in the so-called caring professions - to doctors, social workers, nurses, and the like. They do much good - but many get frustrated, angry, and tired, their ability to help others decreases, and some end up giving up entirely on their professions.

 

How We Live Spiritually

 

There are others - others who do as much if not more, others who are full of hope and of life, full of care and love for their neighbours and their world, who never fall prey to this plague, but rather go and on, touching and healing those around them by what they do.

 

I believe it is because they are connected to the source of hope, to the source of life, to the source of care and love, for their neighbours and their world. The cup of water to those who thirst, the word of assurance to those who are in doubt, the comforting hug to those who are in pain, the gift to those who do not know if they are loved, and the deed of kindness to the one who is in need, all these things are things that God wants us to do, they are part of what Jesus calls the fruit of being in him. They are also the evidence and the badge of the Christian life, proof that we are who we say we are.

 

What is the Fruit like?

 

Let me remind you of what fruit is. Fruit is the excess, the overflow of the life that a plant has taken into itself. The more life that a plant takes into itself the more life it produces.

 

When there is an abundance of sunshine to fuel photosynthesis, and when there is adequate water and nutrient in the soil to be passed up the trunk and into the branches those branches thrive, and grow, and produce, and grow again. The plant and its branches don't have to force themselves to grow, they do not have to make a resolution to bring forth sweeter and more succulent fruit, nor do they need to remind themselves to be more abundant in their production. They simply need to be in the right place, the place that the gardener has prepared for it, the place where the conditions for growth and fruit bearing are to be found.

 

We are Planted by God

 

For us the right place to be is in the vine that has been planted by God and which is tended by God - the vine which we call Christ. My friends, each one of us here today, as people who profess that Jesus is our Lord and believe in our hearts that he rose from the dead, are part of the vine of Christ. We are able to produce tremendous quantities of fruit, conditions are perfect for our growth - because God himself tends us and ensures that those conditions are perfect.

 

Two Tasks

 

All we need do to be fruitful is remain a part of the vine, and perform the simple tasks that every branch performs as a means of maintaining a fruitful life in the vine. Basically there are only two tasks that we need to do, just as there are only two tasks that a branch in a vine does.

 

First - the branch, through its twigs and leaves, receives energy from the sun to fuel its growth. The leaves, by the miraculous process of photosynthesis, convert light into plant energy which helps to drive the system that produces fruit as its end result.

 

Secondly - the branch, through its connections to the stem of the plant receives moisture and nutrients from the soil, it receives the life giving sap that makes its grow.

 

I realize that this description lacks a little in botanical terms, but in theological terms it reminds us of all that we need to do to be pleasing to God.

 

First - the branch receives energy from the sun through its leaves.

 

So we too receive energy when we unfold ourselves before God and accept from him the light he offers to us in his Word, both the written word of scripture, and the living word of Jesus Christ. I am sure you have all noticed how plants track the sun, how they focus on it, how they lean towards its light and turn towards where ever it is. Owners of houseplants know this very well.

 

If they do not want a plant with a permanent lean to it, they must periodically turn the pot it is in so that it begins to lean in the opposite direction, and hopefully, if they catch it at the right time in its leaning, it remains in a nice upright position.

 

They also know that if you take a plant and you lock in a cupboard for even one day its leaves pale and droop and it begins to die.

 

Exposure to God

 

We need in the same way to be exposed to the word of God, we need daily contact with the light it sheds, we need to hold his teachings in our minds and in our hearts so that we might draw from them the strength and energy we need. When we do that - when we lean out to receive God's word, when we absorb his words like the plant absorbs the sunlight, then a miracle occurs in us - God's word gives us part of what we need for life and the production of life.

 

Psalm One says it very well: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on whose law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

 

Rooted in Christ

 

Secondly - the branch is connected to the stem or trunk, receiving from it the nutrients and moisture that it needs. The branch is - for want of a better word, in communion with the vine and through that communion it is able to produce fruit. The same truth applies to us. All the light in the world, all the reading of God's word and meditation upon the gospel of Jesus, will not avail us much unless we are connected to him.

 

The connection, my friends, is established by God; and it is maintained by us through the way of faith and prayer, the way of trust and worship, the way of willingness to receive from God by making ourselves available to God as part of Christ's living body, the church.

 

These things both keep us in the vine and feed us - that we might produce fruit. When Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and you are branches", he also said - "no branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine". We remain in the vine and produce fruit when we desire a relationship with God that goes beyond being content with having parking privileges only.

 

Practical Conclusions

 

We remain part of the vine - when we are willing to obey the commandments that Jesus has given us, - when we are willing to love each other and to love God, - when we are willing to forgive each other and trust God to forgive us, - when we are willing to be seen with the rest of the branches in the vine.

 

We remain a part of the vine and produce fruit when we commune with God - when we are willing to pray to him and listen for his answers, - when we are willing to worship him even if it takes us away from our Sunday dinner and the latest baseball, hockey or Cricket game for a few minutes, - when we are willing to trust in him even when we think that he is not doing enough.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver - Canada

4th Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 10:11-18

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4th Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 10:11-18

ARTICLE: 4th Sunday in Easter

4th Sunday in Easter

Year: B

Acts 4.7-12; Ps 117 (118); I Jn 3.1-2; Jn 10.11-18

 

 

The Hubble

 

Recently I watched a documentary by name HUBBLE in Vancouver. It was awesome and great. I was just asking myself after the movie isn’t it astounding that God who is almighty should be concerned about us? When we think of how big the universe is, it is even more astounding that we are so important to God. Our solar system with the sun at the center and the eight planets revolving around it, is just one solar system in our galaxy called the Milky Way. The Milky Way may have 100,000 Billion solar systems similar to our own i.e. 100,000 billion suns or more with their own planets. It is 100,000 lights years in diameter. The Milky Way is just one galaxy in the universe which is thought to contain about 8000 million galaxies. It is truly beyond comprehension. We are indeed nothing by comparison but in fact we are more important than all the solar systems, all the galaxies and the entire universe itself because we are God’s beloved. God has a wonderful plan for us, and that plan is Jesus - salvation through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

The Love of God

 

When we think of how much God has done for us and how much God loves us we are left with only one response, praise and gratitude and love of God. It is part of our very being, to praise and thank and love God. If we forget in the midst of all our activity how important we are in the eyes of God, what a great loss we have suffered. But when we remember God’s love for us and all he has done for us, our only natural response is to love God in return.

 

Loving God

 

The command in the Book of Deuteronomy, which we hear, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, (Deut 6.4-6) and repeated by Jesus in the Gospel today (Mark 12.29-30), is what we want to do when we see what God has done for us and how God loves us. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is the only response to God who loves us so much. We want to love God by praying every day, celebrating Mass here every Sunday, reading the Scriptures and spiritual books, receiving the sacraments, because we will not be happy if we do not love God. In fact we discover that when we love God we become happier because the more time we spend with God the more we receive the life of God and that life uplifts us, heals us, renews us and invigorates us. So in fact we discover that the more we love God the happier we are.

 

Love and the Glimpse of Heaven

 

We discover that the more we love God, the more we get a foretaste and glimpse of heaven here on earth. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today” (Deut 6.4-6). In fact this Scripture passage was part of the daily prayer of devout Jews at the time of Jesus. Now you know part of the prayers that Jesus said every day as a devout Jew.

 

Everyone is Special to God

 

When we contemplate that God loves everyone as much as he loves us we think of everyone in a new way. Everyone is special to God. The love we know God has for ourselves is also the love God also has for the person beside me, in front of me, behind me, for my neighbor who goes to a different church, for the people I may not particularly like, and the people who may not particularly like me. We are all God’s beloved. And because everyone is so special to God who loves us so much we want to love everyone also. So the second command of Jesus in the Gospel today, where he says that he lays down his life for his sheep (John), which summarizes Commandments four through ten, is not so much a command but the natural thing to do when we realize how much God loves everyone. Everyone is in some way a reflection of God, of the God who loves us, and so we want to love the reflection of God in others.

 

More like God

 

When we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, what happens? We become more like God. We are filled with the light of God. One person who witnessed people filled with God’s light in a more dramatic way than normal was Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990; he was a British journalist, author and media person) which he has described in his book Something Beautiful for God (pages 41-45) which is an account of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Muggeridge and his film crew were filming the nuns picking up the dying from the streets and bringing them to a home for the dying. Muggeridge wrote, “This Home for the Dying is dimly lit by small windows high up in the walls, and Ken was adamant that filming was quite impossible there. We had only one small light with us, and to get the place adequately lighted in the time at our disposal was quite impossible. It was decided that, nonetheless, Ken should have a go, but by way of insurance he took, as well, some film in an outside courtyard where some of the inmates were sitting in the sun. In the processed film, the part taken inside was bathed in a particularly beautiful soft light, whereas the part taken outside was rather dim and confused…Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying is overflowing with love, as one senses immediately on entering it. This love is luminous, like the haloes artists have seen and made visible round the heads of the saints. I find it not at all surprising that the luminosity should register on a photographic film. “(pages 41…44 is the story of another photographic miracle when a priest brought a patient Holy Communion to the hospital) At the time Muggeridge wrote Something Beautiful for God he was not a Catholic but eleven years later he converted to Catholicism and meeting Mother Teresa was largely responsible for his conversion. When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, we are filled with light and miracles happen.

 

Practical Conclusion

Once I was travelling by train and I had wonderful friends that day along with me in my compartment. What impressed me during my journey was the way they were treating us with all delicacy and care. Each one would offer what each one brought for the journey. Then came a deserving beggar asking for alms and food. Well, no one was generous, including me who was feeling a bit nervous in the presence of that ‘good’ company to give something to that beggar. To stop my conscience pounding at me, I moved towards the corridor and gave the beggar Rs. 10 for his food. Did I do well? I do not know. I should have the courage to give something to the poor beggar in the presence of the good company of people around me. What actually means love of neighbour? Is that feeling well when all is well around me and among my friends? No. Love of neighbour means perhaps shedding some of my ego and loving everyone unconditionally. Of course this is difficult but God wants just that.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver - Canada

3rd Sunday of Easter - Year B - Luke 24:35-48

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3rd Sunday of Easter - Year B - Luke 24:35-48

ARTICLE: 3rd Sunday of Easter

3rd Sunday of Easter

Year: B

Acts 3.13-15, 17-19; Ps 4; I Jn 2.1-5; Lk 24.35-48

"Don't worry, Miss, I've got you."

Our tendency is to look for Christ in the extraordinary, the spectacular, the breathtaking. Remember in Superman: the Movie when Superman first reveals his superpowers to the world? Lois Lane is dangling from a cable, high atop the Daily Planet building, screaming at the top of her lungs. Just as she begins her long fall to earth, Superman changes into his flashy red, yellow, and blue outfit and swoops up to catch her in midair. "Don't worry, Miss," he assures her, "I've got you." "You've got me," she exclaims. "Who's got you?" Just then the helicopter that has been perched on the edge of the building begins to fall straight toward them and the crowd below. But Superman merely grabs it with his one free arm and gently sets both it and Lois safely back on the landing pad. When he turns to leave, an astonished Lois stammers out the words, "Who ARE you?" "A friend," Superman replies warmly, and as he flies straight up into the air with a sort of half twist. Lois faints.

That's the way we would like for Christ to come to us. And that is why we miss him. Christ reveals himself as he has always revealed himself "through the Word and through the Sacraments," through the study of Scripture and the breaking of Bread. That is why when we need encouragement we go to our Bible or we go to our church because there, Christ is revealed in all his glory.

What If Jesus Appeared to you?

If you were living in Palestine at the time of Jesus and met him what sort of person would you expect him to be? What would he be like to talk to? Did he have a good sense of humor? When Jesus appeared on that Easter Sunday evening in Jerusalem to the group of disciples it was a gentle encounter. They were frightened after his death but he calmed them, “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” A pretty normal person, don’t you think, someone you could talk to? He wasn’t someone with airs and graces. He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. It was so casual, so normal, so informal and so ordinary! Jesus was a cool person!

Jesus the Man in News

A well-known hymn begins “Reach out and touch the Lord”. If we knew the Lord in person when he was ministering in Palestine we would see how easygoing a person he was, that he had no airs or graces, and that he was easy to talk to. As we read the Gospels we see that he loved other people. He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11.5). Several times in John’s Gospel we are told that one of the disciples was a special friend to Jesus, the beloved disciple (John 13.23; 19.26; 20.2; 21.7,20). When Jesus was healing people he touched them (Mark 1.31; 1.41; 5.41; 8.22-26). He allowed the sick to touch him (Mark 6:56). This is what Jesus said of the sinner woman in Luke 7.44-45 to the Pharisee who invited him to his house, “I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.” What confidence she had in approaching Jesus. How easy Jesus was to approach. No wonder that they said to Jesus in Mark 12.14 “we know that you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because human rank means nothing to you…” Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. They are figments of our imagination, pride and sinfulness but in the eyes of Jesus class distinctions mean nothing.

He was as human as we are

When we suffer great pain we cry. Jesus too cried when he was hurt. When his cousin and friend Lazarus died we read in John 11.35-36 that Jesus wept. Jesus cried before entering Jerusalem for the last time before his passion because he knew they would not accept him as the Messiah and that the city would be destroyed (Luke 19.41-44).

Jesus the Man Who Enjoyed Life

Jesus certainly knew how to enjoy himself. He attended several dinners: the one given him by Matthew/Levi after he called him (Mat 9.9-10; Mk 2.13-15; Luke 5.27-29); at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19.7); and Pharisees invited him to dinner (Luke 7.36; 11.37; 14.1); and there was dinner at Lazarus’ house (John 12.2). At Cana (John 2) Jesus changed between 120 and 180 gallons of water into wine so that the wedding guests could continue to enjoy themselves, and it was wine of the best vintage. (At that time the wedding celebration lasted a week). Jesus wanted people to enjoy community celebrations because they were a foretaste of the banquet of heaven. Obviously Jesus enjoyed such occasions himself because of the description of him, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7.34)

He was Close to Social Issues

When there is injustice we become angry. Jesus too became angry when he saw injustice. He drove the money-changers out of the temple (Mat 21.12-13). Anger is an emotion we are uncomfortable with because we handle it badly. Anger, like every emotion, is neutral, neither good nor bad. What makes it good or bad is what we do with the emotion. We can sometimes take our frustration with one person out on a different person but when Jesus vented his anger, he never directed it at the wrong person, always at the appropriate person. Jesus never did anything violent against any person. Anger is good when it arises from a suitable cause, when it is properly directed and correctly expressed. Anger has to be expressed in some way and let go, otherwise it eats into the person. Jesus didn’t hold onto anger; he expressed it and let it go. That was a healthy way to live.

Jesus was Troubled

Like all of us, Jesus was afraid when faced with something dreadful. We all know about Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane when he asked his Father to let the chalice of his passion pass him by. But in John 12.27 Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled.” Imagine Jesus saying his soul is troubled! Very human and ordinary, don’t you think? How did Jesus cope when he was troubled? He prayed and then he was uplifted once again so that in the following verse Jesus said, “Father, glorify your name.” If our prayer is working, if we are praying properly, it should also uplift us as it uplifted Jesus.

Jesus under Trial

We suffer many temptations and Jesus also was tempted on many occasions not only in the desert for 40 days. During the Last Supper, in Luke’s version, Jesus says, “You are the men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials” (Luke 22,28). Through Peter, Satan tempted Jesus, when Peter said he must not suffer and die in Jerusalem (Mat 16.21-23; Mark 8.31-33). Jesus reply was “Get behind me Satan.” Jesus was tempted in every way that we are (Heb 4.15).

Jesus’ Humanity

A document of Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 22, says Jesus “laboured with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart. Born of Mary the Virgin he truly became one of us and, sin apart, was like us in every way.”

Proof of the Resurrection

All of that brings me back to our Gospel today and the gentle meeting between Jesus and his disciples. They were frightened after his death but he calmed them, “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” A pretty normal person, don’t you think, someone you could talk to? He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. Reach out and touch the Lord! He is waiting for you. You can tell him everything. You do not have to hide anything. Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. Reach out and touch the Lord. “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.”

Back in the Trenches

 

There is a story of a British soldier in the First World War who lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost. In the darkness, he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the post so that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost, he had climbed a roadside crucifix. Then he remembered the One who had died for him . . . who had endured . . . who had never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches. ("To Illustrate," Preaching Magazine, Jan-Feb 1989.) Maybe that's what you and I need to do in the moments of our distress and darkness, “strike a match in the darkness and look on the face of Jesus Christ.” For Christ is here. He comes to us just as he came to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus even though we may not recognize him. He takes the initiative. He knocks on the door.

 

Practical Conclusion

 

Jesus’ humanity inspires us to become like him. We need to shed all our self importance, pride, egoism and selfishness so that we may be elevated to Christ in his body. This process should help us usher into new life in Jesus.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

2nd Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 20:19-31

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2nd Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 20:19-31