April 30, 2011

Divine Mercy Sunday

What makes our prayer for mercy powerful, capable of changing not only our lives but the whole world?  From my childhood, Pope John Paul II helped me learn to be confident in prayer.  In particular, his efforts restoring the devotion to Divine Mercy proposed by Sr. Faustina Kowalska as well as his encyclical on Divine Mercy have helped me deal with personal suffering and begin to learn to be merciful to others.  The secret to confidence in prayer is union with Christ - He perfects our prayer.

For the last nine days, my family has gathered each evening to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for ourselves and the whole world.  The prayers "Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus" and "For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy" are deep and rich.  They dispose the soul to the logic of God's mercy, the logic of the Cross.  They also are Eucharistic - and help me think about the sacrificial and liturgical dimensions of our faith.  The death of Christ released his saving power into the world and his resurrection restores and raises up the dignity of humanity so that we might pray in a way the pleases God.  The power of Christian prayer is its union with the prayer of Christ, the Heavenly Man, whose prayers are always heard by the Father.

Christian prayer filled with the Holy Spirit is taken up by the Risen Lord from our hearts into His Heart where our human weakness is infused with divine power.  In  the sanctuary of his Heart, our prayer is transformed into something beautiful for God, something worth offering to the Father. This is because in His Heart all that is true, noble and good about humanity has been rescued from death and raised up above the heavens.  Our prayers find their place in this heavenly humanity of Jesus.  These prayers breathed in the believer by the Holy Spirit co-inhere in Him and His prayer co-inheres in them. In such prayer God is praised, and men and women are heard.  Elisabeth of the Trinity contemplated how this union of hearts with the Lord "thrills" the heart of the Father, and Faustina Kowalska understood how our prayers made pleasing and acceptable by the blood of Christ extend the splendors of his power and glory to the whole world.

For those who are celebrating the mercies of the Lord tomorrow,  for those joined either physically or spiritually with the beatification of John Paul II on this great Feast of Mercy, we are participating in a great spiritual revolution which the world needs today more than ever.  Our prayers are no mere exercise in sentimentality or mental hygiene. Joined to Christ, they have the power to change the world.  Our prayers ride on the waves of the divine mercy that flow from the heart of Christ.  Have confidence in the power of God and pray ardently - for He is the unfailing Fount of Mercy who counts on our prayer and our witness.  It is his plan to use our frail efforts, our humble prayer, to envelop the whole world in His power of love, especially those people and places that are most in need.  Hope in God ...He hopes even more in you.

April 28, 2011

How are we able to hold fast to our faith? He is Risen!

In the midst of our busy lives, it is easy to be overwhelmed and to feel overcome by difficult circumstance.  For those who strive to pray, Christ risen from the dead allows us to taste this only in order to help us come to spiritual maturity.  He himself comes to give us hope, that we might stand firm and not lose heart.   This is the great spiritual battle of prayer - our victory is assured because Christ rose from the dead and has not abandoned us.   It was along these lines that, to encourage the faithful entrusted to his care, an ancient author once wrote:

"As we have born the image of the earthly man, the image of human nature grown old in sin, so let us bear now the image of the heavenly man: human nature raised up, redeemed, and purified by Christ.  We must hold fast to the salvation we have received."

Christ comes to those who trust in Him, and He is constantly coming in ever new ways.  He is there, risen from the dead, to help us hold fast - enveloping us in his love and establishing us in his truth.  He silent presence knocks on the doors of our hearts.   His voice whispers in the stillness of our prayer.  He gently admonishes the wayward and leaves the proud vexed.  He firmly defends the innocent. He patiently seeks the lost.  He lifts up the lowly.  He lovingly gazes into the eyes of those who hold fast, and gratefully rests in the hearts of the humble.  He speaks of beautiful mysteries that await those who will persevere until the end.  

To be visited by the Lord in this way is not merely to have good feelings or pleasant thoughts.  He who is risen in the flesh to new life offers us heavenly power over everything that seeks to dehumanize us in this present old life.   If someone is trapped in sin - call to Him, for He is the unconquered liberator.  If someone is overwhelmed with sorrow - go to Him, for He is the Consolation of all consolations.  If someone has been unjustly treated - Jesus the King of Righteousness takes up your cause.  If someone is anxious and it seems that death itself overshadows you - fear not for the Prince of Peace is at your side.

Christ is truly risen!  Real power flows from his glorified body and He longs to show us the victory He beholds even now. This is why Easter is the greatest of all feasts ever known - it contains the essence of Christian hope, the secret of true prayer, a glimpse of the victory God yearns to realize in our own lives.   Trust in Him who comes for you - hold fast to the salvation you have received, bear the image of the Heavenly Man - raised up, redeemed, purified by his blood.  

April 21, 2011

The Glory of the Lord

Only those who enter into his prayer with their whole lives really come to understand the heart of Christ.  From his heart, an endless sea of the deepest and most noble of human desires flow with divine power.  The most intimate of these was offered the night before he died, “Father, I will that where I am, those whom you have given me may be there with me so that they might contemplate the glory you have given me from before the creation of the world.”

This prayer of Jesus, uttered with full knowledge of his impending passion and death, assumes we understand what glory the Father gives to Jesus.  Glory is the radiance of personal greatness, and true glory is almost always hidden in this world.   The one who sees someone in his glory really knows the truth about that person.   To see the glory of the Lord is to know who he is.  His eternal glory is revealed on the Cross - where God has died that men might live.

Entering into the events of Christ's passion grounds prayer in this eternal glory.  Without entering into Christ’s passion and death, prayer remains merely a nice thought, a polite thing to say.   To really learn to desire what God desires, to really know what to ask for and how, this can only be learned when we follow Christ crucified from Gethsemane to Calvary. For the Christian as it was for Christ, our “if it is your will let this cup pass” must become “into your hand I commend my spirit.”

The threshold into the deepest mysteries of our humanity is always close to us: persevering in kindness in the face of hatred, suffering for righteousness sake, forgiving and seeking forgiveness from one's enemies, making all kinds of renunciation, accepting humiliation and enduring even what seems to be abandonment by God.   Such are the things of real love.  Not only do they test us, but even more, these humble actions attract God and make of our prayers something beautiful in His eyes.  This is because such things make our prayer a participation in the glory of the Lord.   

April 18, 2011

The Passion of Word and Silence

This week we make pilgrimage with the Word made flesh to the Cross.  We walk with crowds who welcomed Him, souls who could not stay awake with Him, souls who betrayed Him, souls who denied him, souls who falsely accused Him, souls who mocked Him, souls who abused Him, souls who ignored Him, souls who condemned Him, souls who were too afraid to stand for Him, souls who ran from Him, souls who wept over Him, and souls who followed Him.  This week I remember that I have been, in different ways, all these souls - and it is time to ask the Lord for his grace, to get up and to follow Him on the Way.  This week, whoever we are, Christ crucified looks on us with love - his eyes searching for our eyes, his heart thirsting for ours.

It was the Beloved Disciple who stood at the foot of the Cross with the Mother of God's son - they stood in faith believing even in the face of the anti-thesis of all for which they had hoped.  It was there Christ entrusted one to the other - so that every Beloved disciple who takes her into his home learns the wisdom of this moment.   This is the moment where the immortal Word weds our mortal silence - embracing our death that we might finally live life to the full.  May the Lord draw us into this moment - the moment which discloses the immensity of his inexhaustible love.

April 15, 2011

Road to Hope

Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan while Archbishop of Saigon turned prisons in Vietnam into places of hope not only for his fellow prisoners but also for their guards.  The Communists tried to break him by torturing and tormenting him.  He endured nine years of solitary confinement in his thirteen years of prison. Humiliated, mocked, threatened, beaten - sometimes it was difficult for him to utter even simple vocal prayers.  Yet he was never overcome.  He kept extending the hand of forgiveness and friendship to his tormentors.  He never failed to find ways to encourage his fellow inmates.  In the most difficult situations, Christ crucified gave him all he needed and he learned to rely on Him alone.  By keeping his eyes on the Lord, he understood that he was on a journey even in prison, and that the trail he was blazing was a road to hope:

"If you desire to reach the end of this Road to Hope, you must be fearless, and to be fearless means not wandering about aimlessly.  How many people stood beside our Lord at the foot of the cross?"
Road to Hope, trans. Peter Bookallil, Boston: Pauline Books and Media (2001), 9.

April 6, 2011

The Mystery of the Cross

The Cross of Christ is the threshold where the broken heart of God embraces the broken heart of man.  There is no other way to God.  No technique, no method, can replace the Cross.  No amount of self-indulgence, insobriety or concern for worldly affairs can give us life like the moment of Golgatha.  In Christ crucified He shows us our sins against the vast horizons of his love.  If we allow these unimaginable horizons to pierce us to the heart, to draw us out of ourselves and into Him, then there is the most beautiful of all encounters.  This is a real heart to heart: we ponder the truth about ourselves in Him and God contemplates the truth about Himself in us.

Some say that they cannot find the Cross in their life.  They cannot find sacrifices to make.  If this is really true, I do not think it is, it means that there is a lack of love.  We can only truly love at our own expense.  Whenever we set out to do something beautiful for God, whenever we try to love to the end, we must go by the way of the Cross.  Only when we have spent ourselves for the Lord and for those He has entrusted to us do we begin to taste this mystery.  Here, the limits of our humanity meet the limitlessness of God.

April 1, 2011

You are a Temple of the Holy Spirit

Some points for prayer-

Since the Blessed Trinity is living in you, 
you are the temple of God.  
You are also a holocaust, a word of unending praise, 
a flower of great beauty offered up to God.   
Francis Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, 
The Road to Hope: A Gospel from Prison

Here there is an interiority, 
a depth which lies beyond the merely natural, 
as far beyond the natural depth of soul 
as the "realm" where God is enthroned, 
and where our "glory to God in the highest" seeks Him, 
and is beyond all thoughts and feelings of natural sublimity.  
This interiority has been given to us by Baptism, 
and now Christian practice must lift it 
beyond the natural world of feeling and thinking.  
Romano Guardini, 
Learning the Virtues that Lead you to God

The Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, 
and his Word he speaks always in eternal silence, 
and in silence must it be heard by the soul.  
St. John of the Cross, 
Sayings of Light and Love

In the heaven of her soul, the praise of glory 
has already begun her work of eternity.  
Her song is uninterrupted, 
for she is under the action of the Holy Spirit 
who effects everything in her; 
and although she is not always aware of it, 
for the weakness of nature does not allow her 
to be established in God without distractions, 
she always sings, she always adores, 
for she has, so to speak, 
wholly passed into praise and love 
in her passion for the glory of her God.
Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity, 
Heaven in Faith