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Archive for the ‘love’ Category

The Way of the Cross is a devotion in which the faithful follow the journey of Christ’s last day on earth. Through this devotion the Church has walked from the Mount of Olives to the hill on Calvary with Christ for many years. The Holy Land was a place of particular devotion to the Medieval Christians. Pilgrims would go to Jerusalem, walk the same path of sorrow, with stops along the way to meditate on the events of his passion, and consider the suffering of Christ.

The cross was a burden that Christ took upon himself. That burden is corrupt human nature, sin and suffering that all men are subject to in this life. However the “meaning of the way of the cross is to carry this burden out of the world.” (Hidden Life, p. 91 The Collected Works of Edith Stein, ICS Publications)

Jesus falls on the way to Calvary three times, and the “triple collapse under the burden of the cross corresponds to the triple fall of humanity: the first sin, the rejection of the savior by his chosen people, the falling away of those who bear the name of Christian.” (Hidden Life, p. 92)

The sin of our first parents brought sin and death, but Jesus freed mankind from sin and weakness by traveling this way of the cross. He embraced his passion and crucifixion so that through baptism, with the promises made to renounce sin and Satan, and through our sufferings we may rise with him in the newness of life free of self centeredness and full of joy and service to others.

Isaiah’s prophesies of the Lord’s passion were clear to all who had eyes to see. It was “our sufferings that he endured” and “he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins”. He was also “ harshly treated” and “a grave was assigned him among the wicked” although “he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.” (Isaiah 53) Yet many of the chosen people rejected him as the Messiah. Even today many still reject Christ as savior. Thus the reason for the second fall.

It is the third fall that is of particular concern for our time. There seems to be so much falling away from the faith. Who doesn’t know of someone who once believed and now no longer practices the faith or even believes in God anymore? This is the cause of much heartache, especially when the person who has fallen away is held so dear and loved so much.

Therefore it is for this third fall that we are called to assist the Lord by helping him bear the cross. Jesus was not alone while he made this way to Calvary carrying the cross. There was Simon of Cyrene, Veronica and his mother to accompany him, as well as all the people who love him, and it was “the strength of these cross bearers” that helped “him after each of his falls.” (Hidden Life, p. 92)

Since by Christ’s example we know that suffering is the proof of God’s love for all mankind, we can love the cross and bear with our own sufferings and trials for the love of God and help him carry this burden out of the world. By bearing this burden we become united to God, to glorify him and prove our love for him and for others.

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Lent is such a good time of God’s grace. St. Therese of Lisieux expresses this well in this stanza:

Living on Love is keeping within oneself

A great treasure in an earthen vase.

My Beloved, my weakness is extreme.

Ah, I’m far from being an angel from heaven!…

But if I fall with each passing hour,

You come to my aid, lifting me up.

At each moment you give me your grace:

I live on Love.

(Poem 17, p. 91 The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, trans. Fr. Donald Kinney, OCD, ICS Publications)

Isn’t this just what we are all doing?!?! Keep on living on love faithful readers!

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Elijah is the prophet of mercy. Why? Because mercy is a gift and a call. It is a generous gift and a call to conversion. This can be seen in the life of the “father” of prophets. After considering a reign like that of Ahab, who wouldn’t be left downcast and sorrowful in spirit? Dark clouds loom, every light seems extinguished, and voices are silenced – with death on the horizon. What a scene where all seems to be in the control of Satan himself! But God had a plan. In His mercy, He raised up a prophet. Elijah was to be a witness bringing light and power.

God is wise and full of compassion.

“As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

For he knows how we are formed,

remembers that we are dust.” (Ps 103:13-14)

It is the mercy of God that raises up a prophet in a day of ruin. This He does with Elijah. God seeks out Elijah who is deserting, hiding under a broom tree! But God does not say, “Get up, go back to Jezreel!”

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God is wise and full of compassion. 

The Lord tells Elijah first to rest and sleep. “ “Get up and eat!” He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again.” (1Kings 19:5-6) It has all been too much for Elijah, and he is crushed and unable to think or act clearly.

God is wise and full of compassion. 

He knows that Elijah is unable to process any correction nor is he able to take in any instruction. First, in order for him to be profitable, he needs to regain his physical and emotional strength.

“After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in The Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.” (CCC 2583) The Catechism goes on to explain that it is “in their “one to one” encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to The Word of God. At times their prayer is an argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Savior God, the Lord of history.”(CCC 2584)

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According to the visions of St.          Faustina, the Divine Mercy chaplet’s prayers for mercy have a threefold purpose. First, to obtain mercy, then to trust in the mercy of God, and finally to show mercy.

Christians know that they are not called to bring judgment. They know that they are to bring the Good News of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice to others. When faith is weakened people soon abandon the path to conversion because of their many sins. Then they are ladened with the guilt of these sins which slowly devour them. The role of the prophet is to help others to accept their faults and weaknesses while trusting in the mercy and hope that is found on the road towards forgiveness and conversion which leads to Jesus Christ.

To obtain “mercy” means to be given something that we do not deserve. As sinners we clearly do not deserve anything from God. But here is where we insert the prophetic message – God is merciful:

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,

slow to anger, abounding in mercy.

He will not always accuse,

and nurses no lasting anger;

He has not dealt with us as our sins merit,

nor requited us as our wrongs deserve.

For as the heavens tower over the earth,

so his mercy towers over those who fear   

him.” (Psalm 103:8-11)

When we live in, with, through and for Christ, He will supply us with every grace.Then we can show others the way with God’s mercy. Mercy is God’s love, a compassionate love that seeks and meets the needs of others and relieves them of their miseries.The prophet, Elijah, prays for the widow’s son and he is returned back to life for her. “The woman said to Elijah, “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God, and it is truly the word of the LORD that you speak.” (1 Kings 17:24) 

Sadly, prayer among Christians is a neglected exercise and especially at at time when it is needed most. There is a mutual weakness felt among us, and along with this there should be a united utterance of this weakness that would therefore result in a renewal of our collective strength. From a shared, heartfelt prayer we could, no doubt, expect an outpouring of God’s refreshing grace that would revive those who are resting and satisfied with their dead, cold lives.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, “St. James refers to Elijah in order to encourage us to pray: “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”” (2582) On this Feast of Divine Mercy and inspired by Elijah, the prophet of mercy, let us renew our efforts at prayer entering into that “one to one” encounter with God, and from this draw light, and strength, for our prophetic mission.

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When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Jn 21:15)

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Breakfast on the beach – I have always been fond of this Gospel passage. There is something familiar and ordinary about it. It is morning, a new day has begun and the apostles are eating breakfast with Jesus. It is a new day and a new beginning for St. Peter.

This scene tells us of something so foundational about our faith in Jesus. It tells us that Jesus has a merciful heart. His mercy is antithetical to the scornful attitude of the Pharisees. The mercy of Jesus is like that of the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost. He goes out in search of the sinful in order to find them, rescue them and bring them back into the sheepfold.

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This Divine Mercy extents to great sinners who have repented of serious sin and have turned to Him. His mercy also reaches to those who humbly turn from venial sin only to rise again after each failure committed due to weakness or lack of reflection. Here is where I have sympathy for St. Peter. He was weak, like me. He did not reflect, but acted wrongly even though he loved the Lord. How much I am like St. Peter. I make many resolutions and want to overcome some fault, like impatience! And still, I fail – again and again. But Jesus is merciful each time I repent and turn back to Him.

St. Therese says that He, “thrills with joy when, humbly acknowledging our faults, we come to fling ourselves into His arms, imploring forgiveness; then He loves us even more tenderly than before we fell.”

Since we are poor sinners let us remember St. Peter and trust in God’s infinite mercy.

 

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The greatest obstacles to contemplation is not disposing yourself for it. When we remain dissipated and attached we block the reception of this most sublime gift.

St. John of the Cross in his work  The Dark Night speaks of this desire for contemplation when he writes, “For God does not bring to contemplation all those who purposely exercise themselves in the way of the spirit, nor even half. Why? He best knows.” (Book I, Chap 9) However, in his commentary on The Rule of Carmel, Jerome of the Mother of God, OCD,  says that the saying “He best knows” is a Spanish saying which means: the whole world knows it. Because precisely when one does not do what one ought- then it is clear as day!

How can we excite in ourselves the desire to attain the gift of contemplation?

We often fail to dispose ourselves for contemplation either because we give in to too much activity or because we do not produce enough acts of love. By offering to God a  holy heart, one free from all actual stain of sin, we can at least do our part and strive for perfection.

St. Teresa in The Way of Perfection chapter 17 says, “I don’t say that we shouldn’t try; on the contrary, we should try everything. What I am saying is that this is not a matter of your choosing but of the Lord’s….Be sure that if you do what lies in your power, preparing yourselves for contemplation with the perfection mentioned, and that if He doesn’t give it to you (and I believe He will give if detachment and humility are truly present), He will save this gift for you so as to grant it to you all at once in heaven.”

May all our efforts cooperate with the grace God gives in each moment to prepare a heart, pure and receptive, to receive so great a gift.

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Bernini's St. Teresa of Jesus

Bernini’s St. Teresa of Jesus

 

St. Teresa is best known for her love of God. Jesus Christ increased this virtue and many others in this saint. She experienced many visions and revelations from Christ. One time she saw an angel with a flaming dart piercing her heart. She explains this mystical experience in her autobiography, chapter 19:

“I saw an angel beside me toward the left side, in bodily form…He was not very large, but small, very beautiful, his face so blazing with light that he seemed to be one of the very highest angels, who appear all on fire. They must be those they call Cherubim…I saw in his hands a long dart of gold, and at the end of the iron there seemed to me to be a little fire. This I thought he thrust through my heart several times, and that it reached my very entrails. As he withdrew it, I thought it brought them with it, and left me all burning with a great love of God. So great was the pain, that it made me give those moans; and so utter the sweetness that this sharpest of pains gave me, that there was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God”.

This heavenly gift, this flame of divine love in her heart, which penetrated her being and made her so strong that she vowed to always do what seemed to her most perfect and for God’s glory.

St. John of the Cross explains this fire of love in his work The Living Flame of Love:

“When he wills to touch somewhat vehemently, the soul’s burning reaches such a high degree of love that it seems to surpass that of all the fires of the world: for he is an infinite fire of love. Because the soul in this case is entirely transformed by the divine flame, it not only feels a cautery, but has become a cautery of blazing fire.”

“…it does not afflict it: rather, commensurate with the strength of the love, it divinized and delights it, burning gently.”

May God’s love transform our hearts and may our love of God grow, blazing like fire, burning gently.

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St. Therese of Lisieux’s “little way” was one of confidence and love. In her autobiography she wrote often of her feebleness and how she came to discover her vocation which was to be “love in the heart of the Church”. She came to this confidence because of the capacity of God’s heart and the love He had for her. She was certain that the Lord loved her and that this was not due to her own efforts in loving Him.

Our saint wrote a beautiful poem to the Sacred Heart in 1895. In it she expressed the following:

A heart I need, to soothe me and to bless, —

A strong support that can not pass away, —

To love me wholly, e’en my feebleness,

And never leave me through the night or day.

There is not one created thing below,

Can love me truly, and can never die.

God become man — none else my needs can know;

He, He alone, can understand my cry.

May we too have a confident heart one that loves because we are loved by God for He alone truly knows us and knows what we need.

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