+UNLESS YOU LET HIM WARM YOU MORE Chapter Talk 10th of June, 2018
Fr. Michael Casagram
After an email exchange with Fr Elias, I thought to continue with a few reflections on Pope Francis’ recent exhortation Gaudete et Exultate. In it Francis has a section called “In Constant Prayer” where he speaks of how “holiness consists in a habitual openness to the transcendent, expressed in prayer and adoration.” I am reminded of Benedict telling us in his Rule that a monk is: “to guard himself at every moment from sins and vices of thought or tongue, of hand or foot, of self-will or bodily desire.” He is to “recall that he is always seen by God in heaven, that his actions everywhere are in God’s sight and are reported by angels at every hour.”
Pope Francis then quotes from John of the Cross on how we are to “try to be continuous in prayer, and in the midst of bodily exercises do not leave it. Whether you eat, drink, talk with others, or do anything. Always go to God and attach your heart to him.” So much of our life is designed precisely to bring about this continual awareness of the divine presence so that it infiltrates and transforms all that we think, do or say. The danger for any of us all day long, is to take charge of our lives, to take control rather than let grace inform all that we do. Allowing grace to govern our lives does not stand in the way of exercising our freedom which God respects at all times, but enables us to use our freedom in a way that is wonderfully creative, fulfilling our deepest longings.
To develop this openness to grace throughout the day is greatly assisted by having moments alone with God which Pope Francis, quoting Teresa of Avila describes as “nothing but friendly intercourse, and frequent solitary converse, with him who we know loves us.” We can make prayer a complicated thing and again there is a tendency in us to do this, to develop techniques that work for a time but then, all too easily, becomes routine or habit without inner content and the engagement of our deeper selves. Seeing prayer as friendly intercourse, or heartfelt conversation with God, allows it to become intimate, engaging of the whole of our lives, giving them purpose, full of vitality.
We are daily engaged in the prayer of the Church through the Divine Office but
for these Offices to become fully fruitful in our lives and the whole Body of Christ,
it is so important that we take time for personal and private prayer. In a real way
the one enforces the other, increase the depth of each other. Francis speaks of
how “contemplation of the face of Jesus.. restores our humanity, even when it
has been broken by the troubles of this life or marred by sin.” He then asks us:
“Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s
presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his
gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you
more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. How
will you then be able to set the hearts of others on fire by your words and
witness? If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be
healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord’s heart, into his wounds,
for that is the abode of divine mercy”
Here Francis is basing himself on a sermon of St Bernard on the Canticle of
Canticles. For Bernard, our hearts come alive and energized is when we immerse
ourselves in the wounds and open side of Christ. “For me,” he writes:
“whatever is lacking in my own resources I appropriate for myself from the
heart of the Lord, which overflows with mercy. And there is no lack of clefts
by which they are poured out. They pierced his hands and his feet, they
gored his side with a lance, and through these fissures I can suck honey
from the rock and oil from the flinty stone—I can taste and see that the
Lord is good.”
A little further on St Bernard goes on to say:
“If the mercies of the Lord are from eternity to eternity, I for my part will
chant the mercies of the Lord forever. But would this be my own
righteousness? ‘Lord, I will be mindful of your righteousness only.’ For that
is also mine, since God has made you my righteousness.”
This is a lot like what Ronald Rolheiser has been telling in the book, Sacred Fire,
recently being read in the refectory, about the value of affective prayer for our
lives. Through it we are able to express our deepest longing and hope from life.
Nothing so much delights the human heart as to love and to be loved. And in the
evening of life as St John of the Cross has so beautifully reminded us, this is all
that will really matters. We have only to take the time, have the nerve to honestly
express what is really going on in our lives given to God
+As we come to the end of the Easter season, our readings are taken from the last chapters both of the Acts of the Apostles and the gospel of John. With the coming of the Holy Spirit the Church is empowered to live the gospel, the fullness of the Christian life even as both Saints Paul and John were empowered to do.
When the early disciples thought that John was not going to die because of what Jesus had said to Peter about him, John only suggests what Jesus may have meant by what he said. If we yield to the working of grace in our own lives, allow the Holy Spirit become the very source of our life and vitality, then we too, like John, become his beloved disciples. Death no longer holds cause for fear, for God’s life is already at work within us. It no long matters when the Lord will come.
Let us then, this day, pray with Mary for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our lives, upon the lives of those we love, upon the whole world. Let us pray that we realize and experience just how much we are God’s very own sons and daughters so as to become living witnesses to this divine life to all those with whom we live.
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Pope Francis has a way of saying “We cannot honor our Mothers too much. Without Mothers, there would be no priests or religious, no faithful doing the works of Christ, no one to sing the praises of the Lord.”
On behalf of our Community, “Happy Mother’s Day” to all the mothers with us today, a day when we remember all our mothers with love and prayer!
My brothers and sisters, many of us remember the television series Star Trek, starring Wm Shatner, and the catchphrase “Beam me up, Scotty!” based on the command Capt Kirk gave his chief engineer when he needed to be transported back to the Starship Enterprise.
If we were students in a Catholic school, every year we looked forward to forty days after Easter, Ascension Thursday, a Holy Day of Obligation, which meant a free day from school, when we could play outside on a beautiful day in May and rub it in the jealousy of the kids in public school.
Maybe we thought that’s what the feast was all about: Jesus getting beamed up to heaven, teleported up from the earth …After all, our gospel simply says: ‘So after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.’
The first reading added scant more details:
‘As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. They were still looking up intently as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them, saying “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return … the same way .. you have seen him going into heaven.”’
Well, hard to believe, but “Beam me up, Scotty,” is a misquotation. That phrase was never spoken verbatim in any of the TV series or films. Several things sounded close, but never that exact quote, it something that just took on a life of its own, even became a bumper sticker.
That aside, Jesus really was taken up into heaven, which we recite in our Creed, and will repeat again today: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
His Ascension is an important feast, but it can get overshadowed by 40 days of Lent climaxing in Holy Week, then joyful celebrations of Easter for 50 days, culminating in Pentecost, the birthday of the Church and opening of the Reign of God.
One day, Ascension Thursday, standing alone, lost in the shuffle.
So important a Feast, however, that 20 years ago, the bishops moved it to a Sunday ,to facilitate the obligation to attend Mass, and include as many as possible in celebrating it.
That’s where we are today. The Ascension of the Lord, His ultimate victory celebration. Jesus raised from the dead, now seated at God’s right hand.
The story began with God creating the world, and us …And seeing that it was good. Even when sin entered the world, sin could not thwart Him.God sent His Son to put on our flesh and bring us salvation, redemption.
When the soldiers crucified His Son, fixed a sign to the top of the cross stating “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in three languages, divided his garments among themselves and cast lots for his seamless robe, when they buried Him, even that could not thwart God’s plan.
God raised Jesus from the dead, glorified His Body with new supernatural powers that it permanently enjoys.
Jesus had come from the Father, descended from heaven, and on this, His last day on earth, He returned to the Father …He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father!
If we’re looking for testimony,the Resurrection and the Ascension are the greatest witnesses,the ultimate affirmation of the Son by the Father. No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven… the Son of God!
The Ascension, however, is a statement of our destiny as well. Remember our first two catechism questions:
Q: Who made you? A: God made me.
Q: Why did God make you?
A: God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life, and be happy with Him in the next.
Though we may be sinful, limited, fall short of the glory of God … each one of us is called to share in God’s own life, to be divinized, to be seated at God’s right hand as sons and daughters redeemed by the Son.
We couldn’t have a more basic affirmation of our humanity than in the Ascension.
When Christ stripped Himself to put on our own flesh, that gave our flesh a certain dignity, that God would wear it. But our real dignity culminates in the Ascension,it’s our triumph, it’s a promise that we were created to dwell with God.
That’s what God has done for us, that’s the gift He has given us. Salvation is God’s act of lifting us up to share His own life.
Usually we hear it at funeral masses, but wouldn’t it be more than appropriate for the Day of Ascension: Jesus saying: “In my Father’s house, there are many mansions… I am going to prepare a place for you, but I will come again, to take you to myself, so that where I am, you also may be.”
Or His other words which give us so much hope: “This day you will be with me in paradise.”
Hope is what it’s all about.
Thank you, Bishops, for helping us pay attention to the Ascension of the Lord!
Today we celebrated the holy abbots of Cluny so here was my take on the gospel.. Michael
+(Jn 16:20-23)The gospel this morning points us toward the mystery of God’s great love for us in Jesus, a mystery that stands at the heart of our Christian lives, at the heart of the Holy Rule of Benedict to which the abbots of Cluny were so dedicated.
Jesus uses the image or metaphor of a woman in labor to give birth to a child in which there is great pain but once the child is born, the pain is forgotten and there is great joy that a child is born. Our lives as Christians, as monks are right now in this process of giving birth as each one of us faces the dying to self that must take place in us if we are going to be born into God’s very own likeness. Inevitably we are in anguish but as this new life is born in our hearts, our hearts come to overflow with the inexpressible delight of love as St Benedict tells us and run, even when joints may become weak or fragile, along the path of God’s commandments.