Sunday Reflection, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 18, 2015): Patience

 

 

 

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This Sunday is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here. We are in Ordinary Time for the next several weeks, both liturgically and in my daily routine. The kids are back at school and things are getting back to normal at work. As I get back into the routine of daily life, I am noticing the familiar challenges come up: a too busy schedule, too little sleep, pressures at work, etc. Despite these minor annoyances, I realize I am very blessed with good healthy, a good family and a good job.

However, I am noticing a dryness in my prayer life. I realize that this is normal but at the same time it is making my anxious. Rather than savor the moment for what it is, I want to get past this period. My impatience is showing again and I constantly need to go back to the Patience Trust Prayer that is pasted on my refrigerator.

This week’s reflection comes from Fr. Ron Rolheiser. Fr. Rolheiser does an outstanding job of describing of how God is hopefully purifying me for what is to come. You can find the full reflection here but set forth below is an excerpt:

“[R]eal love and life can only be born when a long-suffering patience has created the correct space, the virginal womb, within which the sublime can be born. Perhaps a couple of metaphors can help us understand this.

John of the Cross, in trying to explicate how a person comes to be enflamed in altruistic love, uses the image of a log bursting into flame in a fireplace. When a green log is placed in a fire, it doesn’t start to burn immediately. It first needs to be dried out. Thus, for a long time, it lies in the fire and sizzles, its greenness and dampness slowly drying out. Only when it reaches kindling temperature can it ignite and burst into flame. Speaking metaphorically, before a log can burst into flame, it needs to pass through a certain advent, a certain drying out, a period of frustration and yearning. So, too, the dynamics of how real love is born in our lives.  We can ignite into love only when we, selfish, green, damp logs, have sizzled sufficiently. And the fire that makes us sizzle is unfulfilled desire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin offers a second metaphor here when he speaks of something he calls “the raising of our psychic temperature.” In a chemistry laboratory it’s possible to place two elements in the same test tube and not get fusion. The elements remain separate, refusing to unite.  It is only after they are heated to a higher temperature that they unite. We’re no different. Often it’s only when our psychic temperature is raised sufficiently that there’s fusion, that is, it’s only when unrequited longing has raised our psychic temperature sufficiently that we can move towards reconciliation and union. Simply put, sometimes we have to be brought to a high fever through frustration and pain before we are willing to let go of our selfishness and let ourselves be drawn into community.

Thomas Halik once commented that an atheist is simply another term for someone who doesn’t have enough patience with God. He’s right. God is never in a hurry, and for good reason. Messiahs can only be born inside a particular kind of womb, namely, one within which there’s enough patience and willingness to wait so as to let things happen on God’s terms, not ours.”

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Becoming the Beloved

God In All Things

believe you are the beloved“You are my beloved [Son]; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22, NABRE).

What more do we want than to hear these words? We all want to be loved. We all want to be received. We all want to please.

I think I have felt and been aware of this longing for love since I was young. As the youngest child in a family of four, I sought to set myself apart. Whether it was winning a cross-country race or performing a solo at the school choir concert, all I wanted was to be seen, to be loved, to be affirmed.

Still, this longing for love didn’t come into real focus until I began the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises a few years ago. The Spiritual Exercises begin with a reflection on God’s love for each of us as God’s beloved son or daughter. God loves us unconditionally…

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Both love and truth are vital

Perichoresis

A man dressed as a city gentleman walks across a tightrope in London's financial district

Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.

God’s saving love in Christ, however,
is marked by both radical truthfulness
about who we are and yet also radical,
unconditional commitment to us.

The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

–Timothy Keller

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (January 12, 2015): Shadow of Death

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[Reflections After a Recent World War I Battle]

“That’s probably why I was more vividly aware of the ‘shadow of death’, and the formidable gift that existence presents us with: an inevitable advance towards an inevitable, sentient end, —a situation from which one can emerge only through physical dissolution … I believe I’ve never felt that to be so real . . . And then I understood a little better the agony of our Lord, on Good Friday. And the remedy seemed clearer to me, always the same: to abandon oneself, with faith and love, to the divine future (the becoming) which is ‘ the most real ‘ of all, ‘the most living’,—whose most terrifying aspect is that of being the most renewing (and hence the most creative, the most precious of all). Yet how difficult it is to fling oneself into the future: inevitably our sensibility sees in it only a dizzy void and restless fluidity: to give it solidity, we must have faith, mustn’t we? Let us pray for one another.”

–– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest (p. 230-31)

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It is GOD Who Converts

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My words alone will not convince an atheist. Yes, Catholics need theology and apologetics, but these disciplines will  not convert  anybody, because Christianity is not primarily a moral theology or a philosophy, but a relationship of love. By focusing upon the reality of  our Christian experiences as they truly are, Christ becomes a living Messiah not only to us, but a visible light to others.

675-a5c77fba-29e2-451d-8672-0592ca4a6af4The contemplative learns about deep trust and complete abandonment to One he knows to be beyond all understanding.  The mystic does not have all the answers; he is not afraid to admit that he does not understand everything and he certainly does not berate or belittle those who are searching. The true mystic  experiences  God as unknowable, not an object nor a thing to be studied.  God cannot be boxed in, defined because He is a mystery. Such  experiential faith  reveals itself in the ground of our being.  This is where dialogue…

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Sunday Reflection, Feast of Baptism of the Lord (January 11, 2015): God’s Bridging the Gap

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This weekend is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The readings can be found here. This Feast is both the last day of the Christmas season and the First Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The Baptism of Jesus is an interesting conundrum for Biblical scholars and theologians. This event is contained in all four Gospels and even the most skeptical Biblical scholars believe that it is a historical event. This leads to a more perplexing question: Why would the Son of God be baptized by a human, not to mention a strange societal outcast such as John the Baptist? I believe the answer to this question speaks to the kenotic outpouring of God’s love.  God, who is love, wanted to bridge the gap between God and humanity.

Today’s reflection comes from Fr. Andy Alexander, S.J. of Creighton University Online Ministries. You can read the entire reflection here but set forth below is an extended excerpt:

“Jesus does not need John’s baptism of repentance for sin. Jesus chooses this baptism to be one with us. He becomes immersed in our reality. We know a similar meaning to the word “immersed” when we think of being immersed in a book or a project. We give ourselves completely to it. We almost can’t think of anything else. At times, when we are completely immersed, it is as if there is no other reality. Jesus is immersed in the waters of the Jordan, muddied by our sins. By walking into that water, filled with all that was washed off of us, Jesus enacts his acceptance of his identity and mission.

But, I can witness his becoming one with me, in the Nativity and in this Baptism, and not let myself be touched by it. Even when I remember that I have been Baptized into Jesus, I don’t always feel immersed in him. I am so pre-occupied with, so immersed in so many other things, other dramas.

Today can be a day on which we can ask for and receive the gift of a renewed co-immersion, a renewed communion with Jesus. And, today we can feel it. Jesus promised to make his home in us so that we can make our home in him.

Today, if we receive the Eucharist sacramentally – even spiritually – we can say “Amen” and mean so much. We can use these or similar words: “Lord, let my heart be open to your being immersed in me, with such complete love, and let me be more and more immersed in you, with growing gratitude.” We might be able to feel what keeps me separate from the Lord and simply asked to be freed of the barrier, the excuse, the tension, the anger, the judgements, the habits which stand in the way of union and communion with Jesus.

Communion with Jesus and immersion into his mission can re-orient us. We can make our home in him, as he makes his home in us. It can free us and give us a renewed reason to live. It can solve so many difficult dilemmas – struggles I might have about how to behave, to act, to respond. Being with Jesus can really help my heart be more like Jesus’ heart. I might have said that “I am not a patient person,” or “I am rough with other people because I respond with a lot of anger.” In communion and immersion into Jesus, I can feel the freedom that comes from the experience of his love and mercy for me. I can feel drawn into loving and being merciful the way he is.

* * *

Because Jesus is immersed in us, and allows us to be immersed in him, our world can be transformed by the power of this communion. We will hear the cry of the poor, the sick, the sinner, as he does. We can become broken and given for others. We can immerse ourselves in the messy world we are called, by our sharing in his mission, to serve.”

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 Other Reflections:

Living Space
John Predmore Reflection

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Agapé Love vs. Conditional Love

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“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” — 1 John 4:8

The First Reading for today’s Mass is from the First Epistle of St. John and one of the most insightful and beautiful readings in the Bible. It is also very hard for me to live by as I am frequently stuck in a “transactional mentality” of only being nice to those who are nice to me or who can help me. I rarely consider others beyond my small circle but much truly love the stranger or those who do harm to me. 

Today’s reflection from Living Space is a beautiful summary of agapé love and something for me to ponder the remainder of the Christmas Season and into Ordinary Time:

What, then, do we mean by love in our reading today? C S Lewis, the Christian writer, once wrote a book called The Four Loves. There he describes four kinds of love, all of which should be part of Christian living. One of these is agape, the form of love that 1 John is talking about. I would like to offer a definition of agape which may be helpful. It is: “a passionate desire for the well-being of the other”.

This is the love that God unconditionally extends to all his creatures without exception. It is the love that each of us, too, is to extend to every one of our brothers and sisters – again, without a single exception. It is an outreaching love; it is an unconditional love; it does not depend on mood, liking or disliking. It is based purely and simply on the need and on the good of the other. It may or may not be expressed sexually but it is definitely not the love that most of the pop songs are talking about.

No matter what we do, no matter how evil or vicious we are, God’s love for us remains unchanging and unchangeable. “Love it was that made us and Love it was that saved us…” as the hymn says. The reason is simple: ‘God IS love’. Love enters into his very being. God cannot not love – if he did, he would no longer be God.

It is strange to say (and for some it may be shocking) but God loves the most depraved person we could imagine and Our Lady or one of the saints in exactly the same way. He cannot do otherwise. Is there no difference then? The difference between Our lady and the evil person is not in God’s love for them but in their response to the love offered to them. One person has a closed heart; Our Lady from the moment of the Annunciation gave an unconditional ‘Yes’ which she never withdrew.

All our loving then is simply an opening of our heart, a return of the love that God has first shown us. When we reveal ourselves as loving persons it is because God’s love is working in us and through us. The sign that we are loving him is also that we are filled with love ourselves, love which originally came from him.

As someone once said, God’s love is like electricity. God’s love is only in us when it is passing through us. It can never stop with ourselves. When we keep that love to ourselves, it dies.

God’s love is available in abundance to anyone who opens their heart to him. May I be able to do that. But that love, too, must continue to flow out beyond me to everyone I meet. It is impossible to separate God’s love for me and my love for others. We cannot have one without the other.

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See also Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) by Pope Benedict XVI

 

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