Blessed are you who believed!

Promises! Elizabeth said to Mary, “Blessed are you for believing that what was promised to you would be fulfilled.”

Those words could be repeated to Mary at the foot of the cross as her son was dying, “Blessed are you, O Mary, for believing that what was promised to you would even now be fulfilled.”

They could be proclaimed at Pentecost, “Blessed are you who believed what was promised! It shall be fulfilled!”

They were sung at the moment of her assumption into heaven, “Blessed, most blessed among all earth’s women, are you, Mary, for you believed, you never wavered, even in suffering you were steadfast in the certainty that God would keep his promises to you.”

Life is hard enough at times, and I think too often we forget the promises God has made to us, words of power that will keep any storm from overwhelming our fragile boats.

Elizabeth and Mary were two women—one too old to bear a child and the other barely a child herself—who became the channel of God’s mercy poured out through his Son in the redemption of the world: Jesus Christ, fulfillment of the Promise.

Both Elizabeth and Mary may have felt that this vocation was beyond their personal capacity…but they believed that what God had begun in them he would bring to completion in his own way, in his own time, through his grace. They knew there were no guarantees, there was no way to control or manipulate the future. What was left to them was praise and joyful wonder at what God was doing in and through them.

In the Responsorial Psalm we hear their quiet joy and firm and solid hope:

God indeed is my savior;
    I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
    and he has been my savior….

Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
    for great in your midst 
    is the Holy One of Israel.

What is God doing in you? Like Elizabeth and Mary take some time today to notice, to sing, to rejoice, to believe, to trust. “God indeed is my Savior, I am confident and unafraid.”

Image Credit: Fra Angelico, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Inexhaustible Mystery of the Eucharist

A priest once shared with me when he really “got” the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. After years of theology, celebrating hundreds of Masses, teaching religious education to thousands of kids, he was asked one day to give Communion to Mother Theresa who would be participating at a Eucharistic Liturgy. MOTHER THERESA, he thought. Probably just about the holiest person on the face of the earth! And he would be giving her Communion! He was amazed and awestruck and excited all wrapped in one until the moment when she stood before him….

It was at that moment that he was unexpectedly surprised with wonder. As he raised the host and began to say the words, “Body of Christ,” his attention was suddenly riveted…not on Mother Theresa…but on Jesus.

I am giving the BODY OF CHRIST to Mother Theresa, he reflected. Mother Theresa had receded into the background of his contemplative focus on the Eucharistic gift he held in his hands. He felt that it would be more appropriate for him to sink to the floor in adoration of the Lord Jesus who nourishes us with his body and blood.

This was an experience that would be impressed on his soul and remain a part of his Eucharistic devotion for all his life.

All of God’s saving activity through the ages from the Garden of Eden  to the Garden of the Resurrection finds its climax in the Eucharist we receive and adore. The threads of his story and ours combine in the glory of the Blessed Sacrament:

The Creator who promised hope to fallen Adam and Eve.
The God who rescued Noah through the flood.
The Lord who chose Abraham, making with him a covenant and promising he would be the father of many nations.
The Liberating God who freed his people from slavery in Egypt, carried them through the desert, revealed to them his law.
The God who through the prophets taught and exhorted his chosen people….

The Jesus who healed and made whole.
The Redeemer who forgave and incorporated sinners into his family.

The Master who invited us together into community around himself and through him with the Father.
The Lover of us all who taught us to love and to live according to God’s heart.
The Savior who knelt and washed our feet and called his friends.
The Lord who gave himself to us to be our nourishment and strength.
The King who died for us that we might have life in total, extravagant abundance.
The Son of God who sends us to the whole world to proclaim him and baptize everyone into God’s life.

O Eucharistic heart of Jesus,

In you I find hope and freedom, truth and belonging, forgiveness and healing, friendship and mercy and life!

In your Eucharistic heart, O Jesus Christ, I experience the greatest love. You make me worthy of love, you make me capable of loving others as you have loved me.

O Jesus, in the Eucharist you rescue me from despair by attaching me to yourself, the Source of all Life. Without you I can do nothing (John 15:5).

O Jesus, by receiving into myself your body and blood I take on the features of your face.

O Jesus, only-begotten Son of the Father, by receiving into myself your body and blood I take on the features of your face. I appear before the Father with your beauty. In me he sees you, his beloved Son. You set me free from slavery (Jn. 8:36) and make me a  child of God. You give me a share in everything that is yours. Jesus “makes us to share in his body, blood, spirit, and everything that is his. It is in this way that he both recreated us and set us free and deified us as he, the healthful, free, and true God mingled himself with us” (Nicholas Cabasilas).

Friend, Jesus wants you to know this:

From your every suffering he wants to heal you with his touch.
The God who in Christ has opened his heart to you can redeem your life.
All social ills find their healing in the Gospel that transforms life and the world from within.
Jesus is the only one who can tell you who you really are.
Jesus Christ himself is both the way and the truth and therefore he is also the life that you are seeking.
The Christ who has found you, seeks out every person to give them abundant life. He will use you as his hands, his voice, his heart, his touch.
Only Jesus knows how to show you the way to happiness.

All the good we desire, all the good we hope to achieve, all the truth we need to understand life, all the love we yearn for and the love we desire to give away to others—all of this we will find in the Eucharist. In the Blessed Sacrament is the inexhaustible mystery of how all creation and all of reality streams forth from the Father’s hands. He desires that we will live “in Christ” and be carried back to him in and through his Son and our Savior.

O sacred banquet!

When we receive the body and blood of our Savior there is sown in us a seed of immortality.

O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.

O sacred banquet!
in which Christ is received,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory is given to us

In the words of St. Angela of Foligno let us cry out at every Mass: “O my soul, how can you refrain from plunging yourself ever deeper and deeper into the love of Christ, who did not forget you in life or in death, but who willed to give himself wholly to you, and to unite you to himself forever?”

By Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Image credit: Cathopic; Exe Lobaiza

Jesus partook of our infirmity that we might partake of his divinity

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon (Jn 1.35-39).

“They remained with him that day” (Jn 1.39). The narrative of the first two disciples following Jesus to see and know where he stayed, to present themselves and to discover if they would be accepted, is so simple, yet riddled with intense emotion. Excitement, fear, desire, tentative trust, hope that risked disappointment, curiosity, and a myriad other motivations were tangled up with the decision to walk after the man John the Baptist had called the Lamb of God. The intense emotions are juxtaposed with the yawning stretch of the afternoon they spent together. “It was about four in the afternoon” (Jn 1.39).

The gospel leaves no record of what occurred that afternoon. What did they discover when they found where Jesus lived? Was it a physical dwelling that Jesus showed them? Did he talk about himself, his dreams, his Father? Did he ask them questions about themselves?

The psychological intensity of the reader of the gospel is, like that of the two disciples, swallowed up in the measured response of the Master: Come and see. The effect of the gospel narrative is to focus the eyes of our soul inward, to a vast, unending, path that leads progressively deeper into the “yawning stretches” of our inner self. In a word, the effect of the narrative is to create a space in which to remain, to abide, an abiding which has less a sense of cohabitation as it does of inhabitation. Inhabitation, in the thought of Augustine, presumes the direct action of God upon the person, the raising of the human creature into a supra-human world. Inhabitation means incorporation into Jesus, being inhabited by the Holy Spirit.[1]

On this journey inward, we discover not ourselves, at least not at first, but the One we are following.

Jesus has vital information to give us about himself, and any self-identity without this revelation of Jesus would be ill founded.

How is this so? First, Augustine states again and again: Jesus was born of God that we might be made through him; he was born of a woman that we might be remade through him.[2] Jesus’ relationship to us is that of Creator and Savior, which defines us as “created” and “saved,” or at least in need of salvation. Jesus raises us and leads us to God.[3]   Our Lord God is the Lofty One, the Powerful One who made us, in Jesus God is the Humble One who has come to make us anew.[4] The chain of sin no longer has power over us because the temporal death of Jesus Christ has killed eternal death: this is grace and truth (cf. Jn 1.17).

Second, Jesus gave himself as the Vine to us the branches. Without him we have no life (Jn 15.5).[5] If Jesus is the cause of life, then without him we are dead. We are utterly dependent on him for everything, since the gift of life is the basic foundation upon which all other gifts are laid. Jesus had no need of us in order to work out our salvation. We, however, had infinite need of him for without him we can do nothing.[6]  In the 15th chapter of John, Jesus tells us not to separate ourselves from him, but this is only after he has shown us that he will not separate himself from us. He attached himself to us, and asks us not to separate ourselves from him who has grafted us into his life.

Third, Jesus was ready to be made low in order to come to us—to leave behind greatness and glory, to humble himself in order to come down to our level. So that pride would be cured, the Son of God came down and was made low.[7] Since the beginning, in the gift of the garden, we have sought to erase the distinction between ourselves and God (Gen. 3). Jesus instead has emphasized that distinction in lowering himself. The Son of God made himself the son of a creature that he might make creatures sons and daughters of God[8]  and in order to cure our pride (Phil 2.6-12).[9]  “I teach humility, none but the humble can come to me” (cf. Mt 11.29).[10]  In the end only those who are willing to hold fast to the lowliness of Jesus will remain with him.[11] Fourth, in Jesus who has sought us and saved us, we are safe from all judgment. Augustine states: Jesus will not cast us out, because we are his members, because he willed to be our Head by teaching us humility.  Even though the Father hated what we had done to ourselves and our relationship with him, he loves us inasmuch as we are members of his Son whom he loves.[12] He who loves his only-begotten Son certainly also loves the members of his Son’s Body[13] which are engrafted into him by adoption. God loves us because God loves what he has done in us. In fact, the divine love is not a reward for our good behavior in responding to Jesus’ work of redemption. There is no other reason necessary for the Father loving the members of Jesus’ Body than that the Father loves himself.[14] So entirely have we been mystically brought into the living circle of Trinitarian love.[15]

Photo Credit: Matías Medina 

[1] “If we contemplate most of our fellow-men, we have to agree that they seldom if ever take into account the direct action of God upon them, let alone that action as raising them to an altogether super-human plane. Even Catholics are apt to see themselves just as beings who are taught what to do and what not to do, though no doubt helped by God to do the former. But how very few attach a conscious habitual meaning to a phrase like: ‘incorporation into Christ’; ‘inhabitation of the Holy Spirit’! On this elevation of the human creature into a super-human world, Augustine without cease insists.” Przywara, vi.

[2] Tractate 2; Also: “Beautiful as a bridegroom, strong as a giant, lovable and terrible, severe and serene, beautiful to the good, harsh to the wicked, remaining in the bosom of the Father, he made pregnant the womb of the Mother.” Ser CXCV, 3. Quoted in Przywara, 180.

[3] “He who was God was made man, by taking what he was not, not by losing what he was: thus was God made man…. Let Christ, therefore, lift you up by that which is man, let him lead you by that which is God-man, let him guide you through to that which is God.” In Joan Evang. XXIII, 6. Quoted in Przywara, 196.

[4] Tractate 10.

[5] Tractate 84.

[6] Tractate 84; Also: “In order that we might receive that love whereby we should love, we were ourselves loved, while as yet we had it not….For we would not have had the wherewithal to love Him, unless we received it from him by his first loving us.” De grat. Christi xxvi, 27.  Quoted in Przywara, 345-346.

[7] Tractate 24.

[8] “He, being God, for this cause became man, that man might acknowledge himself to be but man… Being God he is made man; and man does not acknowledge himself to be man, that is, does not acknowledge himself to be mortal, does not acknowledge himself to be frail, does not acknowledge himself to be a sinner, does not acknowledge himself to be sick, that as sick he may at least seek a physician; and what is still more perilous, he fancies himself to be in good health.” Serm (de Script. NT) LXXVII, vii, 11. Quoted in Przywara, 187.

[9] Tractate 54.

[10] Tractate 24.

[11] “But the Teacher of humility, the partaker of our infirmity, giving us to partake of his own divinity, coming down for the purpose that he might teach the way and become the way (cf. John xiv, 6), deigned to recommend chiefly his own humility to us.” In Ps. LVIII, Serm. i, 7. Quoted in Przywara, 203.

[12] Tractate 110.

[13] Tractate 110.

[14] Tractate 110.

[15] “For it was not enough for God to give as his Son one who should show the way. He made him the Way, so that walking by him you might go under his governance.” In Ps. CIX, 2. Quoted in Przywara, 204.

Prayer for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of life,
you, who came down upon the Apostles
in a mighty wind and with fire,
who filled the house where they were and
gave them the gift of tongues
to proclaim the wonders of God, come down now upon me also.
Fill me with yourself;
and make of me a temple wherein you dwell.
Open my lips to proclaim your praise,
to ask your guidance,
and to declare your love.
Holy Light, divine Fire, eternal Might,
enlighten my mind to know you,
inflame my heart to love you,
strengthen my will to seek and find you.
Be for me
the living and life-giving Breath of God,
the very air I breathe,
and the only sky in which my spirit soars.

This prayer is from the Holy Spirit Prayer Book by Pauline Books and Media. I heartily recommend this treasury of daily prayers and novenas to the Holy Spirit if you desire to surrender your life to the Spirit.

Guest Post: Set out to find the fountain of eternal joy

In the beginning, the Spirit hovered over the waters waiting for the creative Word of God to vivify the earth. The same Spirit waited for Mary’s Fiat before covering her with the shadow of the Most High to bring to the world its Savior.

Today, through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Spirit dwells in us.

St. Paul’s words echo through the centuries: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16) The Spirit dwells in us, and it’s also in us that he awaits our openness to the will of God to come into our life and vivify us.

The Spirit generates in you new life

When we open ourselves to the action of the Spirit we open ourselves to a movement that generates life. It is like a soil prepared to be cultivated: in the movement of the land that has to be stirred, in the movement of planting the seed, and even in the movement of the very plant that grows. And it’s always the Spirit that initiates this movement in us as an invitation to let ourselves to be guided by him, to let ourselves to be guided to participate and to live in the love of the Trinity. But all invitations wait for a response.  The Spirit is powerful, but he cannot make us bear fruit if we don’t allow him to plant and work in us.

But when we open ourselves to the action of the Spirit, the life he vivifies in us bears the mark of the divine, because its fruits are divine. But they are also human. And it is in this balance—so difficult for us to understand and live—that the fruit can sometimes lose its flavor or even languish.

Scripture tells us that one of these fruits is joy: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal 5, 22-23).

In some moments of our life, for many different reasons for each one of us, the sources of joy dry up, and we’re faced with the fact that what makes us happy isn’t eternal. Then we cannot avoid feeling a void, one that ultimately makes us live in thirst.

How to find true joy

Being thirsty reminds me of Saint-Exupéry’s story The Little Prince, at the moment where the boy finds a seller of pills that he says will quench your thirst. This seller explains to the Little Prince that by taking just one of those pills a week, he would no longer need to drink water—thus saving a lot of time (to be more precise, fifty-three minutes) that could be spent doing whatever he wanted. But the Little Prince saw things in a different way: “If I had fifty-three minutes to spend, I would use it to go very quietly looking for a fountain…”

This story makes me wonder: how am I quenching my thirst? The Little Prince very wisely realized that his thirst would remain if he didn’t undertake a journey to find what could truly quench his thirst, rather than just postponing it. Do I want something that will stop my thirst, or will I start walking and look for a fountain?

Do I want something that temporarily takes away my thirst for joy, or do I set out to find the fountain of eternal joy?

In the Bible, the word joy is not a goal in itself; it’s a consequence of God’s presence among his people, a consequence of his fidelity to his promises, a consequence of his eternal love. And for us to feel this love, Jesus asks the Father to send us his Spirit to guide us in the truth and always be with us: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).  We can rejoice because even before our hearts feel abandoned, God is already there with us!

In the Bible, the word joy is not a goal in itself; it’s a consequence of God’s presence among his people, a consequence of his fidelity to his promises

Tomáš Halík, a priest from the Czech Republic, wrote a book whose title touches me deeply: My God is a Wounded God. In our fragilities and suffering, in our attempts to start living again, we have a God who can truly say: I understand. A God who, at those times when we want to rip our hearts out because suffering is so unbearable, can truly say to us: I understand, and I am here.

And it is in his word and in his presence that the source of life is contained which has the power to germinate in us the fruits of his Spirit—and thus also joy. And because the Spirit dwells in us, we should not let fear, doubts, limitation, fragilities, or suffering occupy the place in our hearts that belongs to God, the place that belongs to love. In his love we can rejoice always. 

May this Pentecost be our time to begin a journey guided by the Spirit toward the fountain of Eternal Life!

The first step is to find the joy that comes from the presence of the Lord with us in every step of the way. We don’t need to run, we can go quietly like the Little Prince, we can go at the pace our heart can manage in this moment, at this time.

God understands.

God walks with us, and when we arrive, he will be there waiting for us. 

by Sr Marta Gaspar

Photo by Gabriel Peter from Pexels

Out of My Journal

My life history is a salvation story from beginning to end. There is nothing that is not salvific.

Everything belongs to the story God is writing in my life, the deed of salvation
God and God alone is bringing about.

Even though “I was once dead in my sins,” the fullness of God, who in his power raised Jesus from the dead, now fills me:

He united me into the very life of Christ.
Saved me by his wonderful grace.
Raised me up with Christ.
With Christ, as one with him, I am now co-seated in the glorious perfection of the heavenly Kingdom.

With such great love does my God love me.
(Ephesians 2:1-6)

Guest Post: The Holy Spirit is a very polite guest

About ten years ago I was going through a rough time, the kind of struggle when you’re not sure what to do, who to ask for advice, if the problems will ever end, if you have the strength or virtue or courage to take that next best step. I remember the day I sat in chapel thinking, “You know what I need? What I REALLY need? Wisdom. I need some good counsel and the knowledge of what is right. And I need courage in spades right now.”

Midway through my rather impassioned prayer for these extraordinary graces, I stopped. I suddenly realized I was asking for what I already had. I was asking for gifts that had been given to me years ago: the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I felt a bit foolish, but it was also for me one of those life-changing Aha! moments. God wants me to have these gifts and he made sure they were already there for me. So why did I think they weren’t there? Why did I believe I was missing these vital gifts that would help me through life’s rough times?

Well, to put it simply, it is because the Holy Spirit is a very polite Guest and I hadn’t been a very good hostess. I had quite ignored the Spirit to my own detriment. I had spent years working hard and trying my best. Yet I always, always felt disappointingly inadequate. I wasn’t the strong woman I had set out to be or the apostle on fire I had dreamt of becoming. And now, in a moment of crisis, I found my hands empty.

If I felt like I had missed the fire of Pentecost and those lavish gifts of the Holy Spirit, it was my own fault because I had been given all of the gifts I was praying for. I received all seven when I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Right? That’s what we learned in catechism class. So what happened?

What if you are given seeds of rare and beautiful flowers, but then don’t bother to water them? If you are given the crown jewels but then don’t bother to wear them? If you are given the most exquisite bridal gown, but then insist on wearing your work clothes to the wedding? The seeds will dry up, someone else will inherit the jewels, and well…you won’t be the bride, will you?

So I decided to start by being the persistent widow in the Gospel and find a way to ask for an increase in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. True, it was more out of desperation, but it counts! I made myself a chaplet to pray for each of the gifts three times. And I prayed it over and over again. It was like tilling the soil of my own heart, but it worked. Or rather, I should say the Holy Spirit worked!

Now I know that what I need, even in the most desperate moments, will always be there. I don’t wait for the Novena of Pentecost to pray to the Holy Spirit. I bother him all day long. I am absolutely certain that the Holy Spirit doesn’t mind. He knows I need these gifts to strengthen me for the long haul. It just took that really hard time in my life that couldn’t be avoided to finally open my eyes to the Helper, the Consoler, the Counselor who actually lived right in the Temple of my own Heart. The Sweet Guest who was just waiting to be asked.

I added a Marian flavor to the chaplet by ending it with the Angelus. A reminder of Our Lady’s open and willing heart, and a call for me, by every choice I make, to be like her, right here, right now: pure capacity for God, absolute YES to the direction of his Holy Spirit.

Sr Julia Mary Darrenkamp, FSP

Guest Post: The Entire World at my Door – A Pentecost Meditation

I can’t help but reflect on Pentecost this year in relation to the historical moment we are living as we slowly begin to emerge from a pandemic we’ve been experiencing for over a year.

The pandemic has left its marks, to a greater or lesser degree, on all of us. Like it or not, this year has changed us as people. Despite all the advice on how to live this extraordinarily difficult time in the best way, we realize now as we start to open the doors and emerge from our places of isolation that we have been affected physically, psychologically, and spiritually. And not only we ourselves, but our world and our churches.

The question arises: how are we called to respond to this situation?

In a similar way, after Jesus ascended into heaven, we could say the apostles were huddled all together behind closed doors. Under one roof were the memories of three years of intense discipleship in the company of Jesus, tainted by the memory of betrayal. Sadness and mourning illuminated by a resurrection they have not yet fully understood. The fear of what they might find on the other side of the door that for a while protected them from the outside undermined the hope of the promise of the Spirit’s coming.

But heaven never forgets its promises. On that first Pentecost, the Spirit came and filled the whole house where the apostles were and rested on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit manifested itself publicly in the ability to speak different languages, and the apostles opened the door and emerged from where they had been hiding.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?”

In fact, Scripture does not mention that the apostles opened the door and went out into the street; the Word just tells us the people of Jerusalem could hear them speaking in their own language. But as extraordinary as the gift of tongues may be, perhaps opening the door and leaving was the first act of courage, the first of many, on the part of the apostles. This is important because the gift always comes from God, but the gift becomes sterile if we don’t open something in ourselves so it can come out.

The bestowing of the gift of the Spirit could have happened in a remote place, in a small town, but it happened in Jerusalem, which at that time was full of Jews “from every nation under heaven.” Unbeknownst to the apostles, the whole world was at their doors. The crowds guided by the same Spirit were concentrated beside them and when the apostles emerged from behind closed doors and went outside, every nation under the heaven was able to hear the wonders of God in its own language! Why is this important? Because the purpose of all the gifts we receive is to make the wonders of God known to the world.

Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

 I ask myself if I live with this awareness, knowing that I too have the entire world at my door. I wonder if my heart can open this wide, wide enough to embrace the world. Because this is the measure of the heart of God, the entire world! But can the entire world fit in our hearts?

Something very beautiful about living in community is the opportunity to know the heart of God through my sisters. Letting my sisters enlarge my heart. It is on their faces that I see mirrored so many realities that I do not know, that I have never experienced, that are unknown to me. The Lord touches each of our hearts in a unique way, empowering us to speak a specific language for the benefit of someone, whether in the family, in the community, or in the world. That person is always there on the other side of the door of our heart.

The apostles were also empowered by the Spirit to speak in different languages, to go to different peoples. God wants to reach everyone, and he speaks each person’s language. What a difference it makes when someone speaks our language! I understand this better now that I am in the United States. Even though I have no problems understanding and speaking English, when I really want to say something important, I feel an urgency to speak my native language, Portuguese. Whenever a particular chaplain celebrates Mass in our chapel, at the moment of the distribution of Communion, he says to me in Portuguese: “O corpo de Cristo. The Body of Christ.” This always moves me. Certainly I would understand if he spoke in English, but at that moment it is not the Portuguese that I hear but God saying that he loves me.

Let us not doubt that our openness to the Spirit makes things happen in our lives and—through us—in the life of the world.

It isn’t so much about hearing our own language the Scripture passage describing that first Pentecost is speaking about. It is above all to let every gift we receive become this language of Love. It is to discover that the other, who is different from me, speaks the same “language,” and that I am called to share with that person something about God himself.

Let us not doubt that our openness to the Spirit makes things happen in our lives and—through us—in the life of the world, even things that seem impossible. It doesn’t matter if these things are big or small, what matters is that they contain eternity. Every gift we receive and have the courage to share resounds for eternity.

Today, whether we are aware of it or not, the world is also at our door. It is in our neighbor, in our co-worker, in the stranger we come across in the streets of our city, it is on the screen of our phone or it pops up on our social networks. How many of these people speak the same “language” as us?

At this Pentecost, let us ask the Lord to help us recognize the gift that has been given to us by his Spirit, the language that has been entrusted to us. Every time we have the courage to open the door of our heart and go outside, we will find the entire world waiting for us, a world waiting to hear the wonders of God in its own “language.”

Sr Marta Gaspar

Photo Credit: Mateo Cerezo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Examen on Understanding

Place yourself in the presence of the Lord and pray for enlightenment. Relax. Breathe deeply. Run quickly over the past few hours or days, allowing your real feelings to surface about the events that have been part of your life, the feelings you’ve buried so that you could make it through the day.

Pay attention to the way in which the Lord has been present to you. Where have you felt drawn to the Lord or moved to understanding? Where have you met the Lord when you felt afraid … misunderstood … tempted … relieved … happy? Turn to the Lord with gratitude.

Choose one incident or reaction that stands out particularly for you at this time and which is still not settled for you. Recall to mind the details of the incident and its context, the people involved, and how you feel about it.

Read in the Bible James and John (Mark 10:35-45)

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10:35-45)

There are three different groups in this Gospel passage:

  1. James and John, who recognize Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and voice their desire to be next to him in heaven.
  2. The other ten apostles, who get frustrated with James and John because they think that the two brothers are being selfish by trying to claim the spots at Jesus’ side for themselves.
  3. Jesus, who understands his followers’ desire to be close to him and also wants to enable them to live out God’s plans for their lives.

Jesus understands those he loves. Notice that he does not chastise James and John for striving to have the highest place in heaven, nor does he chastise the other apostles when they become jealous of the two brothers. Instead, Jesus understands that James and John desire to be close to him in heaven which is a beautiful desire. Jesus also knows that they do not have enough information to know what their desire entails. Likewise, he understands that the other apostles are hurt at the possibility that they might not be closest to Jesus.

As you reflect again upon the incident or reaction you have chosen for your examen, pay attention to how Jesus encounters others with a loving understanding. The Lord sees the situation that you have chosen for your examen, and he understands it. He looks at you with love and invites you to grow closer to him. What is it that you want the Lord to understand in your life?

God sees the heart of each person and he loves them. God made all people good, but sometimes their goodness can be difficult to see without seeking to understand. How would approaching others with increased understanding strengthen your relationships?

God’s great love for you is made manifest in the experiences of your life. As you make this examen, the Lord is right now moving your heart toward understanding.

Spend some time talking over with the Lord what you are learning and experiencing. With simplicity express your sorrow for any lack of understanding in your life and your gratitude for any movements you sense toward greater understanding through God’s grace.

Identify one step toward becoming a more understanding person that you want to take going forward, a step that is actually possible for you. Pray for the grace to be a more understanding person.

Take a few moments to bring your thoughts or insights from this reflection to prayer.
Ask God for the grace to live what you have reflected on. Close your prayer time with the prayer below.
You may wish to carry this prayer through your day.

Image by marthaartess from Cathopic