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Today’s Readings[1] and Failure

It struck me today that the success rate for prophets was quite miserable. In fact, most were at least not listened to, particularly by the religious officials, if not killed. But, as today’s first reading pointed out: And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—they shall know that a prophet has been among them. {Ez 2:5] [2]

The other two readings also relate “failures,” Paul’s to get God to remove the thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan…And God’s answer to his three pleas: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. [2Cor 12:7-9]

Jesus, too, felt the pain of failure and rejection, particularly from his kinfolk and neighbors. In fact, they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” …He was amazed at their lack of faith. [Mk 6:3-4,6]

And of course the worse failure of all seemed to be the cross, Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. [1Cor 1:23-25]

I think God’s telling me something: that the important thing is not to win or even lose, it’s to obey, to show up, to be there, to witness however poorly that turns out…which is what Paul meant when he said: I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, [all types or signs of failure] for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. [2Cor 12:9-10]

I then made today’s meditation [below] which had to do with the fruits of the Spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.[Gal 5:22-23] And I realized for the first time that neither these nor the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord (wonder and awe) [Is 11:2] are geared to success [nor, again, failure for that matter] but to just doing the Lord’s will and letting the results reside with Him.

Just goes to show you that God can still teach this old dog new tricks….

[1] 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: EZ 2:2-5; 2 COR 12:7-10; MK 6:1-6

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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MEDITATION ON THE ASCENSION: WHY CAN’T YOU STAY? …a repeat

Posted on May 14, 2015

WHY CAN’T YOU STAY?

I don’t know about you, but I often wish that Jesus was still among us, that he had not ascended,  and that I could see Him and talk to Him.  It would simplify a lot of things: He would be here to explain exactly what He meant about this or that, He could, if he wished, solve world crises, He could, if He wished, cure all sickness, eliminate all violence, and bring heavenly peace to the world…

That’s not the way it happened however.  After His Resurrection, He appeared to various people and groups, and, as Paul points out, even when He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once [1Cor 15:6], it was always “at one time.” His appearances were temporal, i.e. within time and space, one at a time, as Paul again testified: after that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. I am not saying that He could not, had He wished, bi- or multi-located simultaneously, but to validate His true human Resurrection in a single human body, He demonstrated his presence by enjoying fish with His apostles at least twice [Lk 24:43; Jn 21:15] and by showing his disciples his hands and his feet [Lk 24:39-40] and by having Thomas put his finger in the holes in his hand and his hand in the hole in his side [Jn 20:27],and by appearing in only one place at one time.

But then I begin thinking about it and that wouldn’t have been such a good idea.  Why didn’t He remain on earth, which He could have done, I was consider what that would have meant.  It certainly would have had a negative impact: (a) if He continued His single place at a single time, He would either have had to stay in one place, in which case, the world would be on pilgrimage to Him, the place would have been totally mobbed, and no matter how many Trinitron huge screens they set up, it would not have been enough; (b) if he did appear from place to place, he would have, perforce, been distanced from at least most of His followers all the time, especially those who were too poor to make the trip, but these were the very people with whom He identified; (c) He would be able to show the common touch to each “lucky” soul only every once in a while, having to make the entire circuit of the world; meanwhile the rest of humanity longed for his comforting; (d) while, because of His resurrected status, He himself would be immune from assassins, the ire of his opponents would have been turned on His followers even more ferociously than has happened.   And I am not even taking into consideration the historical, political and social ramifications, all of which would have been significantly impacted by His presence and periodic appearances.

The spiritual ramifications would have been even more devastating.  The value of the Eucharist, His Divine and human presence in our midst, would have been undermined… “if we can see him in person, isn’t that better than His Body and Blood in transformed Bread and Wine?” The only sacred place on earth would be where He was at that particular time.  Reconciliations through priests would be considered at least second rate in comparison with a one-on-one with Jesus.  How could 1 billion people share a meal…we couldn’t even get to the same place, the same table, at the same time.  Would He have had to devote Himself to “running” the Church…and, if He continually sent out new disciples to minister to His people, they would have been considered inferior to seeing “The God/Man” in person.  Contemplation would loose its efficacy; it would be considered much better to be physically in His presence.  In essence, His whole emphasis on the worship of the Father through Him would have given way to the misplaced human idolatry of Him by the paparazzi on earth, with little or no thought to the inevitability of the eschatological heavenly Kingdom, let alone the innate purpose here on earth of each to praise, reverence and serve God, loving Him with our whole heart, our whole mind, all our strength and all our soul.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Why and how I write these mediations

Brief excursus on why I write these mediations:

  1. I mediate because I want to talk to God, to discuss with God what He has revealed to me, to us.
  2. I mediate on these particular topics because they are what are effecting my relationship with God at the present moment.
  3. I write these meditations because (a) I have difficulty focusing without writing, and (b) I am able to express myself better in writing than in speaking or simply thinking.

How I write these meditations:

  • The initial impetus is usually either (a) an insight that the Holy Spirit has given me concerning a particular verse in Scripture; (b) the next verse in the chapter on which I was meditating; or (c) an event or reaction to an event which needs sorting out.
  • While I usually start with the literal meaning, context, etc., the Holy Spirit usually has other ideas about what the import of this verse is in my life right now and we go spiraling off in that direction.
  • Based on the twelve step program’s theory that what is most personal is most generally applicable, I try to keep the focus on my relationship to God, using first person pronouns. As I am given to holding forth on what “we” all should do, I frequently fail in this. My apologies. I at least try to catch this the second time through before posting anything.

Against the “They”

“Perfect Resignation”

 St. Joseph Pignatelli, SJ 

 My God, I do not know what must come to me today. 

But I am certain that nothing can happen to me that you have not foreseen, decreed, and ordained from eternity.
That is sufficient for me.
I adore your impenetrable and eternal designs, to which I submit with all my heart.  I desire, I accept them all, and I unite my sacrifice to that of Jesus Christ, my divine Savior.
I ask in his name and through his infinite merits, patience in my trials, and perfect and entire submission to all that comes to me by your good pleasure.
Amen.

Nada te turbe

Teresa of Avila

May nothing disturb you. May nothing astonish you. Everything passes. God does not go away. Patience can attain anything. He who has God within, does not lack anything. God is enough!

The Glory of the Father

While we focus on Jesus on this Easter Sunday, it is to the glory of the Father that Jesus is risen; Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. [1Pet 1:3] God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [Jn 3:16-17]

Jesus himself said: If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me. [Jn 8:54]  Paul reminds us that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[Phil 2:11]

The Father’s Plan of Salvation. [Eph 1:3-14]Eph 1-3-14

Comforted [1]

The need to do something, to alleviate the suffering, to comfort those in the midst of pain… For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ [Mt 25: 35-6] [2]

On impulse. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.[1Jn 4:18] In spite of the soldiers, she rushes to Him, takes her veil and wipes His face. The soldiers thrust her aside and prod Jesus on.

She did so little, but she received so much. Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”[Mt 10:42] She had no water but she gave her veil off her own head,…and received a reward.

That she received an imprint of his face on her veil is a matter of legend.  That anyone who helps another for the sake of Christ receives a reward is a matter of faith and justice. Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. [Mt 25:40] Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.[Mt 10:32]

What of my image? “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust...So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Mt 5:43-45,48][3]

If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. [Mt 19:21]  What a standard…even the Apostles complained about this one: When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” [Mt 19:25-26]  Ignatius cut through the conundrum with “active indifference:”“Indifference is a distance from things that allows a person to freely choose ‘without prejudice.’  It is a distance from things that makes true vision possible.  Ignatius is asking everyone to love themselves and all things as coming from God.  Yet each is to “stand apart” from all created things in an inner freedom which awaits God’s desire and invitation.”[4]

Jesus asks love. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. [1Jn 4:20]

Father, you gave Veronica Jesus’ image for wiping His face.  Help me, Father, to see His face in every person I meet today and to wipe away their tears.  Amen.

[1] Her name is from the Latin phrase vera icon meaning “true image”. According to legend, the veil bore the likeness of the face of Jesus not made by human hand, and, though lost, the tradition reminds me of Mary’s imprinting her image of the cloak of Juan Diego which is displayed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited Marian shrine in the world.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[3] Luke equates perfection with mercy. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful. [Lk 6:35-36]  Thomas views mercy as removing defects; it is what is given over and above justice; it is the overflow of God’s goodness beyond what is “due,” as if we had anything “due” us. [ST I, q. 21, a. 3,4] Thus, one can view all creation, all that we have, all that we are, everything as a manifestation of God’s mercy.  Thus, the true meaning of the Publican’s prayer takes on enormous depth: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” [Lk 18:13]

[4] John J. Callahan, S.J., Discovering a Sacred World: Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises And Its Influence on Education, Heartland III, May 22-25, 2000, Creighton, University, http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/Heartland3/r-discovering.html; see also the 3rd Class of Men, The Spiritual Exercises, “The third want to rid themselves of the attachment, but want so to rid themselves of it that they have even no liking for it, to keep the thing acquired or not to keep it, but only want to want it or not want it according as God our Lord will put in their will and as will appear to them better for the service and praise of His Divine Majesty; and meanwhile they want to reckon that they quit it all in attachment, forcing themselves not to want that or any other thing, unless only the service of God our Lord move them: so that the desire of being better able to serve God our Lord moves them to take the thing or leave it.” Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Trans. Fr. Elder Mullan, S.J. (New York, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1914), Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/ignatius/exercises.xiii.vi.html

Coerced

God, what are you doing to me?  I have enough problems of my own. I’m just coming in for Passover, minding my own business. How did I get roped into carrying somebody’s cross. This is the ultimate!…Why Me! Why pick on me?

Simon, Simon, “if you knew the gift of God and…” whose cross it is you’re carrying, “you would have asked him and he would have” helped you carry your own cross.[Jn 4:10]  It was not by chance that I picked you, Simon.  It may seem to you that way. But “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”[Is 55:8-9]

Why you?  Because I love you!

I do nothing in vain…I know what I am about.[1] I created you to do My Son a definite service; I have committed this work to you which I have not committed to another. You have a special mission.

You are fortunate; you know it in this life, indeed, you are beginning a whole new life right now, climbing up this hill…You are necessary for my purposes, as necessary in your place” accompanying My Son as the archangel Raphael who accompanied Tobit [Tobit 12:15]—You have a part in this great work; you are a link in a chain, a bond of connection between My Son and His destiny.  I have not called your from the crowd for naught. You shall do good, You shall do His work; You shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in you own place, while not intending it, if you but…serve Him in this, your privileged calling.

I have determined, unless you interfere with My plan, that you should reach that which will be your greatest happiness. I love you, Simon. I call you by your name. I know what you can do, what you can best be, what is your greatest happiness, and I mean to give it to you.

While I know what is your greatest happiness, like being yanked from the crowd, you do not.. Thus I may seem to lead you by strange ways, realize that I want your greatest happiness.

You do not know what your happiness is nor the way. My Son is the light of the world; He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. You are blind; left to yourself, you should take the wrong way.

Leave it to Him. He will lead you right, though that be up the hill to Calvary. He will bring you to that which is not indeed what you may think best, not what is best for another, but what is best for you, Simon.

Trust Him.

That when we have trials and tribulations thrust onto us, we may recognize and accept our calling to help Jesus carry His cross.

As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. [Lk 23:26] [2]

[1] This soliloquy is an adaptation of Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s mediations for March 6 and 7, 1848. He wrote in the third person.  I commend his works to you. http://www.newmanreader.org/works/meditations/meditations9.html

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.