The Father SEES us in Jesus

John 6:44-51

“Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:

They shall all be taught by God.

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.”

We come to Jesus to listen to the Father, who loves us and cherishes us. He has seen the Father; the Father sees us through His sacrifice.

We can bury ourselves in and join His holy sacrifice by receiving His Word and Sacrament (body and blood) as often as we can. Jesus welcomes us with open arms (look at the Cross, on which He says in His dying breath: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”).  He chooses to live in us, broken vessels, so that we may become whole. Let us live together in communion with the Father and the Son, through the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In all things, Chastity

Perhaps you have heard the saying, “In all things, Charity.” It comes from St. Augustine in this form. He likely said this because of St. Paul’s treatise on love, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). There is a truth I have come to know through experience and through study: the virtue of chastity is essential to charity — to true human love.

Chaste relationships are loving relationships. Chastity is a foundation of trust and therefore of truth. Chastity is a virtue for everyone, in all walks of life, in all attractions or temptations. Charity is loving God (Who is Love), by loving one another and spreading God’s love. Chastity is embodied Love. It is using our bodies in a way that gives God (again, Who is Love) — in a way that is life-giving, and this giving foments union between human persons and God. True communion is a mutual giving and receiving of love that starts in the heart, is chosen by the will, and is manifested through the body. It is made possible by the Incarnation of the Word — Truth Himself — Jesus Christ. Chastity is living out the redemption won by Jesus: body, soul, and spirit.

Chastity, truth, and charity are essences of Christ, who as the One Incarnate God is one with the Father, through the Holy Spirit. There is no separation; however, we do not speak of the Father’s love as chaste because the Father has no body. God became man in Jesus so that we can be unified with Him, in order to bring us into His divinity. This is called deification, and is spoken of specifically in the second letter of Peter, where he says we are to “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4). This communion is experienced in earthly life most profoundly through the Sacraments, beginning with Baptism, and through the vocations of service: Holy Orders and Matrimony.

God shares His creative essence and wants us to have all of Him. That is why Jesus gave His whole Self for all of us. That is why He gives Himself truly and substantially through the Sacraments, so that we have abundant life!

Does this seem difficult? Of course it is, because we are fallen; and we are burdened by concupiscence and sin. We live in a challenging world that has many beautiful created things. We over-desire things that are good for us and we too often desire things that are not good for us! But Jesus has redeemed us! It is hard for us to grasp this glorious reality. What does it mean to live the redemption, to live in the grace of God, to partake in the life of the Trinity?

It means to grow and live in the virtue of chastity.

What does chastity look like? First of all, since chastity is consistent with truth, we understand that human nature is both body and spirit. They cannot be separated. One way to think about it is to imagine how the water of the ocean permeates a sunken ship (this analogy falls apart if we were to remove the ship from the water). The soul is the form of the body, and as such, permeates every part of it. What is truly good for the body is good for the soul, and vice versa. (Yes, even coffee!). Therefore what we do with our bodies not only affects our soul, but speaks a language about who we are as unique, spiritual persons.

All healthy people have physical (bodily, sensual) desires for created things such as food and sex; however, these are not just material desires. There is a spiritual aspect of these and all desires of the human person, because we have a longing for connection with others. (For example, there is spiritual fulfillment from a meal with friends versus a meal alone). The virtue of temperance orders our hunger towards fueling our body sufficiently. Similarly, temperance orders our sexual desires towards love. True love is to desire the true good of the beloved. Desire for connection with others causes physical attraction, and stems from a spiritual desire for giving and receiving love. This desire is fulfilled through the body through looks, touches, and other interactions, using the senses. So you see, the soul which has the powers of reason and will has the capacity to make temperate choices for chaste love of others that is fruitful — both spiritually and materially.

How might a married woman practice and grow in the virtue of chastity? A chaste married woman has her sexual desires ordered only towards her husband. Jesus is the center of their loving relationship, especially in their sexuality. A married woman growing in the virtue of chastity doesn’t dabble in anything that would keep her from loving her husband fully and completely. These things, among others, are immodesty, pornography and sexual acts for only pleasure rather than self-giving love. This includes contracepted sexual acts. (If this idea is concerning, consider how wearing a mask inhibits our “knowing” of a person. When we choose contraception we are keeping a part of ourselves hidden; love expressed through intercourse says NO to the beloved’s fertility. I am speaking of an act of the will — the chosen act of contracepted intercourse. It speaks NO to the potential material fruit of the act, which is a co-creation with God). A married woman’s body is not her own, but belongs to her husband through their one-flesh union in marriage. (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:4). He is to love her as he loves and cares for his own body.

Similarly, a chaste married man has his sexual desires ordered only towards his wife. Jesus is the center of their loving relationship, and their union in marriage is most manifest through their sexuality. A married man growing in the virtue of chastity doesn’t dabble in anything (see above) that would keep him from loving his wife fully and completely. He rejects any sexual act for gratification that does not involve a potentially fruitful union with his wife. His body is not his own, but belongs to his wife through their one-flesh union in marriage. The Sacrament of Marriage constitutes chaste love between husband and wife in which they grow together towards their goal of Heaven (the beatific vision), and they are sanctified through their embrace, always willingly accepting the resulting fruitfulness. Notice that chastity in marriage is not abstinence. Chastity in marriage is the freedom in the will to love through the body with periodic continence or intercourse.

Chastity for a consecrated celibate (foregoing marriage) person (man or woman) requires the giving up the material intimacy of sexuality. For example, a chaste priest has his sexual desires ordered to love of the entire Church, as Christ gave Himself up for her. His vow of celibacy is giving up the bodily use of his sexuality to love others, i.e., ”giving it up for the Kingdom” (cf. Mt 19:12). It is a higher purpose and a higher calling that furthers the spiritual communion between Christ and the People of God. A chaste priest growing in the virtue of chastity doesn’t dabble in anything that would keep him from loving his parish family fully and completely, or participate in any unchaste act that would violate his vow of chastity through celibacy, or place him in the near occasion of sin. This includes flirting, use of pornography, masturbation, and any friendships, male or female, that take him away from his service to others through his vocation. He rejects any and all forms of sexual pleasure and anything that takes his complete gift of self away from his bride, the Church.

No matter what state we are in life — married, single, or consecrated celibacy — if we look at violations of the virtue of chastity as “no problem” or “just a little thing” we inhibit our ability to grow in Christlike love for others. We are all called to love like Jesus. Of course we fail — everyday we fail. To this truth St. Paul said “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). Even Jesus fell three times as He carried the Cross for us. Jesus picks us up when we fall and makes us better than before! Through the great Sacrament of Reconciliation we encounter Christ Himself and His healing grace.

“The more things change the more they stay the same,” goes the old adage. This isn’t more true than with human sexuality. Everyone wants fulfillment and we all have desires. Our goal as Christians is to grow in virtue and become more like Jesus Christ, through His Word and Sacraments. When we do this, our bodies grow into a living Sacrament, a sign of God’s love for His people. With His grace, we grow in the virtue of chastity, and thus a pure love that images the love of Christ for His people.

Announce to It the Message I Will Tell You

See Readings on USSCB 

The message is loud but we don’t hear it. What would it look like today if a prophet like Jonah went through the city of Washington DC and called the United States to repentance? What would our leaders do if they were like the king of Ninevah and they led by example; if they called loudly to God, and every man turned from his evil way and from the violence and hatred we have in our hearts?

It would look like this:
The love of Jesus Christ would permeate their [OUR] hearts. First we would look at those with whom we disagree with love. We would listen to what they have to say. We would find solutions to our problems for the sake of each individual’s true good and for the sake of the common good, for what is truly good (God and His merciful love) is a universal good. These solutions would be something like this:

-Kind words from our politicians and in the media
-The poor and vulnerable would be vaccinated for the virus, and those who are not poor and vulnerable would make sure it happens.
-No persons would be placed into categories or called names.
-All persons, old and young, rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, unborn or elderly, illegal or citizen…would be looked upon as having dignity, made in the image and likeness of God…and treated as such.
-No children would be hungry or abused.

This seems like a utopia, indeed. Impossible! This kind of society begins in our hearts, which seem to have been hardened into stone through our societal sins. But Jesus is there. He is in our relationships. This kind of society begins with our families and the neighbors on the street. It begins in the classrooms. It begins with taking care of and loving the persons who are in our lives.

Jesus is there, in our hearts. He is greater than all of our societal problems. He is greater than all of our personal and family problems. His love is there — deep within us.

If we but turn inside to receive it. And then give it away.

The Way of Love

Readings on USCCB

Lent is all about conversion in every moment. “Follow me,” Jesus said to Levi. There are little things, (which to God are actually big things), that we can do. Isaiah gives them to us: remove oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech; give food to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; and finally, delight in the LORD on the Sabbath—do not seek your own interests, but delight in the LORD. As I read these and examine my own life it is not too difficult to see where conversion is necessary. The key is to look inwards, and to realize that Jesus is calling me (every part of me), just like He called Levi. “Let Me into all these inner places where you seek your own interests,” Jesus says to me. He wants me to recognize my sinfulness and repent. “Let Me into all these inner places where you are hurting and try to fix things on your own.” He wants to be in everything, and He is not repulsed by any part of me. All the “little things” matter. He wants to be in every little moment and every little thought. He calls to us all the day, says the psalmist (86:4). Anything and everything can be offered to Him, for He takes pleasure in our conversion (cf Ez 33:11), and will make us like a spring whose water never fails (Is 58:11).

It takes practice. It takes a gentle curiosity looking inward, rather than condemnation. In the Gospel today, as well in other Gospel stories, we witness the Pharisees looking to condemn. They don’t “see” the beauty of love and compassion offered by Jesus to sinners; their hearts are closed. Who of us wants to go to a physician who condemns us? Who of us will even approach the divine physician if He condemns us? This is not the way of Jesus, and it should not be our way as we look inside to examine ourselves.

Love is what changes any person. Knowing the love of Jesus is what draws me to Him. Patience and gentleness are the seeds of the Word that grow to be the abundant fruits of the Spirit. They are the means to conversion within myself and of others. They are the way of the Lord.

In sum, Isaiah gives us the things with which new should examine our Christian life. Jesus gives us the manner in which we should do it — the way of Love. He is patient, kind, and gentle.

Fast with Others, for Others

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Today in Scripture we are encouraged to use fasting for one purpose alone: to grow closer to Jesus. There are so many reasons to fast, but only one good one. We are to deny ourselves good things in the material realm for the sake of growing spiritually in Christ, and therefore sharing what He gives.

Isaiah had a difficult job. He was to tell people who think they are doing well that they are really not. In fact, he was to tell them of their wickedness. I don’t know about you, but I cringe at the idea of being told that I am wicked. The way he was to tell them is interesting — he gives them a little examination of conscience, both personal and collective. I will paraphrase and add a little modern nuance…

Yes, it is true that on the outside you look pretty righteous. You have wealth, and you share it with others who need it. You personally donate to charity, as a nation you help those in need and in crisis, and throughout the world you are known to give aid. And, of course, you are fasting.

But I ask you, what about the people in front of you? Is there someone hurting in your family that you are ignoring? Do you have loving conversations about things that matter with those close to you, or do you just argue politics? Is there anyone in your life who could use a phone call or a note of kindness?

Moreover, are there any people suffering in your community? Perhaps a neighbor who needs her driveway plowed? What about the schoolmate whose father was deported to Mexico just because of his “illegal” status? What about the homeless men and women who are standing in the cold asking for money?

God, through His prophets, goes on and on about the same things, all of which can be summed up in the commandment that Jesus gives us: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself (cf Mt 22:37-40). The prophet Amos (the first prophet to the Israelites) is quoted in today’s Gospel acclamation: Seek good and not evil so that you may live, and the Lord will be with you. This simple message is as true now as it was then. Isaiah makes it clear that we are to ease the suffering of others in whatever way we can. We fast for the sake of attunement to those in need — by denying ourselves we will become better able to accompany others. We fast with them. That which we deny ourselves we give to them.

Is that not what Jesus, our bridegroom, did for us — giving His earthly life so that we might have eternal life?

Return to Me with your Whole Heart

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We cannot give anything that we haven’t already received. We hear in the prophet Joel that the ministers of the Lord are to say,

“Spare, O LORD, your people,
    and make not your heritage a reproach,
    with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
    ‘Where is their God?’”

God’s heritage is to give generously, abundantly. We receive and give back. Firstly we have received life and all that sustains life: a home, food, clothing. God’s legacy is to give!

Our response is to receive with joy and gratitude. And then to offer our lives back to Him. It is like a cycle of giving and receiving, except it never ends; it never stops…

Unless we stop receiving, and forget the Giver.

“Even now, says the LORD,
    return to me with your whole heart,” again, the prophet says.

Every Lent we are reminded to return to the Lord with our whole Selves. We are called to remember the divine Giver of life and sustenance who is gracious and merciful and full of compassion. There is nothing that we have that doesn’t come from Him, including our very breath and our freedom.

In freedom we are encouraged by the psalmist to say,

“For I acknowledge my offense,
    and my sin is before me always:
‘Against you only have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight.’”

We all have used our freedom for evil, and yet God is ready to renew our spirits. He is always waiting and knocking at the door of our hearts. We choose to open it to receive His divine life. Paul says to the Corinthians and to us: “we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”  Let us not allow these gifts pass is by! Turn to Him and allow Him to make us righteous! It all comes from Him — so much so that “he [the Father] made him [the Son] to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” We become His righteousness through the Spirit of life and love that He has breathed into us.

When we receive and give back in freedom, the cycle continues, and the reward is within our hearts. Our closeness, our intimacy…with the One who gives… increases. It is its own reward. It is joy and peace in our hearts, living His divine life. The eternal now.

Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord

A meditation on the Readings of the Day. See Readings on USCCB.

Discern the message well.  Turn to Him and say “Teach me your ways, O Lord.”  When you turn you will see His arms wide open like the Father in the familiar Prodigal Son story.  You will see them wide open on the Cross in Jesus, who carries our sins and sends His Spirit to wash our sins away from our souls.

I can humbly ask, “Is God my teacher?”  He taught the pagans of Ninevah through His prophet Jonah.  They listened and repented.  What kind of society was this?  Something we do not hear in today’s reading was that they had a king.  Ninevah was the capital of Assyria, a people who had just plundered and conquered the northern tribes of Israel.  When Johah went through town with the message the king took note.  Verses 6-9 tell us: 

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh: “By decree of the king and his nobles, no man or beast, no cattle or sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast alike must be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; they all must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands. Who knows? God may again repent and turn from his blazing wrath, so that we will not perish.”

The King led the people.  The psalm verse says, He guides the humble to justice and teaches the humble his way.  The king was humble and listened and discerned well, leading the people into repentance, and the Lord relented of the evil that He had threatened to do.  I use the word relented on purpose, for when speaking of God it is a more appropriate translation.  

Why?  Because as we pray in the psalm, we know God’s love and compassion are from of old.  Goodness and kindness are His essence; God does not repent of evil, because evil only exists in His absence.  To relent is to mitigate a harsh intention.  To repent is to express sincere remorse.  The evil that was to come to the Ninevites was a consequence of their own actions, not an act of God.  They repented.  God relented of allowing the consequences of their evil actions that were going to come about through His permissive will.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading that time is running out — that the world in its present form is passing away.  For people of faith this is true everyday, every moment, not just presently.  We know that we pass from former ways to new ways, that through Baptism we die to sin spiritually and are born into eternal life with our Creator.  Jesus conquered death by dying.  We, too, as a people of faith turn to the Father every moment.  We live in Christ.  We continually live through His death, and His Resurrection.  Unlike the Ninevites, we have the Holy Spirit present in our hearts teaching us and strengthening us for the journey to Heaven, which will pass through our own death.  Nothing in this world will go with us through death except our relationship with God.

Today Jesus proclaims the Kingdom in the Gospel reading.  It is interesting to note that Jonah’s proclamation was via the negative way, “you shall be destroyed.”  Jesus’ way is different.  Indeed, He says to repent, but He does this by saying, Come after Me. Last week He said, “Come, and you will see” (Jn 1:39).  He is our King, but He is no earthly king like the Assyrian king who put on sackcloth.  He is our God With Us who beckons us to follow His ways every moment.  He is the God Man who heals all our infirmities, and who accompanies us in our suffering.

His arms are wide open.  All I need to do is look at a crucifix to see the love that God has for me.  And you.  All He asks is for us to live in His love.  When we do this, the world in its present form passes away.

Just Love.

What could be in the mind of God, that He would come to live with His creation…subject Himself to it?  That He would be born as a helpless baby in poverty?

Love.  Just Love.

We have such issues with this word love.  We all want it.  We feel it inside and it can overwhelm our bodies with feelings of warmth and joy.  We all long to give it.  Why then, is love so confusing?

Because it is so hard to accept what love really is: a gift of Self.

In my previous post on love I tried to convey that learning to love others begins by loving your Self, and that the essence of God is God’s own love for Himself, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit.  In the Christmas season we celebrate the greatest gift of this divine love — God made man, Love Incarnate — Jesus.  God’s gift of Himself to humanity begins as a helpless baby, and not only that, He was born to die.  Does this seem crazy?  Indeed it does…even St. Paul, speaking of the Cross, said as much: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25). 

We can give ourselves love by gentleness with our mistakes, and compassion to our weakest parts. The fruits of the Holy Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23) — are born and nourished in ourselves and towards ourselves, in freedom. The fruit ripens in our actions towards others.  And what happens when the ripe fruit falls to the ground (in humility)?  The seeds are then planted for new fruit.

It is one of the paradoxes of the Christian faith that we gain all things by giving ourselves away. Jesus, born in our hearts, shows us the way.

Love Your Neighbor as You Love Your Self

“Learning to love your Self is the greatest love of all!”Whitney_Houston_–_The_Greatest_Love_of_All.jpg

I’d like to attempt to defend a thesis: We, ourselves, need to learn to love others, and we do this by learning to love our SELF.

I will begin by sharing an interesting memory regarding this song by Whitney Houston.  I was sitting in an airport restaurant with my father in December, 1985.  Her song, “The Greatest Love of All” came on over the PA. This conversation had a great effect on me. Now as an adult this memory has given me insight not only into my father, but myself.

“I love this song!” I exclaimed.

“I don’t!” my father said.  “It’s wrong!”

“Wrong?  How can it be wrong?” I asked.

“The greatest love is to love God, not to love yourself,” my father replied.

“But didn’t Jesus say to love our neighbor as we love ourselves?” I asked.

“That’s not what it means!” my father argued.

Let me interlude with a little background.  At the time I was sixteen, and it hadn’t even been a year since I met my father.  He took me on a ski trip to Park City, Utah, with the rest of his family: his wife, her two sons, and my half sister and half brother (from his other previous marriage).

I want to add another short, more modern story about a conversation that I recently had with my daughter.

“President Trump is the perfect example of loving yourself too much,” she said.  “Otherwise he wouldn’t say those things about other people all the time!”

“Oh no,” I said, “he absolutely loathes himself.  If he loved himself he would never say that about anyone, not even his worst enemy.”

She looked at me quizzically.  I explained to her that we express outwards what is inside of us.  If the chatter inside of our heads is constant criticism, that will also be expressed outside of us.  We can fool ourselves and believe that we will be more loving to others by hating ourselves.  In reality this is impossible.  We give from what is inside of us.

Think about it.  We cannot give what we do not have.  It is the lie of Satan to believe that we can actually love from hate.

In the beginning humanity was tempted to believe that the Love of our Creator was not enough…that He was holding out on us. “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Gen 3:4-5).  Satan tricked us into thinking that we have to know hate (evil) in order to be like God, who is all loving.

God the Father shows us differently, through His Son, Jesus.  Love can only flow from love, and He showed us the greatest love of all.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

But what does this mean?  Is there more?  Let us look to St. Paul, who said, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“While we were still sinners…” is such an important phrase. I have talked about this before. God never waits for us to be better before He loves us.  He loves us right now.  St. Paul also says, “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy…” (Tit 3:5). We cannot do anything ourselves in order to be loved more by God. It is already there.  He is never holding out, waiting for us to be better.

The essence of the Trinity is that God loves Himself.  The three persons of the Trinity are God’s love of Himself in the Son and the fruit of this love between the Father and the Son is another loving person, the Holy Spirit.  There is no chicken/egg argument here. God just IS.  God. Is. Love. Eternally. Period.  God’s love of Himself is therefore the greatest love of all, and there is no human love without it.

Let us apply this to ourselves.  We, too, can love ourselves in the Son, through the Holy Spirit.  We do not do this eternally (yet), because we are created beings who live in time. We make choices. We grow both spiritually and materially.  Our spiritual capacity is to grow in the Love of the Trinity.  This begins by loving our SELF, in Christ.  Our material capacity is to die, in Christ, who raises us up (He will literally resurrect us!) and seats us at His right hand, in the presence of the Father, through the Holy Spirit. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev 3:21).

Back to my story.  My father loathed himself.  He bought into the lie that he wasn’t enough, and that by hating himself he could love God more.  Again, this is a lie.  I would venture to say that this is the lie that most fathers who abandon their children have bought into.  I will say it again — one cannot love others when he hates himself. This is an important truth for all parents, and most especially, me.

We all have heard the adage, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

We get this wrong too!  We end up hating the sinner because we are tempted to define others by their sin.  This also happens personally; we hate ourselves when we are defined by our sin, whether it is done by others or our own selves.  Again, let us allow St. Paul to teach us. “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Rom 7:20). Sometimes the teaching of Paul in Romans 7 can be very confusing, but what he is saying is that sin is not me — it is not my SELF.  Sin is something outside of me that needs to be removed. The shame that came from believing the serpent’s lie is not me; however, I have taken it on as a burden.  Shame is a burden that does not come from God — it comes from sin. The Good News is that shame is removed by Love, and this burden is completely removed by Jesus through His suffering and death on the Cross.  This is why Jesus tells us to pick up our Cross and follow Him, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:30). When we decide to follow Him, we have new life in Him.

Does this mean we are perfect? Indeed, even Jesus fell three times, yet not through sin. But He has shared with us the burden of sin! We fall consistently: “the righteous falls seven times and rises again” (Prov 24:16).  He is with us when we fall, and especially when we refuse to get up.  He continues to stand at the door of our heart.  He continues to knock. He is always there in our spirit, encouraging us and drawing us to Himself, and thus to the Father, through the Holy Spirit.

We are consistently growing in new life with every loving choice we make. Every choice for self-giving love is a sharing in Christ’s love, whether we realize it or not — and even whether we are Christian or not.  The reason is because God is Love, and He planted the seed of His love within us at our creation. When we give love we give God.

Therefore, Love of others begins by loving ourselves.

Wednesday Audience of Pope Francis: Jesus is close to us in our weakness.

It is such a beautiful thing to contemplate: that God is closest to us in our weakness…in our sinfulness.  I feel like a broken record but Romans 5:8 has been so important to me in the last three years of my Christian journey: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Pope Francis hits it home with his Wednesday Audience.  Read it all.

Some gems:

“Jesus’ first public act is therefore participation in a choral prayer of the people, a prayer of the people who went to be baptised, a penitential prayer, in which everyone recognises him- or herself as a sinner…We never pray alone, we always pray with Jesus. He does not stay on the opposite side of the river – “I am righteous, you are sinners” – to mark His difference and distance from the disobedient people, but rather He immerses His feet in the same purifying waters. He acts as if He were a sinner.”

Jesus’ baptism was His first public death-to-self.  He leads us to the Father in every action, even Baptism.

“This is the unique greatness of Jesus’ prayer: the Holy Spirit takes possession of His person and the voice of the Father attests that He is the beloved, the Son in whom He fully reflects Himself.”

In the same way, we who are in Christ through Baptism share in His sonship.  We, too, are the beloved of the Father!

“Jesus did not descend into the waters of the Jordan for Himself, but for all of us. It was the entire people of God who went to the Jordan to pray, to ask for forgiveness, to receive that baptism of penance…Jesus gave us His own prayer, which is His loving dialogue with the Father. He gave it to us like a seed of the Trinity, which He wants to take root in our hearts. Let us welcome him! Let us welcome this gift, the gift of prayer. Always with Him. And we will not err.”

 

Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear! Amen.