Wednesday, 18 December 2013

88: "All the predestinate are hidden in Mary's womb"

Here are St Montfort’s words taken from his Masterpiece: “True Devotion to Mary”:

“Moreover, Jesus, being more than ever Mary’s fruit, as heaven and earth repeat thousands of times a day: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”, it is therefore certain that, for every man in particular who possesses him, Jesus is as well, truly the fruit and work of Mary, as truly he is for all mankind in general; therefore, if any of the faithful has Jesus formed in his heart, he can boldly say: “A Great “Thank you” to Mary: what I possess [Jesus] is her effect and fruit, and without her I would not have him.”; we can attribute more truly to her what Saint Paul said of himself, “I am in labor again with all the children of God until Jesus Christ, my Son, is formed in them to the fullness of his age.” Saint Augustine, surpassing himself as well as all that I have said so far, says that in order to be conformed to the image of the Son of God all the predestinate, while in the world, are hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin where they are kept, nourished, cared for and developed by this good Mother, until the day she brings them forth to glory after death, which the Church calls the birthday of the just. This is indeed a mystery of grace unknown to the reprobate and little known even to the predestinate!” (True Devotion to Mary, n°33)

These words, this reasoning and the conclusion he reaches are really difficult to "swallow", understand and fathom. Exactly as Nicodemus found it difficult when he entered deeper in Jesus’ mysterious teaching. He said to Jesus: “Can a man enter a second time into his mother's womb?” (John 3:4). Let us try to understand these words, by following step by step Montfort's reasoning.

1. Through Baptism, Jesus dwells in each one of us. We call this new reality in us: “the New Man” or the “New Creature”, or “the kingdom of God”. Remember that Jesus compares the Kingdom in us to a Divine Seed, very tiny initially, but it becomes the biggest tree of the Garden.
“Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."” (Matthew 13:31-32)
What Montfort is trying to say is that Jesus is always the fruit of Mary. So if Jesus is born in us (by Baptism), in fact He is born in Mary. Or if you prefer: Mary as well is in us, carrying Him!
Since Jesus in us is the “New Creature”, the “New man” in us, He is part of us. A portion of us is progressively transformed into Him. Therefore, Mary is carrying the “New Creature”, “the New man”, us, in Her womb.
In this sense, we are all enclosed in Mary, in her Heart, in her womb. It is not possible to have a "Jesus" (any of us) growing somewhere without having Mary’s womb to have Him grow in it. 
It is like saying: for the "Divine Seed", we need always the "Good Soil" (see Matthew 13). For the "New Wine", we need the "New Skin"… The bipolarity of our faith is fundamental. We often overlook the necessity of a Soil, or a Skin. And if we notice its importance, we overlook its quality: new, good, “Immaculate” I would say, not any. A one that can bear the intensity of the Divine Seed/Wine.

Jesus is always and in any place, Mary’s fruit, not only individually (incarnation) but in each one of us (baptism, sanctification): “Moreover, Jesus, being more than ever Mary’s fruit, as heaven and earth repeat thousands of times a day: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”, it is therefore certain that, for every man in particular who possesses him, Jesus is as well, truly the fruit and work of Mary, as truly he is for all mankind in general;”

2. Considering now the great truth that Jesus is in our heart by Baptism, we need (it is necessary) to consider His relationship with Mary in us. We need to search for Mary’s place in us. This is the newness of what Montfort is addressing. He even calls it in his book “a mystery”, something “hidden”, a “secret”: “therefore, if any of the faithful has Jesus formed in his heart, he can boldly say: “A Great “Thank you” to Mary: what I possess [Jesus] is her effect and fruit, and without her I would not have him.”;”

3. In order to strengthen this search for Mary in us, he will show us that it is not that unusual to do so. He will find in St Paul’s writings something that shows that a mere human being can spiritually carry others in himself. Mystically, the person united to Jesus, like saint Paul, can “carry” others, pray for them, suffer for them, nourish them: “I am in labour again with all the children of God until Jesus Christ, my Son, is formed in them to the fullness of his age.”
So, if we accept such strong affirmation about saint Paul, on the more reason, for the Woman given by Jesus on the Cross to each one of us, as our true spiritual mother (see John 19), we can apply St Paul's words in a stronger way: "we can attribute more truly to her what Saint Paul said of himself". Montfort underlines the “spiritual maternity” of Mary to us, her personal relationship with each one of us. She really carries us in her, like a real pregnant woman… where the Holy Spirit is forming us, i.e. Jesus’ Body. As Montfort says it in a previous paragraph in his book, God doesn’t change his logic, the way He treated the Head of the Body (Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God), He treats us, who are Jesus’ Body: “God the Holy Spirit, who does not produce any divine person, became fruitful through Mary whom he espoused. It was with her, in her and of her that he produced his masterpiece, God-made-man [the Head], and that he produces every day until the end of the world the members of the body of this adorable Head.” (True devotion n°20)

4. Now comes the final conclusion that Montfort wants us to reach, acknowledge and experience: “while on earth, we are all hidden in Mary” because we are formed by the Holy Spirit, in her, at the Likeness of Jesus, the head of the Body. We are indeed enclosed in her, in her womb. “Saint Augustine, surpassing himself as well as all that I have said so far, says that in order to be conformed to the image of the Son of God all the predestinate, while in the world, are hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin where they are kept, nourished, cared for and developed by this good Mother, until the day she brings them forth to glory after death, which the Church calls the birthday of the just. This is indeed a mystery of grace unknown to the reprobate and little known even to the predestinate!”

What St Montfort didn’t say, is that these words of Nicodemus, instead of being just a superficial statement, do translate that very deep truth he just uttered, quoting St Augustine: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” (John 3:4). The answer to this question, (how to enter in Mary, how to dwell in her, how to draw from her our New Being, how to allow her to form us, to act in us, to be our Mould), is all his book. It is a practical book, meant to show us how we can become “liquid”, how we can pour ourselves in Her our True Mould (as she is being Jesus’ Mould), so the Holy Spirit can form in us Jesus, to its perfection. Let us read another passage from the True Devotion:

“Please note that I say that saints are moulded in Mary. There is a vast difference between carving a statue by blows of hammer and chisel and making a statue by using a mould. Sculptors and statue-makers work hard and need plenty of time to make statues by the first method. But the second method does not involve much work and takes very little time. St. Augustine speaking to our Blessed Lady says, “You are worthy to be called the mould of God.” Mary is a mould capable of forming people into the image of the God-man. Anyone who is cast into this divine mould is quickly shaped and moulded into Jesus and Jesus into him. At little cost and in a short time he will become Christ-like since he is cast into the very same mould that fashioned a God-man.
I think I can very well compare some spiritual directors and devout persons to sculptors who wish to produce Jesus in themselves and in others by methods other than this. Many of them rely on their own skill, ingenuity and art and chip away endlessly with mallet and chisel at hard stone or badly-prepared wood, in an effort to produce a likeness of our Lord.  At times, they do not manage to produce a recognizable likeness either because they lack knowledge and experience of the person of Jesus or because a clumsy stroke has spoiled the whole work. But those who accept this little-known secret of grace, which I offer them, can rightly be compared to smelters and moulders who have discovered the beautiful mould of Mary where Jesus was so divinely and so naturally formed. They do not rely on their own skill but on the perfection of the mould. They cast and lose themselves in Mary where they become true models of her Son.” (True Devotion 219-220)

He ends all this by saying: “You may think this a beautiful and convincing comparison. But how many understand it? I would like you, my dear friend, to understand it. But remember that only molten and liquefied substances may be poured into a mould. That means that you must crush and melt down the old Adam in you if you wish to acquire the likeness of the new Adam in Mary.” (True Devotion, n° 221)

"And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery." (Revelation 12:1-2) 

All Montfort’s Art, in his Book, is to teach us how, practically, to realise this operation.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

87: The Immaculate Conception and Spiritual Life

A ground breaking lecture on the practical implications of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Sticking mainly to the Bible, we deepen the understanding of the Apostles' journey of faith in relation to Mary.
First part:

We often don't see the direct and practical implications of the various dogmas. To the point that we keep them in the "belief" area of our christian life and not our Spiritual practical life area. We loose a lot by not seeing the direct inner relationship between each dogma and our personal life.

Following the Apostle Journey of Faith, this groundbreaking lecture is opening a new way of understanding the Immaculate Conception and its "use" in our daily life.

Here is the second part:

Friday, 15 November 2013

86: Getting ready to receive Jesus' Call

Q. You write that "comprehending the full picture of the Spiritual Journey is essential for each Christian who receives Jesus’ call to follow Him". Does not every Christian receive Jesus' call to follow him?

A. A call is a call (please read this post as well), it happens at a certain point in time. The fact that "all are called", doesn't mean that "all have yet received the call". The call is a personal act from Jesus, to a specific person, when the person is ready. We should remember the fact that the call is Jesus' initiative not ours. He says: “I am the one who calls you, not you”.
Is that  what you meant?
Of course this is an important clarification that I didn't personally see for years. I was convinced, after Vatican II (see Lumen Gentium, "The Universal Call to Holiness"), that "all were called", but then, I realised that "a call is a call", and is not automatic, or to be taken for granted. This call has to enter in time, in the life of a person. And for that to happen, one should be ready. For instance, see how God sent John the Baptist to prepare the people of Israël to receive the Messiah.

Q. Is it possible some may never be ready i.e. never receive the call?

A. To speak plainly, I would say the following:
Theoretically the call is there in God's mind/project from day one, from the day he created us. He created us "at His Image and Likeness", He wanted us with Him, breathing His own life. So the initial design and built quality of the human being were meant to have him: being Holy, as God is, because we are made to share His Own life, and breath His own “oxygen”.

But practically, I think that the call for Perfection is heard (/reaches us) in a palpable way when we are close to a specific threshold: having accomplished /fulfilled what should be done as it is described at the third Mansions of Teresa of Avila for example.
There are plenty of other Biblical examples that foster such a vision and understanding. God always prepares us.
1. All the Old Testament, 1800 years (Abraham) at least if not plenty more, is a preparation for humanity (the chosen people first) to receive God himself (the Messiah, Jesus, the Only begotten Son). He didn't send his Son to Adam immediately after his fall.
2. Again: when Jesus was ready to start his mission (at the age of 30) He didn’t start immediately. God send a Prophet, the Greatest one, to pave the way for him, and “prepare” the people, through repentance and a first wash (John’s Baptism).
3. Again, and again, when the Young Rich man asked him what to do in order to reach perfection, /Eternal life, Jesus didn’t start by saying: follow me. He showed us in His reply that preparation was needed: did you follow Moses Commandments?

In other words there is a clear pedagogy from God’s part, in order to help us reach the Supernatural Grace of Jesus, the Personal relationship: the direct, personal call to follow him tightly.

I may add that if the young rich man had answered: "no, I didn't fulfil Moses commandments", he wouldn't be “ready” to “hear” a new Call, a call for Perfection.

Jesus doesn't cancel Moses Commandments, He brings Perfection to them, in Him. So, if what we can really do (with the General help of the Grace of God) is not done, how can we dare dream of higher realms? Total nonsense. Jesus said that faithfulness in “smaller things” will allow God one day to pass us unto greater things: “Well done, good and trustworthy servant, you have been trustworthy in a smaller things, I will put you in charge of greater things.” (Matthew 25:21)

Some people might object: there are plenty of persons amongst the Gentiles (non Jews) in the Act of the Apostles and in the Gospel (the Samaritan lady) who didn't need any preparation. Well, it is not true: When Paul preached at the Assembly of Athens, almost nobody listened to him. They weren't ready. Some Fathers of the Church say that the Greeks were prepared by God through their Philosophers. Which is not wrong, but incomplete.
And what about the great sinners? Well: sin, falling very low, sometimes creates an amazing humility. See the Prodigal son's reflections while eating the pigs food (and compare them with the other son's reflections). Don't we use animal excrements to fertilise the soil ! Humility and real repentance are the best preparations to receive Jesus' Call and Grace. But still, repentance is a long journey of rehabilitation. Even St Paul says that after his powerful conversion he needed 3 years of rehabilitation (see Galatians) and purification.

I humbly think that often we tend to abuse the Grace of God, thinking that we have the right to receive everything. Jesus himself (God) doesn't through the pearls to the pigs (pigs were considered as an impure animal). But in fact, this is a spoiled child behaviour. Certainly He obtained for us everything (Salvation) on the Cross, but the clear teaching of the Bible shows that for each new step one has to be ready.
Matthew's Call (Caravaggio - Rome)
So, all in all, we need to do what each step requires, in order to get to the threshold with the following step.
See the journey of the People of God in the Desert. They reach a point where they break the Covenant with God in a grave way, they don’t TRUST Him when He says: "go and fight the 7 tribes, you will win". What is the consequence? 38 years of purification, until all the generation that was able to fight dies. This lesson alone should make us think. Poor us. (see the clear allusion to these 38 years in John Chapter 5, the healing of the paralysed man.)

If, from God’s part, Salvation is ready and available to us, from our part (the receiving end) we need to get ready to receive it, and this goes step by step, like when you build a huge house. You start with the Foundations, then you go for the ground floor and so forth.

Even if the Plan of the house is ready and clear in God’s mind, we have to undergo the building operations, step by step. Some people think that if they want to burn the stages in between this is possible. Let them think that. You don’t put a New Wine in old skins. We collaborate in the operation of our own salvation, we are co-builders. Some people believe in magic, they think that since Jesus did everything on the Cross then everything is already achieved in us. Not at all. Baptism is a Seed, and the Seed needs to become the biggest tree of the garden. Would this happen magically? People who follow Satan’s inspirations do like the magical easy way. All the three temptations that we see in the Gospel (when Jesus is tempted) are about doing something magically, in an easy way, without the use of our freedom and will, collaborating, through time.
We want to be like puppets, we like that route (the devil’s route) of negative passiveness. We want everything and NOW! We want Him to move us and direct us like dead-puppets. We present the resignation of our will and freedom.
The Call for Perfection follows the laws of construction… or the biological laws of growth. The Grace of God needs our collaboration.
God created us without asking for our permission. He won’t save us, though, without our collaboration.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

85: The forgotten theological act: Hope

As you know, I prefer to speak about the "act" of hope than the "virtue". Because the "repetition of good acts" generates a "good habit", a "Virtue". Remember the muscle of the body-builder we have muscles in us (the faculties of the soul: mind, will, memory) that need to be activated in a correct way and direction: the Divine Blood (the Grace of God) is offered to our faculties and is waiting to be used through activating the muscle (the faculty).

Strengthening the virtue's "muscle"

The muscle of hope is the mind (some say it is the "memory"). But I prefer to take an example in order to understand it better: hope is like hands (or arms) extended, waiting to receive something (the object of a promise). It is a desire, a motivation, a drive that moves us ahead.

"Hope" and "hopes"

"Hopes" are "normal hopes", even the good ones, the good causes, the spiritual causes. "Hope" is the theological Act, never to be mixed with others, or worse: exchanged by others. "Hope" is vertical, it connects us directly with Jesus-God – this is why it is called: theological (Theos: God). "Hopes" connect us with something created. The difference is huge!
This is why we need to pass the comb, in order to see if the hairs of our desire are well orientated (toward the object of our hope) and in order (gathering properly all our energy).
Mind you, without hope/hopes we would never do anything. They are the driving force in our life. What makes us wake up in the morning and wanting to go through the day. We all have "hopes", but do we have a "Hope"? We often put our heart in the hopes, but is all our heart in the only Hope?

How to do an act of Hope?

"Hope" is all related to a "Promise". It is our reaction (what we will do) in front of the obtaining the object of the promise. We extend our hands, our arms, in order to receive the promised Gift.
Our hands could be already filled with other things instead; this is why it is important to check, regularly, our desire, our Hope, how we perform the act of desire (how we "aspire"). We all have semi-conscious hopes that motivate us, that constitute the drive, that make us move, try, do, start, create, realise (work, mission, family, money, career,…). Our heart gets filled by these semi-conscious hopes. But if we prepare ourselves to do an act of hope, through checking the state of our heart, his longing, his desires, his possessions, we become aware of these semi-conscious hopes.
We then focus our mind on "studying" (staring at length, deepening,…) the real Hope, the Real and only Promise made to us, the solid indestructible promise, the Anchor of our Life.
Then, gathering all the energies of our heart, we orientate it toward the real Hope, the vertical one.
The direct realistic consequence of the vertical Hope is for us: to do what we are supposed to do today, without thinking of tomorrow. Focusing on today as if today is the only day we have to live, and live it to the fullness. If we are still capable of thinking of tomorrow, it probably means that part of our energy is going horizontal and is not connecting us to the real and only Hope. We need to focus on today: what to do today, according to Jesus will, because this will bring us closer to Him, to the realisation of our Hope.

"teenager" hope

Like spiritual "adolescents", we need everything (all of it), and now (today)... We would like to reach the top of the Mountain (Jesus' Promise) today. This is "Dreamy Hope". Not bad, we need to have big Hopes, real ones. But the energy we put in it should be as well converted into something solid, concrete: a real step ahead, today. Only the theological acts (the acts that connect us directly to God, to Jesus-God) are realistic, incarnate and real. The rest doesn't break the surface of the Divine Seed, Life doesn't come out of it to blossom. It remains imprisoned in it. Theological Hope, Holy Hope, points on our feet, showing the step to do today. If we want to climb the Mountain and be at the top of it, we need to start putting a foot in front of the other. Hope is practical! It looks paradoxical to say so because it seems that Hope puts our head high up above the Clouds. Yes, indeed it does that. But real Hope never forgets the earth and knows that in order to walk one has to keep his/her heart beyond the clouds (the veil), anchored in the Promise, and in the same time one has to keep his/her feet on earth, well grounded: by doing what we are supposed to do today.

Often we want to know what we will be doing tomorrow, or in 5 years, or 10. We want to know our vocation, our mission. But this literally sucks our sacred energy, the energy of our Heart, created only for God, for Jesus, and deprives it from the drive to do what we are supposed to do right now, regardless of what will happen tomorrow or in 10 years. This is why it is important to walk with our back upright, straight, connecting heaven and earth.

Hope vs Faith-Love

We can have Faith, we can have a little Love, but the forgotten little act, Hope, is the engine, the drive that pushes us ahead. Without hope the "car" of our spiritual life will be at halt. Very dangerous.
Hope is related to growth, climbing, transformation, sanctification.
If I don't know my goal, how will I ever reach it?
Clarify your hope, your HOPE, the Holy Hope… not any hope, like the "hopes", the cheap ones and the "expensive" ones. We have only one Theological Hope.

So negligent!

Do we know what tomorrow is made of? Do we know if our heart will continue to beat within three minutes? Can we change a hair from black to white? No. So why putting our energy in uncertainty.
The one who promised is faithful and trustworthy and realises His Promises.

The Promise

Now, what is the Promise to which Hope is attached to? What is the Promise that constitutes our Hope? Where do we find that Promise in the Gospel?

We need the help of the Holy Spirit in order to become able to see deep in Jesus on the Cross, and find out that, deeply, He is embracing me on the Cross, He united me to Himself on the Cross. This is His plan, this is what He wants to realise on earth. This is His Promise. "heaven" is not a state, it is not a place, it is a degree of transformation in Jesus. Sanctification, divinisation.
Jesus holding each one of us
On the Cross He realises from His part that transformation, and He is offering it to me, as the Project of my life. This is His Solid Promise to me. Do I see that?
This is the goal of my life, this is what I am waiting for, here on earth. It is not a Promise for "after-death", no, it is here on earth. The Saints shout it very loudly. Will I bank all my life on that? Hummm, this is the real theological challenge.
We live our lives with no theological dimension, it is flat. Full of good intentions, beautiful things, but where is Jesus Promise on the Cross? "And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD." (Hosea 2:19-20) This text, should be heard this way: said by Jesus on the Cross, in the present tense! This is the object of our hope.

hopes, joys, fears

Hopes generate in us false joy and false fear. Joy of possessing or about to posses horizontal things, and fear of not possessing goods or possessing bad things. Vertical Hope, offers a pure hope, and fills our heart with it, protecting our heart from being harmed by false joys or fears. Detached, free, belonging to Jesus.

When we look at the Cross, by the Grace of God, we should be able to see Jesus embracing us tightly; this is our Anchor. We already see it. We then can walk toward it, closer and closer until we reach with St Paul this Song: "it is not me who live, it is Jesus who lives in me".

Reading about Hope

In the third book of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, first part of it, saint John of the Cross explains how to do a pure act of Hope.

Examining our hope

It is so important to pass the comb, to check if our hands are full of possessions, and get rid of them, by simply gathering all our attention to the Cross, seeing His Promise, and gathering all the Energy of our heart, in order to desire this Promise, be attached to it, hooked to it, and then searching His Will today, in order to know were to put our foot, in order to do today's step.

A Parable on the conditions of Hope

"For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, `This man began to build, and was not able to finish.' […] 33 So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:28-33)

Now this parable has various aspects. First it speaks about the object of Hope: the Tower to build. But it takes it's existence and the knowledge of it for granted, which is not the object of this post. In this post, I do consider that the majority do not know the Vertical Tower
But, having crossed that bridge, you see the Lord's advice: take time, ponder, in order to do the act of Hope correctly. Imagine you say: "yes, the goal of my life is to become holy", or "my aim is to reach the Union with Jesus", do you think that we really take the means of our hope? Do you really build correctly our hope? Do we really do one step at a time everyday, in the journey of transformation? Are we re-adjusting everyday ourselves to Jesus' Will? Is our Heart really totally attached to this hope? Is all our energy there?

The condition of "Hope" is "renouncing all" as Jesus states it. Would this mean that we all have to leave this life, and take the cloth and hide in the Desert? Or course not, "renouncing" is first and foremost the matter of the will and the desire. Many are in the Desert and their will is still holding on to possessions… of all sorts… possessing them really, or hoping to possess them.
Even health is a possession. See how St Theresa of Avila (in the Way of Perfection) says that one has to be fiercely detached from worries for his own health in order to put the Lord first and serve Him, and drop these silly fears about health. Of course, many persons wouldn't have that courage!

Hope is serious

Do you think that wanting the Holy Hope to be fulfilled is a light decision/enterprise? No. This is why Jesus' advice is, before pretending to embark in the Christian Journey to: "first sit down and count the cost".
Hope is the engine in your Christian Car. This is what makes it move…
Hope is about receiving something here on earth, and not only after death. Jesus said it: "I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:27). For some people this verse speaks a lot… " "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Luke 8: 8)… the Call…

My hope, and the others

Every time I do an act of hope, every time I reconnect with Jesus the Groom, who promised He will unite to me during this life, every time I search for His Will for today, and put it into practise, and do receive a share of that big Hope, by doing one step ahead, in the climbing of the Mountain of the Lord, every time I do that all humanity does one step ahead. The act of Hope is not an egoistical selfish behaviour. We all belong to one same Body, we are all connected, deeply, so if I do progress, all humanity progresses with me, and this is what matters. Each act of Hope you do, sends waves of Living Waters (or Living Blood) across the whole Body…

The Mother of our Hope

Mary is the mother of Our Hope, she is the one that keeps it and preserves it pure for us. We can say about her what is said about Abraham, and much more: "No distrust made him waver concerning the Promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had Promised." (Romans 4:20-21) She is the one who hoped for the Messiah, the only one who was able to believe the words said by the Angel (Zachariah didn't) and receive Him. She is the only one who believed in the Jesus' Promise that He will rise again and waited for the Lord to Rise.
Mary, obtain for us the Grace of the correct and pure attitude for Vertical Hope… Pray for us… and teach us how to put it into practice everyday in order to get, day after day, closer to the Realisation of the Promise.

Important remark

Of course this topic (Hope) goes with the "Spiritual Journey" topic because the latter shows not only the goal but the way as well: the full length of the journey, it's shape. So please, in order to strengthen your Hope, do not hesitate to read the explanation of the 11 diagrams of the spiritual journey. They start here (please click here). Spiritual journey and Goal (the Promise) are not separable.

Hoping, Praying

Take time, every day to revise your "hopes", the mechanisms of your hopes, you semi-conscious acts. Take time to put all your energy in one Hope.. the one that is sure, solid, Eternal. This time is called as we: Prayer. Meet Jesus who Promised and won't fail to fulfil His Promise. Take time to See Him holding you already on the Cross, take time to entrust your energy and Hope in the Hands of Mary.

Friday, 1 November 2013

84: "our actions", growing in love & witnessing Jesus

Question: While working on my plan for a pilot project here in C. for Forming Intentional Disciples last night, I came to a question that made me ponder. Reading Sherry Weddell's book, "Forming Intentional Disciples", she points to some fundamental principles, including a need for a personal relationship with God and the need for us to witness to others. My question is: Is it our witnessing that is changing others... or is the fact they see genuine love and Jesus in our actions?

My conclusion is the latter. Consequently, it will take 2-5 years (as Sherry says in FID) for the parish to see the fruits of our efforts… because it will take that long to move from the initial ID's stage to truly living the way God wants us to. In a recent talk, Deacon P. calls it "Experiential knowledge vs Cognitive knowledge". When only 60% of Catholics believe in a personal God... what will it take to get the "Experiential knowledge" with God. We should spend some time talking about how to witness when you don't have the experience.

Answer: I would like to clarify the meaning of: "our actions".
First, it is very important when we deal with Jesus' things to do it with humility, understanding that God is the one who calls us, not us who call Him and that God is the one who guides us in everything (if we allow Him to do so). We are NOT in charge of anything, or going on a mission. We humbly try to reply, daily, to His Call. The Grace of God comes before anything else. It is not by "doing" that we will change the world but by "following the Grace of God".
The "go get" mentality, or the "dower" allegedly "practical" mentality can play very nasty tricks to the person who becomes Christian (you call it "Intentional Disciple", I call it: "becoming more Christian"). So we need to be very careful not to play the gods here. This could be an the modern world mentality and tendency. But the norm remains the Gospel, not our mentalities/tendencies.
Therefore the tendency will be to consider "that book", or "that formula", or "that experience" and so forth as a "winning formula" and forget the Grace of God. We do not control God. We are free to love Him, to reply to His love and He is free to love us (first). He loves us… indeed, He never ceases. This is why, by receiving humbly his Love, we try to let it flow to the outside world.

The specific answer to your question is: neither nor. What we need to do is to listen every day and every second, in our heart, to Jesus who calls us and do His will. In the Gospel, we see that sometimes Jesus asked people, healed by Him (who therefore became his disciples), to remain silent and not to say anything; other times He asked them to witness to Him; other times He sent them back to their daily life. Each person is different, each need is different, each time in the Journey with Jesus is different, each mission is different. This is what matters. The general rule is the need for all for growth, but it doesn't happen the same for everybody. The general rule is as well the need to witness to Him, and spread the Gospel. But when and how, we need to see with the Holy Spirit that works in the Church and through the Church.

If He asks me to witness, I have to do it. At any time! Immediately after meeting Him, or years after that. As many times as He asks! If He doesn't, then I need to the other things He asks me to do (according to my state: married, work, family,.. this as well is a mission and a witness to Him.). There are different trees, different type of heights, depths (roots) for these trees.
Now, after that, if He asks me to witness and I do so, will this bear fruits? Not always. St Paul in the big city of Athens had to speak. Did it work? Well it was a big fiasco. Only 2 or 3 persons followed him. Had St Paul known that he wouldn't have fruits, would he have had to consider that it was better not to bear witness to Jesus? Of course not! He had to. When Jesus asks us to do something He doesn't guaranty the success. Obedience remains the highest virtue of the Apostle.
Some soils are good, some others are hard. Some soils allow us to see the fruits of our labour, others need years and others will see the fruits. What a sower has to do, with a detached heart, is: to sow, with a detached heart, obeying to His Master and trusting in Him, and Him only.
On the other hand, the more a person matures in Christ, the more the old man's influence on him/her diminishes, and the more the Grace of God works and make the new man grow in him/her. We are like pregnant women with twins, the old man and the new man, and the food we give (by our acts) either feeds one or the other.
So the more we are purified, the more we are transformed in Jesus, the more the Holy Spirit moves us with greater ease, the more our acts gain in efficiency (they bring more and better results). No doubt at all about that. One act made by a purified person bears infinitely much more fruits for the Church than thousands of acts made by a whole crowd. A saint asked Jesus how many souls He would give her (He would save because of her act) for something she did for Him. She said: 10? He replied: 10.000.

But still, you have saints who preached in places, and never got any result: starting by the Lord Himself in Jerusalem. That was tough. But still, God recompenses them anyway. And they have to do it anyway, so people can't say: we never heard of that, so God's justice is preserved. And you have "devils", who work a lot for the Gospel, preach, make miracles, and still hear Jesus in the end say to them: "go away, evil doers, I don't know you". Why? They were doing their own will, not Jesus' will (Doing a "good thing" is not enough for the apostle; one has to do God's will. This is why Obedience comes first.). If He sends me, then I have to go. If He doesn't send me, then better for me to shut up and stay still, and work on bettering myself (we have to do it anyway), by the Grace of God. This is why Jesus says: spend time removing the big log that pierces your eyes, and then, purified, you'll be able with the Love of God, to remove the straw in the eyes of your brother.

I am not sure I got your question, but this is what comes to mind.
The experience of Jesus, the personal relationship with Him, is a long journey anyway. It usually takes years of growth until one reaches the Union with Jesus, or at least the Spiritual Betrothal. Therefore it is important in each step to discern His will and do it, with the help of His Grace.

Father Marie Eugene, in the end of his book "I want to see God" (the second volume) wrote a small treatise on the relationship - in us - between the Growth of Love and Apostolate/Ministry. Remember, his book is a master piece commentary of the book of St Theresa of Avila: "The Interior Castle". This little study he makes is moved by a genius intuition, which is the need to understand the relationship between the fruitfulness of our actions and our spiritual growth.
He goes through all the stages of growth and explains the risks, the fruits, what we should focus on.
Fr François Regis Wilhelem did pick up this intuition and deepened it in a book (only in French, Italian or Spanish). Excellent work, that should transform our understanding of ministry in the Church.

I hope that helped.

Please pray for me


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

How necessary Mary is for our Faith? # 3

Right before his First Sign ("Miracle"), Jesus gave us an important promise, on which all the Gospel of saint John is built:

“Truly, truly, I say to [all of] you,
you will see Heaven opened,
and the angels of God
ascending and descending
on the Son of Man.”
(John 1:51)

Jesus here seems to allude to Jacobs dream, in Genesis: 28:10-22:
Jacob's dream (Catacomb via latina)
"Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this Place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the Gate of Heaven.” Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”"

After having read the text Jesus is alluding to, we need now to understand Jesus' mysterious sentence: "you will see Heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man". In order to do so, let us first see the meaning of certain words used in this sentence.

Heaven opened
Jesus' side opened is "heaven opened"
What is "Heaven opened" for John? John himself replies to us: "one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”" (John 19:33-37)

Jesus' side is the door to "heaven". Jesus' side is opened with a spear. From that "heaven" flow "blood and water", i.e. our nourishment.

"Angels of God"

"Angel" in saint John's vocabulary has two meanings: the first one is literal and obvious: one of God's invisible creatures. The second meaning is "mysterious", symbolical: it means the head of a church, an Apostle, or a Bishop. We have this meaning for instance in the book of Revelation: 
"The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches." (Revelation 1:20) In fact the first part of the book of Revelation is a set of 7 letters to the seven heads of seven churches. "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands [...]" (Revelation 2:1). One wouldn't write a letter to an angel, but rather to the head of a church.
As we saw in a previous post about the structure of St John's Gospel, his goal is to offer us 6 signs + the Big Sign, the sign par excellence, the Cross, in order for us to believe. "these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." "Believe" for St John means reach the depths of Jesus, it means "seeing the Crucified Lord", seeing his side open and entering through it in "heaven", and drawing from it "Blood and Water" i.e. Life.

The ladder

The Mysterious ladder Jesus' promise is alluding to is Mary's action in Cana. The New Eve that came from Jesus' side, is the only one knowing the way to His Heart, it is through her "faith" (her capacity to reach His opened Side) that we can believe.

The ladder should be in blue
At Cana, Mary says to Jesus: "They don't have wine". She has the Wine. Mary knows that Jesus is the Redeemer, and how He will redeem us. Mary knows what Jesus will realise on the Cross, when His Hour will come: He will offer the True New Wine (His Blood) for the True and Only Wedding (Him and each one of us). This is why she says to the Servants: "Do whatever He will tell you to do". She shows them the Way (Hodigitria).

This is how St John concludes the First Sign: "What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed His Glory; and His disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples." (John 2:11-12) They believed in Him, and "saw His Glory" because of Mary, who "sees His Glory" and leads to Him. She transmitted her Faith in Him to them. She is the ladder on which the "Angels" go up and down.

Through Mary's faith we are enabled to climb and reach Jesus' side, drink from His Blood and Water, and draw from them to give the others. Like the servants of Cana: they draw from the "new wine" and give to the ones who are invited to the wedding of the Lamb. "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9).

When we hear this Promise: “Truly, truly, I say to [all of] you, you will see Heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51) we understand that its first fulfilment is Jesus' first Sign (Cana's Wedding) and the real and only fulfilment is the Unique Sign: the Cross, where Jesus' side, heaven, is finally opened and with Mary our Mother, through her Faith (the divine Ladder) we can climb to Jesus' side, drink from it, and draw from it and come down, and serve our brothers.

"Mary's faith [...] continues to become the faith of the pilgrim People of God" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 28)

The Six steps of the Ladder

The ladder has 6 rungs or steps: the six signs Johns give us in his first 12 chapters. We need to climb them in order to be purified (the water in Cana was meant for the purification of the Jews (John 2:6)), and be admitted in the Wedding Chamber, with the Groom: His Side.
1st step: Cana's sign (John 2:1-11).
2nd step: Healing the son of the Official (John 4:46-54).
3rd step: Healing of the paralytic (John 5:1-18),
4th step: Feeding the Five Thousand and crossing the sea (John 6),
5th step: Healing the blind man (John 9).
6th step: The Resurrection of Lazarus (John 11).
Remember that in Cana there are six jars! Do you see how Cana holds all the architecture of St John's Gospel?

ascending and descending

The six steps of the Ladder, the six signs that John chose to offer us, as a way of purification, allow us to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, enabling us to reach Jesus' opened side.
Is that all our vocation? just to reach Jesus' depths? No, Jesus himself set us Himself as an example: He not only washed our feet, but invited as to take part in this sacred mission of doing the same to our brothers and sisters: washing their feet. "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." (John 13:14-17)
We draw the capacity to wash from Jesus Himself, being transformed into Him. We draw water and blood from His opened side, and come down, serving our brothers, being, by the Charity of Jesus in our heart, enabled to purify. Not with our capacity, but with Jesus' capacity.

And as well: "A new Commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 14:34) As it has been done to us, in order to allow us to ascend and reach His Side, we should to the same to our brothers and sisters.
This is how the Servants (the Angels) ascend and descend on the Son of Man.

“Truly, truly, I say to [all of] you,
you will see Heaven opened,
and the Angels of God
ascending and descending
on the Son of Man.”
(John 1:51)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

How necessary Mary is for our Faith? # 2

Development of Christian Doctrine

The Blessed John Henry Newman deepened a very important aspect in Theology:
 the development of Christian Doctrine. In simple words, it means: Peter’s faith (Peter the Apostle) and our faith today is exactly the same in its core. But in our perception and understanding of this living Faith there are explicit elements and implicit elements - We need to add that in the implicit has various layers. The understanding (“explicitation” / explication) of certain aspects of our faith today, or throughout the Centuries, received a great deal of improvement/growth. What is needed for salvation is 1- the implicit faith and 2- a minimum of explicit parts (think of the very basic little Creeds we find in the New Testament, like small affirmations: Jesus is God, he is our Saviour;…). Because of external and internal needs in the Church and in the Faithful in some area of the Globe, throughout the centuries some aspects of our faith received, by the Grace of God, a deepening, a clarification: a passage from an implicit state to an explicit state. 

Newman calls this passage: development.

True development doesn’t bring anything new; it is not a new revelation of any sort. It is just an improvement of something we had from day one*. Like a seed that becomes a big tree. We can say that all the tree is included in the seed, the very same DNA is “dormant” implicitly in the seed. We may see development as the continual biological growth, not as a mutation, not as a change of specie.

*day one: Remember that our “day one” is the death of the last apostle. This is when, for us Catholics, the Revelation brought to us by Jesus is accomplished (reaches its fullness). 

Now, Newman and many others after him noticed that – amongst other aspects of course – in the last 160 years, the marian doctrine in the Catholic Church received a great deal of development. 


In his research, reflections and deepening of the Action of God in time (the Divine Economy), Newman saw that in order to have a development, God proceeded by an Envelopment of the Doctrine, of His thoughts. When Newman thinks of the Old Testament, he sees that God didn’t immediately offer everything in Christ, but, on the contrary, he adopted a pedagogical procedure of envelopment as we would do with a little Child. The parents know many things, but they still adapt their words and notions to their little child. The more the child grows, the more the language, concepts, contents will develop accordingly.

From the parents point of view, they operate by envelopment, by putting layers upon layers on the core they hope to transmit education to their children. 
Can we blame the parents for enveloping/hiding the Core (the end result) from their children? Can we say that they lied to their children? Certainly not. 

For the very case of the Old Testament, while reading it and seeing how God acts, today’s mentality in many “developed” countries, has a great deal of difficulty to admit that such behaviour from God is possible. 

Marian Doctrine 

These two notions (development and envelopment) shed a very interesting light on the recent (last 160 years) “growth” in the understanding of Mary and her place in our Faith. 

With these two notions – that are linked to each other – we are better equipped to face the recent facts and pushed as well in the field of theology to give more theological credit to these recent developments and try to take them more seriously theologically. Mary is not only a devotional aspect in our Christian Theology, to be left to some “popular Pastoral Theology” for simple minded pious people. Mary is essential and structural to our faith. And all the signs we receive from more than 160 years, are to be taken very seriously by theologians and by theology. This of course this is a huge challenge for people who think that Christocentrism might be threatened, or who think that they understood everything and nothing is left to be developed. 


The Bible, the Word of God, is the core/soul of Theology. So one of the first tools used by Theology is Exegesis. And one of the first areas in Theology to be challenged by the recent marian developments is Exegesis. 

The notion of “development” as we stated it above, implies that in what you find/see there is a great deal of implicit. Introducing this notion in Exegesis is very challenging, because Exegesis has to find new (or old) “tools” in order to become able to “see” what she is not seeing yet by herself. Since the recent developments in Marian Theology are stating “new” explicitations, and since the actual tools of exegesis are not capable of reaching to these discoveries, this means that the tools as well should develop. 

New exegetical tools 

We perfectly know that the Fathers of the Church and the Spiritual Masters did use different tools in Exegesis in order to “read the Bible” and listen to God’s Voice. Many of these tools today are either criticized or simply dismissed. On the contrary, a more welcoming eye might, would find in them some better tools that can help us “see” better Mary in the Bible, both New and Old. 

Today we dismiss the allegorical, typological, “spiritual” ways of finding Mary in the Old Testament (i.e. she is - as well as Jesus - the “Wisdom” of whom it is spoken in the Wisdom Books, she is the Burning Bush, Jacob’s Ladder, Elijah’s little Cloud, and so on). Of course this is a deep lack of theological insight and methodology.
Today we rely only on the explicit affirmations in the New Testament on Mary. Firstly we think they are very few, and secondly we think that they are not structural (part of the core of our Faith). So in our understanding of Mary and her Theological place we rely on the crust and we even reduce it! While, the recent events (160 years) are pushing us to reconsider the New Testament itself, and feel invited to explore it again, with new eyes, new thirst, and mostly: new exegetical tools, in order to “see” better and “hear” better God’s Voice in Jesus. 

Summing up 

Concluding this part we can say: 

* In the recent years (160 years) Mary appears more and more to be essential in our Faith. 
* “Development of Christian doctrine” should be applied as well to the Theology of Mary. 
* Exegesis should, accordingly, seek better tools in order to be able to follow that development, and find it (see it) in the New Testament.

(to be continued...)