Saturday, 10 May 2014

107: Hearing Jesus' call

Jesus calls all humanity

Jesus wants to call people to follow him from close up. In a more formal way it can also be termed, the “call for Holiness”. Traditionally it is called as well the “second conversion”, in the sense that one can well be a Christian, but lead a sort of a good reasonable life, good moral life, faithful to the weekly Mass, but from the Grace of God's point of view it is a lukewarm spiritual life: the relationship with Jesus has come to a halt. What does Jesus want us to do in order to awaken the grace of God in our brother's life? Jesus invites us to “facilitate the encounter”, acting like a catalyst, witnessing to Jesus (telling others what he did to us).

Ask the Lord of the harvest

One very important task we have is to answer Jesus' request to: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Matthew 9:38). At times that task can look frustrating. But this request remains a key request. Paradoxically (if you read the previous post) we seem not only to have a part to play in the “Call for Holiness”, in the planning of it, but it is a totally different part from what we can think of: asking, in prayer, fervently, Jesus to send workers into his harvest field.
Having a personal relationship with Jesus, experiencing his love makes us burn with the desire to make him deeply known to the entire world. Would we just wait and watch things unfolding? Don't we have a role to play in Jesus' plan? Are we completely absent from Jesus' plan since : “it depends not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy.” (Romans 9:16)? Oh no... we have to play our part in Jesus' plan, like Our Lady, and ask and pray fervently to obtain that Grace of Jesus' Calling to others. He asked us to do so.
Let us be united with Mary, like in Advent time, and pray and ask fervently for the Grace of God's mercy to reveal his son to many. It is a grace, it can be obtained, we just need to discover the most powerful way to obtain it. Contemplating the one who, in her prayer, obtained for us the Messiah remains, in God's mind and plan the most powerful leaver.
Let us repeat with Mary, her prayer: send us oh Lord the Messiah, i.e. make many people discover Jesus, make Jesus knock at the door of many persons, giving them the grace of being enthused by spiritual life, by wanting to discover who is Jesus, have a relationship with Him, and embark on the journey with him. Mary's prayer, and Fire are so powerful. Let us unite with her. “Pray for us oh Mother of God”... obtain from Jesus for many many the grace of following him.
Easing the way for Jesus

Another aspect shouldn't be overlooked: People are not always ready to hear Jesus' call.
We are invited to take part in the Plan, as Jesus friends, like John the Baptist. We open the way for Jesus, facilitating for people the hearing of his call. Often his voice is so gentle, that the noise of our busy life won't allow us to hear him. The thick layer of all our desires, personal plans, work, family, does not allow us to hear his personal voice in our heart. Our lack of commitment and endeavour to many issues is not opening the way to Jesus to be heard.
At the end of the day we are faced with this truth: Jesus doesn't land on any soil. God always prepares the soil. We can take part in this preparation, and invite others to take part in it.

Abraham's three thresholds

Abraham is a good example of how God prepares the way in order for us to receive his precious gifts. Jesus' call is the most precious gift a human being can receive. Are you aware of that? But in order to value it, in order to receive it properly and make it bear fruit, the soil has to be prepared. God wanted to give Abraham the Promised land. The real Promised land for us is Jesus himself, to possess him, to be loved by him and love him, and serve him.
God could have given Abraham directly and immediately the promised land, but in fact he opened the way, ploughing the soil with powerful blades, so the soil can open in order to receive the Pearl of all pearls: the Promised land. He made Abraham go through 3 different thresholds.
1st Threshold: the freedom from my own land/tribe: He asks him to leave his land and go.
2nd Threshold: the freedom from the blood ties (son, parents, husband/wife): give me the most precious tie you have, give me your son Isaac. Do you prefer me, Jesus, above your mother, father, son, daughter, wife?
3rd Threshold: the freedom and growth: you will go to Egypt, will work, grow, and take the goods (result of that effort). His descendants spent 430  years in Egypt, in order to cross that threshold.
It is only after these three thresholds that Abraham (Abraham descendants), would start the journey to the Holy Land, by Moses.
This example from the old testament, read in the Light of Jesus, helps us understand the role of John the Baptist, or better said: the first three thresholds that prepare the way for Jesus' call to-follow-him-from-close-up to be heard.

The three thresholds in the Gospel

We see that behaviour in Jesus with the Young Rich man. When he asks Jesus what he is supposed to do in order to reach Eternal life, Jesus doesn't start by saying: ok, good, excellent, I love you, come and follow me. On the contrary, Jesus checks the thresholds: have you been faithful to Moses' commandments?
The same thing happens in John's Gospel: we have a total of 6 steps in order to reach “opened heaven” (Jesus' side opened) i.e. God's Glory revealed in Jesus on the Cross. These 6 steps are 6 signs that John put, as steps, thresholds, in order to be purified, and become ready to enter the face to face with Jesus' Glory on the Cross, accessing heaven (i.e. his opened side). These signs could be divided into two lots: the first 3 and the following. What divides them is this second stage in Jesus' follower: crossing the sea, heading toward God himself, Holiness.
In this sense, the first three thresholds or signs mentioned by John are equivalent to Abraham's ones. Cana, the son of the military officer, the paralysed man.

Teresa of Avila's thresholds

Now, you might ask: do we have any proof in the Church's Spiritual Living Tradition of these thresholds?
- Of course yes. If we look at St Teresa of Avila's masterpiece “The Interior Castle” we find the following: she paves the journey to “Union with Jesus” offering 7 different stages of growth; she calls them “Mansions”. The surprising thing is that the “second conversion” happens only at the 4th Mansion. Entering into the living relationship with Jesus, the supernatural, starts only at that stage. One can neglect all what comes before. But in fact, the three mansions that precede are very important.
1- First, she invites the reader who is closer to Jesus and more especially the reader who reached that union with Jesus (see Seventh Mansion) never to forget to pray for the persons who are in the first mansions. She considers it as a very important act of Mercy not to forget the persons stuck in these stages.
2- Also, we need to study these three first mansions in order to understand the three different thresholds that the human being is called to cross. The most striking comment she makes, not only in my eyes, but in the eyes of a great man, Fr Marie Eugène (soon to become Blessed) is how she describes the Christian life of a person in the third mansion (i.e. right before discovering Jesus' personal call): she says that they lead a very reasonable life; you would say: they are “good catholics”. They have a good morality, they go to Church, they do good things, they help others,... All is there, but strangely, Jesus - the living Jesus - is not there! That note of hers, stressed again by Fr Marie Eugene in his masterpiece “I want to see God”, should be enough to revolutionise the Church, people who think they are awake but in fact are perfectly dormant.

Summing up we can say:

1- it is very important to understand that Jesus' call is a grace, and even if a Grace of God can't be planned, controlled, we are strongly invited to pray to Jesus to give his grace. We need to obtain this grace. Acknowledging that it is a grace doesn't mean that we are helpless, it only means that we know our place: God's initiative is sovereign. Asking Mary to obtain that Grace is really the most powerful starting point.

2- Like John the Baptist, we need to prepare for our brothers the way for Jesus' call to be heard (bring them to Jesus' audio range). There are things to be done in order to be ready to hear. We will still have our freedom to say yes or no, but we will be more ready. See the three thresholds that Abraham and his descendants had to undergo in order to start their real journey to the Promised Land.

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