Tag Archive | Scripture

I will raise you up

The story is over, the prodigal son has returned. But an important and unique aspect of the story exists, which was elaborated on by John Paul II in his encyclical dedicated to God the Father, Dives in misericordia. Understanding this aspect makes our return journey to our Father all the more desirable; frankly, it makes it easier. Obviously, the return of the prodigal son was not a matter of punitive payback or discipline. Neither was it used as a ‘teachable moment’ to put the son in his place as reckless and condemn him to a lock-down. Instead, the father had in mind for his son the restoration of his lost dignity.

In the chapter Particular Concentration on Human Dignity in the above-referenced encyclical, John Paul II explained: “This exact picture of the prodigal son’s state of mind enables us to understand exactly what the mercy of God consists in. There is no doubt that in this simple but penetrating analogy the figure of the father reveals to us God as Father. The conduct of the father in the parable and his whole behavior, which manifests his internal attitude, enables us to rediscover the individual threads of the Old Testament vision of mercy in a synthesis which is totally new, full of simplicity and depth. The father of the prodigal son is faithful to his fatherhood, faithful to the love that he had always lavished on his son. This fidelity is expressed in the parable not only by his immediate readiness to welcome him home when he returns after having squandered his inheritance; it is expressed even more fully by that joy, that merrymaking for the squanderer after his return” (Dives in misericordia).

“The father’s fidelity to himself – a trait already known by the Old Testament term hesed – is at the same time expressed in a manner particularly charged with affection. We read, in fact, that when the father saw the prodigal son returning home, ‘he had compassion, ran to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him’ (Lk 15:20). He certainly does this under the influence of a deep affection, and this also explains his generosity towards his son . . . Notice, the father is aware that a fundamental good has been saved: the good of his son’s humanity. Although the son has squandered the inheritance, nevertheless his humanity is saved. Indeed, it has been, in a way, found again. The father’s words to the elder son reveal this: ‘It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead and is alive; he was lost and is found’ (Lk 15:32)” (Dives in misericordia).

“What took place in the relationship between the father and the son in Christ’s parable is not to be evaluated ‘from the outside.’ Our prejudices about mercy are mostly the result of appraising them only from the outside. At times it happens that by following this method of evaluation we see in mercy above all a relationship of inequality between the one offering it and the one receiving it. And, in consequence, we are quick to deduce that mercy belittles the receiver, that it offends the dignity of man. The parable of the prodigal son shows that the reality is different: the relationship of mercy is based on the common experience of that good which is man, on the common experience of the dignity that is proper to him. This common experience makes the prodigal son begin to see himself and his actions in their full truth (this vision in truth is a genuine form of humility); on the other hand, for this very reason he becomes a particular good for his father: the father sees so clearly the good which has been achieved thanks to a mysterious radiation of truth and love, that he seems to forget all the evil which the son had committed” (ibid.).

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The New Jerusalem

We have come full circle with the repentant son in the arms of the father (cf. Lk 15: 11-21). By this we mean that traveling the pathway of the circle of love and submitting to the transformation offered us by Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit and Mary’s fiat, we become ready to enter into the New Jerusalem according to the loving plan of God the Father.

This journey of ours began with the Father’s promise in the book of Genesis: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gn 3:15). It has now started reaching the fullness of the Father’s plan, as described in the book of Revelation:

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be His people and God Himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes and there shall be no more death or mourningwailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ Then he said, ‘Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.’  He said to me, ‘They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts and I shall be his God, and he will be My son'” (Rev 21: 3-7).

I shall arise and go to my father

Today is the feast of St Luke, a perfect time to meditate on the next step in our journey which takes place in the circle of love. The gospel of Luke is called the gospel of mercy because it contains parables not found in the other synoptic Gospels. They illustrate the tender mercy of God, with the most famous of these narratives being the parable of the prodigal son. This parable is central in Dives in misericordia – the encyclical of John Paul II dedicated to the Eternal Father – as his first words show: “It is God who is rich in mercy whom Jesus Christ has revealed to us as Father: it is His very Son who, in himself, has manifested him and made him known to us.” All the main elements of the human condition in relation to salvation history are contained in this parable: the son leaves his father’s house, squanders his inheritance, then suffers degradation and conviction as a result – all subjects of our recent meditations on our return trip back to the Father. But all this pales in light of the character of the son’s father as described in Luke’s gospel.

First, the father of the prodigal son was constantly watching for his son’s return: “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him” (Lk 15:20). The father did not even let his son reveal all the misery in his heart. How many times must the son have rehearsed what he would say to his father, to take him back, but during the actual encounter became engulfed in the happiness of his father’s heart: “His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began” (Lk 15: 21-24).

We are invited to celebrate our own return by imitating the young man in this gospel story. The essence of the parable is to convince us that true repentance lies not just in the minimum request of the son, but his full restoration back into the father’s household. The son was only seeking some of the bread given daily to his father’s servants; instead he was brought back into full communion with the father as the returning son. Our Heavenly Father waits for each one of us.

Most welcome guest

The Holy Spirit and the era of the Church

The coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost commenced the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise at the Last Supper. The description of the tongues of fire and strong driving wind draw us into that moment, creating awe and anticipation in heart and soul. Continuing our exploration of the encyclical of John Paul II on the Holy Spirit, let it satisfy the wonder of it all. Our journey back to the Father brought forth the presence of the Holy Spirit in a new way; the Lord of Light, Father of the poor, healer of our wounds and our soul’s most delightful Guest (cf. Sequence for the Solemnity of Pentecost).

In the encyclical Dominum et vivificantem, John Paul II continued: “Having accomplished the work that the Father had entrusted to the Son on earth (cf. Jn 17:4), on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent to sanctify the Church forever, so that believers might have access to the Father through Christ in one Spirit (cf. Eph 2:18). He is the Spirit of life, the fountain of water springing up to eternal life (cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38), the One through whom the Father restores life to those who are dead through sin, until one day he will raise in Christ their mortal bodies” (cf. Rm 8:10)

“The era of the Church began with the ‘coming,’ that is to say with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, together with Mary, the Lord’s Mother (cf. Acts 1:14). The time of the Church began at the moment when the promises and predictions that so explicitly referred to the Counselor, the Spirit of truth, began to be fulfilled in complete power and clarity upon the Apostles, thus determining the birth of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles speak of this at length and in many passages, which state that in the mind of the first community, whose convictions Luke expresses, the Holy Spirit assumed the invisible but in a certain way ‘perceptible’ guidance of those who, after the departure of the Lord Jesus, felt profoundly that they had been left orphans. With the coming of the Spirit they felt capable of fulfilling the mission entrusted to them. They felt full of strength. It is precisely this that the Holy Spirit worked in them and this is continually at work in the Church, through their successors” (Dominum et vivificantem).

“As the Council writes, ‘the Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). In them He prays and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons (cf. Gal 4:6; Rm 8:15-16:26). The Spirit guides the Church into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13) and gives her a unity of fellowship and service. He furnishes and directs her with various gifts, both hierarchical and charismatic, and adorns her with the fruits of His grace (cf Eph 4:11-12; 1 Cor 12:4; Gal 5:22). By the power of the Gospel He makes the Church grow, perpetually renews her and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse'” (Lumen gentium, n. 4).

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

“I will put enmity between you and the woman.” (Gen. 3:15)

“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Rev 12:1)

Holy Mother the Church has much to say about the above scripture quotes in reference to the mother of Jesus. As mentioned in earlier entries regarding the Father’s merciful promise to our first parents, the woman referred to is the Virgin Mary. On December 8, 1854 Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception ~ her first prerogative towards her destiny as the mother of God. Between this and the image brought forth in the book of Revelation, i.e. “the woman clothed with the sun,” we see in Mary the unique place she holds in Salvation History, leading us to understand that through her fidelity in obedience, she is indeed “Janua Coeli ~ Gate of Heaven.

Jesus is our redeemer! Our salvation was accomplished by His obedience: “…He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 7,8) This needs to be said and emphasized, in regards to the “order” of Salvation History. Jesus is the God-man, our Mediator; but he became so in time through the cooperation of Mary when she pronounced her “Fiat.” Through her cooperation, he received the body which he immolated on the Cross. So it is from this aspect that we focus on the role of our Blessed Mother in our journey within the “Circle of Love.” That is, in the perspective of time, cooperation and preparation. In any case we need not fear of putting her before her Divine Son in importance, because she herself does not do this. Before giving her answer to the Angel Gabriel, she said with all her heart: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord…” On the other hand we must recognize the centrality of Mary’s role in Salvation History, in order that we may follow her example and implore her help during our journey of “homeward bound.” We must remember, too,  that it is God himself who has “exalted her lowliness.” (cf. Lk 1:49) We can take counsel from the words of Saint Josemaria Escriva regarding the place of Mary in our lives: “There is no danger of exaggerating. We can never hope to fathom this inexpressible mystery, nor will we ever be able to give sufficient thanks to our Mother for bringing us into such intimacy with the Blessed Trinity. And it is this intimacy with the Trinity we have been called.

What are we to learn and take heed when approaching Mary? As St. Josemaria said, we can never fully understand the mystery of Mary, but we can expand our understanding by searching the writings of the holy promoters of Mariology. Examples of these are two great “apostles” of Marian spirituality: St. Louis-Marie Gringion DeMontfort, and nearer to our own time, St. Maximillian Kolbe. This will be the subject of the next blog entries, as we continue our contemplation of the role of Mary in Salvation History and more personally in our own lives. Fiat!

Upward turn

The Old Testament is filled with “Divine rescues.” God intervening to save his people or individuals. The covenants he made with the human race during this era demonstrates his powerful protection done so with mighty strength and authority. Even when chastising Israel, it was in order to correct and bring them back into right relationship. This was always done in view of delivering his children from the clutches of  evil. Yes, God is seen as the powerful Creator and deliverer, but also fatherly in  dealing with the people he formed,  fulfilling his promise to Abraham: “Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars of heaven…the sands of the seashore.” Gen 22:17)

When they were in Egypt, He powerfully brought them out of bondage in order to further form them into a family. “When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son…it was I who taught Ephaim to walk, who took them in my arms, but they did not know that I cared for them. I drew them with human cords, with bands of love. I fostered them like those who raise an infant to their cheeks, I bent down to feed them.” ( Hosea 11: 1, 3-4)
God’s love is not cheap, and it is so because it is a covenent love. By its very nature it is reciprocal. Israel consistantly fell short of the expectations of their covenant with God, but even then, what is the divine and paternal response? “How could I give you up, Ephraim, or deliver you up, Israel….My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred….For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you. (Hosea 11: 8-9)

And so it was throughout the entire Old Testament era. God’s call, the initial response of more or less faithfulness, followed by a falling away. This in turn brought about the need for correction by way of tribulations, usually being  conquered by neighboring peoples. Israel becomes desolate and repentant, with God restoring them in their plight. The pattern is consistant.

Throughout these continuous defections, the Father sent messengers to the people. They were duly warned, but the Prophets went unheeded. And so, we are  given to understand that God is sovereign and yet always ready to bend down to return righteousness to his people…even if it included severe chastisement. As for any parent, it was meeted out as a last resort as shown in the stories of the various prophets.

Finally the time comes when the journey back to the Father is to take, you might say, a definitive turn for the better. Although externally the situation remains vacillating on the part of his “Family,” nevertheless, the time has come to fulfill the Promise given in the Garden of Eden: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel. (Gen. 3:15 NAB). We see this confirmed in the letter of St. Paul to the Galations: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’  So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Gal 4: 4- 7) And so the “Great Circle of Love” takes a definitive turn upwards to its beginning with the fulfillment of the promise made to Adam and Eve. Jesus the “new Adam” born of Mary, restores our filial relationship with the Father. (cf. Rom 5 15-21) Having taught us how, we dare to say: “Our Father, who art in Heaven;” and we do this while looking forward, with hope, to our total transformation in Christ as we await His full appearance in glory. (cf. Titus 2:13)

Circle of Love revisited

The subtitle of this blog is “The Great Circle of Love,” a subtitle that denotes a very defined movement – that is, a moment in which the start and the finish points become fused into a single point. Such fusion is even illustrated in our own weekly timeline, when Sunday to Sunday is seen in a cyclical aspect, with every eighth day being the beginning and end of the circle. This is one of the reasons why the Judeo-Christian tradition employs this ‘journey’ in both worship and liturgy; that is, that major feasts are prolonged into eight-day celebrations in order to make a deeper penetration into the event or mystery celebrated. In the Roman Catholic Church, a Great Octave is observed when celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter, which culminates eight days later with Divine Mercy Sunday, is accompanied by very special graces.

We could look at our return to the Father in the light of this circular fashion. The downward curve denotes the beginning of the journey from our creation in time, with the rest of the arching circle showing the movement back towards the beginning. Such a circle, coupled with the sequence of what is salvation history, creates a way of illustrating the saving plan of our Heavenly Father, namely the Incarnation of His only-begotten Son for our redemption.

Therefore, all of the above is about beginnings and endings: “Thus says the Lord, Israel’s king, its redeemer, the Lord of hosts. I am the first, I am the last” (Is 44:6). So what about our own beginning and ending? Perhaps we could think of it as the ‘divine roundabout;’ that is, our own existence starting from the Father and our return to Him – the Great Circle of Love.

Order is Heaven’s first law

The title above is taken from a poem by Alxander Pope and it embodies the subject that follows in this post. Yes, our God is a God of order.  What may seem disorder stems from the permisseve will of God to bring about a greater good, including human choices. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and lost their “original intimacy” with the Father, another course had to be set in order for the needed restoration.  This time the human choices were going to be enacted in a “fallen state.”  The human condition was now in the framework of  a darkened intellect and  weakened will.

As soon as Adam sinned and consequently experienced the effects of his decision, the first thing recorded was that he was afraid. (cf Gen 3:10) Perhaps Adam’s answer of “being naked” also included his loss of the closeness  he had with God, without the reignment of the gifts he had before his sin.

At that point God made a promise ~ His response and remedy for this catastrophe. Without getting into the controversy in the translation of this verse, the Father’s response and remedy was: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” (Gen 3:15)

This brings us to the what is called the “Protoevangelion” (Greek for First Gospel) The above account begs for attention to the fact that our Father’s initial response to the betrayal of our first Parents was Merciful Love! Before Justice was meeted out, Mercy was extended by the promise of a Savior. The “order” was set in place. That we may return to the Father, a new pathway was created.  Although God is one in Nature, certain works are attributed to each Person of the Trinity, namely Creation, Redemption and Sanctification.  Regarding the Father, besides the creation of the world and our first parents, we read accounts of his major interventions in what is commonly called the Old Testament era.  And thus, the beginning of the journey we now call Salvation History.

In Eternal Splendor

“When all things were wrapt in a profound silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, Thy almighty Word, O Lord, leapt down from  your Throne in Heaven.” (Christmas liturgy)

Before time began there was an eternal voice of Father and Son. The Father speaking his Word and the Son returning His Fiat in filial love. This total self-giving is the essence of  union of wills. “I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me You are my Son, today I have become your Father.” (Ps 2:7)  The Son in turn speaks back: 

 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come. It is written about me in the scroll:
 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (ps 40:7-9)

One of the definitions of consecration is: “to dedicate our life or time, etc. to a specific purpose.”  This certainly is true and done divinely in what the Greek Fathers call “the round dance of the Trinity.” The total self-giving in mutual love and dedication. Jesus’ whole mission was to show us the Father and that we join and enter into  His consecration before all ages. The Father’s promise of a Savior given in Eden will be totally complete, when the Holy Spirit forms Christ in us and we join Him in crying out “Abba Father” and join in the Dance!

 

O Blessed Trinity

HOME AT LAST IN THE ARMS OF THE FATHER

“Brothers and sisters: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Feast of the Holy Trinity, Rom 8: 14 17)