The Possibility of Love

Sunday, July 24, 2016

“It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness, he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”

– Pope St. John Paul II, WYD Rome

Follow me…

It was another day at the tax office, until Matthew looked up and heard him say, “follow me.” Leaving everything behind, he rose and followed him. Fast-forward a few years. Saul is on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus, when suddenly he is struck blind by a brilliant light. He hears a voice ask him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Not only did he convert to Christianity, but spent the rest of his life bringing thousands of others to the faith. He became one of the Church’s greatest saints - St. Paul the Apostle.

Skip to year 354. After years of searching and sordid living, God’s grace overwhelms Augustine of Hippo. With a heart he described asflooded with light, he felt prompted to read Romans 13:14, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” He did just that, and never turned back. His writings in theology and philosophy have been of primary influence in all of Western Christianity, and continue to nourish the lives of the faithful today.

Jump to 1941. Living in the reigns of a communist government after the brutality of WWII, following a call to the priesthood was not only counter-cultural, but dangerous. And yet, when asked about it, Blessed John Paul II simply offered, “at a certain point in my life, I became convinced that Christ was saying to me what he had said to thousands before me: 'Come, follow me!' There was a clear sense that what I heard in my heart was no human voice, nor was it just an idea of my own. Christ was calling me to serve him as a priest.” In the wake of the witness of these men’s lives, one is compelled to ask, what, or rather who could provoke such a radical self-gift of love, and nourish lives so brilliant with life?

Who is He?

C.S. Lewis argued that if you consider all that Jesus said and proclaimed throughout his life, he can only be one of three things - a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. It’s a reasonable argument. What kind of person tells people that whoever “ eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:54),” without being a flagrant liar, a sufferer of serious hallucinations, or the Son of the living God? C.S. Lewis has been just one of the long parade of people emerging from every class, creed, and culture throughout the past two thousand years to ponder again and again, who is Jesus?

But who do you say that I am?

While for many this question may begin as a matter of curiosity, for those seeking to follow Jesus, he made answering a matter of necessity. To each member of his small band of twelve he asked, “but who do you say that I am?” (Matt.16:15). Putting ourselves in the shoes of the disciples, we feel the gravity of this question. Searching our minds and hearts, we realize the answer isn’t a matter of good research or a brilliant intellect. Nor is it simply a matter of convincing ourselves of an answer based on our best reasoning. No. The wonder and vulnerability we feel when we face this age-old question with sincerity reveals - it is a question of faith.

The question of faith isn’t comfortable. It draws man to stand at the edge of a cliff, peering into a vast unknown – a great, and often terrifying mystery. Is this it? We wonder. Is this the more I am called to? The life of possibility and fulfillment I desire? There is a sense of invitation that calls from the heart of the great beyond before us. We consider our options. We can turn and walk away from the edge, shoulder life ourselves, and leave behind the uncomfortable tension the question stirs up in our hearts. We could step back from the edge. Cling to the twigs and loose rock just in arms reach. It’s more comfortable there. Or we can dare to trust that little nudge, that presence of grace that gains us the strength to let go, surrender, and leap right into the purifying yet life-giving vulnerability of faith. In this way we follow Peter, answering Jesus, “you are Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), and hear him in reply, “blessed are youflesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven (16:17).”

By aligning our free-will with the gift of faith, we enter into the great epic God has planned for each of us. Like the countless number of priests & religious, martyrs and monks, holy men and saintly women who have followed in Peter’s footsteps, we encounter the One who first called us. In every new leap of faith we reveal to ourselves, and the whole world, there is Someone who will catch us. Faith is not an empty abyss of nothingness, nor a place for the foolish, but rather the place man engages the ultimate story of life lived with Christ - He who offers us the possibility of love, truth, beauty, and goodness at every depth and height of experience and existence if we would but dare and attempt to open ourselves up to it.

Be not afraid…

As we enter into this week of grace in the World Youth Days of Krakow, let us take up the challenge found in the words of Pope Francis – words he spoke especially to the youth of the world…

You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope? Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love? Saint Paul tells us that “God proves his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Do we really understand the power of these words? . . .

Dear young people, at the Shrine in Krakow dedicated to the merciful Jesus, where he is depicted in the image venerated by the people of God, Jesus is waiting for you. He has confidence in you and is counting on you! He has so many things to say to each of you... Do not be afraid to look into his eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy and for true happiness. Come to Him and do not be afraid! Come to him and say from the depths of your hearts: “Jesus, I trust in You!”.

Let yourselves be touched by his boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair. Carry with you the flame of Christ’s merciful love – as Saint John Paul II said – in every sphere of your daily life and to the very ends of the earth. In this mission, I am with you with my encouragement and prayers. I entrust all of you to Mary, Mother of Mercy, for this last stretch of the journey of spiritual preparation for the next WYD in Krakow. I bless all of you from my heart.”

Spiritual Exercise…

Take some time to pray with and ponder Jesus’ question to the disciples “but who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-20). More than elbowing your way to any immediate or “right” answer, let the question be absorbed into your heart. What desires does it stir up? Struggles? Emotions? Begin your time of prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you. Try to remain within your heart throughout the time of prayer. Trust the Holy Spirit will stir up and reveal what the Lord is asking you to look at and consider at this point in your life. What is He revealing about Himself? About you?

Media Corner

God in the Streets by Grassroots films – get ready to believe... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bxQ9MVTkuQ ,

Another Reason to Believe from Grassroots films, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qExz0Q7EL8&feature=related

And finally, don’t miss this one…after 26 years of World Youth Days – the world will never be the same… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxOTpuQe6M4 See you in Madrid!

Further Reading…

Pope St. John Paul II”s very first encyclical Redemptor hominis, (The Redeemer of Man) dives into the mystery of man’s redemption and the essential foundations of humanity’s identity, dignity, and glorious potential through the life and person of Jesus Christ. A must read - http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_04031979_redemptor-hominis_en.html .

If you only have a moment, here is an excerpt:

Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer “fully reveals man to himself.” If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly "expressed" and, in a way, is newly created (RH,10)