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Curatio Retreat 2020
“Wounded Hearts Love Best”
Father Justin Kizewski
September 25-27

First Reflection – Friday Evening
“Wounded, I will never cease to love”

Let’s begin with prayer … In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lord Jesus, be with us, stay with us, reveal Your Heart to us, heal us. Help us to come to know You better, and in knowing You to love You more. Help us mirror Your love for those that we meet. We ask for the intercession of our patron saints, our guardian angels, and Mary, our mother. We ask for the Holy Spirit and all His gifts. We ask all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The theme of this retreat is “Wounded Hearts Love Best,” and obviously, just looking at the signs out front, this does get right to the heart of what this apostolate, it seems to me, is all about. You have this phrase, “Curatio ex Corde Christi; Healing from the Heart of Christ.” So, what do we know about this Heart? Well, without spoiling everything that I hope to say, we know that it is pierced, it is wounded for us. We know that blood and water is flowing out. We know that it’s the source of some of the most precious gifts to us, and we know that it’s an invitation – an open heart invitation – to come if you’re weary and if you’re burdened, and rest awhile. And the most explicit reference to His Heart, that’s the Lord’s invitation, so this open heart invitation to come and live in His Heart, live with Him, so that we can learn from Him. “Come, learn from Me,” He says. We can learn specifically how to love like Him and how to heal like Him.

So, I think we have five talks. The whole theme is “Wounded Hearts love Best,” and the first one is “Wounded, I will never cease to love.” We’ll get more into that. The second is “Some Wounds don’t heal,” and the third is “Behold such a heart.” The fourth is the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” and then the fifth will be “Come to Me.” And I’m surprised to give a talk on these things. I mean, it’s not exactly my first way of relating with the Lord. I tend to be headier; I tend to be more intellectual, I suppose. The heart – really talking about its woundedness – is not something that I do naturally; it’s certainly not something that I imagine myself doing, but given our time, given the great work that you do and the stresses that you encounter, and the truth that we are meant to love like Christ loves and we will look like Him, I think it’s an important theme.

So then, we thought of doing a bit of an introduction first, and we’ll do this very quickly and imminently, of just prayer in general, and then in this first talk after that just brief introduction of prayer, I hope to hit on some of the themes that will carry us through into adoration and also tee us up then for tomorrow. Feel free to ask questions. Oh, and then … a couple of caveats. There are opportunities for certainly confession, but also direction. I forget how it’s labeled, but we thought too just a brief word on that. Direction can be something that you do over a long period of time with a spiritual director and that’s going to be the most important, but if there are things that are stirring in your heart and you just want to have a spiritual conversation about those things, if you have questions that you would like to ask, those are the kinds of things that spiritual conversation or direction, or whatever you want to use that time for, that is what that’s intended for, so there are signups that are available, and someone will just have to point out where those are and where I need to be and when I need to be there. I’m not very organized and I’m chronically late, and I have other struggles that will be evident. All of my faults are evident almost immediately, so anyhow … I’m sorry for those. Pray for me … I’m a work in progress.

Try to enter in the silence, and if someone laid different ground rules than these follow those, but here are my suggestions, that as long as we kind of decide what silence means just follow that, and then it frees us a great deal of the worry or anxiety. So, I would say, feel free to acknowledge another person. You don’t have to do so with your voice, but you can do it with your eyes and especially the mouth most of the time. Smile with your eyes and then you can go on. If you need something at dinner or the meals or whatever, I’m not sure how necessary that will be, but anyhow feel free to somehow get attention. You can say a little word if you need something and don’t want to make a scene, and know that things will strike you as funnier than they would have if you could talk about them, and food, because the silence is our focus, will taste better, even if it was really good to begin with. So those are good ways the Lord blesses us. Certainly you can talk to me and we can find those moments; just pull me aside.

A little bit on prayer … and a good way to begin is where the catechism begins with prayer, and that is with God’s thirst, and it comes from John Chapter 4, the woman at the well. And He goes to her and says, “Give Me a drink.” She’s a Samaritan and he’s a Jew; that wouldn’t normally happen. Jews don’t speak to Samaritans; we all know these things, because these stories are pretty familiar, I suspect. He’s asking her for a drink. You see, the catechism talks about prayer as God’s thirst meeting our thirst, and God’s thirst for us is always first. “Give Me a drink.” “Come unto Me.” “If you knew the gift of God and who it was who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” So right there we’ve got this sense of what prayer might look like. “Give Me a drink.” And then we, in turn, ask Him for a drink, and He gives living water, which we find out is the Holy Spirit a few lines later. And drinking, thirsting and quenching our thirst, is an image that Josef Pieper in this book “Happiness and Contemplation” uses as an image for happiness. He says, “If we understand happiness as the quenching of a thirst, we must forthwith recognize that the thirsty looks away from himself and he seeks something else, that which produces happiness and is something outside of the soul.” And so, there’s this notion that the thirst that yearns for happiness also relates to sin. It’s a mixing of metaphors or images, but it’s very, very true. The activity which we receive, the drink which is happiness, is by nature an activity whose effects work inward. So it’s something that we see, we bring in, and it becomes part of us, so we are wanting to see.

So, how do we pray? What’s a brief introduction to prayer? Well, these instructions come from St. Francis de Sales in his “Introduction to the Devout Life”, and I find it very helpful and there are similar kinds of directions, methods that you’ll find in St. Ignatius, that you’ll find in the spiritual classics, but basically there are these general pieces of prayer, but first you have to prepare to pray, to get ready to pray, and so the first step is going to be preparation. And the perhaps best way to prepare is just to put yourself in the presence of God, draw your attention to God’s presence, and St. Francis de Sales uses the image of a blind man in a king’s court. So you’re in the king’s court and, if you’re blind, you don’t see, and so the king comes in and maybe the trumpets or whatever, but basically that’s the point. You need attention to be brought to the fact that the king is there.

On a side note, I was once working with Mother Teresa’s sisters in Washington, D.C., as I was going to school at Catholic University, and I was helping a fellow that was blind and I laid his food out in front of him and I said, “How does that look?” Anyway, he had a great sense of humor and he said, “I don’t know; I can’t see.”

So we put our thoughts in God and it’s like we’re blind and we need to be alerted to His presence. Hey, the King is here. You could consider how He lives in you, and I love the scene from the Lion King movie, or the musical had this song too. He tells him to look at the water and he looks and just sees his reflection, and he says, “Look harder.” He looks harder and then he sees Mufasa. “You see, he lives in you.” So, that’s a way. You could think of how Jesus looks at you from His humanity, in His humanity, how He looks on all, how He looks on all Christians as siblings, as members of this new way of being God’s family. “Who are My mother, My brother and My sister? … those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Think specifically how the Lord looks with kindness and generosity on those at prayer; think of how He looks at people at prayer, who are fascinated by His prayer, so much so that the apostles asked Him, “Teach us how to pray.” Never underestimate the power of the Our Father.

Imagine Jesus in His humanity as if He were sitting next to you. You can imagine this, but if we are in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we have the Blessed Sacrament and it’s not imaginary; it’s real. Christ is here. So, in this first step, you prepare yourself, like God is here, and often when I preach homilies I’ll encourage folks at the beginning of the homily to make an act of faith and say something like, “Amen. I believe; I believe that God is here.” “Amen. I believe that God is at work.” “Amen. I believe that God speaks.” “Amen. I believe that God speaks to me.”

These are always preparatory and they’re all different. You don’t have to do them all, but do some sort of getting yourself ready to pray and just sit down and pray. But you need to kind of disengage a bit from the world. I just saw this – it is in Mother Teresa and Me and is a quotation: “It’s not that God isn’t speaking to you; it’s that you have the world turned up too loud and you can’t hear Him.” But then invoke God’s assistance, and so take the Liturgy of the Hours as a great example of how to prepare for prayer. We have preparation in the Liturgy of the Hours; it’s sort of built right in. “Oh, God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.” That’s a great way to begin all prayer. The Church seems to know what she’s doing when she asks us to begin that way in her prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours.

Then you’re going to have some subject of the mystery, some perhaps imagination, some scene perhaps if it’s a Bible verse or Gospel passage. You can think through that; it’s often called the composition of place, but sometimes you wouldn’t use the imagination. Sometimes it’s a truth of the faith or a conversation that you want to have with the Lord. Then you get into the second part, and it’s a consideration. And what you’re doing in this combination of vocal prayer and meditative prayer is trying to mine your thoughts, or the Scriptures, or whatever you have for your meditation – perhaps it’s something that went on in your day – you’re mining for a truth to consider. People will say the happy man is the one who sees, and so we’re mining for that consideration, that little nugget of truth when we become aware of reality and we go, “Aha!” And then we consider it and we look at it from different angles. That’s the consideration. This is how it looks if you’re thinking of a mystery when you pray the rosary. If you’re going through lines in the Our Father, maybe you get stuck on one and it’s good to get stuck. Stay there … Our Father … and then you’ve got that little nugget.

Then the third part is always going to be the most important part of prayer actually, when prayer really becomes prayer, and that is the affection or resolution. You see, prayer has to land in your will; it has to land in the part that we don’t even perhaps know we’re composed. We’ve got these powers of intellect and will, and intellect does a great deal for us in the consideration piece, but prayer properly speaking has to rest in your will. It has to elicit some act of your will. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Usually it’s in kind of four basic moments of prayer, and may be summarized in this way: sorry, please, thank you, wow! Those are the four kinds of prayer … reparation, when we’re contrite and we’re asking for mercy. “I’m sorry.” That’s a movement of the will. Something is lodged into our heart and then it’s like, “Oh, my … I’m sorry.” Or it’s a “Please, please help.” “Petitions,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “are among the most effective prayers, because that’s the prayer of a friend.” Who do you go to when you need something dearly, a stranger or a friend? So it goes like, “I won’t trouble God. God is too busy for me.” You’re putting so much limitation on God. He is so much more than what you think Him to be, if you think you’re bothering Him.

But where do you go when you really need something? You call a friend. You call up to Him. So petition is just that, and the bigger the request the happier the Lord is to come to you in it. Please, thank you, gratitude … “Thank You, Lord. Thank You for Your goodness,” and then, “Wow!” So, we’ve got reparation or contrition, we’ve got petition, we’ve got thanksgiving, and here we have adoration or praise. “Wow, You’re amazing.” An act of love, an act of sorrow … these are all kinds of resolutions, something that’s got to get drawn out and has to be stirred up in our hearts. And then finally we would conclude, and basically it’s taking inventory of our prayer, and there’s not a set amount of time for each of these steps. You may not get through all of them, but it’s good to have some sense of a method of what we’re trying to do when we sit down to pray. First I’m going to get ready. “Lord, I believe that You’re here. I’m glad that You’re speaking to me. God, come to my assistance.” And then we might in the content, as we’re praying the rosary, or thinking of a prayer, or conversing with God, or imagining a Bible scene or a Gospel scene, or considering a truth of the faith, or going through an aspect of our day, or whatever the content is, and then it rests in those many ways but with some aspect of the heart. It’s good to have the conversations with the Lord, angels, saints, ourselves, our own hearts, sinners, creatures, all of these kinds of things. When you think of creatures you’re like, “How do you do that?” St. Francis had that, when he called Sister Moon and Brother Sun.

Anyway, then the fourth part … so, we’ve done the preparation, the consideration, the affection, the resolution, and the conclusion. So, we would always then conclude with an inventory. Okay, what happened in my prayer? “Thank You, Lord, for being present here.” Then we would make an act of offering. “Here I am, Lord. I come to do Your will.” We would continue to pray for ourselves, the Church, our pastors, relatives, friends, others, asking for the intercession of the saints, and then close with perhaps some vocal prayer, the Our Father or Hail Mary, or the Sub Tuum Praesidium, one of the earliest ways of speaking to Our Lady – “We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God,” “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.” “Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin. Amen.”

Father Michael Gaitley points out, and I’ve seen others now do it too, that in the Memorare we’ve got … “Never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection was left unaided.” I’m not going to be the first; you’re not going to be the first. It’s like everyone except me; no, it’s not that way. And then, I think this is particularly helpful from St. Francis de Sales when he says, “Collect the graces into a bouquet for yourself, put it in a vase, and carry the vase home.” So, it’s an image of gathering what was done in your prayer and then it will continue to figure through the day, or the next day if you pray at night. Obviously, an understood implicit premise here is that you pray. There’s no way around this; we have to pray.

I didn’t actually get to the main point. Let me say just these things. Think of where the Lord has healed people, healed them of their inner demons, their inner voices, healed them of some physical ailments … I have a running list here. We’ve got the woman at the well and the rest of the story here. We’ve got Jairus’ daughter, the fellow that goes to the Lord and he tries to get His attention, and the Lord is just torn in all of these directions, and He’s making His way to the daughter, but He kind of lingers on the way and meets the hemorrhaging woman, and she’s been suffering for years with her ailment. Nicodemus is the fellow in John, Chapter 3, with whom Jesus talks, and he is a leader of the community of the Jews and a scribe. He just kind of knows his stuff, and then the Lord targets his intellectualism, perhaps his intellectual pride, and says, “Have you not read this?” This is a scribe; of course he has read it all. “Have you not read this? Do you know this passage, this really famous passage in Scripture?” … that’s basically the Lord to Nicodemus. That would hurt … ouch. Peter … I mean, one of the reasons that we feel so bad when he falls is we probably had a higher expectation of the kind of person he was. That can hurt. It can be so human and healthy to get a clear picture of ourselves. Martha’s anxiety … and she’s encouraged that her sister has chosen the one necessary thing and that it won’t be taken from her.

I mean, that’s perhaps where a lot of us are, and so then when we’re anxious we want to deprive others of their peace and we need to really watch that. Don’t let anything deprive you of that peace, and don’t be an agent of depriving someone else of their peace. At any point, Martha could have asked for help. Instead, she waits way too long beyond any semblance of charity and then goes to the Word made flesh, “Lord, do You not care that I am here suffering?” Of course He cares; of course He knows. He knows everything. Her service perhaps allowed Mary to have that one necessary thing. Maybe she could have contextualized it that way, or maybe if she was really burdened, if she had asked her sister for help, are we sure that Mary wouldn’t have gotten up to help? No, I think she would have.

The stories of healing always point to the wound. That’s where the Lord wants to enter; that’s what He wants to heal. So, in this “Wounded, I will never cease to love,” the idea is ultimately being kind of open, that same openness before the Lord that He is open before us. St. Augustine says, in a place that I can’t find … I don’t remember where I read this; I mean, it’s all on the internet, but with no reference … sometimes that would suggest that it’s maybe not St. Augustine, like St. Francis’ line of “Preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words.” It’s a great phrase, but he never said it, which I guess is the point. He communicated that somehow without ever saying it – that’s brilliant! But St. Augustine apparently said, “In my deepest wound, I saw Your glory and it dazzled me,” a kind of open invitation for the Lord, right? So then the phrase, “Wounded I will never cease to love” comes from a group of sisters in Rome, the Little Sisters of the Lamb; this is their motto for their order – “Wounded I will never cease to love.” And I’m sure that you can add new meaning to it.

Here’s a couple that, after listening to them and certainly thinking about it myself that I’ve come to: “Though wounded, I will not stop loving,” so a kind of resolution, I will not give up, not ever, not for anything, and when the sisters would talk about this, they would often put it in this context of being wounded by another sister or someone you like and you are insulted by somebody, and then what happens? What do you want to do? You feel that little nuisance, like “I’ll show you!” But then we try to catch ourselves and say, “No. Ouch, that hurt, but wounded I’m not going to stop loving.”

And then there’s another sense of the spiritual physics that Schafer will talk about, “Because I’m wounded, I’m needy.” The spiritual physics is what he talks about, but what I’m trying to get at here is because I am wounded I am needy … I need help. I’m a work in progress. There are so many things that I don’t have worked out. I squander so much that the Lord gives. Most of the wounds that I mentioned in that listing of Bible healings, so wounds that needed healing, well I’ve got most of them.

Then there’s a song that’s on the Christian radio, but it just really does get to it. It’s “I’m thankful for the scars.” The group is I am They. “I’m thankful for the scars, because without them I wouldn’t know your heart.” And the Lord’s, talking about His scars, they would open up His heart too. That is what is allowing us to see His heart … His open heart … and allows us to effectively climb inside and then dwell there, live with Him. We’re talking of our own scars and are thankful for them. “I can see; I can see how You delivered me. In Your hands and Your feet, I found my victory.” And it concludes with, “I’m thankful for Your scars.”

Ultimately it’s a kind of vulnerability before the Lord, and I don’t know if we like this word or if we don’t like this word, it just means woundability. Vulnus in Latin means wound, and there is something in this book called Spiritual Direction that’s actually very helpful; whether it’s for someone who gives direction or someone who is in direction, I think it is helpful for that, and it’s a guide for sharing the Father’s love, but it points out that when a big hulking man starts to cry … or when a successful businessman awkwardly communicates tender love to his wife … these are all examples from his book of this openness … of that thirst. It pierces our senses and reaches our hearts; that’s what we’re looking for, so that at that level we can meet the Lord and then He can speak to our hearts. And the causes of the wounds I can go into next time, but ultimately here is the lesson that these wounds, whatever they may be, whether they be caused from our sin or the sin of others, or disappointment, or even something positive like love or beauty – these things wound – the woundedness, particularly as replacing the kindness of God. It’s because of our association with Christ that this happens and that this has value. Nothing is wasted. We think of the multiplication of the loaves and they go and collect all of the pieces to make sure nothing is lost.

And then Psalm 119, verse 71, says, “It is good that I was afflicted,” or in Peter 5:7 it says, “Cast your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.” John 11:33-35 says Jesus wept, and Revelation 21:3-4 talks about Him wiping away every tear from our eyes. The Lord wants to heal you where you need it, and He will meet you there and then will help you grow in your loving like Him, in your looking like Him, and will help you experience His thirst to have your thirst quenched. It will help you see. Thank you for the scars, because without them I wouldn’t know Your heart. I know they tell of who You are, so forever I’m thankful for the scars. I can see how You delivered me in Your hands and Your feet. I am victor; I can see.

Second Reflection – Saturday Morning
“Some Wounds Don’t Heal”

I think we’ll get started, and we’ll begin with a prayer … In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lord Jesus, come to us, stay with us, be present to us. Reveal to us Your Heart and the treasures that lie within. Cure us of anything that holds us back, of anything that wounds us. Help us, in those wounds, to discover Yours, to discover You, and in them to mirror Your love. We ask the intercession of our patron saints, our guardian angels, and Mary, our Mother. We ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We ask to know the Father’s love, and we ask this in Your name, who is Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen. … In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As I mentioned, things are being taped and then there will be a transcript, and so I always want to begin with an act of faith, and so, if ever in the course of the discussion I say something that is not of the faith or not of God, I disavow that and I renounce that for sure, but I’ll make an act of faith here by reading one of my favorite hymns, and it’s a hymn written by St. John Henry Newman, and so it is an act of faith. And I would encourage too even yesterday, as I was talking of the preparation of prayer, that we might make an act of faith as a way of beginning. There are so many ways this can be done, so here I’ll try to exemplify that and attempt to model that for you, and then certainly, if you know the hymn, you can join in reciting it with me, but in it are so many points of faith, of an affirmation or confession of faith, and particularly this third stanza is the one I want to zero in on. You’ll hear it when I recite it, but here it is in itself:

And I hold in veneration,
for the love of him alone,
Holy Church as his creation,
and her teachings as his own.

So, it goes:

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three and God is One;
and I next acknowledge duly
manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
in that manhood crucified;
and I love supremely, solely,
Christ who bore my sins as I.

And I hold in veneration,
for the love of him alone,
Holy Church as his creation,
and her teachings as his own.

Praise and thanks be ever given,
with and through the angelic host,
to the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

First, a bit of just review and recap from yesterday. We talked about prayer and we talked about the four moments of this method of prayer recommended by St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life. They are very simple, and a too rigorous application of this would probably be distracting, but the overall sentiment is important, in that we would first prepare – preparation – and consideration is the second one, affection or resolution is the third step, and then the conclusion, or the spiritual bouquet, is the fourth one. And so, we prepare just by calling to mind that God is present, that we are blind and we need to be made aware of His presence; we are the blind person, waiting to see, and even the Gospel passage of Bartimaeus is that he hears that the Lord is present and he calls out, “Son of David, have pity on me!”… and he’s told to be quiet. You know, he’s in a sense wounded even by those around him, who say, “Shhh. Just don’t bother him,” and then he cries all the louder. And then Jesus does what Jesus does; He sends His apostles – He sends His Church – and they say, “The Master is calling you.” That’s the message, and what a beautiful message that would be. “The Master is calling you.” And then Bartimaeus goes to the Lord Jesus, and Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” That’s a beautiful question that the Lord then poses to you and to me. “What do you wish that I could do for you?” And Bartimaeus boldly says, “Lord, I want to see,” and that again can be our prayer.

In each of those moments, when it becomes our prayer of a desire, of an affection that we want, we have taken that preparation – the blind man in the Lord’s presence – the consideration of this event, and we imagine that we can place ourselves somewhere in that scene, and then the affection and resolutions, like “I want to see,” where we can be edified and built up by this fact that the Master is calling, or even that the Lord has sent us His Church, His apostles, their successors, their collaborators, fellow Christians. And, in order to build up this body, this Christ has come to full stature. It stretches really from earth to heaven and from the rising of the sun to its setting in every time and place, and that is Christ come to full stature. And then we collect these graces of our prayer, so that they don’t get wasted. We are even into the Lord in this, that we can collect all of the fragments and then are meant to put them in whatever image you use. St. Francis de Sales uses a vase of flowers, and you can carry that home with you and try to cart it and you trip and it breaks. Now cart it and then go back to it. Oh, I remember that from this morning, that beautiful little flower from my prayer! And then, in a moment of the day, you can call that to mind. Or perhaps you break at the end of the day. Well, then, you can think the following day of what you had talked about the previous evening.

And then you would close with some even more vocal prayer, and you notice that’s how the Church does it. I was struck by this at morning prayer. We do begin with “Lord, open my lips.” We begin with, “Oh, God, come to my assistance.” And then we conclude effectively with a doxology of “Glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” and we close with a blessing – “Go in peace,” “Thanks be to God” – and we conclude in gratitude. So, the way that even St. Francis de Sales or many of our traditions would suggest its praise is exactly the way the Church does.

What else? The purpose of yesterday … so, if you’re joining us today and yesterday was a lot on prayer and not so much on our theme of “Wounded, I will never cease to love,” but the purpose of yesterday, as I was thinking about it this morning and will recapitulate it and re-propose it, is this: We consider our own wounds as a pointing to the drink called happiness, where our thirst meets God’s thirst, and then being quenched by Him in what is ultimately a scene. In this context, it’s a scene through scars, through wounds, in which we are like an open window through which we see God’s presence, or which, rather, the wounds are an open window through which we see God’s presence, know God’s healing, and learn to love like Him.

I’ll say it one more time, but this is a kind of purpose statement to recapitulate what happened yesterday, to catch people up who were either not present or otherwise unable to hear, because we had some technological problems. We consider our own wounds as a pointing to the drink called happiness, where our thirst meets God’s thirst, which is then quenched by Him, which is ultimately seen through scars, through wounds, which then are like an open window through which we see God’s presence, know God’s healing, and then learn to love like Him.

Our wounds can be different, and I think they can be self-inflicted in sin; they can be inflicted upon us by others because of their sin; certain discouragements or disappointments or frustrations of life; loss or pain. More positively, wounds can also be caused by giving and love. In a book soon to be published by a friend of mine, Fr. Vincent Anyama – the book is called Primacy of Christ – he quotes Joseph Ratzinger, who says, “The encounter with beauty can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the soul and thus makes it see clearly.” So already this wound, and this notion of seeing, is there, and my way of explaining this is, “Why is that? Why do wounds help us see open like windows, through which we see God’s presence, where specifically He wants to heal, where we know God is healing then? And we’ll find out as we progress and we will learn to love like Him.

Wounds can be stress, anxiety, depression, feelings of isolation, being alone, loss, pain, suffering, sin, habitual sin, addiction, other people – particular persons – and their actions, their offenses against us, love or beauty. The temptation can be to fight it, where trouble results. We are meant to be okay. How are you fighting? This is what, in fact, our inheritance is; this is our condition that we’ve inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and in the garden they are told, “You may eat from all of the trees of the garden, but not this one … not the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” The devil knows this, and so he slithers on in. “Why did God say you can’t eat of any of the trees?” That’s a lie … that’s not what He said. And she says as much. “Well, we can eat of any of the trees. We just can’t eat of this one, because if we eat of that one, we’ll die.” And the devil says, “You will not die. You’ll be like God.” Seeing that the fruit of the tree was good for eating, and it can be a desire for us to be like God – this is what we want and it really does speak to our hearts – she reaches out. Adam, standing right next to her, not protecting her, not defending her, takes the fruit – grasps at the fruit, this motion right here, taking that fruit, taking that likeness to God. That grasping at likeness to God is the problem, because that’s not what God is like. I mean, God doesn’t grasp at His own Divinity; in fact, quite the opposite.

My mind goes to the passage in Philippians, Chapter 2, verse 5 and following. St. Paul says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus,” (this is Christ’s mind … this is God’s mind) “who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” So, He was God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” But God doesn’t grasp at His own likeness or hold onto it, refusing to give up its appearances. That’s not God who grasps at Divinity. “But rather, He emptied Himself; He took on the form of a slave, a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient onto death, even death on a cross.” That’s what God is like; that’s ultimately what we want, is to be like God. But if you’re going to be like God, you have to be like that. So, any grasping at divinity, by definition … and according to God, this is the case … any grasping at divinity, any grasping at likeness to God and placing of ourselves in the position of God makes us, by definition, lose likeness to God. This is some countenance that is not like God, and all sin works like this. Why is sin sin? Oh, God just arbitrarily made it so. False! The Commandments are modeled on God’s own nature; they are invitations to share His life. “This is how you are like Me. Don’t do this.”

It’s true He said this, right? If you eat of this, you’ll die. And indeed they ate the fruit and they died. Certainly death and suffering came into the world; it’s not part of the original plan. He doesn’t make them sin. He sees it, He knows it, and He permits it. And what happens? Yeah, death and suffering entered and they died. Effectively they would lose that likeness to God, that divine life in them. That fire of divine love that was meant to inhabit their souls is gone, and they’re cold. Their attention is drawn to their nakedness. Brrrr … it’s cold out here. And they go and they hide.

This is what we do with our wounds; we go and we hide. And the Lord God goes into the garden looking for them. He knows where they are, and He knows what’s happened. Fr. Gaitley does a very beautiful reflection on how so much of God’s work in the history of salvation is trying to get us out from behind that bush. “I still love you. Trust Me.” But it could also be said that, (instead of saying) “Don’t do this lest you die,” God could have said, “Don’t do this lest I die.” By grasping for fruit, by grasping likeness, I die. I die in you – My likeness dies in you – (or even) I die on the cross, and this Heart is ripped open to prove, in this incredible way, that My ways are not your ways. My ways are always blocked.”

So, these wounds that we hide He encourages us to come out and reveal. Again, why? Because we’ll see this is what Christ does. He reveals His wounds … appropriately, among friends, where His wounds will be venerated and revered, where the proper reverence that’s needed in order to have that relationship is there. It’s not a public confession … He doesn’t have sin, obviously … but even in Christ, the way that He confesses His wounds, He does so only to His friends.

So, as we move now into thinking of today’s topic, “Some Wounds Don’t Heal,” you have the sense too of what happens when the wounds are visible. To connect it with yesterday’s drink called happiness, this desire that we’re trying to stir up in ourselves, knowledge and love are inversely relieved from earth to heaven, and I’ll say what I mean by this. On earth, the way we grow in love is by growing in knowledge. The more we know, the more we love. Even as we come to know someone, we’ll be like, “Oh, tell me more. I’ve got to know more. Tell me all about yourself.” And the more we know, the more we can love. In fact, in those deep relationships of love, you’re going to know that person incredibly well. Maybe there are some things you wish you didn’t know … when they pass gas and those kinds of things. That’s love, especially if you can love them besides, right? The movement of knowledge versus love takes on a whole other connotation in the context of the passing of gas. But in this earth, love and knowledge … we say appetite follows cognition, so our desire, our love will grow upon knowledge. In heaven, it’s reversed, where our knowledge is proportioned to our love. The more we love – especially, the more we love in this life, certainly the more we love in heaven, the more we will know. In heaven, this relationship between love and knowledge are reversed.

A way of understanding this is the man that is trucking through the desert. So, he’s walking through the desert and he has no water. He’s walking through, and this is all in the context of this thirst for this drink called happiness, and he says, “Water! … Water! … Water!” And he finally gets through the desert and he gets that cool glass of water, after having stirred up that desire for water having traversed the desert. How much is he going to enjoy that glass of water? It must be the best water he’s ever had. See how a fostering of desire – a growing in desire – can lead to a deeper appreciation, or a deeper knowing in this way? Well, heaven is like that. We move through this pilgrimage of earth, and the idea is that we grow in love of God, of neighbor, of self. And the more we love, the more we stir up that desire, the more in heaven we will know and be known, the greater appreciation and the greater joy will be ours for having worked on charity in this life.

It’s good to think on heaven and hell, to think of that joy, that appreciation, that love in heaven. We are linked to our own theme. There are things in heaven – wounds, also marks that will be seen. Each of us in baptism are marked with the character of baptism, so the character of these sacraments that imprint a character on your soul, that conform your soul to Christ’s, always for the purpose of worship, always for the purpose of giving glory to the Father and building up the body that is Christ in this perpetual offering, so growing in holiness, but these characters, I’m going to suggest, certainly have some perhaps metaphorical relations and perhaps analogical relation to a wound. I mean, even the way that we explain character is like a brand that goes on your soul. It doesn’t hurt in itself; it does bring conformity with Christ, and so it does bring conformity to His sufferings, His wounds, but that character in the soul is permanent from your baptism, from your confirmation, and my ordination and deacon’s ordination. And these characters allow for us … baptism allows us to receive all of the sacraments, to participate in this passive way in divine worship. Then confirmation gives us this character to actively share in the life and mission of Jesus Christ and His body, the Church; that is confirmation. Holy orders allows us to serve all of you, but that character in the soul is permanent; it will be there forever, and in heaven it will be to God’s glory. That character will resound His glory, be resplendent with His light, obvious to all even though it’s an invisible reality imprinted on our immortal souls. Again, it’s an invisible reality; it’s not something that is physically seen, but in heaven “to see” is the best image we have in order to talk about it. It will be seen; it will be intuitive. “Oh, wow, you’re baptized. Wow … you’re confirmed. Oh, you’re a priest!”

Likewise, in hell these things will be evident, to our great shame, and they will become then occasions of ridicule by the evil one, by his demons, by others. “Oh, you’re baptized! You wasted it. Oh, you’re confirmed.” And then obviously the priesthood … it will be a great source of shame for the soul in hell, because of all the grace that the priest would have received, all of the good things of God’s work that he had witnessed, in a sense laid bare for all to see. Characters are like this, and I think some wounds are like this. We will have examples for sure. Some wounds seem not to heal, and so the point is, in this meditation on heaven now, to think of these wounds. Again, either it’s sin and inflicted by sin … and we have to always balance this with some of the other things that our tradition really holds dear. Saint Faustina was speaking to Our Lord Jesus and brought up a previous confession, and He said, “No, I’m sorry, I don’t remember that.” That’s beautiful. So, I think we can move forward in this reflection by suggesting that it’s not the sin but maybe the effects of that sin, how it perhaps re-routed in our life, maybe some of the other effects that they have … somehow perhaps that might be visible. The effects of sin might be visible, but how different will this be in heaven versus in hell? In heaven, it will be an occasion of God’s glory. Yeah, this is my story, and God conquered it. Yeah, that thirst lumped me at that time of my life or that effect, and that wasn’t outside of God’s providence for me. God was with me.

And that’s in the case of the wound being sin, but it could be the wounds that are inflicted by others. It could be something that we carry with us, and this happens. One of the examples of wounds, certainly in this life, that aren’t healed is that of St. Paul’s thorn. We don’t know what that was. I think that’s the point in part, because it could have been anything, and for each of us that thorn is different, and so we don’t know Paul’s thorn; we just know that he asked to have it removed and that it was refused, in a manner of speaking. God’s answers to prayer are always behind the discursive. I think we can never know; it’s either yes, wait, or I’ve got something better in mind. It’s a kind of a ‘no’, but it’s a no worth enduring. These are St. Paul’s words: “And to keep me from being too elated,” … right? And I was saying yesterday in the homily that God’s power is such that he can help us grow and keep us small, and that’s amazing … and that’s like him. He didn’t remain too elated by the abundance of revelation. Paul was a gifted man by God, both naturally and supernaturally. A thorn was given in the flesh. It could have been sin, it could have been physical, it could have been … we know he had a speech impediment … “a messenger of satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this.” You would think that Paul’s intercessory power would be very intense, and it is, but not enough to have this thorn removed.

It’s interesting that he even then calls it a thorn. Whatever it is, it’s also in the context of being Christ-like. Thorns … effects of sin being manifest. “There are three times I besought the Lord that it should be removed, and He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’” “You don’t need Me to take that away for now. My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” God shows His power often by taking what is very small and making it into great things. That, more than anything, reveals His omnipotence. It’s interesting that the chief attribute that reveals God’s omnipotence is His mercy.

St. Catherine of Sienna struggled with this too and even questioned the Lord on this. “Why do You allow these wounds to be in place?” And He answers her by answering what He was doing in the life of Paul. “Sometimes my providence leads my great servants up pricking,” (the Italian, I think, is stimolos, or stimulus, but it’s a wound) “as I did to My gentle apostle, Paul.” This is from her Dialogue, paragraph 145. “I left him as pricking with resistance of his flesh. Could I, and can I not make it otherwise? In Paul, and in others in whom I weep this or that sort of wound? Yes. And why does My providence do this? – to give them opportunity for merit and to keep them in the self-knowledge whence they draw truth and humility, to make them compassionate instead of cruel, so that they will sympathize with their neighbors in their labors, for those who suffer themselves are far more compassionate to the suffering of others than those who have not suffered. They grow to greater love and run to Me with humility.” Remember, God shows His power by allowing us to grow and keeping us small. This wound points to our need, and we can run in our humility with this now greater love that’s ablaze because of the furnace of Christianity. “And through this means and endless others they attain perfect union, such union and knowledge of My goodness that, while they are still in their mortal bodies, they taste a reward of the immortals, that this is a way we taste heaven, even now. And whoever loves much will have great sorrow.”

Therefore, those whose love grows will know more sorrow. Why does He allow this? Oh, for God’s glory. This is my story, God’s conquered this … yeah, these are the effects of sin, the detours of my life, but it was not outside of God’s providence. He allowed it; he kept me safe from a whole bunch of other things in the meantime, and was with me through it all, redirecting, re-routing, and bringing me home. Certainly, wounds inflicted on others, and most especially the martyrs … we know this to be the case; I guess what we know to be the case is that others have thought this, that in heaven the wounds of the martyrs will be visible, and it comes from St. Augustine in The City of God, in Book 22, chapter 19, and he says – and this is so beautiful – “Why is it the saints bring this up? Because it’s a question they constantly have. Why is this the case? How is this part of Your providence?” “Why don’t you take this away?” says St. Paul, says St. Catherine, and here St. Augustine. So, we’ve gone from the first century, to the fourteenth century, to the fourth century, why this is a commonly occurring question in the lives of the saints. He says, “I cannot know why this is so.” Beautiful, honest … “I don’t know why this is.” “But the love we bear for the blessed martyrs makes us desire to see in the Kingdom of God the marks of the wounds which they received for Christ’s name, and it may be that we shall indeed see that, for this will not be a deformity but a badge of honor, and the beauty of their virtue, a beauty which is embodied but not in the body, not of the body, will shine forth in it. It will point to the glory of God.”

He goes on say, “What of those who had their limbs hacked off?” They’ll be restored, but there will be some mark of their glorious wounds visible, intuitive in their new immortal flesh. There are so many examples of saints, but we’re running out of time. One example is St. Josephine Bakhita, and you could look to Spe salvi, paragraph 3. Basically, her story is one that she was kidnapped, put into slavery, beaten until she bled, sold five times in slave markets, and as a result of this bore 144 scars to her upper limbs. She was brought to Italy, where she heard about a different paron thought to be Master, one that loves, one that suffers, that He actually loved her, knew her, created her. She too was loved, and by none other than this paron (this is all from Spe salvi, paragraph 3), before whom all other masters are themselves no more than servants, and we could add, all servants whom He now calls friends.

This Fr. Hofer, in an article I found in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review (April 9, 2013), when people would express their pity for her, she would say that it’s her enemies that should be pitied, because they didn’t know Jesus. So, Fr. Hofer says, “Imagine Josephine in the happiness of heaven, the fulfilment of her hope, now with glorified wounds. She shows these glorious wounds to Jesus, as a triumph of victory with Him in forgiving sinners.” It was a way of her being Christ-like. “She shows these glorious wounds to other saints, as a particular badge of co-membership with them in the body of Christ.”

And then, we will complete then with this, and we’ll pick up basically where we leave off. This will work out well with our next talk, when we want to move into Christ, as a spoiler alert, because this is what He’s going to do, right? He comes back in the Resurrection and reveals His wounds. But one more sister of Christ, a child of God, and that’s St. Maria Goretti, and this is actually a response in an e-mail that I had written to one of my parishioners who objected to my using St. Maria Goretti as an example. In this context, I was preaching on the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ instructions to turn the other cheek. If someone presses you into service for one mile, go two. If someone demands your cloak, give him your shirt, and put this in the context then of an invitation to love with this open-heart wound, to love ultimately what God loves. And so, I’ll just read it, and you can certainly go back. My point in bringing her up was to illustrate a point in the Gospel – to turn the other cheek.

I was pointing out that God, in Christ Jesus, invites us to mirror the love of the Father. As children will often resemble their parents, we as God’s children are meant to love like God loves. God loves with this exceptional love, a love that offers His cheek to be struck, strips down and offers His clothes to be settled over by the casting of dice, and He carries His cross up Calvary. And I pointed out that this outrageous love doesn’t change when we realize that the Lord’s instructions in the Sermon on the Mount are also a call to arms, to fight against injustice, but by means of our love. And this is the only way that injustice can be defeated, the only way that the cycle is broken. I pointed out that love draws attention to and even aggravates injustice. When we love, it highlights the injustice and makes it, in a sense, worse. Crimes committed against those we are meant to love are more severe and are punished accordingly. Christ does this. He is hit, but then asks, “Why do you strike Me? If I said something wrong, testify to the wrong, but if not then why do you strike Me?” … Because I love you. It aggravates and intensifies the insult. He invites us to turn the other cheek to invite our oppressor to add insult to injury. He invites those forced into service up to one mile to go two instead, thus highlighting and aggravating the oppression of the Romans over the Jews. He tells people to give up their cloak when the tax collector demands the shirt off your back, thus drawing attention to and aggravating these realities of oppression. His nail marks are a permanent reminder, not only of God’s outrageous love but also of the cruelty that human beings have, not just for one another, but for God, wounds that don’t go away, a permanent mark that purifies as much as it is a sign of God’s work of love, and I said this is how God loves. This is the context that I meant. This is how God loves, and this is how God’s children are called to love, and then we have St. Maria Goretti.

Hers is a story not only of forgiveness, but of a painful realization of the wounds that we inflict on one another. Perhaps you know some of her story … you probably know it better than I, but effectively she had drawn the attention of one of her father’s workers and he had broken into the house and tried to assault her, she resisted, and he killed her violently by stabbing her 14 times. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she eventually died. So her assailant knowingly stabs her 14 times, but she appears to him in prison and offers him 14 lilies. Such a strange story … he is in prison. We know what happens afterwards, that he did feel remorse, regret, and shame, and she gives lilies to him, one for each wound inflicted. Now this could be done in a passive-aggressive sense, but that’s not her story. This is the way that God loves. I forgive you … one, two, three … fourteen, each lily not only a sign of forgiving love, but also what I imagine to be then a pure, fine reminder of his crimes – painful, a little bit like looking into the wounds of Christ. I did that, but I have conquered it, and they now become a sign of his glory.

So hers is a story of power in spite of apparent weakness, not strong enough physically, so to speak, to overpower her assailant – he did take her life – but far more powerful spiritually in her capacity to share in the love of God. Her appearance to him is one of strength, of justice, of mercy, and of God’s amazing and pure fine love, and in our wounds we can see something of God, that our wounds allow a share in His life, that we have a power in Christ that can take anything and reveal the Heart of God, pierced and glorified.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Third Reflection – Saturday Evening

“Behold Such a Heart”

In the roles we have taken on in the Church, thinking with the Church, St. Ignatius of Loyola says, “I believed in such a way that, if the Church told me that something was black that I thought to be white, I would cease thinking it to be white and thinking it to be black.”  Anyhow, that’s my affirmation of faith here as was recorded, and then in the transcript, and when all of these things go out I don’t have much control over it.  And so, anyhow, if I say anything contrary to the faith, I don’t intend to and embrace all that the faith teaches.  That also saves me from … although maybe, at the end of life, it’s a good practice.  St. Augustine did so; he went through all of his works and found things that he would have said differently, that he could have said better.  St. Augustine did this, so, you know, if it works for him it’s going to work for us all.  He called it his Retractions, and so what a beautiful, honest assessment of someone who has the serious intellectual firepower in St. Augustine, one of the greatest of our tradition, and so what a good example of humility.

Are there any questions from the last time?

Yes, I have a question.  You talked about call to arms and to meet in justice.  Are you talking about if you see an injustice happening to someone else or are you talking about an injustice to yourself?

That’s a great question.  The context is the Sermon on the Mount and His instructions on how we are to love, and His instructions are outrageous in the sense that, if someone presses you into service for a mile, go two instead; if someone asks you for your cloak, give him your shirt; if someone strikes you on one cheek, offer him the other.  These are ways that are not an eye-for-an-eye rule, and what you see – and this would work to where we are going next – is God’s continual invitation and proposal for mercy, and first and foremost it’s going to be with Him, but then, with the way He instructs us to love others, it’s going to be an invitation of His love for them.  So you move from a blood feud kind of role before the revelation of the Old Testament, and then when we get into the Old Testament it doesn’t exactly ever say an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but it’s effectively what you get, but that’s a limitation of violence; that’s an extension of mercy … and then there are Christ’s words for us as His leaders, so first and foremost it’s going to be injustice done to ourselves, because when it’s done to others it just seems as though it’s a very convenient place, I guess, for us to think, “Well, they should just be more like Christ.”

I just meant that, if there’s an injustice that you see that’s happening to someone else, that’s kind of more what I’m talking about, because you think, “Okay, turn the other cheek,” and that wouldn’t be calling to arms.

Well, no … that’s my point right there is that “turn the other cheek” is a call to arms, in the sense it’s a way of fighting, a way of drawing attention to the injustice.  So this is my right side, and if I swing with my right hand and I need to hit you on your right side and then you offer the other cheek and you’re ask me to hit you back like this, with my left hand – that’s the insult.  And so, you are aggravating the injustice; it’s worse now.  You hit me on the right and that was bad enough, but now you’ve hit with your left and that’s worse still, and then it is worse when these injustices are done in someone who loves us, whom we’re meant to love in return.  If I hit someone on the street, that’s bad.  If I hit a police officer, well that’s worse, because they are a deputy and agent of the law.  If I hit my mother, well that’s worse still.  And so, there it is … that’s the relationship of love that’s going to aggravate and end in assault.  And so, when it’s that relationship of love, when I truly love my neighbor, and they’re still assaulting me or they’re still committing an injustice against me or against us as a body, or whatever the case might be, there is a certain sense in which the call to arms here is that love, that turning of the cheek.  That’s what the call to arms is; it’s not a call to arms, it’s to fight like angels, and the way of preaching on the angels and how they fight, this is how we fight.  Imagine St. Michael doing battle.  And theirs is a way of fighting that doesn’t include arms, that doesn’t include weapons.  It doesn’t include arms because they don’t have arms; they are spiritual beings, no arms for angels.

So the way they fight, then, isn’t going to be the way we imagine in terms of battle, but the way the angels fight is a bit odd.  How do they fight?  Well, what do we know of the angels?  They fight by healing marriages; that’s how Raphael fights.  He gives the instructions of how to get rid of the demon in the Book of Tobit.  “Tobias and Sarah, go get the fish, get its oil, spread it around the room, and it chases off demons.”  It’s really interesting that the fish, which in early Christian writings the word fish in Greek was an acronym for Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior – ichthys; that’s what the word fish was broken into as an acronym.  Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior – the fish saves.  Jesus did all kinds of miracles with the multiplication of fish and that’s the way He gives us His flesh, by multiplying.  So that’s how Raphael fights.

How does Michael fight?  In the Book of Revelation, he chases out the accuser; that’s how he fights.  We get this great contrast between the accuser on the one hand, and we know what he says.  “You’re not good enough.  You can’t do this.  What are you thinking?  Why are you here?  You’re wasting your time.  Your Father’s an idiot.”  And the voice in contrast to that is the voice of the Consoler, the Advocate.  Because how does Gabriel fight?  Gabriel fights by going to Our Lady and spreading the good news, inviting her to share in the plan.  These are ways that angels fight.  Should we fight that way?  Absolutely we fight that way, by healing relationships, by chasing out the accuser first in our own minds and then the minds of others, and by sharing the Good News, by witnessing to it, and we have words like “advocate,” words like “witness,” words like “testimony,” and we do have a natural correlate to understand the way this battle is fought.  It’s not perfect, but the words are similar and it’s courtroom language, right?  You have lawyer’s advocates, you have witnesses, you have testimony, and we know that this all happens in the jurisdiction of the judge.  So it’s a way of understanding spiritual battle.  You win, you fight, by bearing witness, by giving testimony, by witnessing, of which the word is martyr.

St. Augustine says, “Lest you be afraid, don’t worry, because the one who is your judge is the one who minutes before was your advocate.”  Jesus said, “I’ll send another Advocate,” and that’s the Holy Spirit.  So, it’s like you’re sitting in the courtroom with your lawyer and you’re talking about how you’re best going to achieve the best result for you, and he says, “I really think you’ve got a strong case and it’s going to go well for you,” and you’re like, “Okay.  I trust you; you’re a good advocate.”  And then the bailiff comes in and says, “All rise for the Honorable (your lawyer),” and your lawyer stands up and takes the bench.  What would you be thinking?  “I can’t lose.  My judge was my lawyer and is now my judge.”  And he points to the lawyer and says, “I know him – the Advocate, the Spirit.”  What confidence should we have, if that’s the story?  So, that’s in answer to your question.  Are there any other questions?

Where we have been even yesterday is that Wounded, I will never cease to love, and that’s a resolve on my part that, even though I’m wounded, I will not give up and I will not cease to love, and that pursuit yearns; that’s how saints are made, just an unwillingness to give up.  But there’s also a sense in which the wound draws attention to my need for healing, or draws my attention to the association with Christ.  And we talked about how some wounds don’t heal, either in the timeline that we want or maybe at all in this life, and then there are some even that surpass or survive death.  Most especially, those are the martyrs, where some intuition, some visible perception of their trophy of their victory is manifest.  And so then it takes us right into where we want to go with the Sacred Heart.

So we want to begin with reading of the passage in John’s Gospel on the evening of that day, the first day of the week, on Sunday, Resurrection Day.  

 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.   Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.  The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  (John 20:19-29)

It would be good, if we were doing Lectio Divina, to read it through again.  What do you have?  Thomas, the apostle, experiences on so many levels Divine Mercy – the Heart of Jesus, the open heart wound that Jesus comes and reveals.  “Take a look at My heart.”  He sees Divine Mercy.  There is so much in this Gospel that we can think of.  There is the first point that, first of all, it’s Sunday.  I joke with my parish that this is the reason never to miss Mass; Jesus might just show up.  It turns out he does.  And they are locked in, and others have said this before too – I think it’s Bishop Barron and perhaps Fr. Mike Schmitz who make the point that they are afraid of the Jews, but aren’t they afraid of Jesus, do you think?  When you’ve scattered, you’ve run, you’ve betrayed, you’ve lied, and now you get news that Jesus is back.  Is there going to be hell to pay?  And so you’re in there, afraid of Jews and Jesus alike perhaps, and bursting open the doors Jesus appears and His first words are these:  “Peace be with you.  I forgive you.”  He showed them His hands and His side.  Some wounds don’t heal – a sign of His outrageous love, as I was saying at the end of last time, a sign of man’s cruelty to man and to God, our cruelty to each other and to the One who made us, in surrender a kind of painful reminder – we did that – but a purifying one.  And this is how the Lord is so good in His honesty and the honesty that He invites; what happens is that this is purifying.

How is it that the Sacrament of Confession is a thing?  Why would that be a thing?  And the Lord knows this, right?  Well, He’s God … He knows everything, but He has made us this way.  This is how we heal; we talk about it, we bring it into the light in safe spaces, in sacred places, yes, absolutely, but confession and the first gift of the Resurrection is the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins, and this forgiveness is carried into the world by His apostles.  “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.”  He said before, “Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One who sent Me.”  How awesome!  This is why, when you give a cup of water for one who bears the Good News, you don’t lose your reward, because we’re sent in His name, and whoever receives one sent receives Him, and whoever receives Him receives the one who sent Him, the Father.  This is amazing!

The whole spiritual life can be boiled down to the Trinity dwelling in me, making Their home in your heart.  This is how this life is extended and how others are brought into it, and the first one to which the apostles are sent is Thomas, a brother, a friend.  “Thomas, we’ve seen the Lord!”  And just imagine, and this is from a point of a very good priest friend of mine, Fr. Joseph Carola, how deep Thomas’ mystery must have been. Fr. Carola would say that the Eastern faith is an ecclesial faith, the faith of the Church.  The disciples collectively encountered the Risen Lord in the upper room, where they had previously shared the first Eucharist.  This is the way that we encounter Him.  And Thomas (I’m extrapolating now) couldn’t share in their joy; he couldn’t bring himself to share in their joy, couldn’t receive as sent one sent by the Lord, and how miserable that would be.  How much would he have desired to share their joy.  They seemed all happy … “Well, that’s good for you guys.  I won’t believe, not until I see Him,” … that inability to share joy.

You see, so much of the spiritual life too is just recognizing the good where it is and, at the very least, we should be able to mutter, kind of like slightly sleight of hand or mental reservation, “That’s very good for you.”  But no, I think we should even do more, like rejoice in the Good Word.  What’s the matter with you?  If your brothers are excited, Thomas, why can’t you celebrate with them?  You’re feeling like crap; yeah, we know.  You missed out.  And Thomas – look at the Gospels – he’s not one to miss out; he’s always there.  I was noticing this the other day.  I was on retreat myself a week ago, and I was praying first with the following episode in the Gospel, where all of the disciples go fishing.  They’re out in the Sea of Galilee and Peter says, “I’m going fishing,” and they say, “We’re going too!”  And Thomas says, “Me too!  I’m coming!  I’m not going to miss anything from now on.”  Anything that’s the Church, I’m there; that’s Thomas at this point, and even before this.

What was that episode?  Oh, yeah, there was the healing of Lazarus.  So they’re going to kill Jesus and Lazarus has fallen asleep, and Thomas says, “Jesus, it’s dangerous there.”  And then Jesus has this great line about there are so many hours in the day and we can go while it’s day, and Thomas says, “Me too!  I’m coming too.  Let’s go die with Him then.”  He gets up and everybody follows.  Thomas is usually right there, and I don’t know what he was doing on this day, on the Sunday afternoon of Easter.  He had better things to do than to anticipate the Resurrection.  He got sent out for the groceries, that’s what I imagine.  Like it’s not even his fault … they’re like, “We’re stuck in here, the doors are locked and we have no food.  Thomas, would you go to the market?”  And he goes to the market, and then he’s buying food for everyone and he comes back, and then everyone is like, “We saw the Lord!”  And he’s like, “What the …”  That’s Thomas, poor Thomas.

Eight days later it’s another Sunday; you know, every day counts as a day – this is how you get three days and it’s strictly hard to get three full days.  You just get the whole 24-hour period for any part of the day in the Jewish culture, so you get eight days.  Eight days later it’s Sunday again, and now they are there together in the locked room and Thomas was with them, and then Jesus appeared and said the same thing, “Peace.”  And notice how the Lord, though He wasn’t physically present in the sense that He wasn’t appearing to Thomas and He wasn’t appearing to the apostles sharing the Good News with Thomas, He was present because He knows Thomas’ heart.  He knows Thomas’ concern.  “Thomas, put your finger here and see My hands, and put out your hand and place it in My side, and don’t be faithless.”  Thomas reaches out, and even though it doesn’t say so in words, he touches the wounds of Christ.  What a privilege; what a grace.  

And so, there are so many points to learn even from this, right?  The Lord comes, He reveals His heart and this wound we inflicted, and nevertheless … “Come.  Peace.  You are forgiven.”  He knows your concerns; He knows your heart.  He knows what troubles it, He knows your concerns, and if you were here in this physical way that He is with Thomas, you would jump right to that point.  “Come here.  See My hands.”  Let me see that wound.  And then, there’s this great sense of providence.  So, Thomas is the one who gets to touch the wounds of Christ.  This is a Warren Carrollism – he was a great historian and the founder of Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia – he points out how providential it is that Thomas has this concrete of a relationship with Jesus, because he’s the one that gets sent furthest away, all the way to India, far from his brothers.  Now he’s out there, a long way from home, dark days, dark nights.  Can you imagine how helpful it might have been to call to mind the way that Christ’s wounds felt in his hands?  How real is it?  And how strong his faith must have been as he was sharing the Good News with others, that 1600 years later there were Thomas Christians in India when the missionaries went there.  “Oh, you’re a Christian.  We’ve been waiting a long time.  We haven’t had the Eucharist in forever.”  That’s a long time to go without the Eucharist.  How providence works, even with the wounds – it should give us such comfort. 

So, what Thomas experiences is Divine Mercy on so many levels.  And, by the way, when do we read this Gospel as a Church?  Does anybody know?  The Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy.  What Thomas sees in the open heart wound is Mercy.  He saw Christ’s heart; there was a hole right here and he could see inside.  Oh, my gosh, God … that’s Your heart.  It’s that open window through which we see God’s presence, we know God’s healing, and we learn to love like Him.  When it gets to the Sacred Heart, it’s the same image – a heart that’s pierced.  Jesus says to St. Margaret Mary, “Behold this heart.”  It’s the same invitation.  “Come, see my side.”  “Behold this heart, which has loved men so much that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself in order to testify to them its love.”  There’s that word again – testify, witness.  This is the way the Children of God fight.  “Behold this heart,” and He shows it to her, at a time when people doubted His mercy, doubted His love; He reserved it for just a few.  He comes and says, “No, this invitation is for all.  The heart is open.  Come.”  “In return,” He says – and this is horrible, right? – “I received from the greater number nothing but ingratitude, by reason of their irreverence and sacrileges and by the coldness and contempt which they show to me in this sacrament of love.”

So, it’s this purifying reminder.  Why does He reveal the Sacred Heart?  … because it’s so much offended.  The metaphysical order of what we owe God is constantly being torn asunder, being ripped apart.  We constantly introduce dysfunction and disorder.  So the Lord, at a particular time and place, for this particular need, opens His heart again.  “I’m going to remind you.  Take a look.  Come see My heart.”  

St. Margaret Mary’s first encounter with the Sacred Heart is described in this way, and this all comes from her autobiography:  

“One day, having a little more leisure (she’s kind of in retreat mode) – for occupations confided to me left me scarcely any – I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, when I felt myself wholly penetrated with that Divine Presence (filled up, thirsting, quenched) … I lost all thought of myself and of the place where I was, and abandoned myself to this Divine Spirit, yielding up my heart to the power of His Love.  He made me repose for a long time upon His Sacred Breast (So, this is Margaret Mary, but it’s also an image of St. John, so it’s as good for men as it is for women; all of us are meant to come this close to His heart), “where He disclosed to me the marvels of His Love and the inexplicable secrets of His Sacred Heart, which so far He had concealed from me.  Then it was that, for the first time, He opened to me His Divine Heart in a manner so real and sensible as to be beyond all doubt,  (Come here; see) by reason of the effects which this favor produced in me, fearful, as I always am, of deceiving myself in anything that I say of what passes in me.  It seems to me that this is what took place.”

He said, “My Divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, (and we don’t want to get distracted here, right? … love for human beings, for men and women) and for thee in particular that, being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its burning Charity, It must needs spread them abroad by thy means, and manifest Itself to them (mankind) in order to enrich them with the precious treasures which I discover to thee and which contain graces of sanctification and salvation necessary to withdraw them from the abyss of perdition. I have chosen thee as an abyss of unworthiness and ignorance for the accomplishment of this great design (He finds simplicity and humility irresistible), in order that everything may be done by Me.”  So, He chooses the small in order to do great things.

It goes on, and I hope you all have time to refer back to this again.  “After this, He asked me for my heart, which I begged Him to take. He did so and placed it in His own Adorable Heart, where He showed it to me as a little atom which was being consumed in this great furnace, and withdrawing it thence as a burning flame in the form of a heart, He restored it to the place whence He had taken it saying to me, ‘See, My well-beloved, I give thee a precious token of My love, having enclosed within thy side a little spark of its glowing flames (the flames of His heart), that it may serve thee for a heart and consume thee to the last moment of thy life; its ardor will never be exhausted, and thou will be able to find some slight relief only by bleeding. Even this remedy I shall so mark with My Cross, that it will bring thee more humiliation and suffering than alleviation (the wound). Therefore, I will that thou ask for it with simplicity, both that thou may practice what is ordered thee and also to give thee the consolation of shedding thy blood on the cross of humiliations. As a proof that the great favor I have done to thee is not imagination, and that it is the foundation of all those which I intend further to confer upon thee, although I have closed the wound in thy side, the pain will always remain (some wounds don’t heal). If hitherto, thou hast taken only the name of My slave, I now give thee that of the beloved disciple of My Sacred Heart.’”  (“I no longer call you slaves; I call you friends.”)

He asks for her heart.  She gives it to Him, and she’s so filled that the only way to get release or rest was to let it out – was to bleed.  “He who believes in Me, as Scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-39)  Become little Christs.

So, it talks of the furtherance of His Divine Love, His heart that is aflame; it is filled with treasures.  She hands Him her heart, He takes it, He puts it in Him, fills it with His blood, and then He puts it back in her.  (“Now believe in My love.”)  He conveys secrets, works marvels, and asks for her heart.  These are things that are part and parcel to the Sacred Heart.  Divine Mercy is no different.  It says that she is revealed this image of Divine Mercy, the heart being exposed and the light flowing out red and white, blood and water, love and mercy, baptism and the Eucharist.  “After a while, Jesus said to me, ‘Paint an image according to the pattern you see (Come here, see) and put this in:  Jesus, I trust in you.  I desire that this image be venerated.  I promise that the soul that will venerate this image (that comes and sees, which is always His invitation.  I’m thinking in the words of Andrew, it’s like walking at a distance and He turns and He looks and He says, “What do you want?”  And Andrew asks, kind of stupidly, “Where do You stay?”  And Jesus says, “Come and see.”) will not perish. I promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth (this is the way we win), especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory.  (Our good He will take as His own; that’s what friendship is, when we see the other’s good as our own, when we will the good of another – that’s love.) … My image is already in your soul.  I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy.  I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemnly blessed on the First Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy.”

He wanted to elicit the trust of souls.  “Come; look; see.  Peace.”  And when we look at Him, that’s what He offers.

I think we’ll stop here and then move to a little bit more in terms of how this image is re-presented to us at every Mass, that moment of Divine Mercy in the upper room.  There are some nice things to share; we’ll see how it goes.

Fifth Reflection – Sunday Morning

“Come to Me”

There was a request to offer Mass in a common direction, liturgically ad orientem … having a common orientation in Mass, and so to face with all of you towards Christ.  I’m happy to oblige, and you notice that the linens are set on the altar in such a way that will allow for that, and so, not knowing where people’s familiarity with this is, it is certainly a great expression of a truth in liturgy, and I think that this very helpful expression then aids our prayer, if we are able to shimmy ourselves into a position where we can think with the Church on this.  It is not maybe our custom, or maybe it is, but what I’ve noticed in folks is that it breeds a kind of alignment and an ease in praying.  Because what happens is now we all turn toward Christ, and in that common direction toward Christ the priest really does stand both in the person of Christ when he turns and looks to you, or even when we certainly utter the words of Christ, but also very clearly it is standing in the person of the Church and we are looking together.  So often it becomes the priest turns his back on the people … well, that’s ridiculous.  We’re all looking East for the coming of the Lord, and we find it true that when He comes again He’ll come from the East.  And so that’s our prayer, looking toward His coming, His arrival both at the end of time and then in this time at the Mass, and we do that commonly.

As a way toward that then, what you’ll notice in some churches too is what is called now the Benedictine altar arrangement.  You’ll have a crucifix really that stands at the altar, even where the priest is facing the people, so that common orientation is nodded to, but it’s just so much clearer when we all turn to Christ.  So, see it as the body praying and see it as the body offering in union with the Head that is Christ, who makes this offering of Himself to the Father and restores this right order, this right worship.  And He even said to the woman at the well there will come a day when we worship in spirit and truth.  This was on His heart, to really restore order and give glory to the Father, and that turning to this common orientation or alignment is very clear when we all look toward Christ.

Anyway, hopefully that creates that alignment and you can experience that too in that expression of prayers in the way that we’ll say Mass then for that.

Are there any questions from yesterday?

(Question)  In the course of talking about our offerings, I was realizing that so often we want to come and we want to offer our best fruits and we want to offer our virtuous, well-ordered life, and a lot of times what we’re coming with is our brokenness, and we can be reluctant to offer that.  And I’m thinking of the healing that can come from that, but sometimes at work that’s what we think we can’t offer and we can’t show, so I just wondered if you would comment a bit more on that and how we can help others in their healing process too, being able to offer that brokenness.

Yes, absolutely.  That’s a great question, and it’s even in the way that those prayers go when we make that offering.  “Oh, Jesus, in union with Your Most Precious Blood poured out on the cross and offered in every Mass, I offer you today my prayers, my works, my joys and (here’s the kicker) my sorrows and my sufferings.  What is Jesus offering when He offers His Heart?  He is offering His suffering.  He is offering His red Heart.  That’s what almost the preferred offering is.  The Lord loves and rejoices in all the good that we achieve or are able to offer.  It is His work and His gifts, and so they redound even more to His Glory, but He delights so much in the opportunities that we can present Him with, that is to be our Savior.  This is what He wants; He wants this relationship.  And so, when we give the offering that God has asked for throughout the Old Testament, and every sign, every moment of salvation history is pointed to this potential gift.  There was one of those forks in the road that I chose to go down and avoid another and really spent some time thinking about spiritual worship.  We are asked to worship in spirit and truth, and these moments in salvation history, even circumcision.  I haven’t done it yet, preached a whole homily on circumcision, but even that act was meant to draw attention to what was supposed to happen spiritually, and this comes out in St. Paul.  In the letter to the Galatians, he’ll talk about the circumcision of the heart.  It was always an understanding – and this is from the Catholic commentary on Scripture – that it would impose on the recipient the moral and spiritual obligation to circumcise the heart, to cut away the stubbornness of the will that resists obedience to the Lord.

So, when God asks for these gifts of a sacrifice of thanksgiving of a rent heart, of a heart that is broken, a heart that is contrite, that He won’t despise.  That is what is offered literally in the offering of Jesus, who offers that rent heart literally, concretely, staggeringly real, because it’s ripped apart, it’s torn apart by the soldier’s lance with the effects of our sin.  And that broken heart, that rent heart handed over to the Father, is what restores order.  That’s what gives the Father the gift that He wanted to give, and that’s the gift then that He’s going to encourage us to make.

And so, I’m going to take a couple of swings in this morning’s talk and even at the Mass and repeat these points, in part because there is something here that I think is important for us, and I’ve tried to give versions of this talk – I think now it’s probably the third or fourth time – and I really feel deeply that this is an important point.  So, here’s my summary.  We can go back and read the various summaries that we’ve put together now over the course of these days together.

So, we considered first our own wounds as they pointed to the dream called happiness, our thirst meeting God’s thirst, being quenched by Him, which is ultimately seen through scars, through wounds which are likely an open window through which we see God’s presence, know God’s healing, and learn to love like Him.  So then yesterday, here’s my summary, and I will say this a couple of times so that you get a chance to take notes or whatever.  What is revealed in the Sacred Heart is the whole self-gift, the priestly offering of Jesus Christ, in which He renders to the Father what the Father has always asked for and restores right order to the universe.  This offering is an offering of a right heart, torn literally by the soldier’s lance that reveals Christ’s whole life, who came not to do His own will, but the will of the One who sent Him.  This offering is typified by priestly examples.  “Here I am.  I come to do your will,” “Speak, Lord.  Your servant is listening.”  So, I will repeat this and then I’ll move forward.  What is revealed in the Sacred Heart is the whole self-gift, the priestly offering of Jesus Christ, in which he renders to the Father what the Father has always asked for and restores right order to the universe.  This offering is an offering of a right heart, torn literally by the soldier’s lance, that reveals Christ’s whole life, who came not to do His own will, but the will of the One who sent Him.  This offering is typified by these priestly examples (phrases) – “Here I am.  I come to do your will,” “Speak, Lord.  Your servant is listening.”

And so, what is seen in the Sacred Heart is yes, the physical tearing of the soldier’s lance, but really that’s a manifestation of this circumcision of the heart, where we die to ourself and our own will.  Christ dies to His human will, effectively saying this in the garden:  “Father, if it be Your Will, let this chalice from Me pass, but not as I will but as You will.  Here I am.  I come to do Your will.”  So, He refers to doing the will of the Father as His chalice.  He refers to doing the will of the Father as His food.  How fascinating that chalice and food become moments that Christ uses to indicate the doing of the Father’s will.

The Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 10, makes this point, and I had other notes too that were going to take us into this celebration of the feasts where the high priest would go into the temple, announce the name of God, offer the sacrifice, sprinkle the blood on the hilasterion, on the propitiatory, this covering over the tabernacle over the Ark of the Covenant, and the idea was that sprinkling that blood on that point of contact between humanity and God that was that propitiatory, that covering over the Ark of the Covenant where God and humanity met, that men’s sins would be burned away in the fire of divine mercy.  That was the Old Testament imagery that Christ plugged into in His priestly offering and His high priestly prayer that is given to us in the 17th chapter of John, because now definitively where sins are burnt up in the furnace of divine love and divine mercy is the cross.  It is that contact point between God and humanity; it is Christ Jesus and it is typified most especially in His Heart.  That’s the point of contact; that’s where the sins of humanity are burnt up in the fire of divine love, in the furnace of divine mercy, in this offering.  And we are sprinkled with that blood.

Hebrews 10:  Consequently, when Christ came into the world, He said “sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body that was prepared for Me, a body to be offered.  In burnt offerings and sin offerings, I was taking no pleasure.  Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do Your will, as it is written of Me in the scroll of the Book.’”  When He said above, “You neither desire or take pleasure in sacrifices and offerings, in burnt offerings and sin offerings.  These are offered according to the law,” then He added, “Lo, I have come to do Your will.”  The chalice, the food, the moment where He offers His heart is where He does the will of the Father rather than what, all things being equal, His natural will – His human will – would have wanted, never wanting something different than what His divine will wants, never opposing that will, but all things being equal, I’d like to live, but “not My will, but what You will.”

And so, we talked about those prayers, that again our devotional life can sometimes, certainly by others, feel like, “Oh, well.  That’s just so destructive,” but they are profound participations in this offering of Jesus in His words, “Here I am.  Not My will, but Yours.”  Eternal Father, I offer You the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.  Divine Mercy, where we are now participating in the offer that Jesus makes of Himself.  Oh Jesus, in union with Your Most Precious Blood, poured out on the cross and offered at every Mass, I offer to You today my prayers, works, joys, sorrows and sufferings for the praise of Your Holy Name and all the desires of Your Sacred Heart in reparation for sin, for the conversion of sinners, the union of all Christians, now finally being with You in heaven.  Or there’s this prayer of St. Gertrude the Great.  Why is it that promises with this prayer come like 1,000 souls in Purgatory just released?  Well, because it plugs into the offering that Christ makes of Himself.  I offer You the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family.

What we see when we look at the heart is something called the law of the gift, and this gives different expressions.  It is named, I think, by John Paul II as the law of the gift.  It is articulated in Gaudium et spes, paragraph 24.  “Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, “that all may be one. . . as we are one” (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons and the unity of God’s sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”

What Christ reveals – and we went through some of the spousal imagery yesterday – in His Heart is so close to spousal language that we hear at weddings, “I take you to be my spouse.”  And then Christ says, “Take this, all of you.  This is My Body.”  This Heart, this priestly offering, this death to one’s will for the will of another, is the way that we rend our hearts, is the way that we make a sincere gift of ourselves, “not as I will but as You will,” and we find ourselves in this gift of ourselves, and we see it so clearly in Jesus Christ.

In his homily at the canonization of St. Faustina and the inauguration of the feast, at least in its formal way of Divine Mercy, John Paul II referred to this gift, that in looking at the Heart we see an authentic gift of self, a kind of priestly offering.  John Paul II says it’s not easy to love with a deep love, which lies in the authentic gift of self, this all from his homily on Divine Mercy Sunday in the year 2000:  “It is not easy to love with a deep love, which lies in the authentic gift of self.  This love can only be learned by penetrating the mystery of God’s love.  Looking at Him, being one with His Fatherly Heart, we are able to look with new eyes at our brothers and sisters, with an attitude of unselfishness and solidarity, of generosity and forgiveness.  All this is mercy!

And I’ll say this again, because this is the point and I think it’s going to open up for us the time that Jesus refers to His Heart in Matthew 11:  “It is not easy to love with a deep love, which lies in the authentic gift of self.  This love can only be learned by penetrating the mystery of God’s love.  Looking at Him, being one with His Fatherly Heart, we are able to look with new eyes at our brothers and sisters, with an attitude of unselfishness and solidarity, of generosity and forgiveness.  All this is mercy!  And so, if the theme of this talk then is Come to Me, in Matthew chapter 11, verses 28-30, we read:  “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden (burdened, sometimes the translation goes), and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon yourselves and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Come to Me.  It is the invitation of confidence, it is the invitation to St. Margaret Mary.  It is the invitation to you and to me, to take a look at His Heart and see in that Heart this open gift of self, this priestly offering, which He unites us with.  An enduring principle in Catholic theology, that makes us different from other typically Protestant understandings, is that what happens to the head happens to the body.  What happens to the body happens to the head, and this is true in so many ways.  If you hit my head, I could say, “Hey, why did you hit my head?” or I could say, “Why did you hit me?”  Likewise, if something happens to the body it happens to the head.  This is Christ preaching:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, what you did to one of these least ones, you did to Me.”  His followers, His disciples, His little ones, those like Him are counted as Christs.  St. Paul in this lesson, in the moment of his conversion:  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  Saul doesn’t respond to Him as king – he never met Him.  He knows intuitively that when you persecute Christ’s members, when you persecute Christ’s little ones, you persecute Christ.

Mother Teresa was asked, I’m pretty confident, by a professor of mine who was also a spiritual director of sorts for her, why she did what she did.  She grabbed his hand – Fr. Paul Murray’s hand – and said five words:  “You did it to Me.”  Because of this invitation to come to Him in the labor or burdens, and this is just our natural fallen state.  We labor and we are burdened.  This has been the case from the beginning and it’s what God is trying to undo.  He’s trying to encourage us to this gift of self, which is the only way out of this.  Come to Me.  And He says, “Take My yoke upon ye, and learn from Me.”  And so often I picture this not totally wrongly, but certainly not completely, and I’m thankful to Fr. Mike Schmitz for opening this up to me, but I picture it as Christ offering His yoke to me, maybe even a yoke that He takes off and puts on me.  “Take My yoke upon ye.”  Well, I probably won’t like it very much, but it’s probably better than what would be, but I think a very helpful image isn’t that He offers us His yoke, but rather the yoke binds to be served, that the yoke has actually two holes in it and Christ is already in one.  And when He says, “Come to Me,” He says, “Come stand next to Me.  Take My yoke upon ye.”  And so, what we’re doing is we’re nestling in next to Christ and then so close to Him, now bound to Him by this yoke next to Him.  Because now what happens?  Have you been bound to Him with His yoke?  Well, we’re relieved; He shares our burden.  He won’t take it away, because what happens to the head happens to the body.  If He suffered, we will suffer; if He rises, we rise; if He’s glorified, we’ll be glorified.  What happens to the head happens to the body, and you can spin off into this and get all the power of redemptive suffering that everybody else lacks.  It’s not a Gospel of prosperity; it’s a Gospel of prosperity in suffering.

When we see Christ, we see suffering.  What happens to the head happens to the body.  There is no way out of this; this is the way this world goes.  It is a vale of tears … but there is joy here.  Why?  Because now, bound to Him, He released so much of what we were trying to carry alone, which is so silly.  We’re not meant to carry this alone.  He has come to be with us. Emmanuel literally means God with us, and there’s so much in that proposition where He comes down to us, picks us up, and then carries us home.  And so, He shares our burdens.  He relieves us from what plagues us.  What else happens?  It gives us His perspective.  When He says, “Come stand next to Me.  Come share My yoke,” we nestle next to Him and now what?  We see the way He sees; we look like Him.  And it’s not just, but this is an important point too, we look to others as Him, as Christ.  We really are counted as Christ.  This is what friendship means.  We are counted as another self.  Friendship with Christ means we are counted as Christ, and friendship means that we will the good of the other as another self.  So, friendship with Christ means He wills our good, He wills your good as though it is His own.  That’s what friendship is.  He wills your good as though it’s His good.  Just think of how interested we are in what is good for us.  I operate most days exclusively on what is good for me.  I have a very deep interest in what is good for me.  That’s the way I’ve meant to love others, it’s the way I sometimes love my brothers, but it is the way that Christ always loves me; it’s the way that Christ always loves you.  

One big example is I was golfing with a priest friend – you know, it’s a way that we have priestly fraternity, swap stories, encourage one another (we complain a lot too), but anyway he was I don’t know, 20 feet away, and he lined up for the putt and struck the putt and it went in!  I hadn’t hit that putt and I’ll never hit a putt like that, but the way that he hit it was as good as though I had hit it myself.  Like that is a brief moment of true friendship, where I’m rejoicing in his gains, rejoicing in his good.  That’s the way Christ is with us always.  So, we look like Him; we are counted as Christ, but there is also another sense in that we look like Him that is He looks out and now we look out like Him.  We see the world the way He sees it.  We see the Father the way He sees the Father.  And this is what He invites us into, this relationship that He has with His Father.  “Come.  Stand next to Me.  Share my yoke.  I’ll help you carry your burdens.  I will show you the Father.”  This is what He says.  “I thank you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth.”  He will always thank the Father when He begins His prayer.  It’s a great example of how we can pray.  He will sometimes say, “I thank you, Father, for having heard Me.  I know that You always hear Me.”  He prays this before He raises Lazarus from the dead.  “I thank You for hearing Me.  I know that You always hear Me, but show everyone here that You always hear Me.”

Fr. Solanus Casey says, “Thank you, God,” ahead of time.  What a great prayer!  And I was encouraged by a spiritual director to pray this as I was working on my doctorate.  He said, “Give God thanks for successful completion of the doctorate,” well before it was ever completed.  If we can make that prayer, “Thank you, Lord, for working this out,” well before we know that it will be, now we’re praying like Christ, and now we’re praying as though we really are next to Him.  “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.  Thou hast hidden these things from the wise in their understanding and revealed them to little ones.  There they are again, those little ones.  What you do to one of these least ones.  I really want to be one of those little ones, right?  We are; we are counted as Christ.

I was struck too in one prayer today it came up, what you give to one of these – those that you give a cup of water to in My name – you do that for Me.  Who gives you a cup of water?  We are counted as Christ.  People do that for Him.  “Father, such was Thy gracious will.”  This is the Father’s will; this is what Jesus has come to do, to sacrifice His human will in order to accomplish.  This is the Father’s will – all things delivered to Me by My Father – and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.  “Come, stand next to Me.  Let me tell you about My Father.”  In this desire to get us out from behind the bush, really all the way back from the beginning, the Lord encouraged us to come stand next to Him.  “Come.  Trust in Me.  Stand next to Me.  Put My yoke over your shoulders and learn from Me.  I am gentle and humble of heart,” and what this looks like is this offering to the Father, and only the Son knows the Father and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.  “Look.  See the Father.”  And we’re shown the Father’s love.

It’s not just looking at the Father; it’s also then looking at everyone else.  We see the world the way He sees it; we see others the way He sees them, and it colors then the way that we see the world.  Go back to that quotation from the homily of St. John Paul II on the first Feast of Divine Mercy.  We are seeing this total gift.  “It’s not easy to love with a deep love, which lies in the authentic gift of self.  This love can only be learned by penetrating the mystery of God’s love.  Looking at Him (we can even say looking like Him), being one with His Fatherly heart, we are able to look with new eyes at our brothers and sisters, with an attitude of unselfishness and solidarity.  All this is mercy!”

So, this yoke binds us to Him, it shares our burdens with Him, it relieves us of a great deal of what we carry, it helps us to look like Him, it gives us His perspective where we see the way He sees, both the Father and others, and it gives us His power.  We are changed, and we can do heroic things that we just can’t do on our own.  It’s not just that our burdens are shared with Him; His power is shared with us, and so now we’re plowing fields that we could never have plowed on our own and going through obstacles that we could never do by ourselves.  Does this yoke add weight?  Is it a burden?  You know, kind of, and sometimes you feel it more than at other times.  But St. Augustine points out, “Well, think of it this way (you know, this is not St. Augustine; he’s far more eloquent).  Do wings add weight to the bird?”  Yeah, that’s right, but it also helps the bird to fly.  Christ’s yoke adds a burden, but it aids to heaven.  “Come to Me,” He says, “and I will give you rest.  I’ll show you the Father.  You’ll be with Me in the Father’s house.”  And when He uses the word rest, our minds can go in all sorts of directions.  

St. Augustine says we’re restless until we rest in Him.  And also it should take us to today, to Sunday, because Sundays are a day of what? – of rest, of reprieve, of being with God.  And there’s such depth, particularly in Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth, where we can summarize it in this way:  The Sabbath, resting on Sunday, is a way of being like God, and so with Him.  It goes back all the way to the beginning.  We can look at all of creation as God’s attempt to have a space, a place to be with His people and for His people to be with Him.  He doesn’t need a place and doesn’t need a space, but we do.  We need a place.  We have bodies; we are in place.  And so He creates, and the whole purpose of creation is on that final day when He rests.  He doesn’t rest; He is always at rest; He is always active.  We need the rest; this is how we imitate Him.  We have to do things piecemeal.  He is at work and at rest simultaneously; we can’t be, so we work and then we rest, and that rest is where creation reaches its fulfillment … community … rest.  And for the Jews this was their way of imitating God.  God rested on the seventh day, so will we.  This is a way of being like God.

And so it goes, moving through history, each time this way of being with His people and His people being with Him, taking just a little bit more concrete form – actually, it’s a little bit smaller from creation to people to ark to temple to person.  “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it.”  That passage from Hebrews when Christ came into the world, He said, “A body you prepared for Me.”  They knew He was talking about the temple of His Body, His own personal Body, but also His collected Body.  The Church is what it looks like for God to live with human beings.  That’s what the Church is; that’s Christ’s Body.  “He pitched His tent and dwelt amongst us.”  This is the way God dwells with His people, and so the way of being like God definitively is being like Christ, who says, “I am the Lord of the Sabbath.”  The way of being with God or being like God is being like Christ, and so the way of resting is to fill your Sunday reprieve, is to be with Christ, to receive His food, to do the will of the Father, to receive His chalice.  The way of being like God, the way of being with God, the way of Him dwelling in us and us with Him is to find the way of rest, is the Mass.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

Homily – Friday Evening

First Reading (Eccl 3:1-11):

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for everything under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
What advantage has the worker from his toil? I have considered the task that God has appointed for the sons of men to be busied about. He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man’s ever discovering,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.
A reading from the Holy Gospel, according to Luke:

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Lk 9:18-22)

As I prayed about this homily to begin our retreat together, I thought of playing The Byrds’ song, (For Every Season) “Turn! Turn! Turn!” And then I thought better of it and realized maybe there isn’t an appointed time for everything. It has its appropriate spot, just not here. But I would encourage us, if we have time later this evening, to revisit this first reading and the Gospel. Some of them are easily enough understood. “A time to be born, a time to die” … those are definitive times. We are born; we will – all of us – die. None of us get out of this alive, that’s true, but there are lines here that are perhaps more difficult to interpret. A time to kill? … when would that time be? A time to weep, to mourn – we know those … a time to tear down, to scatter?

Whenever we were presented with a difficult passage, the Fathers of the Church would interpret it spiritually – morally – and spiritualize the meaning. So, it’s appropriate for sure, from time to time, to kill sin; to tear down walls that we have built up; to scatter worry and leave it far from us, because the Lord has invited you all here. “Come away with me for a little while,” He’ll say to His apostles. He says that to you. And have this conviction among yourselves that the Holy Spirit has brought you here to encounter the Lord in His Heart, which will be an overriding theme of the weekend. So it’s fitting that we have a votive Mass today dedicated to His Sacred Heart. I’ll have more to say on it later, so I’m not preaching on it now, but His Heart that yearns for you has invited you here to be with Him, to live for a couple of nights, a couple of days, in a house where He lives, to take you away from what otherwise might cause you anxiety. Those will be there when you get back, but for now, to the best we can, we leave them behind.

I think the key phrase here in this First Reading is this: that He has put the timeless into their hearts, without one’s every discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. Why is it that God’s work happens so often imperceptibly? It will be this way for this weekend, largely – let’s hope not exclusively – because it would seem to make sense, Lord. Lord, why don’t you give us some sign of Your working? Make Your Presence known, so that … and from time to time, He’ll do that, so that we’re encouraged, so that we’re aware of His Presence, but so often He does something that is uniquely of God. He can make us grow while keeping us small, and that’s impressive, that we could grow in holiness and we could grow in friendship with Him, without hardly knowing it ourselves. In this way, He keeps us small while He helps us grow, and so mirror the one who is the biggest, All Powerful Creator of Heaven and Earth, and also the most humble, the smallest.

Mother Teresa will say the sign of the greatest is that they can make themselves the smallest, and that’s the Kingdom. We have to trust and put it in the context of Providence, and this is why the Lord in the Gospel only talks about His Passion once the apostles have affirmed their faith in His Divinity. “Who do people say that I am?” It’s interesting that they have the same phrases that were in yesterday’s Gospel, but about Herod – the same answers; it’s what people are saying. “Some say John the Baptist; some say Elijah; some say one of the prophets.” “Who do you say that I am?” Well, you’re the Christ; “You’re the Son of the Living God.” Make that your statement of faith.

We all have to answer this for ourselves; who is He for me? Is He Lord, is He God, is He shepherd, is He friend? He is all of those things, but once they affirm His Divinity, they confess His Divinity – Well, You’re God; You’re the Lord – then He says, “Okay, that being established, trust in that, because the next one is hard. I’ll have to go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes, and be killed.” In the context of who He is, it can be understood. There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for everything under the heavens. Any difficulty is in the context of His Providence, and we’ll see it as such if we can make that act of faith. You’re God, You’re here, You’re with me … what next?

Homily – Saturday morning

(Luke 9:43B-45)

While they were all amazed at his every deed,
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”
But they did not understand this saying;
its meaning was hidden from them
so that they should not understand it,
and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

As Catholics, we take Saturdays to honor Our Lady, and so we do so here this morning. Saturdays are dedicated to her because of her faith on Saturday. The danger here, at least in my mind, is to mince the great richness of our Catholic faith and all of the human nuances that are part of these devotions of the Catholic faith in spite of great pain. She followed her Son co-willed, in the sense of acceptance, and in spite of the pain in watching her Son be tortured, reviled, hated, with this knowledge that He is God, the One who simultaneously was sustaining each of those sinners, whom she also loved, in existence, continuing to pour gifts on those who were afflicting him and her. And, in spite of this great pain, she stood. The hymn was “Mary was standing”; the Mother of Jesus was standing, the Stabat Mater. She was standing there, and that’s a position of strength, not to minimalize the pain of losing her Son, because we know she suffered. She suffers on account of what she sees; it is predicted by Simeon in the temple, “Your heart too a sword will pierce.” When Jesus’ heart is pierced with the lance and this moment of Divine Mercy is revealed when the blood and water come flowing from His heart, the one who feels it is Mary. He’s dead. She’s standing at the Cross. She sees the soldier take the lance and thrust it into her Son’s heart, and her heart is pierced.

We’ve been talking of this invitation to love like God loves so that our hearts might reveal His, even in our woundedness. Our Lady, who doesn’t suffer from the wounds of her own personal sins, certainly suffers from the effects of ours, and her heart mirrors His. His is pierced with a lance; hers by the sword. He is crowned with thorns; she is crowned as queen. The two hearts reflect one another, and I’m struck by how much their sufferings either anticipate, even in their own integrity, dimensions – the word I want isn’t there – the joys that are soon to come or are even simultaneously present.

I’ve had a growing devotion over these last few weeks to Our Lady of Sorrows. We just celebrated this feast a few weeks ago, and again, those seven sorrows that we’re invited to meditate on are either immediately succeeded by or even simultaneously accompanied by joy. What do I mean? Well, the seven sorrows, really quickly: The Prophecy of Simeon; that’s the first sorrow, and it’s also the Presentation in the Temple. So, the sorrows and joys – they go together, and they are indicative of the Heart of Christ and of Mary. The next sorrow, the Flight into Egypt whereby prophecies are fulfilled – there is a great act of obedience and humility on Our Lady’s part with that episode. The Angel Gabriel had come to her and invited her to share God’s plan, and knowing the heart of her husband, Joseph, her yes is his yes, so it isn’t an isolated thing. It wasn’t as though she went back and said, “Well, I made a decision for us; I hope it’s okay.” No, that’s not what happened. She knows Joseph’s heart; it’s a heart after the mind of God, a heart after God’s own Heart. Her yes is his yes, and so she accepts, but then the angel, when it comes time to flee, goes to Joseph. Even in the phrase, “and the angel departed from her,” I have sometimes used to, on occasion, imagine that the angel doesn’t come back, that she has gotten enough of what she needs in the angel’s invitation at the Incarnation to carry her through all of it, so it’s an occasion of meditation, certainly not anywhere official. But certainly we don’t have record of then when Joseph says, “Honey, we’ve got to move,” that she was also accompanied by an angel. She’s not like, “Oh, an angel told me too.” What she doesn’t say is “What? The last time, the angel talked to me.” She doesn’t say that; she follows, and now Joseph’s yes is hers.

In different human relationships, each one of these could be a wound, but by them the prophecies are fulfilled. The very next one is the loss of Jesus for three days. It corresponds to the Finding in the Temple, and by it the Lord prepares her. He is always preparing her for her unique sharing in His Passion. Three days he disappears; he is returned on the third day. What joy would have been the Finding in the Temple, and after she hears His account of all these things, she holds all these things in her heart. The episodes and the pain associated with them, she considers them, meditates on them, derives the Lord’s will from them, and she considers all of these things in her heart. So, when it would come time, she is able to share these stories. “Let me tell you about my Son’s Heart.” So she does; she tells Luke, who tells us.

This is a reflection of St. Thomas Aquinas, who is quoting St. John Chrysostom, I believe – “Upon seeing God the Father speak to the crowd gathered at Christ’s baptism, ‘This is My Beloved Son … Listen to Him,’ it is empowered to elicit the Lord’s divine power at the Wedding of Cana. One wonders why she didn’t ask for a miracle beforehand; it seems like it would be a very convenient thing to do. When things go poorly, like “Please, Son, would You take care of this?” There is no record of it, as I’m sure there would be, until the Wedding of Cana, His first miracle. Because having been given the green light by the Father, now knowing the Father’s Heart and knowing the Father’s Will, Our Lady can then go, “They have no wine,” again the Lord instructing her, forming her, preparing her to share in His Passion. “My hour has not yet come. What has your concern to do with Me?” – meaning implicitly that, when My hour does come, your concern will have a great deal of meaning for Me.

The other sorrows – the Carrying of the Cross, and we know that there is a meeting on the way between those two, consoling one another. Then the Crucifixion, He is taken down from the Cross and laid in her lap and it becomes the Pieta. Michelangelo’s Pieta is an altarpiece, and Mary is in a sense sharing in the offering of her Son, offering Him at the altar, and you could almost see Him sliding off her lap in front of the altar – her share, her participation in His offering, and the Body that is offered has all the features of a Greek god except that He’s dead. It is inviting us to participate in His Passion and so to receive divine light in the Eucharist – the Pieta. And last – Jesus is laid in the tomb and anticipates then the Resurrection. Our Lady’s heart mirrors His, loves like His, is now glorified like His, and offers us a share in His suffering, a share in His life, a share in the way He loves.