“…a deep, personal experience…”

From the quotable St John Paul II:

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3: 8). To know Christ! On this last stage of our Lenten journey we are encouraged even more by the liturgy to deepen our knowledge of Jesus, to contemplate his suffering and merciful face, and to prepare ourselves to experience the splendour of his resurrection. We cannot remain on the surface. We must have a deep, personal experience of the richness of Christ’s love. Only in this way, as the Apostle says, can we “know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [we] may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3: 10).

Like Paul, every Christian is on a journey; the Church is on a journey. Let us not stop, brothers and sisters, or slow our pace. On the contrary, let us strive with all our strength for the goal to which God calls us.

Why do we go to Mass?

During the Consecration at Mass, I always try to focus my gaze upon the priest at the altar, and especially on the newly-consecrated Body and Blood of Our Lord during the elevations.  Occasionally my line-of-sight will include someone who seems to be inattentive.  I’ve even seen people conversing during the Consecration.  The thought “I wonder if they understand why they are here at Mass?” will pass quickly through my mind.

Based on some conversations I’ve had, many Catholics nowadays think that the primary purpose of coming to Mass (beyond fulfilling the Sunday obligation, and avoiding mortal sin) is to gather with the parish community in order to celebrate our life together.

On his recent trip to the Holy Land, in his homily at the Mass in the Upper Room, Pope Francis touched a bit on why we go to Mass:

“In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering God our lives, our joys, and our sorrows…offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.”

Here’s how I would answer if someone asked me why I go to Mass:

  • To give thanks (Eucharist) to God by offering and worship, and express my love to Him
  • To offer Jesus to the Father
  • To offer myself and all aspects of my life, in union with Jesus and my brethren, to the Father
  • To hear God’s word in Sacred Scripture (and be changed by it, through the power of the Holy Spirit)
  • To have the Paschal sacrifice of Jesus re-presented to me
  • To worthily receive the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion (and be changed by Him, through the power of the Holy Spirit)
  • To unite myself with the unceasing heavenly liturgy, and remember with hope that Jesus will come again in glory at the end of history
  • To be sent forth (Ite, missa est) to proclaim by my life and words the love I have received, that the world might be imbued with Christian values

How would you answer the question??

From this Sunday’s readings

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus describes our salvation – the kingdom of God, which begins on earth – in these terms:

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.

He uses language which seems steeped in mystery.  I enjoy attempting to explore the unfathomable depths of mystery.  Here Jesus is touching on the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  I want to understand as much as I possibly can about the Blessed Trinity, because my destiny as a faithful Catholic is to abide forever in the cycle of Trinitarian love.

What is the “cycle of Trinitarian love?”  In the early pages of his book, My Beloved Son, Fr Lawrence Lovasik SVD says this about Jesus:

Jesus Christ is called “The Word.”  The Greek term which it renders, logos, means not only “word,” which is its nearest equivalent in English, but the thought which is expressed by the word,…

Based upon this, he offers an enlightening explanation of the Trinity, describing the cycle of Trinitarian love:

God is the fullness of being, the limitless ocean of all perfection and of all life.  He is Being Itself, the necessary Being, subsisting of Himself, and possessing the fullness of all perfection.

There is in God an altogether spiritual fatherhood.  He is Father, the principle of all the divine life in the Trinity.

Being Infinite Intelligence, God perfectly comprehends Himself.  In a single act, He sees all that He is – all that is in Him, the fullness of His perfections – and, in one thought, in one “word” that exhausts all His knowledge, He expresses this infinite knowledge to Himself.  This thought conceived by the eternal intelligence, this utterance whereby God expresses Himself, is the Divine Word.

(…)

The Father begets the Word because He communicates to this Word a nature not only like, but identical with his own.  Scripture calls the Word, the Son.

(…)

Because this Son is perfect, He possesses with the Father all the divine perfections except the property of “being Father.”…the Son ever dwells in the bosom of the Father who begets Him.  He dwells there both by unity of nature and also by the love which They mutually bear to one another.  From this love proceeds, as from one principle, the Holy Spirit, the substantial love of the Father and the Son.

Saint John Paul II summarized the cycle of Trinitarian love this way:

The Father begets the Son by loving him; the Son is begotten by the Father, letting himself be loved and receiving from him the capacity to love; the Holy Spirit is love given in total gratuitousness by the Father, received with full gratitude by the Son, and returned by him to the Father.  (General Audience 29-July-1998)

How do I know that my destiny as a faithful Catholic is to abide forever in the cycle of Trinitarian love?  Because that is what Jesus is telling us in this Gospel, which is confirmed by what we hear St Peter tell us in today’s Second Reading:

For Christ also suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.

Baptized in 1956 by the late Rev Albert Kaczmarek at Holy Trinity Church in Nanticoke PA

Baptized in 1956 by the late Rev Albert Kaczmarek at Holy Trinity Church in Nanticoke PA

Jesus willingly suffered and died because it was the only way in which he could lead me to God.  At my Baptism, I was baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I was cleansed from the sin by which I deserved eternal separation from God, and I was freed to abide forever in the cycle of Trinitarian love.  All I need to do is to be faithful, to love Jesus and keep his commandments, as he tells us at the beginning of today’s Gospel.  Commandments like “love one another as I have loved you,” “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me,” “if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you,” “if you deny me in public, I will deny you before our Father in heaven,” “love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.”  Challenging, eh?

What happens if I am unfaithful, if I don’t keep the commandments?  If I fail in a serious way to keep the commandments of Jesus, I commit mortal sin.  Here’s some of what the Catechism teaches about mortal sin:

1855 Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

When I prefer to indulge my own selfishness instead of loving Jesus and keeping his commandments, I reject God’s love and Jesus’ saving sacrifice, and I no longer have the opportunity to enter the cycle of Trinitarian love, until I am reconciled to God through the Sacrament of Penance.

So, what I need to do is eagerly and ardently follow Jesus’ instructions at the end of today’s Gospel:

Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Going an entire day without uttering a prayer shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  Going for days at a time without reading the Bible shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  Not being able to share my faith with others (as St Peter instructed us today) shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  Spending hours upon hours in front of the TV shows how weak my love for Jesus must be (even if it is EWTN!).  Wasting on lottery tickets or at Mohegan Sun the money with which the Lord has blessed me shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  Denying by contraception the new life which the Lord wants me to bring forth shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  Viewing pornography shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  There are so many ways to indulge my selfishness; so many ways for me to fall out of love with Jesus.

I need to love Jesus.  My love for Jesus should be growing deeper and deeper as time goes on.  When I fail, Jesus wants me to humble myself and appeal to his mercy by making a good Confession.  And then continue striving to love him more and more.

Knowing Jesus personally

One of the primary elements of being a Catholic should be our personal love relationship with Jesus, lived out in a daily striving to know, love and serve our Lord so as to abide in full communion with Him.  Each of our days should include “our own constantly renewed experience of savouring Christ’s friendship and his message.” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, n. 266)

Unfortunately, many Catholics, enamored of and craving the comforts, satisfactions and experiences of life, are blocking out that which they should recognize as the truth and the meaning of life, prompting Pope Francis to plead:

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. (The Joy of the Gospel, n. 3)

HerbeckThis week, Catholic missionary disciple and evangelist, Peter Herbeck of Renewal Ministries, has dedicated his five weekday radio programs to helping us to understand exactly what it means to know Jesus personally, and how we can nurture a personal relationship with Jesus.  Each of Peter’s daily talks is only about 12-minutes long.  They will be available for several weeks in the Renewal Ministries audio archive.  For your convenience, here are links to each day’s segment:

May 19
May 20
May 21
May 22
May 23