Monday, May 17, 2010

Daily Reflections

The Magis Institute, with its Center of Faith and Reason , is still working on the web site for its Center for Catholic Spirituality. Part of the latter's work is to send out daily emails with reflections by various Jesuit authors. I've been filling in when for one reason or another the scheduled author is unable to provide the reflections and I'm doing so this week once again. Here are some reflections for Sunday through Tuesday.

May 16, 2010
The Ascension

In many parts of the U.S. today is the transferred feast of the Ascension. In the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius places the Ascension at the end of “The Mysteries of the Life of Our Lord.” He includes three points: 1) how Jesus showed Himself to the apostles for forty days after His resurrection and told them to wait in Jerusalem for “the promise of the Holy Spirit”; 2) how Jesus led the apostles to the Mount of Olives where He was lifted from their sight; 3) how angels appeared to the apostles as they gazed heavenward telling them that Jesus would one day return.

It’s natural that the apostles would fix their eyes on the sky as Jesus ascended. Here was their friend and Lord leaving them in a most unusual way. As members of the Church that was founded on the apostles and as followers of Jesus, we too should fix our sights on the destination of Jesus which is ours as well. This doesn’t mean walking around with our “heads in the clouds” but keeping in mind that our goal in life is heaven.

And like any journey, we will only reach our destination by taking the right path. We follow the path Jesus trod—fulfillment of God’s will. Our desire for heaven focuses our attention on earth where we are striving, one day at a time, to be faithful to our call to do God’s will. Thoughts of heaven do not distract us from our life on earth but reinforce the choices we make everyday to be faithful to the Gospel. Only if we faithfully walk the trail that Jesus has blazed for us will we arrive at the glory He enjoys and for which we were created.

May 17, 2010
Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

We are in the middle of the Church’s first novena or nine day period of prayer. Between the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost the apostles and Mary gathered in the Upper Room where Jesus had celebrated the Last Supper and they prayed for the Holy Spirit to come upon them and the community. As we anticipate Pentecost next Sunday we too are praying for a renewal of the graces of the Holy Spirit that we received in Baptism and Confirmation.

While we may not be saying, as the disciples in Ephesus said in today’s first reading, “we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit,” still, it could be that we are not too familiar with the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. We should be. We were created to know God and that means knowing the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. We ought to get to know the Holy Spirit better and to pray to the Spirit every day.

Here’s something Peter Kreeft wrote about the Spirit in his book The God Who Loves You: “The Father is God outside you. The Son is God beside you. The Spirit is God inside you. Once God is inside you, you are spiritual dynamite. What is that dynamite? What turned the world upside down at Pentecost? What made saints saints? … The most effective argument for Christianity is Christians who are saints, lovers. The saints are the Spirit’s salesmen and saleswomen. You can’t argue with a saint. He’d just kiss you, as Jesus did to Judas…. How do you fight love? You don’t. You lose. That is, you win.”

May 18, 2010
Optional Memorial of St. John I

Today’s saint died in prison in 526 from thirst and starvation. Theodoric, the barbarian Ostrogoth king who was an Arian, a heretic who did not believe in the divinity of Christ, was responsible for his death. St. John I stands in a long line of popes and saints like Paul who valued the truth more than their lives. And so should we.

In today’s first reading Paul said that he was “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem to witness to Jesus. He also said “the Holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me.” Witnessing to the truth in a world that is under the rule of the father of lies (see 1 John 5: 19) is never easy. But Paul courageously proclaimed, “I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.”

These words echo “The First Principle and Foundation” of the Spiritual Exercises. There St. Ignatius says that we are “created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord,” and in this way to find eternal life. Everything in life either hinders us from this purpose or goal or helps us attain it. “Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life.” Those are tough words that challenge us to ask ourselves: “Is witnessing to the truth of Jesus Christ and attaining eternal life the most important thing to me? If not, what is more important?”

Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” Let’s pray today that the Holy Spirit may help us to truly know God and ourselves so that nothing will stand in the way of our attaining the goal of eternal life.

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