Here are some more reflections, for today and tomorrow, that I did for the Magis Center for Catholic Spirituality. While I was able to put in a word for St. Lucy today, I regret that I didn't say anything about one of my favorite Carmelite saints, St. John of the Cross, whom we celebrate tomorrow.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Several years ago a radio station took a survey and asked listeners to call and answer the question: “Is love a feeling or a decision?” Almost 90% called to say that love is a feeling.
St. Ignatius would say that love is more than a feeling and it’s more than a decision. The second son in today’s Gospel (Matthew 21: 28-32) decided to work in his father’s vineyard and said he would do so, but didn’t actually go. The first son decided not to go and said so but in the end changed his mind and went. Who fulfilled the will of the father? Clearly the first son. Who, can it be said, loved the father more? While both would perhaps declare their love for the father it was the first son who proved that love by his deeds. As St. Ignatius wrote in the Spiritual Exercises, at the beginning of the “Contemplation to Attain the Love of God”: “love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than in words.”
This is the way God, whom St. John wrote is Love (see 1 John 4: 8 and 16), operates. God, as St. Paul wrote, “proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8). The Son of God took flesh and offered his flesh on the cross for the salvation of the world. The Light of the world entered into its darkness and calls each of us to be one with him, sharing in the light and being light for the world (see Matthew 5: 14-16).
Today we honor a virgin-martyr of the early Church, St. Lucy, whose very name means Light. Like Lucy we must be lights for our world of darkness, but we are only able to be such in so far as we grow in union with the Light, in so far as we love God and our neighbor in deed and not just in words or feelings.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The disciples of John the Baptist approached Jesus and asked him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” In other words, “Who are you?” Jesus answered by telling them to report what they had “seen and heard,” what they had experienced. What about you? How do you answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” Do you rely on what others have said or taught, or can you report what you have “seen and heard” of Jesus in your own experience? This is the goal of Ignatian contemplation: to not just think about Jesus as you read the Gospel stories but to meet and experience him there. Imagining the Gospel scenes and putting yourself into the scene, conversing with the various figures, can help you to know the Lord in a deeper way so that you can answer the question “Who is Jesus?” from personal experience rather than from what others have said.
Pope Benedict made a similar distinction in his Wednesday Audience of October 8, 2008. He said:
Only with the heart does one truly know a person. Indeed, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were externally acquainted with Jesus, they learned his teaching and knew many details about him but they did not know him in his truth. … On the other hand, the Twelve, thanks to the friendship that calls the heart into question, have at least understood in substance and begun to discover who Jesus is. This different manner of knowing still exists today: there are learned people who know many details about Jesus and simple people who have no knowledge of these details but have known him in his truth: "Heart speaks to heart".