Monday, April 25, 2016

Jesus and the Holy Spirit--how are they connected?

The Dominican theologian Yves Congar spent years studying and writing about the Holy Spirit. He said toward the end of his life: “If I were to draw but one conclusion from the whole of my work on the Holy Spirit, I would express it in these words: no Christology without pneumatology, and no pneumatology without Christology” (Word and Spirit, p. 1).

That got me thinking. What does that mean for me? Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, developed devotion to Jesus, our Divine Master, who defined himself by saying, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” What is the connection between Jesus Master and the Holy Spirit? I hadn’t thought about that very much before!

In praying the chaplet to the Divine Master that Bl. James wrote, I noticed several connections between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. A central one is this short prayer: “Live in us, Jesus, through the outpouring of your Holy Spirit.”

I started to pray that more often during the day. It’s beginning to help me realize more how Jesus acts in us through the Holy Spirit, and vice versa. (Of course the Father is there too, but that’s a separate topic for development.) Jesus communicates grace to us; he is the source of grace. Yet he gives it through the Holy Spirit, and by sending the Spirit to us. In turn, the Holy Spirit configures us to Jesus, first at Baptism and all throughout our lives.

This time before the feast of Pentecost is a good time to turn more to the Holy Spirit in prayer, asking for an outpouring of grace and spiritual gifts.

“Live in us, Jesus, through the outpouring of your Holy Spirit.”

Friday, April 08, 2016

Pope Francis on Marriage

I'm still reading the new document, which is quite long--about 250 pages! Here's a few initial thoughts:

1. Don't get your impressions of it from headlines, which always distort. Read it yourself, otherwise you won't get a balanced view of it.

2. Surprise--the Pope is Catholic and actually upholds all Catholic teachings on marriage and family, including that of contraception, the indissolubility of marriage, and divorce. Reading some news reports would give you the opposite impression.

3. Francis is pastoral and is looking for ways to help people in messy situations to  get some pastoral help. Chapter 8 of the document speaks to that, and that is the part much media coverage will focus on. But remember that it has to be read in light of the whole thing. Catholic teaching on marriage is clear. But it's not always so clear if individual persons actually contracted a valid marriage. That's where the messiness comes in. It strikes me that some of what he says here is rather vague and so perhaps could be distorted. But he is not in any way changing Catholic doctrine on sacramental marriage, which he couldn't do anyway since it comes from Jesus himself.

4. The most beautiful part of it, I think, is the meditation on St Paul's hymn to love in 1 Cor, ch. 13. Whether married or not, all of us could meditate on that very fruitfully.

5. The document has quite a few references to St. Thomas. I noticed that also in Joy of the Gospel. Pope Francis must like St Thomas even though he might not seem that way. For example, this quote:
“Charity by its very nature, has no limit to its increase, for it is a participation in that infinite charity which is the Holy Spirit. . .  Nor on the part of the subject can its limit be fixed, because as charity grows, so too does its capacity for an even greater increase.”

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Annunciation: Mary the Prudent Virgin

When the serpent slithered up to Eve in the Garden of Eden, he asked a question rooted in a lie: “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1). God had not forbidden them to eat the fruit of any tree, but only from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve’s first mistake was to answer the serpent without stopping to consider where this question was leading. Once she started talking to the devil, he easily persuaded her to sin.
At the Annunciation, on the other hand, Mary paused before responding to the angel’s message. The Gospel tells us: “But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29). At first she didn’t respond at all. Instead, she waited for more information in order to discern what this message was really all about. She pondered. As she did so, she must have been listening to what the Holy Spirit was saying to her. Once Mary was sure the message was from God, she responded quickly with her “yes.”
The Annunciation has so many beautiful aspects to consider that we might easily overlook this one: Mary is the prudent virgin, the one who with great wisdom knew how to reflect before acting.

The Power of the Pause

In pausing first before speaking, Mary gave herself some time to consider what this was all about. It was quite a remarkable circumstance, having an angel appear to her. No wonder she was taken aback and greatly troubled by it.
We can surmise that in that brief moment, Mary took a little time to pray. She must have asked God to give her the light to know what to say and how to respond.
Her first response was to listen more. The angel continued his explanation and his request. Then Mary asked a question: “How can this be, since I know not man?” (Lk 1:34) The angel explained that the power of the Holy Spirit would come upon her to bring about this miraculous event.
Then Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done unto me as you have said” (Lk 1:38)

Though the visit of the angel was unexpected, Mary was prepared. She continually lived in union with God, so much so that her will was always perfectly aligned with God’s will.

So what lesson can we draw from this for our own lives?

1. Live in a spirit of continual prayer, always attuned to God.

2. When something happens that might disturb us, first pause. Take some time to pray and reflect. Don’t just react. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. At times it is useful to ask counsel from a wise person.

3. Then in peace make your decision as best you can according to the light God is giving you.

Note: this concerns decisions that are about things where we have legitimate options to choose one or the other, for example, to take this job or that, to move to one place or another, etc. Discernment is never about sin, because sin must always be rejected.

O Mary, Virgin most prudent, pray for us!