Why Don’t They Recognize Jesus?

Blessed Easter!

If you have ever gone to Mass during the Octave of Easter and listened to the various accounts of Jesus’ appearances after he rose from the dead, it’s striking: nobody recognizes Jesus!

I have heard all kinds of reasons given in sermons and books: No one expected him to rise from the dead (except his Mother, and we have no account of Jesus’ appearance to Mary, who would have recognized her Son no matter what!); the appearance of Jesus’ risen body was so different that they couldn’t tell it was him; they were so blinded by their grief and tears; they didn’t believe he could or would rise from the dead; they didn’t really look at Jesus when they were speaking to him, etc. Maybe it was some combination of all of these.

But really, it’s quite a mystery. Emotions must have been running high—at first over Jesus’ death, and then over the accounts of his Resurrection! But that still doesn’t explain why so many of the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. Yet, these are wonderful Scripture passages to reflect on in the light of our current discernment. How many times we do not recognize the Provident hand of God guiding us until afterwards…maybe years later? Why do we struggle so hard to see God’s presence in our lives, to hear his invitations, to recognize his will for us?

I think the real question is, What interior blindness prevents us from recognizing the Lord in our current situation?

For me, I often find that it is my expectation of a situation or a person that prevents me from seeing how the Lord could be present when the situation turns out to be so utterly different than what I thought it would. To have expectations is not wrong; that is simply to be human. But to cling to my own expectations and not be able to let go of them—that blinds me to staying in the present moment and thus, to the Lord’s invitation to me.

Some of the obstacles to discerning the Lord’s presence that we see in this week’s Resurrection accounts are:

  • weeping, grief, loss
  • fear
  • the traumatic effects of witnessing their beloved Master’s torture and death
  • not looking
  • hopelessness/discouragement
  • doubt
  • disbelief
  • expectations of something different
  • lack of trust in others’ witness accounts
  • not listening earlier to Jesus’ words about rising from the dead
  • guilt (over denying Jesus)
  • distance
  • hardness of heart

To Bring To Prayer

Pray with one of this week’s Gospel readings in light of a person/situation/event in your life where you cannot discern the presence or will of the Lord. How does the Gospel passage you chose “speak” to why you cannot recognize the Lord?

MK 16:1-7 The angel tells the women “He is not here”

MT 28:8-15 Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and “the other” Mary

JN 20:11-18 Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene

LK 24:13-35 Jesus appears to the disciples on the way to Emmaus

LK 24:35-48 Jesus appears to the disciples in the Upper Room

JN 21:1-14 Jesus appears to the disciples fishing

MK 16:9-15 Summary of the accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection

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Sneak Peek of Online Lenten Retreat!

As I blogged about earlier this week, My Sisters is offering our FIRST online Lenten retreat entitled, Seeking God’s Will. I am so excited about being able to offer a retreat this way, as it can reach so many people! (I’m also looking forward to the feedback I will receive from those who make the retreat, so that the next one can be even more helpful!)

Sr. Mary Lea Hill launches the retreat with a mini-conference. Here is a sneak preview of how she makes a retreat sound do-able!

We just finished putting up the retreat Friday afternoon. If you’d like to make a retreat  this Lent, consider joining My Sisters. It is only $1 for the first trial month. You can find more information at: http://www.22s.com/mysisters or https://mysisters.blog/  

New Discernment @ the Movies Guide: Moana!

The lovely family animated film Moana is very entertaining, but it immediately struck the sisters in my community with its theme of discernment.

It was a no-brainer to put together another Discernment @ the Movies guide, but this time I had the joy of working with Sr. Christina Wegendt, FSP, with whom I often discuss the deeper themes of popular movies. I have put the text of the guide below; later this week I will put it up as a PDF.

DISCERNMENT @ THE MOVIES

Moana

Set in ancient Polynesian islands and mythology, Moana is the story of the teenaged daughter of a chieftain who has forbidden his people to sail beyond the reef into the wide ocean. Yet from her childhood, Moana feels a deep connection to the ocean, encouraged by her grandmother’s stories.

Moana struggles between the demands of her parents and her own inner longings. When she discovers that the islands are dying, she believes that the cause is found in her grandmother’s stories: the demigod Maui stole and then lost the heart of the goddess Te Fiti, who created the islands. To save her people and her world, Moana “goes out into the deep” to find Maui and convince him to return Te Fiti’s heart.

Before you watch the film, read the following Scripture passage:

Luke 5: 2-11

[Jesus] saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.*

Discernment Key to Watching the Film

As you watch the film, pay attention to: the themes of identity and listening, and how they shape Moana’s understanding of her call

After Watching the Film

You may wish to bring the following questions to prayer, reflection, or discussion in a group:

  1. What is your favorite moment of the film? How did it touch you and why? 
  2. In discerning how she was called to lead her people, Moana listened to many voices: those of her parents, her grandmother as a wise spiritual elder, the community, and the ocean. Late in the film, she is discovers that one of the most important voices to listen to is “the voice inside.”How does God speak to you? How can you nurture a deeper listening to more easily hear God in your life?
  3. In stepping out in faith to follow their calls, both Moana and Saint Peter wrestle with doubts. What doubts do you wrestle with in seeking to follow God’s call for you?  How does Jesus’ call to “put out into the deep” resonate in your heart? 
  4. The film is filled with beautiful imagery of creation, and the ocean is an important character.  In the Bible, the image of water can represent the life of God in us—the Holy Spirit at work in us. What does the film’s imagery of the ocean evoke in you? 
  5. Stepping out in faith caused both Moana and Saint Peter to come to more truly “know who they are.” Do you see ways the Lord has helped you grow in self-knowledge through moments of acting with faith in him? 
  6. Once they took a leap of faith and grew in self-knowledge, both Moana and Peter discover their mission. Jesus wants to take you on this same journey to discover your own unique mission in the kingdom of God! He said to Peter: Do not be afraid. What might the Lord be saying in your heart as you seek to follow him more closely?

Prayerful Follow-up

Pray with one of the Church’s traditional, eloquent hymns to the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised would be with us and guide us.

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator, come
from thy bright heav’nly throne;
come, take possession of our souls,
and make them all thine own…

Concluding Prayer:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Mid-Discernment Meditation on Trust

imag0218A meditation for those who want to grow in trust in God’s loving care for us during our discernment…

A Mid-Discernment Meditation on Trust

We begin our meditation by remembering God’s power, love, and mercy for us with a short aspiration, like “God, come to my assistance!” “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Or pray to Our Blessed Mother to offer our intentions and concerns to her Son.

Begin where we are: what are we worried about?

Although I haven’t completed my discernment yet, it seems to be leading me to do something that is hard and new, something that I haven’t done before. I’m worried about how it will turn out. If I make this choice, will I be happy? What if doing this new thing is too hard, or I don’t like doing it? What if I take this “leap of faith,” but it really isn’t God’s will for me? What if something happens that I don’t expect, and it really doesn’t work out?

Confront our lives—in this case our fears—with Scripture

Psalm 62 is a powerful prayer of trust. In the Revised Standard Version, Psalm 62 is entitled: “Song of Trust in God Alone.” We prayerfully read Psalm 62 slowly, letting the words sink deep into our hearts. You can find it online in any number of translations or pull out your own Bible. Below are the first two verses.

Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

Apply the Scripture to my situation

Psalm 62 lists reasons to trust in God, and also encourages us to take certain actions. What are the reasons that Psalm 62 gives for trusting God? Because…

  • From God comes salvation
  • God is a refuge, a mighty rock, an unshakable fortress
  • The things that make us feel secure—like riches, or the subservience of others—are just a delusion
  • God is our salvation
  • Power and steadfast love belong to God…etc.

Heart-to-Heart  with God

Psalm 62 encourages us to “trust in God and pour out our hearts to him.” “Pouring out your heart” to someone is a profound act of trust. We take a few minutes to do exactly this with God: talk to God about what is happening in our life right now, including our fears and uncertainties about the future, and why we hesitate to put our future completely in his hands. We ask him for what we need most! Remembering the imagery of Psalm 62—safety, fortress, salvation—thank him for “being there” for us always. Surrender all of our concerns into his loving care. Take a few moments of silence to listen to God’s response or invitation. (If we are not sure how to pray in the silence, we can listen quietly to our heartbeat, realizing every heartbeat is God’s love in action, sustaining us.)

Pray Psalm 62 again

This time, truly pray the psalm. Which “word” or “phrase” of this psalm resonates most deeply with you? Stay with that word or phrase. You may want to note it down on a piece of paper or on your smartphone, to remember throughout the day.

Anchor for Our Day

As we come to the end of our prayer, we review it briefly. What happened during our prayer time? Has something shifted inside of us? What is our deepest desire now? We might wish to conclude by praying the “Our Father,” offering our deepest desire to God, and asking for the grace to live his will in our lives today. As we return to every day life, we take with us the word or phrase from Psalm 62 that most deeply touched us, using it as an anchor or shelter any time today that we feel worried or anxious.

Tips for the Discerner

PraySeveral people have sent in questions or comments, which I will be delighted to address tomorrow or Friday. But in the meantime, I have run across a number of wonderful reflections and tips for those who are discerning, and I couldn’t wait to share them with you. Check these out!

From Sr.  Margaret Michael’s video, Discernment Tip #2: He who is the Way will show us the way for our life. Pray! (Check out her video on facebook here on our Daughters of St. Paul Facebook Page–and keep checking back all week!) Actually, if you are discerning religious life, I would recommend you visit the discernment section on our Daughters of Saint Paul website, too. No matter what community you are called to, you will most likely find the discernment tips offered there very helpful. (Yes, I wrote some of the material that you will find there.)  

Sr. Christina Neumann, OSF, who has a lovely blog that offers an “inside view” of religious life from the Franciscan perspective, offers her reflection for how we can all live #NationalVocationAwarenessWeek

The Heart of Mary’s Women’s Fellowship occasionally offers “self-studies” or “mini-retreats.” They recently posted a beautiful nine-day series of Scriptural reflections on call, vocation, and discernment, which you can find here. This series of reflections make a beautiful Scriptural novena with lectio divina for anyone who is seeking to discern how to follow God more closely in their life. 

The Coffee Spoons Blog posted a lovely reflection, “Everything is grace,” about St. Thérèse’s Garden: that living our true vocation is not necessarily living whom we think we’re supposed to be, but whom God calls us to be! St. Therese’s words are a joyful reminder of God’s loving call to us to be ourselves–our best selves.

Lectio Divina for Discerners: What do you seek?

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Discerning with the Word: A Guided Lectio Divina for Those in Discernment
“What do you seek?”

Introduction: We may not notice, but many times when Jesus encounters someone, he asks them a question about what they want. In this reading, Andrew and John, who would become two of Jesus’ chosen apostles, meet Jesus for the first time. As you pray with this reading, imagine Jesus directing this question to you. How would you answer?

Lectio: John 1:35-42

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).

Read through this reading slowly and attentively at least twice. Can you imagine yourself as one of the people in this story, and how you might feel? Take your time praying with it.

Meditatio

Jesus begins his relationship with Andrew and John by asking them what they want. Andrew and John answer Jesus in a way that seems ordinary but that actually expresses their desire to get to know Jesus better, to “stay” with him. Jesus responds to their desires–both spoken and unspoken. This initial encounter was so transformative for Andrew that he immediately went off and convinced his brother Simon to meet Jesus. The meeting between Jesus and Simon is even more dramatic, as Jesus doesn’t just call Simon by name, but gives him a new name, “Peter.”

As we begin to discern, Jesus asks us this same question, “What are you looking for?”

What are your dreams? What are you looking for? Share one of your deep desires or dreams with Jesus now.

Contemplatio

You have shared with God a dream or desire important to you. Now, take some quiet time to listen. How might God communicate to you his dreams for you?

God may respond in word, in a feeling, in making things work out…or God may respond in silence. But God always responds to us.

Oratio

God’s Dream for Me based on the writings of Bl. James Alberione

Your dream, O Master, is to lay hold of me with your divine life.
Your dream is to purify me, to recreate me,
to make me a new person in your image.
Your dream is to fill me with your love, to make me love the Father and all my brothers and sisters just as you do.
Your dream is to draw me to you with the closest of bonds, to unite my heart with yours, to make me strong,
to impart to me your divine power
so that I can overcome evil and be constant in doing good.
Your dream is to inflame me with an untiring zeal to spread your kingdom.
Your dream is to possess me in this life and in the life to come.
O Master, may your dream come true!
May I be able to give all you ask of me. Amen.*

* From Live Christ! Give Christ! Prayers for the New Evangelization 

Actio

Try to be aware of your hopes for the day each morning.
Next, start to bring your “hopes” to prayer.
Imagine Jesus looking at you and asking you, “What do you want me to do for you today?”

Guided Lectio Divina for Discerners: He Loved Me and Gave Himself for Me

“He Loved Me and Gave Himself for Me!”

453px-Caravaggio-The_Conversion_on_the_Way_to_DamascusIntroduction: St. Paul, who was known as “Saul” before his encounter with Christ, was a good man and a devout Jew who was quite conscientious about keeping the Law of God. He desired to serve God, but was too focused on what he wanted to do for God, rather than on what God was doing. Saul’s zeal was so misguided that he sought to persecute the Christians, whom he felt were destroying the Jewish religion. On his way to Damascus, instead of accomplishing this task, he encountered Jesus the Savior, who revealed to Paul the depth of God’s mercy and love. Paul’s foundational experience of Christ’s saving and merciful love for him and for the people to whom he would send Paul shaped Paul’s entire life and mission. It was an experience of love, light, and beauty to which Paul returned to over and over again.

For this lectio divina, we’ll pray with one of the Scriptural accounts of Paul’s encounter with Christ from Acts, followed by a short description of the experience from a letter of Paul.

Lectio: Acts 9:1-19 and 1 Tim. 1:12-17

Acts 9:1-19 (Read from your Bible or click here for this first reading.)

1 Tim. 1:12-17

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Meditatio

The Acts of the Apostles gives three different accounts of the conversion of Saint Paul because of its importance in the early Church (see Acts 9:1-19, Acts 22:3-16, and 26:2-18). In his letters, Paul often refers to his encounter with Christ, although often indirectly (see 1 Cor. 15:8, Gal. 1:11-16, 2 Cor. 4:6).

Initially, Paul had found fulfillment in living the Law to the point of perfection. But his encounter with Jesus changes all that. The brilliance of Jesus’ love and truth blinds Paul initially. He thought he had been able to see, but his temporary blindness enables him to see himself and his relationship with God and others in a whole new way. Paul must have felt great distress for being so wrong, for recognizing that he was persecuting the followers of Jesus, whom he now recognizes as the Messiah, the Son of God, his Light.

In his encounter with Jesus, Paul truly listens. He discovers that God’s merciful love in Christ gives the deepest meaning to his life, and he doesn’t have to do anything to win or earn that love. He just has to believe in it and receive it. Paul’s response is the beautiful and moving response of a discerning disciple, even though his world has just been turned upside down: “Lord, who are you? What do you want me to do?”

Praying with Paul’s dramatic encounter with Jesus, we can see that God may communicate to us in many ways: through an interior whisper or an insight, through others such as Ananias, or through an unexpected event that shakes us up. Jesus’ gaze of mercy on Paul transformed his life forever. But this profound transformation in Paul is not easy, nor is it over in three days. Paul’s growth in Christ and carrying out the call of Christ was lifelong.

In our times of discernment, we may experience similar moments to Paul in his encounter with Christ:

  • disturbance/shake-up (Paul fell to the ground)
  • great light
  • listening/attentive (light and voice)
  • dialogue
  • fasting (from both food and human sight)
  • absorbed in prayer and in one’s relationship with Christ
  • obedient to Christ’s call
  • receiving grace through the community and the celebration of the sacraments
  • guidance of an “elder” of the community
  • community confirms God’s call
  • obedience to the community
  • commitment to the entrusted mission of proclaiming/witnessing to Christ

How do we experience Christ’s invitations in our lives? When we are confronted with interruptions, unexpected changes, or times of transition, it can be difficult to see God’s light or invitation. But suppose we “refocused” our gaze from the distress of the unexpected experience to seeing it as an invitation from God, as Paul did? What insights would we receive if we did this? Discovering that we need to convert, change, or grow is an inherent part of receiving God’s call. How do I want to respond to God’s invitation?

Contemplatio

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because…I received mercy. (See 1 Tim. 1:12-13)

From the second reading (from 1 Timothy) it’s clear how Paul’s encounter with Christ on the way to Damascus shaped his whole life. Paul’s descriptions of his relationship with Christ are marked by thanksgiving for Christ’s merciful love. It’s a deeply warm and personal relationship. This invites us to reflect:

  • What are our earliest memories of our relationship with God?
  • How have our encounters with Christ “marked” our lives, transformed us? How have I experienced Christ’s mercy, and how have I responded?
  • How would we characterize our relationship with Christ? How do we feel Jesus is inviting us to grow in our relationship with him?

Oratio

My favorite prayer posture is to sit or kneel on the floor near the tabernacle. As I was praying, I suddenly realized that this receptive and adoring posture–sitting at the feet of the Master–characterizes my relationship with Christ. At the feet of the Master, I am receptive to his call and his sending me; I listen, adore, love, receive his love, learn his way of gentleness, plead with him, receive forgiveness. I am blessed to be at his feet.

Sometimes when I’m coming to the end of my prayer time, I will joyfully remind Jesus, “I’m not going anywhere” — meaning that I will stay at his feet always. It’s a little renewal of my fidelity to the All-Faithful One.

Renew your relationship with Jesus in your own words. 

Actio

Be mindful of Jesus’ merciful love for you throughout your day today, choosing at least three times throughout the day where you will stop and thank Jesus for the gift of his love for you.

Praying with Our Past: Lights and Thanksgiving

As we pray with our past, we may see with new eyes:

2) We may begin to see a pattern in certain events of our lives, or recognize how blessed we have been—a recognition we may not have had at the time. We may remember moments that we had dismissed where God touched us deeply.

As a sister, I make an annual retreat every year. People tell me that they admire sisters for making silent retreats—but making retreat is no hardship. Usually, my retreat is one my favorite weeks of the year because I get to spend quality time with my Beloved! Still, if I come to the retreat from a time that is busier or more distracted than usual, sometimes it can take me a couple of days to settle into the deep silence.

One particular year, I remember struggling a bit more than usual to get into the silence and deeper prayer of the retreat. As usual, I prayed with a passage of the Bible, and later in the day went to speak with the retreat director. I talked about what happened during my prayer time, and then moved on to how I was struggling to get into the retreat. After a few minutes, the director stopped me. “Tell more more about your prayer time with that passage,” he encouraged me. “It seems to me that God was speaking to you very powerfully there.”

Startled, I was quiet for a few minutes, then I recalled my prayer and spoke about it. As I spoke, I realized he was right. Several days later, I thanked him for helping me to pay attention to this profound moment where God spoke to me—a moment that I had overlooked because I was distracted by something else! That moment of prayer became the key to my entire retreat.

Praying with our past can be a powerful experience of God’s saving love:

  • We better realize how faithful and intimate God is in our life
  • We grow in trust
  • We come to understand our relationship with God better: how God seems to work in our lives
  • We grow in being able to recognize how God is working in our lives right now

When we pray with our past, we can always conclude our prayer with an act of thanksgiving for how God has revealed his faithful love in our lives.

To Pray With
Luke 24:13-35

After Jesus’ death, the two disciples who left Jerusalem to go to Emmaus needed to share their sorrow and confusion with Jesus. As they unknowingly shared and retold their story to the Risen Jesus, Jesus opened their hearts to the mystery of grace at work in their lives to the point that they were able to understand their time with Jesus in a new way, and eventually recognize Jesus with them in the breaking of the bread.

Follow the steps for Lectio Divina in praying with the beautiful story of Jesus’ Resurrection appearance to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. After your prayer, you may find the following reflection questions helpful:

1. Imagine that you are one of the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus, and you are joined by a mysterious, trustworthy Stranger. Share with him your most recent experience of being angry, betrayed, discouraged, grieving, or lost. How does it feel to tell Jesus how you feel? Does Jesus say something to you?

2. Have you ever had an experience of prayer that set you on fire? How have you allowed that fire to burn, grow, and set your life alight?    

3. The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus on the road. When have you been surprised by God? Where might God be standing in your life right now, or walking alongside you, but unrecognized?

Free in Christ: Lectio Divina for Discerners

St. Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

St. Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

Free in Christ

Discerning with the Word: A Guided Lectio Divina for Discerners

Introduction: Freedom is essential to making a good discernment. But it is often misunderstood, seen solely as the elimination of all constraints. In this lectio divina, Saint Paul will guide us to reflect on and pray for the gift of interior freedom.

Lectio: Acts 16:16-40 and Galations 5:1, 13-14

Acts 16:16-40
Though flogged, chained, and imprisoned, Paul and Silas sang for joy

The passage from Acts is too long to quote, but you can find it in your Bible or here: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=297400123.

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

Galations 5:1, 13-14
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Read through both readings slowly and attentively, taking your time with them. 

Meditatio

How would you describe freedom?

We often pray to God for happiness; how often do we pray for the gift of freedom! And yet, Paul says here that Christ died to set us free!

Sometimes we equate freedom with a lack of external constraints–such as rules, or walls, or consequences. But for Paul, freedom is a lack of inner constraints–from unhealthy attachments and addictions, from anger, and from fear; above all, from sin.

Freedom is not an escape from, but an ability to choose for. Freedom truly is the ability to “Love, and do what you want,” but the key is that “what you want” is a pure desire, free from self-love and directed towards God.

Saints such as Saints Paul, Silas, and Mother Teresa are truly free persons–giving themselves completely in love to others because they are confident in God’s love for them. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus broke out of the prison of fear to be fully free: he freely chooses to do the will of his Father, out of complete confidence in his Father and out of the love for humanity which he shares with his Father.

What is your vision of freedom? Does it include the “slavery” of love? Can you imagine being in prison, but glowing with trust and joy, as Paul and Silas were when singing in prison?

Contemplatio

Thrown in prison for the sake of Christ, Paul and Silas are interiorly free. They sing and praise God; they are unafraid in the earthquake; they reach out to their jailer who is so fearful of the future that at one point he attempts to take his own life. Because Paul is looking at his circumstances with the eyes of Christ, he can see how even his imprisonment has led to the Gospel being proclaimed to more people (see Phil. 1:12-13).

  • How do I desire to grow in greater interior freedom?
  • What and who has God used to “form” me into the person I am today? How do I trust that God will continue to “form” me in the circumstance of my life?

Oratio

Love is the greatest freedom. Pray for the gift of freedom to love fully, without holding back:

Inflame My Heart with Love – by Blessed James Alberione

Jesus, Divine Master, I thank and bless you most meek Heart, which led you to give your life for me.  Your blood, your wounds, the scourges, the thorns, the cross, your bowed head tell my heart: “No one loves more than he who gives his life for the loved one.”  The Shepherd died to give life to the sheep.  I too want to spend my life for you.  Grant that you may always, everywhere, and in all things dispose of me for your greater glory and that I may always repeat: “Your will be done.”  Inflame my heart with holy love for you and for my brothers and sisters.

Actio

Today, notice the many occasions where you have the freedom to choose, and thank God each time for the gift of freedom. During the week, as you read the news, watch TV, listen to music, interact with others, consider: “What are some ways that people today long to be free?” Offer a prayer for them.

You Are…God’s Masterpiece! Lectio for Discerners

God’s Masterpiece

Discerning with the Word: A Guided Lectio Divina for Those Discerning

"St. Paul Writing His Epistles" attrib. to Valentin de Boulogne, c. 1618-1620

“St. Paul Writing His Epistles” attrib. to Valentin de Boulogne, c. 1618-1620

Introduction: We know that God’s invitations to us flow from our God-given identity. In this lectio, we pray with how God sees us, how God’s love shapes our very identity, and how God’s love frees us to be more fully ourselves.

Lectio: Ephesians 2:4-10

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Read through this reading slowly and attentively at least twice. Take your time with it.

Meditatio

Saint Paul’s dramatic encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) completely changed Paul’s relationship with God from Pharisaism to experiencing the fullness of God’s love and mercy. By his baptism, Paul became a new creation in Jesus. Learning Christ, and living his new identity in Christ as an adopted son of God, led Paul to discover true freedom. No longer driven by fear or possessions, Paul belonged to Christ and trusted that nothing could separate him from God’s love and mercy. The extravagance eloquence of this passage demonstrates Paul’s amazement and gratitude to Jesus for his saving Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

Each of us who have been baptized can share in that journey from fear to trust and freedom discovered by Paul: we too are loved, redeemed, and sanctified.

As you re-read this passage, let yourself become aware that you are a son or daughter of God, that your very being is God’s awesome gift to you. Different translations of verse 10 into English range from the prosaic, “We are what he has made us” to “God’s handiwork,” “God’s masterpiece,” or “God’s work of art.”  Have you ever thought of yourself as God’s “work of art”? Do you believe that you are an heir of God, who will share everything with Christ as his brother or sister?

Contemplatio

Which phrase from this passage of Ephesians best describes how you see yourself? As you allow this phrase to “sink in,” how does it change your understanding of how God might see you? In your own words, how would you describe your relationship with God?

Oratio

The Work of Your Love – by Blessed James Alberione

My Lord, I am entirely the work of your all powerful love. I adore you, my God, one in nature and triune in Persons. I thank you, because you have made me for the happiness which lies in you and for your eternal glory. Save me with your love and your mercy!

Actio

Choose one way to act on your belief in God’s powerful love for you today.