Friday, March 24, 2017

March 25, 2017: “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will”

March 25 2017
Feast of the Annunciation

Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will
(Responsorial: Psalm 40)

The Church applies to Mary the promise made to Ahaz in Isaiah 7:10-14: “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the young woman [literally “virgin”] shall be with child and bear a son...”?

The basic meaning of the sign in biblical thought is the symbol which indicates the existence or the presence of that which it signifies; it directs the attention to the reality signified.[1]

The Church is the “symbol” the “sacrament,” which indicates the existence and presence of Jesus on earth. And calls attention to him.[2]

Whenever he is asked for a sign, Jesus says emphatically that “no sign” will be given but the “sign of Jonah.” Except once. When asked to send “manna from heaven,” he promised the Eucharist.[3]  The risen body of Jesus was a sign to those who saw him, and is still a sign to those who see him present in Eucharist. Since Jesus’ ascension into heaven the “sign of Jonah” is the Church, the visible body of Jesus risen and active in his members.

The Church, Eucharist and Mary are the kind of sign that “indicates the presence of that which it signifies.” Mary was this to Elizabeth:

Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.[4]

And this is the sign we should be.

Jesus is present in us. “The virgin shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel” —which means, “God with us.” As long as Jesus lives in his body on earth, he is “with us.” We are his embodied presence.  His presence is visible through our lifestyle. However we live, Jesus wants to reveal himself living with us, in us and through us. Our way of living, acting and speaking should be the sign that reveals the presence of Jesus in us.

Whatever we do, Jesus wants to do it with us, in us and through us. Wherever we go he wants to go with us, be in us and act through us. Everyone who encounters us should encounter Jesus along with us, present in us, speaking through us. As “soon as they hear the sound of our voice” they should feel, whether conscious of its source or not, something within them “leap for joy.” Does this sound crazy?

In Hebrews 10:4-10 Jesus says, “a body you have prepared for me.” We are that body. At every moment the passionate thrust of our heart should be, “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.

Whatever God asks or allows to happen to us, we answer with Mary in Luke 1:26-38, “Let it be with me according to your word.” Then we are the sign of Jonah.” We are  “Emmanuel.”[5]

Initiative: Imagine the Hail Mary addressed to you. What adaptations are needed?


Same Day: March 25, 2017
Saturday, Lent Week Three

It is steadfast love, not sacrifice, that God desires.

The Responsorial (Hosea 6:6  and Psalm 51) says God wants us to know him. The verse continues: “…and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” God wants disciples.

Hosea 6: 1-6 shows us the predictable path of discipleship.

The starting point, as often as not, is seeking an escape from pain. “In their affliction they shall look for me.”

When we are “in the pits,” all we want is a return to ground level: a basically human, reasonable way of life. We want God to “heal” our human natures and “revive” us, as in “re-vivify,” make us alive again. We have hope that he will.

But our hope is focused on healing: restoring the level of life we received at creation, from which we “fall short” by following appetites, emotions and the culture instead of reason. (The common Scriptural word for sin is hamartia: to “miss the mark”). We want God to “raise us up, to live in his presence,” because sin is separation from the Good, the True and the Beautiful that are found in God as Creator, the truth that clarifies our own being; the goodness which, rejected as goal, puts disorder into everything we do. As long as we are “in the pits” we cannot focus on God in himself; we go to God to escape pain. That is why most people went to Jesus.

But once out of the pits and restored to ground level we begin to “lift up our eyes to the mountain.” Now, feeling the intrinsic longing of our human nature for the “more,” we say,  “Let us know, let us strive to know the Lord.”

This is a distinct and very important phase of discipleship. Now we are able to look at God just in order to know him. We can hear his words without immediately focusing them on our woundedness. Now we can be students of God’s mind and heart.

This activates another level of hope: hope in enlightenment for its own sake; that is, for the sake of knowing Truth and Goodness as such; for the sake of knowing God. We may struggle with the discipline of discipleship, and feel discouraged when prayer and reflection seem fruitless. But our new hope tells us, “Certain as the dawn is his coming.” We await him like “the light of day,” with hope that he will “come to us like... spring rain that waters the earth.” We hope for union with him whose Light is Life: life on the level of God.

Now the focus turns to perseverance.  God speaks out of experience: “Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that passes away.” Discipleship requires commitment. As Woody Allen said about success, “Eighty percent of it is just showing up.”

But we need to show up with the right attitude, and the attitude is need. In Luke 18: 9-14 Jesus tells us “those who exalt themselves shall be humbled, while those who humble themselves shall be exalted.” Discipleship is not accomplishment. It is begging. With “a heart contrite and humbled.”

Initiative: Seek to know God. Seek it with efforts, but receive it as gift.

[1]John McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, “Sign.”
[2] See Vatican II, “The Church,” no. 1;  Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 770-776, 1108.
[3] Matthew 12:39, 16:4; Mark 8:12; Luke 11:29; John 2:18-22, 6:22-59.
[4] Luke 1:39-45.
[5] The classic book by Pierre De Caussade, S.J., Abandonment to Divine Providence, makes this the sum and substance of the whole spiritual life.

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