Jesus asks, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Peter responds, “You are Christ, the son of the living God.’ In your contemplation, plumb the depths and implications of what Christ, Cristos, really means. Who is this anointed? This Y’shua? What does he mean to me? Jesus doesn’t ask, ‘Who do people say that I am? What are they talking about in the streets? What does the media say? What’s the public opinion?’ No. He asks, ‘Who do YOU say that I am?’
Ultimately, our destiny comes down to a decision. ‘Who do I say He is?’ In your answer to that question, how will you respond with your life?’
The person of Christ is unparalleled in history. There will be never anyone like Him, and there was never anyone like Him before He came on earth. He revolutionized human creation and redemption; he revolutionized our destinies.
Jesus Christ wasn’t simply a godly man or a religious figure; he was God made man. Some religions have incarnations of a mystical kind. However, Christ wasn’t just someone to be spoken about in mythological terms; His being is concrete and historical. The mystery of His humanity became an event in a specific time in history, with huge implications, and it only took Him three years to turn the world upside down. What He did is unlike anything else.
What Christ came to offer and invites us into is not just one religion among many; it is not something that we have invented and discovered. It is not just a human idea or philosophy. It’s God’s revelation of our eternal destiny in Him. What Christ has done is something that has been revealed. He invites us into a relationship with Him.
In many of his writings, Saint John Paul II writes about the theme of gazing, of contemplating upon the face of Jesus Christ. He describes the glory shining on the face of the risen Christ, as ‘supremely beautiful.’ During the Transfiguration, John, Peter, and James, and the two great figures of the old covenant, Elijah and Moses, gaze upon His face. We too are invited to do the same, that our lives may be transformed. By the discovery of who God is, we discover who we are.
When Saint Peter exclaims, “You are the Christ,’ Jesus responds, ‘That didn’t come from you.’ Peter did not come to this conclusion on his own. It was a gift from God that was infused in him so that he would have this knowledge, awareness, and epiphany.
After his epiphany of coming to know Jesus, our Lord gives Peter an epiphany of coming to know himself. Jesus says, ‘You are Peter. You’re no longer Simon, son of Jonah.’ Simon means sand; before Peter’s infused knowledge of Christ, he had very little stability. Only after Peter is able to gaze at Christ with the eyes of faith and know Him, does Jesus change his whole identity. He names him Peter, which means the rock.
And on this rock, Christ has built His Church. From Peter’s human weakness, Christ brings glory out of brokenness (to be continued).
NOTE: I am reposting this to include the audio. All posts on The Speakroom in June will come from previous posts. Our team needs this month to work on back-end projects like developing more social media presence through Instagram, Facebook, Podcasts, and products on Shopify.
JOHN 21: 1-19
At that time, Jesus revealed himself to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish.This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.
One of the most popular books in the past is The Five Languages, a book about how
people by their character, communicate love.
Most of us are better at one or two rather than all. The languages are
Words of Affirmation – People who speak words of
life in their ordinary life, are able to see the Lord in the other person; they
can acknowledge a person’s beauty and purpose, and draw it out of them. They
validate a person’s sense of being lovable; this gift is not that common
Touch – Giving expressions of love through
embrace and touch
Actions – Giving through works of devotion &
service; this gift is usually found in men (as in household repairs). Doing
something that is helpful.
Gift giving – The ability to find and give gifts
that expresses the essence of a person
Quality Time –Spending important time together. Even though it doesn’t feel like we’re doing
something productive, I’m here for you.
The gift of Quality Time is the lens through which we must understand
prayer and contemplation – being with
In today’s Gospel Jesus asks Peter the most important
question – Do you love me? The first
two times he asks, Jesus says, in the Greek translation, “Do you agape me?” He was asking Peter to go to the next level
of living in His love. Agape is that self-sacrificing, self-annihilating
love. It is a radical, divine love that
we’re all capable of –but it requires stripping. It is the white, hot love that is divine and eternal,
yet it happens now.
Agape love is
summarized in John 15, ‘That you lay down your life for the one you love.’ There has to be a sacrifice, a holocaust and
cost to self for the other. As a result, the gift of self is amplified.
Our Lord asks this important question, ‘Do you love me?’ – to Peter, who is being put on the spot in
front of his friends by the charcoal fire. And he is being humbled by it that
he may learn the lessons of humility in order for him to truly love.
The last time Peter was at charcoal fire, he denied having
known our Lord, when he had just earlier in the day, sworn that he would do
anything for Him. Peter’s disordered
self-love prepared the way for his fall, though he really did love Jesus. He really did love the Lord, but Peter was
Peter reveals that fight between flesh and spirit in every
human being, the weakness of humanity left to ourselves apart from the grace of
God. Left to ourselves, we’re no better;
like Peter, our real character and virtues are seen in positions of adversities.
But Peter was transformed after his own experience of cowardice
and weakness apart from Our Lord. We have to have a true sense of who we are
apart from God so that pride can’t get in the way of real love –humility allows
our soul to be better cultivated for a lasting fruit of Love that doesn’t come
just from human motive, but from God.
In this exchange, Jesus calls Peter Simon, Son of John. Why?
Peter represents rock; Simon represents sand. Peter is the title he had
been endowed with by Christ- ‘the boss
in charge,’ ‘the head hancho.’ Jesus doesn’t call him by his title but by his
humanity. He calls him by his old name, by which those who knew him as a child
knew him, and reminds Peter who he is left to himself.
Jesus wants to speak to the child, the vulnerable in Peter
because He wants to bring strength in his weakness. He is bringing him back to Galilee, his first
calling and first love. As you
remember, Jesus called Peter first as he was fishing. Now, He is renewing Peter’s calling at a time
when Peter was about to give up his vocation, and just wants to go back and
Jesus asks ‘Do you love me’ three times to make reparation
for the three times Peter denied him. In
so doing, He gives Peter the chance to renew his calling and to repair his
vocation to Love. Now, Peter learns the
humility and has the proper foundations to be a servant of Love.
In the Greek translation, Peter does not respond with the agape word for love, but with the word, eros, which is a friendship love. Before, when he overestimated himself, he
could say that he could give Jesus the
agape love. But now, after having
been humbled, he is finally acknowledging and can admit that he can’t love
Jesus in the way Jesus has loved him.
The third time, Jesus asks the question, He says, ‘Do you eros me,’ and that is when Peter is able
to say, ‘Yes, Lord.’ This shows us that
Jesus accepts us as we are and not as we should be. The Lord knew that Peter had no more to give
and wasn’t ready to give an agape love,
but He still appointed him to be the leader and shepherd of His Church.
Jesus accepts us as long as we are giving all that we can
give, and it is His Love that allows as to grow in Love. According to Saints John of the Cross and Teresa,
we are unable to give that agape love
until the 5th mansion, which is where the Holy Spirit is doing all
the work. We can’t get to agape love without the Holy Spirit.
But before that, God has to purify us, and we have to be
willing to undergo the painful, humiliating journey.
Eventually, at Pentecost, through the outpouring of the Holy
Spirit, after he had been purified, Peter is able to love with the agape love. After Pentecost, Peter is able to rejoice that
he was counted worthy to suffer insult for the sake of Jesus’ name. Only the agape
love of the Holy Spirit was able to bring this about in Peter and can bring it about
Jesus’s love is so profoundly and scandalously humble. In
the Book of Revelations, we see the lamb
being glorified and exalted. Why not the eagle or the lion? The lamb is the sacrificial animal, which represents
the sacrifice of Love. The Most High became the most low for our sake. He didn’t need to do it; God doesn’t need
anything. But He did it all for us. He
says, ‘I am giving my life – for those whom I love.’
The whole universe exalts in the victory of the Lamb.
From the shore of Galilee, Jesus asks the disciples to put
the net on the right side of the boat. The moment Peter obeyed, he received a
super abundance of grace.
Peter had to be stripped and emptied, which is represented
by his ‘stripped’ clothing during this account, when he tucks his garments and
swims toward Jesus after recognizing Him. Similarly, once we choose God’s will
over ours, and strip ourselves, that is when we really begin to live a more
abundant life, through the Lord’s provision and not what we do ourselves.
At first the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus, which
represents a spiritual journey that involves a dynamism of awareness and
mystery. They only realized who he was
at the breaking of the bread and at the feeding of fish, and when He
acknowledges that He will feed them with that agape love.
The humility of God is so radical. When St. Augustine had
not yet discovered God in his life, when he was seeking truths in the wisdom of
the day and all its eloquence, he was at first disappointed by Scripture; it was
too simple and lacked the language of the sages he studied. However, as he grew in faith, he discovered
the hidden wisdom of Christ that exuded from scripture.
That is how God always works – he chooses the humble
instruments to hide His grace. Only the humble can find the hidden treasure.
In Eastern iconography, the paintings are stark, but they
are a bridge to prayer. Only when a person enters into the simplicity of the
image in prayer, can they experience God’s grace and beauty in the icon. Only through prayer can that be received.
And there’s nothing more humble than the Eucharist, which is where we receive God’s agape love. He calls all of us to be his lambs and to live a life of Love. He trains us through a life that is nourished by sacrifice; this is the action of God’s movement in us.
The measure by which we unite ourselves with the light of Love through The Lamb, and the transformation of love in this life, is the measure that we will we share in His blessing forever and ever.
SOURCE: Santa Clara Order of Discalced Carmelite Seculars (OCDS) Formation, Father Robert Elias Barcelos, May 2019
In having breathed in the dust of the Holy Lands Where my Lord once taught, healed, bled–and died, He who loved me first and has loved me eternally –was resurrected In the landscape of my soul, the New Jerusalem.
I only have now and in this moment, The prayers of the Church, All the hosts of angels and saints, And creation from the beginning of time, until the end of time, Are united with mine.
Deep calls to deep, Where all time and all space, Are all in the Almighty, The Word of God, Made Flesh by the power of the Spirit Who dwelt among us, who dwells within us
The Mystical Chase
When it is dark, and the last rays of the day Dip into the horizon and inflame the blue ocean of sky, I run to catch a glimpse of You, my Beloved
The Word, Jesus Christ, penetrates this great mystery of mysteries in being welcomed and privileged to enter into the Holy of Holies, the innermost dwelling place, God’s sacred heart. God so loved the world that He revealed to us this Holy of Holies of who He most deeply is. This is best expressed, and imparted through His Son. God the Father, the eternal, I am who am, Adonai, Eloahim, El Shadai – communicates His love, divine affection and identity in His Word made flesh.
And His Word, God’s self-understanding and knowledge of Himself, is given to us out of love, in His Son, who was born into the world. The Creator entered into His own creation to give His life through the cross. This was the impetus, the pulling of Jesus’ life; He was magnetically pulled to Jerusalem the whole thirty-three years of His life. He came into the world to die because His death would be the greatest life this world would ever see, and it would be life-giving; it would destroy death and the obstacles to being made in God’s image and likeness.
Every human being – whether they believe in God or not, whether they know Jesus or not, whether they are Christian or not – have been built in the image and likeness of God , and are built with an innate potential to know and love God. This potential – for which we are all made – for everlasting happiness through a knowledge of God and His truth is tapped into in an unprecedented way in Jesus Christ. God’s love is given to us in a universal, unrepeatable manner in Yeshua, the Messiah, the Anointed One.
In Christ’s baptism, God the Father declared to His Son, ‘This is my beloved.’ This is the one I want to give you to know Me. Because no one can come to the Father except through the Son. And there’s only one mediator, one bridge between heaven and earth, and His name is Jesus of Nazareth. There is no other name under heaven by which we shall be saved than by the name of Jesus.
This is God’s greatest self-communication out of compassion – the full revelation, the full splendor, the full beauty of His truth is revealed in Jesus and His Holy Face. We cannot look upon the face of God in all its glory and majesty apart from Yeshua.And when we meditate on the cross of Jesus – this greatest sermon of the Prophet above all prophets; who shares in the divine being and nature of the Father, Jesus the only begotten Son of the Father; whose whole life is perfectly revealed on the cross, the capstone of His sacred humanity – we see the whole mission of Jesus.
Remember, He lived thirty years hidden and in obscurity, and
only three years in public ministry. We can never for a moment dare to think
that those thirty years were not important, even though they were obscure,
hidden, and unknown. Though he wasn’t manifesting publicly, those hidden years
are utterly important because by His very love, He was redeeming the
His hidden years remind us that our hidden life – every sacrifice we make; every ‘No’ we say to sin in the secrecy of our thoughts and the allurements to the world in the desires of our hearts; every ‘No’ that we make to Satan in fighting temptations in our spiritual battles, seen to no one else but the eyes of God – are all very important for our salvation, and what it means to live by the Spirit of Jesus and not by the flesh. The hidden battles are all very, very important to work out our salvation and to allow our faith to be built up by love.
And what is love? It isn’t about our feelings, but our choices. ‘Even though I don’t feel Jesus, I choose Jesus.’ That’s love. ‘At whatever cost to myself, I choose You, Jesus, even when I don’t understand – be it done unto me as the Lord wills ; not my will but Thy will be done.’ That’s salvation working itself out. That’s the Holy Spirit coming to new birth in you by your being crucified with Christ.
Why do we meditate on the Passion? -to inspire love and courage to say ‘No!” to the world, the flesh, and to Satan. And ‘Yes!” to Jesus; to inspire the determination to persevere until the end, – as a believer, a disciple, and a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.
That is not easy. It will require
spiritual warfare, a war against my flesh, against secular mentalities that are
opposed to the Lord, a war against Satan’s cunning and snares, and who will try
and keep me from being wholly united to Christ for the glory of God.
As Christian Catholics, we meditate on the Passion so that we can grow in the love beyond all telling – to love even though it hurts, to see our crosses, our inconveniences, our discomforts, our contradictions, our unknowing, our mysteries, our afflictions – to unite all that to Jesus in order to receive a proper redemptive perspective, a resurrected vision to everything we have to go through to get to heaven.
We meditate on the Passion to know
that the victory is ours. No matter what you go through, it will grow you. The victory belongs to us. God will bring good out of everything and we
need to be reminded of this because we are all prone to discouragement.
Your human nature is no different from mine. My human nature is no different than yours. Our human nature is no different from any of the saints whom we honor because they help us give greater glory to God. We’re all in the same boat – we are all sinners.
But as Christian Catholics, we are
all beggars and we know where the bread is. It is in the Word of God and the
Word of God made flesh in the Blessed Sacrament: as true presence and not
symbol; as a bringing back to life again the sacred mysteries of Jesus; as an extension of the incarnation; as a feasting of victory; as an entering into –
now – who we shall be with God for
We are here, in a modest chapel that
is meant to represent coming out of the tomb because though Jesus is on the
cross in our churches to symbolically remind us of the love and price of our
salvation, and to inspire us to lay down our lives for our brothers and
sisters, we know that in heaven, Jesus is no longer on the cross.
Jesus is risen! He is resurrected! He is victorious! And He already prepares a mansion and dwelling place for us to share in this victory – and we are all called to share in His victory of love over evil, of life over darkness.
Where does that battle start? It starts in my thinking and my attitude – I must convert my attitude and my way of thinking. Then the conversion must go to my speaking, my words. I must live in the light of God’s love, His truth, and His grace. The whole battle begins in my thoughts and is in the mind.
Our thoughts are formed by our past experiences, relationships, and emotions. I must claim the victory of Jesus’ resurrection and the significance of that resurrection for me as His child and beloved friend.
I must allow the significance of the resurrection to change and transform me in my identity. I’m still moody, I can still get depressed, I can still get nervous and anxious. We all do! We’re all on the same boat. We all have the same flesh. If you hit me, I am going to bruise and bleed just like anybody else.
But we use the truths in Jesus as a weapon of strength to be transformed by the renewal of our mind, to know God’s will in what is true, good, and beautiful, and to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice of praise to His glory. This is how we live by the Spirit.
If we don’t start with our thoughts and our words, it will be very hard to control our choices and actions. We will be guided by our impulses. The battle and the victory all starts in the mind, which connects to the heart.
Today, we give our hearts to Jesus, that He may bring about a resurrection now. To be a Catholic Christian in Christ means that Jesus’ resurrection has impacted my life personally. Jesus is real to me. He is not just a historical figure, or an image or statue in my house; He is a living being, a living savior in my heart and soul. The resurrection has given me new birth.
I am still weak, I still have faults, and I still make mistakes – but my savior is with me, and I know in whom I place my trust. And nothing is impossible for His mercy.
Palm Sunday, often known as Passion Sunday, is the beginning
of Holy Week. It is when our Blessed
Lord entered into Jerusalem in triumph. It was a foretaste, a prefiguring of His
victory of the resurrection. But He knew
that the same people who were praising and celebrating Him would turn their
backs on Him, totally backstab Him, and cry out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
We as the body of Christ who love Jesus, in reading that
long gospel on Palm Sunday, and in taking the parts of the people – it hurts us to have to say those words.
During Holy Week, we are called to enter into one, the reality of His Divine Mercy and
two – into our responsibility to
enter into this grace; recognizing that because of our human woundedness, when
we fail in charity and true love for others, as our expression of true love of
God -–, we too are subconsciously crying out ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!”
This understanding calls us to conversion, to allow Jesus to
give us heart surgery, that He may take out what is not of His Spirit and put
in what is. Holy Week is calling us to enter into the holiness of God’s heart
as perfectly revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.
It’s so hard for most people, who aren’t brought up in the faith, who don’t yet know Jesus as Lord and God -Man, to recognize that Jesus is more than just a teacher, an important religious figure, a spiritual hero, a holy man, a western version of the Buddha, a prophet – or any representation of Him. He is more than Muhammad; He is more than Elijah.
It takes the grace of the Holy Spirit through the enlightenment
of the Father to recognize that Jesus, as Hebrews Chapter 1 says, is the perfect
image of God’s divine being, the
refulgence of His glory in human form.
Colossians, Chapter 1, says that the whole universe came into existence and being through God’s Beloved Son, His Eternal Word. That revelation recognizes that everything came into being, and received its life through the Divine Word of God’s only-begotten son. In His self-communication, He came in as the second person of the Blessed Trinity and He would become incarnate, taking on the name Yeshua – Yahweh saves; Immanuel -the Divine Reality of God in our midst.
It takes the grace of God to recognize that Jesus is more
than just an awesome human being.
When we enter into Holy Week, in order for it to have its full impact, we must come with this understanding as the basis of our faith. But then there’s a second part. We must not only recognize Jesus as Lord, but recognize that He is Lord now, today.
He is present now in the celebration of the sacred mysteries through the Divine Liturgy, through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, through the Mass – Missa – the Mission of God – the communication of God. God is bringing back to life, today, here and now, the reality of who He is and what He did once and for all.
Who He is and what He did in embracing all of us on the
cross and lifting all of us personally through the resurrection – is being made
present, real, and alive again. It is
being given again as if we were Jesus’ contemporaries.
How is this happening? This is the Theology of the Sacraments, the Theology of
Mysticism – the mystery of Christ in our midst.
We’re called to enter into this mystery of God embracing us through
Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
When we celebrate Passion Sunday, when we celebrate Holy
Thursday, the continuation of Jesus’ priesthood through His ministers, the
institution of the Blessed Sacrament, His Divine Presence in the Eucharist;
when we celebrate Good Friday, His life-giving death – that death may not be
the end of the story, but the transition of our story to our total destiny; when
we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, especially during the Easter Vigil,
when it is celebrated with reverence – all of these aspects of the Liturgy is
Jesus bringing back to life again, the most sacred mystery that ever happened
on this planet.
God wants that most sacred gift of Himself to be our
possession. He wants to possess us through the Holy Spirit.
The Theology of the Sacraments teaches that God’s sacred gift
happens, not in a physical or literal way. Jesus isn’t suffering or being
crucified again. The spiritual significance of what he did, is being given to
us, through the grace of the Holy Spirit by way of signs – every thing that we
use physically and materially to express the mystery.
For instance, in the sacrament of Baptism we use water; in
the Eucharist, we use bread and wine, at the Easter Vigil, we use candles; we
have chrism oils. All of these are signs
that point to the perfect reality that God is giving Himself to us and through
these signs, God gives us the actual grace – the Holy Spirit. He manifests Himself.
Baptism is such a simple sacrament. The ideal method is
immersion, because it expresses our immersion into the life of God. But even
with just the sprinkling of a few drops of water, the same reality
happens. It is totally invisible to our
senses. We don’t see the transformation,
but in the essence of that person’s soul, a metamorphosis takes place. The Word is made flesh. Through faith, we
receive this grace, though our senses don’t perceive it.
Another understanding of entering Holy Week to worship God
in spirit and in truth is that we receive from the Liturgy what we put in it
through faith. In the measure that we have an understanding and knowledge of
what is happening intellectually or intuitively, our heart’s faith is fueled to
enter into the mystery that we may allow ourselves to be loved by Jesus here
The measure of our understanding allows Him to take
possession of our lives, and to have His mystery be enfleshed in our lives; it allows
His cross and resurrection to transform our lives in the way that the cross is
How is the cross present in your life?
It is already there.
You don’t’ have to look for one. It’s in your son who doesn’t go to
church, who gives you a hard time, and pushes you to witness to your faith by
your actions rather than by your words – more than by your nagging him to go to
Church. It’s in your daughter who is
sick with illness like cancer. It’s in
your husband who, when you get home, is just asleep on the couch; but your dog
gives you more joy than your husband does!
It’s there in countless ways when your heart, which is made
for love, is disappointed.
It’s there in every way that your love is challenged. It’s there every way you experience your own
brokenness and limitation and inability to love with freedom. The cross is everywhere.
The question is, what do we do with it?
Do we dismiss it as an inconvenience and a contradiction? As
a nuisance and a curse? Or do we embrace it and accept it as a blessing in
disguise? Do we accept it as the wisdom and power of God? As a promise to
something better, as a potential that can teach us something and ignite passion
in our hearts?
The cross is already there.
How we embrace the cross will make the difference in how
beautiful our crown will be. You can
have a little itty-bitty crown – if you want a little cross. If you want a big
crown, you need a big cross. Simple as
that. The bigger your cross, the bigger
The more you concretely participate in the sacrifice of
Jesus through your choices, the more you will share in His victorious glory. The choice is ours. May He strengthen us to
have courage. May he strengthen us to
have the faith to persevere. May he strengthen us to become saints.
SOURCE: Lent 2019 Formation Conference for Carmelite Novices & Postulants by Father Robert Elias, OCD. Mount Saint Josephs Monastery, San Jose, CA
(Below is a loose transcription of the audio)
The spirit of prophesy is embedded in Carmel’s identity. It is the breath of Carmel in the Holy Spirit. Elijah is the greatest prophet of the Hebrew Scriptures and he embodies for us what the life of a prophet looks like at its greatest. It takes on different forms and we all have a different calling to a spirit of prophesy in Carmel..
As our spiritual father, and as Edith Stein says in a short
article on Carmelite spirituality, the presence of Elijah as our spiritual
father is not some type of legend or myth.
He isn’t simply a historical figure of our imagination. He’s a real
presence and communication of Christ’s grace that is personal and relatable.
Elijahis capable of befriending and fathering us in Carmel;
much like a more modern and contemporary saint like Padre Pio, who is more
relatable, is acknowledged today by many as a spiritual father. Elijah is just as much as real as a saint and
father to us. But this understanding is harder for us in the Western Church to
acknowledge than those in the Eastern Church.
The spirit of prophesy has always intrigued me. My first
personal introduction to the vocation of the prophet before I came to know Jesus
Christ as Lord is through the book The Prophet written by Kahlil Gibran,
who was a Lebanese poet and artist, probably of Maronite Christian descent.
This understanding of prophet has remained a vital part of my soul’s quest for
union with God.
What does it mean to be a prophet?
Throughout scripture from Genesis to Apocalypse, we see a
spirit of prophesy. The spirit of prophesy is very much part of the
Judea-Christian tradition. When we look at comparative mysticism in other
religious, in the eastern mystical religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism, their understanding
does not have a prophetic tradition in the way we do in the Judeo Christian
understanding, with Elijah as our model.
In the Old Testament, Moses prayed that his spirit of
prophesy would be bestowed on the 72 elders, when his father-in-law said that
he needed to delegate his duties and to pray that what God had given him would
be given to others. Because only a
person that has a spirit of prophesy can give the spirit of prophesy. You can’t give what you don’t have.
But what did he give them? It says in scripture that ‘The
spirit came upon them and they prophesied.’
What did that mean? That question has always been a
curiosity that has led me to a quest in finding this treasure.
The Wisdom literature describes a prophet as an intimate
friend of God, someone who has a personal experience, and direct contact with
the living, transcendent God, and who has a heart knowledge of this Divine Being.
And as a result of this friendship, they are called, often reluctantly, to
communicate to a people who are deaf and not listening.
The relationship first involves contemplative prayer, which
is then shared. The prophet bears the burden ofdivine mercy, according to Thomas Merton. You’ve experienced a
cutting of your heart and now that you’ve allowed this healing, God asks that
you communicate this same grace to others.
But here’s the catch.
They may kill you as a result because they are blinded by the sin like
the prodigal son. You have the responsibility now that you know God intimately,
to communicate a truth, which will be an inconvenience and a controversy to the
people. That’s the burden of divine
mercy. That’s one of the vocations of
the prophet of Carmel.
One of the great wisdoms of Eastern Christian mysticism,
teaches that a lay person can have a spirit of prophesy more than a priest – neumaticos – a person anointed with the
Spirit to pray with power. ‘This power is not human eloquence or wisdom,’ as
St. Paul says. St. James in the fifth
chapter of his letter, says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful
indeed and he says, ‘remember Elijah who by his very words called fire upon
heaven to consume the idolatrous offerings’
The power of prayer can only be inspired by God. St. Paul
says in Romans 8 that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and those who pray by
the power of the Holy Spirit, pray by the anointing of God. This praying with power is what Jesus calls
But we first have to believe in the power of God’s word, and
that faith will empower us by the Holy Spirit, having penetrated and changed
our lives by the renewal of our mind with truths that are not of this world.
The prophet isn’t zealous for the law in of itself. The prophet is zealous for the spirit of the
law. The prophet has the wisdom,
insight, and spiritual vision to see the presence of God and what His will is
in different situations, and desires His will.
St. John of the Cross is the best example of someone with
the evangelical spirit of prophesy. The
prophet is not a legalist or a Pharisee. St. John says that there is no cookie
cutter, sound byte that will fit every soul. Every soul is unique and you have to be open
to the mystery of how God is working in each person.
That doesn’t mean relativism, but that God’s spirit is
incarnate in people uniquely and is given as gift in each soul in the order of their
ability to understand. The spirit of prophesy
is not based on externals or obsessed with accidentals; it is not pharisaical, but it longs for the essence, the pure spring.
The Carmelite Rule mentions the Spring of Elijah – the
spring of the Holy Spirit by which we are able to enter into the gift of God as I a who Am – Love. The spirit of
prophesy is that of simplicity,
humility, and purity of heart to be able t o realize with Easter eyes, the true
presence of Jesus – in His essence, in the Holy Spirit.
For example, Carmel’s cry in the wilderness, it’s longing
can be expressed in the two words – ‘God
Alone.’ These wordsexpress a
heart knowledge of God as the ground of life, as I am who Am, as the absolute Absolute. And the one thing necessary is to love Love
with all one’s life. Everything else is a distant second to that.
Carmel finds this pure love in silence – in the nada – that holy nothingness of entering
into communion with God that is beyond anything that can limit His gift of Himself
to us – the transcendent God.
To enter into a pure gift of God’s love is to pray with
power, with the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Holy of Holies. Only the Holy
Spirit can bring us to that place, that Holy of Holies.
An interior life with God is the essence of the spirit of prophesy.
It means Faith in the power of prayer,
confidence in god’s faithfulness, and taking Him and his promises at His word. He does not abandon his children. He does not
divorce his bride.
The prophet proclaims God as divine mercy, not as laws. He’s
not fixating in anything but God alone. Our religion isn’t a matter of a list
of rules. The rules are indispensable, especially Jesus’ commandment to love
God and to love your neighbor – but these rules are for divine communion.
At the same time,
when the prophet sees commandments desecrated in culture, the prophet is called
by God to awaken people’s consciences to something that God sees as important
about our humanity and our moral life.
This is why many prophets are martyrs. One author said, ‘The purpose of life is to
love with your whole being and might. And if you do it, they’ll kill you.’ Even though we are made to know and love God,
those who actually communicate this love – the saints- will have to suffer for
it. Jesus Christ is the ultimate
A prophet is called to witness to God’s mighty love.
Transformation in this divine love is the ultimate longing of the prophet and
the heart of Carmel. This grace possesses two wings– silence and solitude. That
is how we are called to live the Carmelite Mystical and Prophetic charisms.
The Mystical expresses the gift of God – the Prophetic
aspect expresses the responsibility – the demands this love makes so that we
can become who we are in Christ. Love is
a gift and a responsibility. It’s not easy. It requires true death to the ego
As members of Carmel, we are descendants and heirs of
prophets. Saint Elijah, our father, stands as a bedrock; he is our
source of inspiration as he burns with zeal for God’s glory. As Catholics we
don’t question that idea as a Protestant would.
When Protestants hear that anyone other than Jesus is a
source of inspiration, it’s taken as idolatry. But for Catholics, we see Elijah
as Jesus in miniature. Jesus is the new Elijah – His ministry and miracles are
a perfection of what God did in Elijah. The saints are an echo of Christ, an
extension of Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit to us.
As Carmelites, we celebrate people like Elijah because he
exudes Jesus to us and embodies Him. We
praise God for friends in these places.
Elijah means ‘My Lord is God’ – his name describes his identity and
essence. God is the substance, not the substitute – of his life.
Luther venerated Mary very much, but the rationale behind
the protest of the Protestants was that many uneducated Catholics would make
the saints the substance of their lives and not Jesus – and yes that was
idolatry. To make anyone the substance of one’s life is a substitute. We’re called to make God alone as the substance, the center of our lives, and we are not
to give that holy of holies to anyone else.
The prophet is called to cast out the false god in people’s
lives, and to break the chains of attachments that enslaves us to a lesser
self. And the truth is the sword by
which chains are broken in Jesus’s name.
The truth unmasks the lie and imparts the faith that allows God to work
the miracle of freedom in our lives.
This is the teaching of Saint John of the Cross, a contemplative way
that sets us free from our attachments. And like Jesus he didn’t despise
anything that God made in itself – the problem is not a person or a material
thing, but how our heart relates to it.
The ultimate false god in this world is money. Our Lord says you can’t love both God and money, because money can mislead
our hearts into a mindset that is not of God. But the error is to make the
false conclusion that money is evil.
That is not holistic Christian thinking – scripture says the LOVE of
money, not the money itself, which leads to evil.
I am very aware that my tongue can be used for great good or
great harm in regards to using it in anger. Scripture says that ‘life and death
are in the power of the tongue.’ Because I have sinned with my tongue in a
moment of righteous indignation, chopping off the head of others, the way Elijah did, with my tongue – I am sinning. That is not
pleasing to God because charity is being sinned against. The ultimate rule of
life is Jesus Christ and his commandment to love your neighbor. It is better to
be righteous than to be right.
But does that mean I should cut off my tongue – of course
not. The right way of relating to something the evil is not the thing itself,
but how it is used. The Prophet is
called to set captives free from their slavery and a prophet can do that in
prayer, but there’s usually a time when a prophet is called to speak, and their
mouth is meant to be the instrument of God’s Holy Spirit of grace and of Jesus Christ saving souls.
Zelos zelatus sum
– with zeal I have been zealous for the Lord.
Elijah is the man of zeal, the prophet of fire who is a champion of the
true God, and a herald of God’s mercy.
He is spiritual warrior who breathes the fire of God. We are called to breathe the same fire of
Elijah– the fire of the Holy Spirit. And we too will have to be purified in the
interior deserts of life. There is no true
prophet who has not experienced deep purification and healing. Prophets are often led into the desert so
that God can work in them, and so that He can use them to help others in a way
that builds and exhorts.
To conclude, we pray that the Holy Spirit lavish upon us, Jesus’ divine love, that the humanizing power of the gospel stir
us to be zealous with passion for the Lord God of hosts who loves us fervently
unto the full.
Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy
Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without
Our first products are a set of conferences on Saint Therese of Lisieux presented by Maureen O’Riordan, who has been researching, writing. and speaking about the spirituality of the Martin family for more than 30 years.