Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: immaculate communion, divine life in Christ

The one whom we seek, the living God, has a face and a personhood. Jesus of Nazareth is not simply a godly man but God made man. Not simply someone who is so good, but the author of All Good. He is not just one great figure or hero of history, but He is the One who is the center of the cosmos, the source, the summit, the beginning, and the end of everything.

And yet, He entered into our human experience in everything, except of course, for that which would compromise our destiny. He didn’t embrace sin. But He embraced everything else. He embraced our weaknesses, our vulnerability. He embraced all of our limitations and fought against them. He fought against temptations.

He had to really fight to do what was right. It wasn’t always easy for Him. During the Agony, He said, ‘Father, please, please let this pass from me!’ That was His sacred humanity, but also, His perfect faith. Theologians describe it so profoundly – in His spirit, He knew not to allow the weakness of the humanity that He had temporarily assumed. In that moment of time, He didn’t allow human weakness to have the last word. His faith in the Father’s will had the last word.

There are times when we’re wrestling inside of ourselves; we can experience a conflict, a combat, a warfare within. We experience a warfare for our own welfare between the flesh and the spirit, between fulfilling our destiny in the Lord, and all the spiritual forces and wickedness that would want to interfere with that fulfillment in our life.

There are times when our human nature will resist, our human nature will be intimidated, will want to run away, will want to make excuses, and that resistance might always be there. That’s okay.

But the point is that our faith always prevails. Our faith allows our prayer to tap into the living God, to give us a supernatural grace that doesn’t come from ourselves; our faith allows us to tap into ourselves within the deepest part of our person, that we may find a potential of God’s power to prevail over the problems, and to overcome them in such a way that what was once over our head – can be placed beneath our feet.

What tried to defeat us becomes the source of new victory for us because of Him who is on our side and who fights the battles on our behalf. All He asks is that we have the faith to continue to say yes, to pick up our cross and to keep moving forward and not turn back. He does the rest. That means He ends us doing more in us, with us and through us, more than we were ever thought we were capable of, more than we ever thought was possible for our lives.

He ends up doing more in us, with us and through us, more than we were ever knew we could do because the power and strength is no longer ours. It’s Him doing the work. He can take over right when you least expect it. Right when you thought you have nothing left to give, He takes over. We’re not left to ourselves to do it all on our own. He is Emmanuel.

Let us immerse ourselves in the presence of Emmanuel through the holiness of God present in the Mass, which is the mission of Jesus brought back to life in the world, the mission of His mercy to embrace everything in Himself; His life, His death, His resurrection re-presented, presented again, brought back to life – that His life may become new and operative in each of us. May the Lord prepare us to celebrate the sacred mysteries of who God is and what God is doing in me, and in you, right here and right now, in Jesus’s name, Amen.

SOURCE: Danville Retreat, 2014. Copyright 2017, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: immaculate communion, divine life in Christ

The call of Christ to freedom and wholeness is a call from where we are now. It’s a call to become more of Him in us, which will bring about more of us, than we are today. In other words, we’re being opened to an inflowing, an outpouring of God’s presence in such a way that everything God’s presence touches, changes where it moves. Like fire and water, whatever God touches no longer remains the same, despite the pain. Or rather, not despite the pain, but especially because of the pain, something has changed. I am no longer the same and what remains is better than what was before.

But we need faith to get to the other side, to see the fruit and the effect. We need faith to get to the other side, to allow God to fulfill His promise amidst the problems; we need faith to allow a dawn to scatter our darkness without giving up on the way there. It takes faith to get there. Sometimes, that act of faith, that yes will take everything that you’ve got.

As a result, you’ll receive God in a way you’ve never known Him before. As big as the battle was to get there, the beauty of Christ, newly experienced, eclipses the darkness. We will easily forget about the blood, the sweat, and the tears when you experience the new birth that was meant to serve.

Scripture, of course, expresses this through the image of a mother giving birth to her child. In the Gospel of John, the apostle talks about when a woman is in labor, the labor pangs are ferocious, excruciating. Maybe for some women the third, the fourth, the fifth child, it got a little bit easier, but the labor pains with the first one is never that easy.

The labor pangs of childbearing is what scripture refers to as analogous to the spiritual purifications that we have to pass through in walking by faith and not by sight; it is the faith that transforms in the fire of love.

I was there when my mother was giving birth to my awesome brother. It looked like she wasn’t going to make it. She was 38 years old at the time and it didn’t look like she was going to make it. In the middle of labor, she was ready to give up. It was scary.

And yet, after getting to a point of acute suffering, there is a breakthrough and the childbirth takes place. Our faith life is similar. Right at the place when it feels like we can take no more, something breaks loose. After the breakthrough, finally you’re able to take a breath and to recollect yourself and the pieces fall into place. And you have the child that’s put in your lap and in your arms. How easy it is to forget, to forget the pain and the cost of the sacrifice because a child is so worth it.

So too in our lives, Saint Therese says, suffering is required to save souls. If we want to save souls, we can’t expect to be exempt from the cross.

Ouch, I know it hurts. It hurts for all of us, but it’s the truth. It’s the reality. Yeah, it’s painful. Sometimes, you can feel the nails in your hands and in your feet, can’t you? You’re walking around with pierced hands and feet. Nobody sees it but you and God. It’s all part of seeking communion in an immaculate way with God Almighty in His perfect love. It’s all part of it.

But how can we be renewed when we’ve been wiped out by it? You know, when you’re just tired and sometimes, maybe even bored, not by God but by the other things that can misrepresent God or get in His way.

We’re called to reach out to Him anew, to seek His face, not so much in the marvelous, the extraordinary, or even the charismatic, but rather, in the presence of God that burns within us, who gives and reveals divine life, the life of the Trinity. We must allow ourselves to be caught up in that embrace (to be continued).

SOURCE: Danville Retreat, 2014. Copyright 2017, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: immaculate communion, divine life in Christ

 

Matthew 11:25-29 – 25 At that time Jesus said in reply, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. 26Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

We are called to come to rediscover the face of God. The true God revealed in Christ as a lover, our savior is essentially that – a warrior who is a lover, a lover who desires to bring about a beautiful revolution in our lives. We are called to come to rediscover the revelation of our wondrous God of Love who is looking for space in our hearts. He is looking for a place to pitch his tent in our souls, to be made flesh again in our lives.

This wondrous God calls us to be open to new growth and no one is exempt from this invitation to love. No one is excluded. No one is written of. No one is counted as not good enough. No one is counted as incapable of receiving what God wants to give. All are invited to this banquet of love because that’s who God is, and also, because that’s who we are. We are made in His image and likeness, which means we are made in the image and likeness of love; we re made for love, and it’s love that satisfies our hearts in this life, and it’s love alone that will last forever in the next.

This invitation, this call to love is ever ancient and ever new. It never gets old. It’s forever vital, and it’s what gives us vitality, not the call itself, but Him who calls. This is especially relevant to people who feel unable to change, to people who may feel stuck, who despite their best efforts, don’t see any difference.

In this talk, “Immaculate Communion: the light of Carmel, divine life in Christ,” I am going to communicate what that means gradually. My primary sources in expressing the gospel through this theme is sacred scripture and experience, first and foremost, and secondly, Saint John of the Cross’s Living Flame of Love, especially as it is captured by Ian Matthew in the Impact of God. I will be spring boarding and drawing from this text as a primary source, and seasoning with my own words. In the background, of course will be the Catechism of the Catholic Church because all the mystical theology, the grandeur of God’s love and how we’re called to experience that in Jesus Christ in a personal life-changing way, is all contained in the Catechism.

The Catechism is the sacred doctrine behind the liberating truths of God’s grace through the gospel of who Christ is, manifested in so many ways. In addition to the Catechism, to make it more fresh, and to give it that pulse of the Spirit, which I find so prominent in Pope Francis, I will be drawing from the first part of the Joy of Gospel.

We seek God because in some sense, we’ve already been sought out by Him. We’ve already been found by Him, and that’s why we have the thirst to look for Him, and to drive the extra mile to find Him. When the Lord says, ‘Seek and you will find,’ the word seek isn’t meant to be a wimpy expression. It’s not just, ‘Give it a shot. Try it out. If it doesn’t work, then let it go.’ Seek means hunt it down. Really go after it, and don’t let anything get in your way in finding it because it belongs to you. You have a birthright to have it. To get it, to find it, sometimes, you really have to fight for it. Sometimes, you have to be willing to take a beating to get it, but you will get it if you look for it with all your heart.

But what we’re looking for is not an it or a something, it’s Somebody. It’s not simply a treasure, or far less, a reward for the good that I do. The only reward that we’re after is Him. That’s it. He’s our only reward. He’s our only merit. He’s everything. He is our hope. Our trust is not in our work, it’s in His work. Our faith is not in my love for God, but God’s love for me. It’s that focus of faith that transforms, when the focus is on Him, and not on myself, on the relationship that He offers and not on the religion that I practice.

The two aren’t mutually exclusive; the relationship isn’t at odds with the religion. But the structure, the rubrics, the institutions behind the religion, and all the customs, and the doctrines, are all at the service of this transforming union. Every aspect of the Church that Jesus Christ established and founded on the rock of Saint Peter’s confession of faith comes through the seven sacraments. The Church continues from generation to generation, in a very specific way, in a manifold manner of grace and truth.

The grace that comes thorough the sacraments, through the infallible Word of God, the infallible interpreter of the Word, the pillar and bulwark of the Church – this whole encompassing universal reality of love that Christ established in His is one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, are all at the service of the transforming union of love, the enrichment of what Jesus means when He said, ‘I came that you might have life, and ever more abundantly.’

This is a call to freedom, to full-fledged freedom! To be fully human, fully alive, set free; to be the perfect fulfillment of your dreams, to get the most out of life possible. This is what Jesus came to offer. This is what Jesus came to provide by the sacrifice of His life in exchange for ours. The primary thing He needs to bring about this agreement, this covenant, this contract, this exchange, the primary requirement is faith. And faith isn’t always easy. Faith isn’t always easy. Our faith will be purified on so many levels, so many times, in so many ways that we never expected when we first said yes! And it’s when we say yes, even when it’s so hard to do so- that’s the faith that transforms. That’s the faith that allows God to perform miracles (to be continued).

SOURCE: Danville Retreat, 2014. Copyright 2017, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved