Father Robert Barcelos: Jubilee Year of Mercy 4 and Saint Teresa

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Editor’s Note: Today, the Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis is in Sweden, marking the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and to work toward unity in the Church. In a National Catholic Register article, the pope marks out a path for Christians toward holiness and to spread God’s Mercy, the  Six New Beatitudes for the Modern Era. Also, the Sisters of Mercy have put together an Election Day Novena prayer for unity and healing in our divided nation and to Make Mercy Real.

The artist Fray Juan de la Miseria captures one of the main expressions of Our Holy Mother, Saint Teresa’s spirituality, on the scroll of her most famous portrait: Forever I will sing the mercies of the Lord from Psalm 89. That is ultimately what she called the story of her life, her autobiography, which she originally titled, Sing the Mercies of the Lord.

There can be no mysticism without Divine Mercy on two levels.

One: What is mysticism? Mysticism is not the alternative spirituality of secularism because secularism is very superstitious; it is pre-pagan and pre-Christian. It’s made up of all kinds of pseudo-forms of mysticism or counterfeit spirituality by people who are so taken by the ghost chasers, the supernatural, the different shows about the supernatural, the witch-hunt trials, movies about occult themes or horror movies that glamorize evil; such films make it exciting and adventurous. For example, films like The Matrix has lot of depth, but ultimately, the movie comes from New Age perspectives and ideas, yet it has often been interpreted with Christian overtones. A lot of people want mysticism, but true mysticism is based on nothing less than God’s Divine Mercy.

Two: What is mysticism for us as Christians? It is not some kind of esoteric psychic adventure or escape from reality or self-realization; it’s not any of those things. For Christians, mysticism is an immersion in the Merciful Love of God, in the Merciful Love of the Lord.

The foundational piece of mysticism for Christians is to recognize that we are sinners. The majority of secular society does not believe that. The great venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen would say, “Many in our culture today think that we are immaculately conceived, that there is no such thing as sin.” As one of the Popes of the past century mentioned, “the greatest sin of all is the denial of the existence of sin because then we can open the doors to practically anything and excuse it, justify it and tolerate it, in the name of being part of the intellectual elite, the progressive, and the open minded. We don’t know what doors we are opening.”

Spiritual maturity starts with conversion and having the humility to recognize our sins; we all know that we can be baptized and go to Holy Communion regularly, and not be changed. We can be as rude as ever, as grumpy, grouchy, and gossipy as ever because the Sacraments are not magic. Secularism can be fascinated by magic, but God doesn’t operate on those terms -the devil does, but God doesn’t. The sacraments are always respectful of a person’s free will and of the reciprocity of that person’s response; there is never an imposing of power or an imparting of knowledge, unless there is a surrender of faith. This is the big difference between Eve and Mary.

Eve sought after knowledge and power for her sake. Mary says, “I believe…be it done unto me according to Your Word.” Mary didn’t need to understand. She said, ‘I don’t know how this is going to happen, I don’t need to know, and I don’t even need to be the one to do it,’ but “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done undo me according to Your Word.” She was not seeking knowledge and power for her own sake but to be the instrument of God’s knowledge and power in the world.

The difference between humility and pride boils down to the spiritual battle and conversion.  Conversion is necessary for Christ to work in us. For the Sacraments to have the effect in us, for us to be able to grow up, we need conversion. Conversion opens up new capacities within us that were previously untapped. Conversion taps into something supernatural inside each of us, giving us an ability and an openness for experiencing a richer quality of life on another level.

The Psalms say, “Taste and see how good is the Lord.” In Adoration we say, “You have given them bread from Heaven containing all sweetness within it, all that is delicious.” The Eucharist contains all that is delicious about Divine Love in Christ, and we’re part of that love relationship. The meaning of who we are, the dignity of the human person is all wrapped up in discovering and tasting the beauty and purpose of our very existence from the inside out.

Conversion brings us to a new awareness of what it means to be made in God’s image, in a way that can take on life altering meaning. Coming to know the relevance of God’s truth for our lives brings about conversion. This knowledge brings about a metanoia…a metamorphosis…a transformation.

This metanoia, this being transformed, as St. Paul says, ‘by the renewal of our mind,’ is so deep and profound. Our goal in life is to be transformed by the renewal of our mind so that we may know what is God’s will. God’s will is what is good, pleasing, and perfect. God’s will is what is true, good, and beautiful, and not that which is conformed to this culture and age.

Metanoia is a deep and all embracing change of mind and heart at the root of our understanding, at the root of our desiring; how we relate to what is most important and what is essential about life; how we relate to the ultimate things of what is the good to be sought after, and the evil to be avoided.

Scripture talks about this revolution as a new birth. Jesus says, “Unless you are born again of the spirit, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” When we are born again of the spirit, the true self, which is a gift of the spirit, begins to emerge. This gift of the Spirit enables us to attain mature spiritual adulthood “to the extent of the full stature of Christ,” as Saint Paul writes. By the gift of the Spirit, we are given a new birth that enables us to develop to the point of attaining full spiritual adulthood; we are no longer infants.

In Ephesians, Saint Paul explains that to be a spiritual infant “…is to be tossed by waves and swept away by winds of every teaching arising from human trickery, and from their cunning and deceitful scheming. Living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into Him, to the full stature of Christ.” What we see in Jesus as Risen Lord, what we see before that in his Transfiguration is speaking something about us…about our ultimate purpose and destiny. We’re going to have resurrected bodies if we persevere in faith, through the grace of God.   Everything we see about Christ, the supernatural destiny is going to be given to us…we’re going to share in it.

St. Paul says that we, as the imago Dei, the image of God, the human person is the imago Dei, and we are predestined to be filled with all the utter fullness of God. That is straight from St. Paul in Colossians; we are predestined to be filled with all the utter fullness of God. That’s just not pious hyperbole, it’s not just emotionalism or exaggeration, this is a reality…that the saints in a special way embody for us. They show what’s possible for all of us, and even if we don’t finish the course in this life,  God will fill us with the utter fullness of Himself in the next life if we persevere in faith and in grace.

A lot of times, we don’t notice the growth.  Sometimes we wonder if we have even grown! We might say, “I’m confessing the same stuff! Have I even grown in anyway?” It feels like we’re going in circles like the Israelites in the desert; they kept on going in circles, and only the younger generation found the Promised Land. Sometimes we can feel that way. We wonder…is there growth? Growth is an imperceptible process often times, but with conversion and the Merciful Love of God, it will happen.

Saint Teresa, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, SF, October 2015) Teresa 4- transcribed by Sandra Larragoiti

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: our lives, God’s masterpiece

The Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org
The Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

Where do we get our image of God the Father from?  Our natural father.  Our natural father could have been very militant, a disciplinarian, heavy-handed, short-tempered, or had strong faults.  He could have been verbally abusive without really meaning to do us harm because that was the way he grew up.

But there’s a total correlation between our ability to understand and believe in God as our Father, with our relationship with our own fathers. If our natural father didn’t have a sense of compassion and give affirmation, if he wasn’t attentive to our needs, or wasn’t present to important events – all of this can have a huge capacity and impact on our beliefs about God as our Father.

A significant part of what it means to seek holiness, is to hunger for God so that we can allow His holiness to make us whole. God must undo any damage that was done in our pasts  by giving us a new experience of love, so that we learn what it means to be loved by God the Father.

We have to seek that holiness as the saints, understanding  them as human beings, and not simply as superstars. They were people with real life challenges, just like you and me. Human nature is the same everywhere; it changes very little. Society, culture, technology, the works of our hands – all of that will change. However, we are made of the same substance and human nature of the saints. They are not angels in another form who had special privileges that we don’t have access to. We have access to the same grace of God. We are made up of the same thoughts, the same feelings, and the same types of relationships and potentials as the saints.

Some older hagiographies put the saints on pedestals and make it look like they were able to sail through life with special graces, without really knowing about human suffering and the complexities of what it means to live by faith and not by sight. Yet when we look closely at the lives of the saints through good biographies, we see real life problems and conversions. We must tap into that reality in order for us to know the saints us brothers and sisters in Christ, as companions.

The saints stir us to wonder and bring us back to the one thing that is necessary, and that is, the absolute primacy of God’s love. We are made for this divine love, and this divine love is larger than life. This love enlarges our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength. God’s love leads us into an endless enlargement of our capacity for His greatness. His love enlarges our lives. St. Paul says that this enlargement, this going from one degree of glory to another, this growth process of becoming more and more united to God, makes us more united to His greatness. We are all made for that greatness and enlargement. We are all meant to live life large, in the love of God.

Saint John Paul the II says, ‘Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term, but as we see in Genesis, all men and women are tasked with crafting their own lives. They are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.’   God wants to sanctify you through the Holy Spirit. He wants to make of your life a masterpiece.

Becoming a masterpiece doesn’t mean perfectionism. In other words, to seek the way of perfection does not mean that we must become perfectionists. Perfectionism is a psychological condition that has to do with insecurity because we’re not comfortable with ourselves and are unable to accept ourselves until everything is perfectly ordered. ‘Until everything is right where it has to be, I can’t be at rest. Only when everything is perfect, then I’ll be content and I’ll be able to breathe and accept myself.’ That is dysfunctional and self-defeating.

The way of perfection, as we see in the lives of the apostles and the saints, will inevitably involve falling, and getting back up again. Falling, and getting back up again. This way of perfection involves seeing how God brings good out of everything, and light out of darkness. The end result of the constant struggle and healing, will be a masterpiece. All that is required is the faith and perseverance to let God be God. He is the one who brings about the masterpiece. We just have to be faithful.

Finally, to summarize, spirituality is simply an art of the heart, the art of becoming fully human. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” St. Teresa of Jesus is one of many, but a very important icon of the beauty that we are called to be transformed by. She is a shining example, inviting us to divine intimacy with God through the sacred humanity of Jesus.

The great St. Paul in his magnificent letter to the Ephesians says, “How rich God is in mercy. With what an excess of love He loved us.” We are His design, His work of art. God has created us in Christ Jesus, pledged to such good actions as He has prepared beforehand. May these good actions and becoming His work of art be the employment of our lives. May we become all that we were each made to be — to truly be love’s canvas. END

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Denver Retreat, October 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

If you liked this post, share it by clicking on one of the social media icons. And if you were inspired or have a prayer request, share that too under the ‘comment’ section!

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: paradoxical beauty 2

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Cardinal Ratzinger writes, ‘It’s when we have known Him, from the inside out, not only because we have heard others speak about Him, then we will have known the beauty of truth, of the truth that redeems.’ Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ Himself, other than the world of beauty, by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom His own light becomes visible.

Jesus is not only the perfect icon, the window, of God; Jesus is God’s self-portrait. Not only does He fully reveal to us who He is, but He is also a mirror reflecting for us, who we are capable of becoming as beloved in Him. When we’re called to see Him, to contemplate Him, to look into the eyes of God, to behold Him, to behold His beauty, that face is a mirror of who we are called to be–not in the physical, visible way, but in the beauty of who He is as our beloved. In His Sacred Humanity, God wants to bring in each of us the fullness of life in Him, according to who we are, our background, and where we’re at in our life’s journey.

As the wisdom of St. Thérèse expresses, there’s no amount of sin, pain, failure, shame, weakness or littleness in someone’s past, that can disqualify a person from the work of His love. The wisdom of St. Thérèse says that the more weak I am, the more I see myself as imperfect, the more little I am, the more I am suited to the works, the designs of God’s merciful love.

St. Paul writes, ‘When I am weak, I am strong. When I am weak, Christ’s grace comes to be in abundant measure. Therefore, if I am most strong when I am weak, when Christ is closest to me, then I will boast in my weaknesses. I will see my weaknesses as a treasure and blessing, and not as a curse.’ This became a platform for St. Thérèse’s confidence. She says, ‘Lord, You came for sinners, and you’ve allowed me to become aware of my littleness and weakness. I lift myself up into your arms, knowing that everything that You have expressed about who You are and Your mission through the public ministry of Jesus, shows that You came for the weak, the broken, and those who recognize their need for You. I recognize my need for You. Therefore, I have rights to Your heart. Here I am to take You by the heart.’

The saints are God’s work of art in our world… even more than the beauty of all nature, and nature is magnificently beautiful. It is marvelous, how God has designed creation, from the simplest insect, to the workings of our body, to the stars in the cosmos, to the multiplicity of galaxies; creation is amazing. The earth, among all the planets in our solar system, is spectacular! And yet, as St. Teresa says, none of that can be compared to a single immortal soul, made in His image. St. John of the Cross explains that God cares more for that one soul than all the works of His natural creation. He would be willing to give up all of the natural beauty of creation that He has made to save a single soul. That is how important each human being is to Him.

Yet, the paradoxical beauty is that God, in His love, respects our freedom. Love cannot impose itself on anybody. Love cannot be possessive and controlling. Love is respectful of the other person. God is not a tyrant or dictator; He doesn’t want to dominate our lives. He invites us into a relationship of mutual trust. He is not an abusive father; he is tenderly compassionate, understanding, and patient (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Denver Retreat, October 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth. Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

If you liked this post, share it by clicking on one of the social media icons. And if you were inspired or have a prayer request, share that too under the ‘comment’ section!

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: paradoxical beauty 1

The Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org
The Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

Sometimes, it takes a leap of faith to be able to believe that our life is important to God, that we are sacred in His eyes, that we are part of the redeeming beauty of Christ, and that God looks upon each of us as his Beloved. Where there is love in you, Jesus sees that love as beautiful to Him. ‘Who we are in Christ’s eyes, is who we are alone,’ as St. Francis says. I don’t have to be preoccupied about what people think about me because if I know that I am right with Him, then that is all that matters. I can divest myself from useless concerns that waste precious time and energy.

Cardinal Ratzinger says, ‘We must learn to see Him.’ To go further, we must learn to see Him in ourselves. That is not meant to be self-centered navel gazing, but in our spiritual life, we must have a deepening knowledge of ourselves. St. Teresa says that knowledge of self is the foundation for the spiritual life. If we never go through this journey of inner healing, there will be a serious insufficiency and handicap as we continue in our life of piety and prayer. And we won’t know what is holding us back, much of it in the emotional, psychological, and relational level. The focus can’t be just spiritual, for our spiritual lives are inter-combined with everything else about who we are.

We must learn to see Him, including learn to see Him in ourselves. Whatever is in us, whatever message, whatever we’ve assumed, and have been conditioned to think, about our past, our present, our future; whatever we’ve adopted, whatever stinking thinking about who we are that we have adopted as truth about our possibilities and potentials – that isn’t coherent, consistent, and in harmony with His gospel, His vision, and with what He says about our lives and who we are – must be thrown out. The lies must be renounced and cast out of our lives because they will hold you back from being free.

Truth sets us free, but lies and ignorance enslave us to a lesser self, a false God. We must have no false Gods before us. We must learn to see Him. Ratzinger continues, ‘If we know Him, not only in words, but if we are struck by the arrow of His paradoxical beauty, then we will truly know Him and know Him not only because we have heard others speak about Him.’

What does he mean by paradoxical beauty? Very simply, the cross.

Only the eyes of faith, someone who knows Jesus inside and out, can see beauty in the cross. Those for whom Jesus has not come to birth in their hearts will ask, ‘How can you find beauty in the cross?’ It seems like a total contradiction to have a symbol of torture that is also a symbol of religion. It makes absolutely no sense to the natural human mind – unless, of course, it has been blessed and enlightened by faith. Paradoxical beauty. What may seem as total failure to someone else, can be seen as the fullness of love and self-giving to another person with faith. That’s beauty.

To lay down your life for your friends is beautiful. But especially so, when God does it for humanity, for sinners. Oftentimes, what brings out what’s most beautiful in us, happens after we’ve passed through some experience of the cross. From the most ugly, most painful experiences, from the ashes, can arise a fire of a new beauty in our lives. This is the redemption of Christ Jesus alive in the world, at work in each of us, bringing about and renewing in all who have faith, the death and resurrection of Christ, the Paschal mystery. That is paradoxical beauty (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Denver Retreat, October 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

If you liked this post, share it by clicking on one of the social media icons. And if you were inspired or have a prayer request, share that too under the ‘comment’ section!

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: holiness means being whole

Painting by Father Robert Barcelos, all rights reserved 2016
Painted by Father Robert Barcelos (Copyright 2016, All Rights Reserved)

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The whole mission of Jesus’s life, His incarnation, and the work of the Church is to enable us to attain to the likeness of God, to become who we are, as being made in the image of God. That process of becoming the best version of ourselves, means that we must become the canvas of God. Let the divine artist paint the beauty of His image in you. That beauty of His image in you is irrepeatable and irreplaceable; there will never be another copy of it again. There are no clones in the economy of God’s salvation. There is only one unique you.

As Matthew Kelly says, ‘Be perfectly yourself.’ That is not meant to be self-centered psychology, or a recipe for self-realization. It is thoroughly Christian, in the sense of knowing who we are as beloved children of God. Because how can we love one another as we love ourselves, if we don’t love ourselves in a healthy way?

One of Dostoevsky’s famous expressions is, ‘Beauty will save the world,’ which is quoted by many people who are not necessarily religious. In his contemplation of beauty, Cardinal Ratzinger explains that people usually forget that Dostoevsky was referring to the redeeming beauty of Christ.

How can we love others if we can’t love ourselves? One of the biggest realizations in my growth as a Christian and as a human being, in my healing and becoming more united to Christ was my realization that I didn’t love myself. Even though I believed in God’s love, there came a point of truth when God helped me to know myself, and to learn that I really didn’t love myself. It took a long time to realize this truth, but it was always subconsciously at work in me. I didn’t really accept myself as I was, and there were very human, natural reasons for that.

My parents divorced before I was two years old. My mother had a very traumatic experience, and it was really challenging for her.  She bore this difficulty while she carried me in her womb, and by the time I was two years old, they separated. (And I don’t blame her for that). Any child of divorce will admit that they subconsciously blame themselves. Likewise, I thought that the divorce was my fault. I wasn’t even two years old, but the belief was ingrained in me. Without my consciously thinking about it, my self-identity was shaped by my belief that I was the one who caused the separation. I was the one to blame. Thoughts like, ‘Had I been good enough, this wouldn’t have happened. Had I been better, my parents would’ve stayed together’ were subconsciously buried in me, but would only come out in certain occasions.

However, these thoughts were a driving force to my broken self-identity. They didn’t keep me from living a happy life, but there was definitely something I was unaware of, that needed to be healed. As a result of this false interpretation of a painful experience, of assuming the blame for my father’s abandonment, I didn’t fully accept myself for who I was.

Human nature is very complicated. As far as I was concerned, there were no issues or problems brought on by my parents’ divorce. However, it all came to light when I realized that I never accepted who I was, because I always thought of who I should be. I didn’t accept the real me. I accepted the ideal me. As a result, because I couldn’t accept myself with all my imperfections and faults, I had a very hard time accepting others with their imperfections and faults. Because I didn’t love myself in the way God loved me, it was a lot harder for me to love my neighbor as God loves them. This lack of reconciliation with myself led to an inability to love others with a greater power of love. For me, knowing this truth, was a very significant part of answering God’s call to holiness.

If we are going to answer God’s call to holiness, He will not only work in our spiritual lives of piety and prayer. No. We are called to be whole, in spirit, soul, and body, and that means the integration and inner unity of our whole humanity – emotionally, physically, psychologically, relationally, and sexually. Our whole identity is to be embraced in God’s redemptive love. Everything about who we is to be redeemed, filled, and encountered by the light of Christ (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Denver Retreat, October 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

If you liked this post, share it by clicking on one of the social media icons. And if you were inspired or have a prayer request, share that too under the ‘comment’ section!

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: humility is truth

The Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org
The Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

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The only thing Jesus required from Peter’s mission of love – was humility, but Peter learns the hard way. Shortly after receiving his new identity, Peter tells Christ, ‘I will never leave you. I will always be there by your side, no matter what happens.’ Peter placed his trust on himself. He did not acknowledge his weakness. However, Jesus responds, ‘Three times, you will deny me.’ Jesus knew, even before Peter fell, that he would fall, but He chose him anyway because He knew that He would bring goodness out of that fall. What was the good? Humility.

Eventually, after betraying Christ three times, Peter comes to know himself at rock bottom; he learns that he is nothing without Christ, and that the gifts he has, do not come from himself, but from Jesus. Left alone, and without Jesus sustaining him, Peter sees clearly how easily everything had slipped through his fingers. Yet Jesus restores him to himself and gives him the opportunity to heal and make reparation for that part of himself that had been hurt by his denial of Christ. When Peter reaffirms his love for Jesus, He elevates him to a new level of love, in his capacity to be Christ for others, that would not have been possible had he not suffered in this way. Only after learning true humility was Peter ready for the mission of mercy. True compassion is not possible without going through the Passion.

According to Saint Teresa, humility is truth; it is knowing who we are in God’s eyes. That truth sets us free to be who we’re truly meant to be, and with God’s help and the Holy Spirit, to be that to the full. As Matthew Kelly says, we have to become the best version of ourselves. To do so, we must go through a great deal of conversion. To become the best version of ourselves, we must go through conversion.

‘It is this crucified and risen Lord who fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear’ writes Saint John Paul II in Evangelii Gaudiuum, (The Joy of the Gospel). This was his favorite quote from the Vatican Council, which he was a part of. It is Jesus who fully reveals man to us and makes clear to us our supreme calling.

(to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Denver Retreat, October 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth. Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

If you liked this post, share it by clicking on one of the social media icons. And if you were inspired or have a prayer request, share that too under the ‘comment’ section!

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: who do you say that I am?

Christ at the Column by Gregorio Fernandez (1619, Avila, Spain). Photo credit:thespeakroom.rog
Christ at the Column by Gregorio Fernandez. Avila, Spain (1619). Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

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).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Denver Retreat, October 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

 

If you liked this post, share it by clicking on one of the social media icons.  And if you were inspired or have a prayer request, share that too under the ‘comment’ section!

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: become the canvas of God

The Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org
The Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

note from the editor: the image above is the one that inspired Dali (previous post).  The canvas that Saint John of the Cross chose for his depiction of Christ was actually no more than 4X4 inches. This relic is housed in La Encarnación in Avila, Spain. Saint Teresa started her vocation there and eventually became a prioress in the Carmelite order.  Later she moved on to reform the order, founding the Discalced Carmelites. Her first foundation, Saint Joseph’s Monastery, is walking distance from the La Encarnación.

Many of the photos on this blog that are attributed to thespeakroom.com come from Spain and will offer you a rare glimpse of original relics and paintings. The saints would love for you to share these images with others, but if you do so, please do your part in the work of the Holy Spirit, and link back to this blog. Thank you!

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We must become the canvas of God. Ultimately, that comes in understanding that God is the only One who is supremely beautiful, and we encounter that beauty by the revelation of His love; it is love that is beautiful. God is the fullness of love and therefore, He is beauty itself. It is God’s love that makes us truly beautiful. We have to acknowledge and see that; we have to receive and nurture that. Wherever there is love in the soul, God sees beauty. If there is love in your heart, God will look upon you and your beauty as His beloved.

In scripture, Our Lord often says, ‘You are sacred in my eyes and precious, and I love you… I have chosen you…Fear not, I am with you, and you are mine.’ This language of covenant expressed in scripture is nuptial language. It is spousal language. It is the same language used by the mystics, especially St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. Ultimately, our faith life is a love affair with the love of loves. El amor de los amores.

Speaking to artists, Saint John Paul the II says, ‘Beauty is the key to the mystery of life and a call to transcendence.’ To seek transcendence means to pursue that which is beyond what we see with our senses. It is an invitation to savor life and dream of the future. When we see beauty, especially the beauty of creation – of mountains, landscapes, of broad, wide horizons, the sunset or sunrise, the ocean – there is something that touches deep down within our spirits that brings about this longing for something great. We long for something greater than the limitations and brokenness of this life.

The beauty of created things cannot satisfy. It stirs up a hidden nostalgia for God, which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine can express in comparable terms. ‘Late have I loved you, oh Lord. Beauty so old, and so new. Late have I loved you.’

During the Middle Ages, there was an era of study of the faith when Aristotle was being translated into Christian terms, and Christian philosophy was being refined as a catalyst for theology and an understanding of God. St. Thomas Aquinas is the beacon of that era, the Scholastic Period. For the Scholastics, the definition of beauty was ‘the splendor of truth.’ … That takes my breath away. I hope that just hearing that phrase awakens in us a longing to contemplate, a longing to let that resonate inside. Let that longing open up and rest in you.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, a great Russian Orthodox writer of the nineteenth century, said that in the world, there is only one figure of absolute beauty – Christ. That infinitely lovely figure is an infinite marvel (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Denver Retreat, October 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth. Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

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Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: ‘charismatic refueling’

dali-cross

Christ of Saint John of the Cross, by Salvador Dali (1951)

John 14: 1-7

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.”

In our spiritual walk, we must strive to seek the face of Christ, to seek, in the words of Father General Saverio Cannistra, a ‘charismatic refueling.’ Don’t categorize ‘charismatic’ in terms of what you might know of charismatic groups in your local parish, and whether or not you like them. Charisma – the essence of this word means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The dazzling, dynamic gift of the Holy Spirit, is a creative, life-giving, and transforming gift. A charismatic refueling requires that we seek the face of Christ’s eternal youthfulness as risen Lord.

Remember that Jesus died at the age of 33. His life and mission in his sacred humanity was completed by that young age, and his public ministry lasted for only three years. It doesn’t take long for God to do what He needs to do, as we see in our Lord’s life, and the life of saints like Saint Therése. God can accomplish much in a short amount of time.

In God’s divine providence, pre-planned and destined, the fullness of Christ’s mission, the whole work of His embracing all the cosmos -all of creation, and all of humanity who would believe in Him – was consummated in His sacred humanity and completed in only three years.For three hours, the author of life, the creator of the cosmos, hung on the cross, and was crucified; for just three days He was in the earth of his own creation.

In the outburst of the resurrection, of the new creation, Jesus roamed the world for fifty days in His risen body. This expresses and captures the reality that out of every agony, God’s glory is far surpassing. His love conquers, overwhelmingly, over every suffering and trial, transforming trials into triumphs. He makes the triumphs surpassingly greater than the suffering. When sin increases, grace increases all the more.

This eternal youthfulness of Jesus as risen Lord expresses something primordial and essential about us. Jesus says, ‘unless you become like a little child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ Therefore, in order to truly grow and mature spiritually, we have to become small, little, young again. As the Psalms and Isaiah say, God’s love ‘renews our youth like the eagles.’ God renews our experience and sense of freedom, that our hearts may sore like an eagle, with the freedom of knowing what it means to be loved. Many saints and mystics have noted that in heaven, everyone is young, and that the expression of our personhood is at our prime.

In this life, even if we are well into our retirement age, our hearts can experience the eternal newness of Jesus’s life in us. That experience of what it means to be alive and to be loved in Christ can happen at any age. Our external age is accidental in comparison to our soul’s age in relationship to God. A spiritual new birth can happen in someone’s life in their eighties. Conversion, this becoming like a child, renewed, this discovering of our deepest, truest self in Christ, is an ongoing discovery, an ongoing exodus, an ongoing romance and adventure with our Lord (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. 

(SOURCE: Denver Retreat, October 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

 

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Father Matthew Williams, OCD: Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16

San Jose Mercury News (7/15/16) – Three Berkeley students missing, a fourth dead after a terror attack in France

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John 19 26-27

“But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag’dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

It is with great joy that we gather to praise this woman of faith, the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We thank her for her protection over the Carmelite Order, and over all peoples, as we look to her as our example of discipleship that we are called to follow.

We know that from the very first, the original founders of Carmel had a deep, abiding love and devotion to Our Lady. History tells us that the first chapel of the Carmelites on Mount Carmel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was her who provided inspiration to the first hermits; it was she who watched over these men of faith as her own sons, guiding them to Jesus.

As we come to this mass, under the protective mantle of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the gospel account of Mary and the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross, gives us two insights on how we can imitate the Virgin Mary in our own walk as disciples.

The first insight is this: As the Virgin Mary followed Jesus, her son, we are to do the same. If there is one characteristic that is clear from the gospel accounts of Mary, it is that she follows Jesus every step of the way in His journey to His passion, death and resurrection. She is there, of course, at the Annunciation, when the Holy Spirit overshadows her. She is there at the Presentation of Jesus, where Simeon prophecies of Jesus being the Savior of the world, while at the same time telling Mary about the sword of sorrow that will pierce her heart. She is there at the first miracle of Christ, the wedding at Cana, where Jesus turns the water into wine, and thus saves a young couple’s wedding feast. Mary follows Jesus as he journeys throughout Galilee and Judah, proclaiming the kingdom of God. Finally, the Virgin Mary is here, at the foot of the cross, where she is witnessing the death of her son.

This image of Mary, at the foot of the cross, is so important for us in today’s world. We live in a time of tremendous violence. Week after week we see examples of death coming suddenly, unexpectedly, tragically. A truck drives into a crowd, and eighty-four innocent people lose their lives. Policemen killed because of hatred. Seemingly innocent people, gunned down. Not only that, but we continue to see and feel in our world hatred, injustice, racism, intolerance, and it is overwhelming, it is distressing, we experience our seeming helplessness, and we wonder: how do I live my faith in the midst of so much violence?

How to live my faith? By doing what the Virgin Mary did: follow Jesus. St. Paul tells us to “walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2Cor. 5:7), and that is what she did. With the eyes of the world, Mary can see violence committing evil upon her son. With the eyes of the world, she can see that her son lost the battle, and Jesus will die and be forgotten. But Mary walked by faith, not by sight. By faith she knows that death, sin, evil, the forces of darkness cannot overcome the power of her Son, Jesus our Lord. In the depths of her Immaculate Heart, she knows that victory belongs her son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

This our invitation to imitate Our Lady of Mount Carmel, by following Jesus as she did, even unto the cross, and by faith, know that victory belongs to God. So, we, like the Virgin Mary can see and experience the violence around us in our world, but we, like Mary, continue to walk by faith, following wherever Jesus leads us, for we know that it is only in Jesus, only through the power of His resurrection, that we and the world will be saved. Evil can never have the last word; rather it is our crucified Savior, who gains victory over all evil, that has the last word. We might not see it now, but like the Virgin Mary, we walk by faith and not by sight, and by faith we know that when we follow Jesus as Mary did, the forces of sin, death, and darkness will never have final victory over us.

Our second insight is this: like the Beloved Disciple, we need to make a home for the Virgin Mary. This is what the first hermits did on Mount Carmel; they made a home for Mary, where she is welcomed and treasured. We are being invited by Jesus to do that very thing today – make a home for Mary.

The first place where we need to invite Mary is in our hearts. The problems and violence of today’s world is not so much a problem of laws (though they are important), but a heart problem. Jesus tells us: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” (Mt. 15. 19-20)

The heart is where true discipleship takes place; it is where we focus upon Jesus, the mystery of Jesus in us, Jesus in our hearts, and this is where the Carmelite life is lived. To have our hearts centered upon Christ, as is that Immaculate Heart of Mary, is what we strive for as Carmelites; this intention is ever before us, for as Jesus becomes the center of our hearts, we are able to share with others the great wonder that is faith in Christ.

Secondly, we become welcoming in our relations with others, for that is what the Beloved Disciple did when commanded by Jesus to make a home for Mary – he welcomed her. This welcome to Mary is extended by us to all those that we encounter in the church and in the world. The Beloved Disciple welcomes the Mother of all the faithful, and he did that at the foot of the cross. The violence of the cross did not harden the heart of either Mary, nor of the Beloved Disciple, but enlarged them – this is our vocation in today’s world, to realize that at the foot of the cross, and new family of humankind is being formed by Jesus, a family that is led by a holy mother, where her sons and daughters imitate her, with enlarged hearts, as they welcomed each other through the power and glory of Jesus from the cross.

These two invitations, imitating the Virgin Mary by following Jesus as she did, and taking Mary into our very lives, is what marks Carmelite devotion to Our Lady. We give our lives to Jesus, as did Mary. We invite Mary into our very lives, as Mary did, and have our hearts become like her Immaculate Heart. When we do this, we will truly become like those first hermits that lived on Mount Carmel, we will be like that great cloud of Carmelite witnesses, like St. Teresa of Jesus, John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, like all those great men and women of Carmel whose names we do not know, like living saints, disciples of Jesus, following the example of the Virgin Mary.

We ask Our Lady of Mount Carmel to pray for us, so that the Holy Spirit will come upon us and overshadow us, like it did her. That our hearts will be like hers, so that we can live in the presence of her son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, worshiping and praising the Holy Trinity, in the company of all saints, for all eternity.

Copyright Fr. Matthew Williams, OCD, 2016. All Rights Reserved.