Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter Exodus of Love 4

The ongoing exodus experience, of conversion, is a true ecstasy, a coming out of ourselves in the discovery of God’s self, a greater love of the One who loves us. It’s a call for constantly having a renewed attitude of conversion. Sometimes, conversion has to be met on the level of our attitudes. The conversion of our heart, what’s going on in our heart, the emotions, the moods, all of these things, the thoughts in our minds, all of that is expressed in attitude.

From there comes disposition because when truth goes from the mind to the heart, it goes deeper and takes root in us; it becomes disposition, which is how I’m disposed towards somebody or something. Conversion of heart, as St. Paul says, means ‘being transformed by the renewal of our mind’ (Romans 12:1-2) that we may know what is God’s will and choose it. In other words, our attitude and our disposition enables us to go from what is good to what is pleasing and perfect; to go from good, to better, and to best; to not settle for less, to always strive to grow from the abundance of what God has and what God wants to give.

In order for us to do this, we have to have the right attitude, Mary’s attitude; the openness, the receptivity, docility that comes from surrender and humility and trust, and obedience. That’s the attitude that allows our souls to be cultivated and fertilized in order to bear fruit, and one that is so important for the conversion of heart. Saint Paul says that from conversion comes transformation, “an incessant moving forward.”

What you think when you hear that – an incessant moving forward? That excites and encourages me. In other words, God never becomes stale. God never becomes boring. Other things can become boring, but God doesn’t become boring. An incessant moving forward means what one great mystical theologian calls, the mystical evolution, an ongoing transformation, an incessant going forward.

According to St. Paul, we go ‘from glory to glory, from strength to strength.’ We’re always in a state of growth. In other words, ‘I don’t want to stay in the same stage of spiritual life for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be like the Israelites, going in circles for 40 years before going into the Promised Land. I want to be always growing in my relationship with God, knowing how God is alive in me and expresses Himself in my life. I always want to be growing in that love story and ongoing maturity,’ as St. Paul says, ‘to the extent of the full stature of Christ.’

What’s the full stature of Christ? Transfiguration, resurrection – that’s our destiny. When we see Christ risen and transfigured, it’s not only who He is in His divinity, but it’s who we are called to be, for we have been given a share into adoption through grace; that’s who we are in our deepest self, and that’s how we have to always be, in a state of moving forward and allowing God to come to fruition in us.

According to Pope Francis, “This liberating exodus toward Christ and our brothers and sisters also represents the way for us to fully understand our common humanity.” To hear and answer the Lord’s call is not a private and completely personal matter fraught with momentary emotion; it’s much deeper than that. Rather, it is “a specific, real, and total commitment which embraces the whole of our existence and sets it at the service of the growth of God’s kingdom.” Finally Pope Francis says, “the Christian vocation, [is] rooted in the contemplation of the father’s heart” – that’s his preface, but that’s so important.

Our first vocation is to worship God, to worship the Lord because that’s what the reality of heaven is. It is the festival, the fiesta, the celebration of worship, the exaltation, the human being fully alive in the glory of God. The Christian vocation rooted in the contemplation of the Father’s heart inspires us to solidarity in bringing liberation to our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest.

Pope Francis adds, “A disciple of Jesus has a heart open to His unlimited horizons.” We must allow our hearts to be open to Jesus’s limited unlimited horizons. This is what I hope and trust that the Lord Jesus is going to manifest to you according to your receptivity. According to your openness to His unlimited horizons, He will pour out His heart to yours.

Our exodus is up to us, but what makes us open? Faith and hope. As St. Therese says, confidence in His merciful love. If we have a little confidence, we’ll get a little from Him, but if you have unlimited confidence in the unlimited horizon of His heart you will receive a whole lot. May we be open to enlarge our hearts to God’s heart, and to gaze upon His face that me may receive an outpouring of his grace, in Jesus’s divine, most merciful, and most holy name, Amen.

SOURCE: Consecrated Life Retreat, New Mexico 2016, transcribed by Teresa Linda, ocds

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter Exodus of Love 3

Requiem for Syria by Khaled Akil www.khaledakil.com

The Holy Father writes, “Hearing and following the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd, means letting ourselves be attracted and guided by Him.” John Paul II would use charmed by Jesus. Have you ever felt that way before? If you haven’t that’s alright, and if you have, I hope and pray in the Holy Spirit that Jesus is going to charm your socks off; that He is going to charm you, and woo you, and school you in what it means to be loved by Him because His love is the cause of our joy.

Mary always wants to communicate, what it means to be loved by God. Our Blessed Mother blows me away. No human being, ever before or during or after, could possibly ever love God as much as Mary did. Nobody could love God as much as Mary did and does. There’s no heart ever that loved God as much as she. There’s nothing, there’s no heart more beautiful than hers. Mary is the most beautiful human being imaginable, and as the cause of our joy, she wants us to enter into that beauty.

Mary’s mission of charity is that we enter into the beauty of what it means to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and especially to know His love for us; to know how God loves us with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength; to let ourselves be attracted and charmed by Him, guided by Him.

We must allow the Holy Spirit to draw us into this missionary dynamism, as Pope Francis says. I hope he just totally speaks to your heart because he’s a total missionary of charity in spirit. He’s a big-time missionary of charity in spirit. Everything he preaches is like St. Francis and St. Mother Teresa boiled down. He speaks to the culture in the way the culture needs to hear the words of the gospel, in a way that we can have an openness to hear, as if for the first time, and not think that we’ve heard it all before. He’s a perfectly chosen prophet and pontiff, by the Holy Spirit, for our time.

I totally believe in him; I have total confidence in him. Some more orthodox, traditional Catholics say, “I don’t know about him, he’s a little bit too unpredictable.” They would’ve said the same thing about Jesus of Nazareth. “He’s mad! He’s crazy! He doesn’t do anything! He breaks the Sabbath!” – just like the Pharisees.

Pope Francis says, “To offer one’s life to enter into the missionary dynamism is possible only if you’re able to leave ourselves behind.” It is very he hard to leave ourselves behind. Similarly, Jesus says, “unless you deny yourself, you shall not save yourself or find yourself. If you desire to follow me, deny yourself and pick up your cross. Those who want to save their lives will lose it.” This language can sometimes go a little bit over our heads, and we don’t quite understand it at face value. But basically, Pope Francis speaks truth in the way a common person can understand: Mission is possible only if we leave ourselves behind.

He adds, “Belief means transcending ourselves, leaving behind our comfort and the inflexibility of our ego.” Can good people have inflexible egos? Yes, they can! Very much! Good people can have inflexible egos. Can religious and consecrated people have inflexible egos? Oh yes!

It’s in human nature, and we have to get out of that. It’s part of conversion “in order to center our life in Jesus Christ,” as Pope Francis says. There are radical fundamentalist anti-Catholic Christians who call the pope the antichrist. You have to wonder, have they ever read anything that the pope has written? He is always talking about Christ. How can he be the antichrist? This prejudice and fundamentalism is ridiculous. Talk about the inflexibility of ego. I know I’m on a tangent, but it’s awful to accuse the Pope of being anti-Christ when He is always proclaiming Christ.

You’ll come across the different ideas people might have towards Catholicism in your ministry. We can’t be intimidated by that. One of the big parts of being a missionary is having courage. To not be afraid of what’s behind the door, whether people understand us or accept us or not, and to know how to brush the dust off our feet.

Pope Francis continues, that in order to center our life in Christ, and leave ourselves behind, we must be profoundly rooted in love. “The Christian vocation is first and foremost a call to love, a love which attracts us and draws us out of ourselves, de-centering us [from being self-centered].” He quotes Pope Benedict the XVIth, and explains that this love triggers “an ongoing exodus of the closed, inward looking self, to its liberation, through self giving, and thus toward authentic self-discovery, and indeed the discovery of God.” This quote, one of my favorites from Pope Benedict the XVIth, comes from his first encyclical, God is Love. Pope Francis is just part of that continuum of the Holy Spirit, the continuity of truth from one pope to another. The same spirit of God is leading. (to be continued)

SOURCE: Consecrated Life Retreat, New Mexico 2016, transcribed by Teresa Linda, ocds

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter Exodus of Love 2

Photo Credit: my nephew, Dominic Scott

The church in Ephesus had lost their first love, even though they practiced so many other valiant virtues in being faithful to God. They persevered, they endured persecution, they were totally traditional and faithful to the teaching, and they were hard-working. They were doing good things, but they had lost their passion. They lost the fire, they lost the zeal, there was no fervor anymore and so the Lord says to them, ‘I have one thing against you. You have lost the love of your youth, your first love.’

In speaking to religious, Pope Francis spoke on Good Shepherd Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, and the whole theme of his talk was exodus as an icon, as encapsulating vocation. I want to draw from what he says. In speaking of exodus, Pope Francis draws us to the Old Testament as referring to the origins of the amazing love story between God and his people.

Our faith, our religion as current Catholic Christians is first and foremost a love affair, a love story with God. It is not all about rules, it’s about God transforming us into Himself, who is love itself. Of course transformation will involve rules and obligations because there can be no true love without responsibility. There can be no love without sacrifice, self-giving trust, and vulnerability, risk, a gift of self, a going out beyond yourself. Our religion as Catholic Christians is about this divine romance, this exchange between God and His people, this covenant. It is not something that we’ve invented, but rather, we’ve discovered it. God has revealed it. He’s unveiled the mystery of His purpose of our identity and destiny.

Our religion is not meant to be a burden, but to set us free to be who we’re meant to be. The world does not get that. The spirit of the world has it in reverse; it does not understand and sees our freedom through an opposite lens. But only love is credible; only love can get past all the filters of people’s misconceptions, of people’s prejudices – simply by acts of love. That’s why your vocation is so precious, important, and prophetic because you don’t have to preach a single word. By your very example, God can preach through you.

Pope Francis says, “The exodus is the origins of the amazing love story between God and his people, a history which passes through the dramatic period of slavery in Egypt and the calling of Moses, the experience of liberation and journey toward the Promised Land. All those things are not only historical but also symbolic of the spiritual life.” The Holy Father goes on to speak a little bit about that symbolism. He says we too need to have to pass from the slavery of the old Adam, or our own selves. Perhaps there was a time in our lives when maybe we were little bit more worldly-minded, when our values and priorities, and our mentality or faith weren’t the same.

This exodus experience to new life in Christ, is one of going to the Promised Land, to live our true purpose in what it means to become the person we’re supposed to be in God’s eyes, in his image. This exodus is an event in redemption which takes place through faith. According to the Holy Father,“This Passover is a genuine exodus. It is the journey of each Christian soul and the entire Church, the decisive turning of our lives toward the Father.”

The decisive turning – those words imply a conviction and a choice, a conviction in the heart and choice, an action that has been made. That conviction of the heart and the choice of life, that turnaround is what the gospel refers to as metanoia. That turning around is a conversion.

Ultimately, Exodus is a conversion, a becoming of the best version of ourselves, becoming who we’re created to be, becoming who are meant to be in God’s Divine Mercy. It is a decisive turning of our lives towards the Father, and I would like to add to that, a decisive turning of our lives toward the mystery of Easter.

What captures for me the beautiful mystery of Easter is not simply Jesus risen but Jesus’s radiance through his wounds because His encounters with the apostles were very specifically, encountering them in their weakness. Jesus as the eternal high priest expressed His sympathy with their weakness and by His wounds, He healed their weakness and brought out power. Light comes out of darkness – a new creation out of chaos, victory out of the cross, triumph out of tragedy. This is the mystery of Easter. How do we experience that in us? How do we see that in our lives? Because it will happen; that’s how God works. Jesus brings us into renewed vitality through the pattern of His Paschal mystery – through His suffering, and dying, and rising again. (to be continued)

SOURCE: Consecrated Life Retreat, New Mexico 2016, transcribed by Teresa Linda, ocds

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter Exodus of Love 1

Photo Credit: my nephew, Dominic Scott

This Easter season, I want to touch on the exodus, the ongoing rekindling of our first love. The theme of our first love is so important, in order for us to remain fervent, in order for us to not to lose the fire of desire for God, to have a hunger for God’s holiness; to want him with passion, to be passionate about God in His love for us.

That first love is paramount, it’s so crucial because as St. Paul says, we can do all that we’re called to do, we can do so many things out of generosity, and practice many different types of virtues with God’s help; we can spend ourselves and exhaust ourselves doing, doing, and doing, but if we’ve lost our first love we’ve lost everything. If we’ve lost our passion we’ve become slaves.

We’re just doing because we have to and because were supposed to. As servants of God, we have to be on guard against that spirit of slavery. St. Paul says we’re called to be slaves of righteousness for sanctification, but that’s not meant to be a burden, a bondage, a heaviness, or a frustration. It’s supposed to be the opposite – it’s freedom. To be a slave through self-denial is meant to produce the fruit of freedom. If we are doing it in the right spirit, the spirit of love, the spirit of a child of God, who becomes a slave of righteousness, not because they have to, but because they want to, then there is freedom.

That’s not always easy to preserve. We can start off that way but as we all know, with the facts of life, with interpersonal relationships and human nature being what it is, the daily inconveniences and challenges, we could lose that spark after a while. We always have to go back to the source; we always have to go back to the heart, to the fountain- our first love.

Why am I here? Why did I let God choose this for me? Why did I let myself get into this? We have to go back to our first love and discover the gift in our consent. This relationship is not a curse, but a blessing, and I need to keep that blessing beautiful and fresh that I may be the face of mercy for others. Otherwise, I could become a whole different kind of face. If we don’t process it, we transmit it. If you don’t work through it, it’ll come out eventually. It’ll come out. The whole purpose of why we have prayer specifically set apart for us in the day is because that’s our special time to be able to draw near to the fountain of God’s love, the living water, daily – especially in the Blessed Sacrament. We must always draw back to that fountain.

SOURCE: Consecrated Life Retreat, New Mexico 2016, transcribed by Teresa Linda, ocds

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Divine Mercy and St.Thérèse 3

The climax of St. Thérèse’s beautiful life on earth was her final agony and amazing ecstasy. Before her final breath, she prophesized with utmost conviction that God had great plans for her on the other side, and of what God would allow her to do on earth, while in heaven. She knew that she was going to be one of the busiest saints in heaven. She would be working all the time.

So much happened right after her death on September 30, 1897.   By 1898, her Carmelite monastery began to publish “The Story of a Soul”. They started with 2000 copies and by 1899, the first favors and cures and miracles were already starting to come in. Twelve years after her death, her cause was introduced for her canonization. By 1910, in one year she had received 9741 letters from people in France and foreign countries.   She was active. She got right to work.

In 1914 the Carmel would receive on average of 200 letters a day. That year, Pope Pius 10th told a missionary that St. Thérèse would be the greatest saint in modern times.   She was beatified in 1923, and by this time the Carmel was receiving 800 – 1000 letters a day.

By 1925, she was formally canonized.   By 1927 she became the Patroness of Missions, yet she was a cloistered nuns who never left the cloister!  One would never have expected it but Thérèse expected it. She knew.   She knew she was going to be a missionary after she left this life.   It is an amazing testimony to the power of God at work in the world today.

By 1929, the Little Flower had a huge basilica in her honor.   She continues until the end of time to be a blessing to many.   God is the author behind it, the one bringing about the harvest of what she is doing in heaven. The answered prayers are all coming from the cross and resurrection of Jesus.   Thérèse in a specific way shared in that cross with Jesus.   She truly shared in it.   That is part of the amazing truth that is quite startling at times – the measure that we share in the cross of Jesus is the same measure we share in the resurrection. Daunting but very, very true!

I recently went to the shrine of St Padre Pio for the first time. The pilgrimage site is an ongoing fountain of spiritual life that is just bursting at the seam.   So many people from all over come to honor him.   And while I have never been to Thérèse’s basilica, I know that the devotion is the same for St. Thérèse. Her witness is the Gospel, the Bethlehem, the Calvary and the empty tomb transplanted to a new place in the world. Yet it is the same fruit of redemption that is continually flowing. So much of the hidden sacrifices that nobody ever saw in the lives of Thérèse and Father Pio and so many, produced a harvest that came later.   In every sacrifice there is a seed of promise.

One of the ways Thérèse put into practice her zeal, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, which are in separable, was that she made a point to take advantage of every opportunity to offer Jesus some sacrifice in thanksgiving and praise of Him. Whether it was something as simple as a random act of kindness, courtesy, charity, a smile, a phone call, a letter, a card, any little thing – including the negative things like enduring not needing to have the last word in an argument.   She lived and represented the dispositions of Jesus.

To conclude, I have a summary reflection on everything about Thérèse.   In a few words, I would paraphrase In the Footsteps of Thérèse as inspired from Manuscript B as follows:

How awesome is God’s divine and indescribable condescension in Christ, His love that reaches unto folly from the crib to the cross. It is He, Himself, in His zeal for us who in countless ways does all in his power to inspire in us limitless confidence, to not be afraid; to daringly abandon ourselves to His Divine Mercy; to aspire to the most lofty heights to the possession of the plentitude of love, to the bosom of the eternal fire of the blessed trinity.

In this ascent to the inaccessible light Thérèse teaches us that it is our weakness that is to give us the boldness of our full trust and surrender. For in order, as St. Thérèse says, ‘that love, that Jesus may be fully satisfied it is necessary that it lower itself and to lower itself to nothingness’- that is, us in our weakness, us in our littleness and powerlessness, us in our fragile nature – ‘and transform this nothingness into fire.’

Therefore, we must consent to remain always poor and without strength, to love our littleness, to love to feel nothing and to remain very far from all that sparkles. Such humility of a child has power to cast out and conquer all discouragement.   Jesus’ work, His total sacrifice, His accomplishments and merits, His righteousness is the sweet assurance of our salvation. Precious Jesus is our justice, our justification, before the perfect holiness of the Father.

May the divine gaze of God’s holy face dawn upon us and qualify us among his chosen legion of little souls worthy of his everlasting love.

AMEN

SOURCE: San Rafael Carmel Retreat 2016, Transcribed by Linda Dorian

Copyright 2017 Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Divine Mercy & St. Thérèse 2

In order to express this confidence she has based on God, not on herself, St. Thérèse uses the image in manuscript B of herself as a little bird and Jesus as the Divine Eagle. Manuscript B is dedicated to one of her sisters, Marie, in the convent. After Marie read it, she thought it was beautiful and wonderful for Thérèse but didn’t think applied to her. Thérèse says … NO you are not getting it: It applies to you too.   Thérèse’s response to her sister in letter 197 is this:

“How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love him?   If you understood the story of the little bird you would not have asked me this question. My virtues, or talents or many gifts are nothing. They are not what give me the unlimited confidence I feel in my heart. They are, to tell the truth, the spiritual riches that render one unjust. Because when one rests in them with complacency and when one believes that they are something great, ahh, now that’s when I really feel it is not this at all the pleases God in my little soul.  

What pleases him though is that he sees me loving my littleness and my poverty. The blind hope that I have in his mercy, that’s my only treasure.   Why should this treasure not be yours? Understand that to love Jesus, the weaker one is without desires for virtues, the more suited one is for the workings of this consuming and transforming love.

But we must consent to remain always poor and without strength. And this is the difficulty.   Let us remain then very far from all that sparkles. Let us love our littleness. Let us love to feel nothing.   Then we shall be poor in spirit and Jesus will come to look for us and he will transform us in flames of love.

She refers many times to this image – this flame of love. But to get more into the wisdom and insight of St Thérèse, I would like to look at the book Divine Mercy by Benedict the XVIth. He writes,

All of God’s perfections are expressions of his merciful love. Even his justice. (Pope Francis also says that justice and mercy are one.)   After so many graces can I not sing with the psalmist ‘How good is the Lord? His mercy endures forever.’ It seems to me that if all creatures have received the same graces I received, God would be feared by nobody but would be loved to the point of folly.

Through love, not through fear, no one would ever consent to cause him any pain. I understand, however, that all souls cannot be the same. It is necessary that there be different types in order to honor each of God’s perfections in a particular way. To me he has granted his infinite mercy and through it I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections. All of these perfections appear to be resplendent with love, even his justice. And perhaps this, even more than the others, seem to me clothed in love.

 What a sweet joy it is to think that God is just; that is, that he takes into account our weakness. He is perfectly aware of our fragile nature. What should I fear then?   Must not the infinitely just God, who deigns to pardon the faults of the prodigal son with so much kindness, be just also towards me who am with him always?

Thérèse thinks ‘If I have always been with Him, then why wouldn’t that love be all the more overflowing?’ This understanding of God’s justice totally casts out every trace of fear in her faith before the face of God. She tries to convince us to be comfortable in the skin of our own weakness and littleness, even as she admits her own weaknesses:

I have my weaknesses also, but I will rejoice in them. A foolish thing I have said or done will torment me, for example.   Then I enter into myself and I say: “Alas I’m at the same place I was at formerly.   But I tell myself this with great gentleness and without any sadness. How good it is to feel one is weak and little.

 She echoes the gospel according Paul: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” In so many other places, as in Ephesians Chapter 2, St Paul expresses this gospel and recognizes that we are saved not for anything that we have done but because of how good He is. Faith working itself out in love is not about earning God’s love or becoming “good enough”. It is God who is all good and it is Him who makes us capable of Himself. This is Grace by which we are healed and saved. And this is the gospel of which Thérèse is speaking but she does so with a beautiful freshness to invigorate our faith.

SOURCE: San Rafael Carmel Retreat 2016, Transcribed by Linda Dorian

Copyright 2017 Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Divine Mercy Sunday

Praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy Contemplatively

Lord Jesus, your Divine Mercy is a medicine of immortality, an oasis of grace that heals our hearts’ deepest needs, the source of peace that overcomes the chaos, and a wellspring of serenity that gives birth to new life. We submit to your righteousness Jesus, to your mission, to the riches of your grace and love.

I would like to just pray with you simply some segments, little pieces of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I don’t want to pray the whole chaplet because what often happens is we immediately go into automatic pilot and we just forget about what we’re saying, and who we’re speaking to. I don’t say that to discourage our praying the Chaplet on other occasions but for today, because I really want to teach you how to pray, I will only take pieces of the prayer.

St. Teresa of Jesus, is the great teacher of prayer, the mother of spiritual souls, and the Doctor of the Church in terms of contemplation. There’s no greater teacher about the spiritual life of prayer than her, and she herself says, “It’s better to play one Our Father well, than twenty haphazardly.” That’s how I want to pray this Chaplet of Mercy, to just walk you, with Jesus, and through the prayer, to the heart of Jesus of Nazareth as our Good Shepherd.

The beautiful prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit to St. Faustina, brings us before the reality of the cross and resurrection. Through it we pray,

You expired Lord Jesus but the source of life gushed forth for souls and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. Oh fountain of life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and pour yourself out upon us. Oh blood and water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in you. Oh blood and water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us I trust in you. Oh blood and water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in you.

When the side of Jesus Christ was pierced by the lance, this was the body piercing that opened up paradise. His sacred heart spilled forth water and blood and that was the opening of heaven’s floodgates, the opening of the temple. In the old covenant there was only one church, one temple, only one sacred place where God’s people assembled to praise and worship to sacrifice, and that was in Jerusalem – Zion. That temple built by Solomon, the wise man, was inspired by God. He gave the instruction on what he wanted it to look like, and how he wanted to be worshiped in terms of having a right relationship with him. Only the priests, after much purification, would be permitted to go with in the Holy of Holies, that most sacred center within the temple behind the veil. Only once a year would he do that, on the Day of Atonement, the day of at-one-ment.

Jesus as our high priest also became our victim and when his body, which is the true temple of true worship of the Father, was torn open – in him, with him, and through him we became true worshipers of the Eternal Father, in spirit and truth. When his flesh was torn open on the cross, especially his heart, as the last blow after he had given up his last breath, the veil of the heavenly reality that blocks humanity from union with our God was wide open when his heart was split by the spear.

The floodgates, the river of redemption, through the power of his precious blood, opened up on the world so that we as the book of Hebrews says, ‘May have clear confidence complete access to the heart of God that we may draw near to the throne of grace to receive grace for timely need and every provision to overcome every problem by the power of his Providence who promises to be present to us, and grant us the grace that we need to overcome all things in Christ, who strengthens us.

Our greatest strength is prayer and one of most privileged places to pray is before Jesus in the exposed Blessed Sacrament. The first prayer that we pray is the Our Father. The most important part of that prayer is the first word – Father. It takes time before we can come to that place of being able to really worship God in his Holiness as Father. But that is the sacred center coming to discover the beauty of life, to know the holiness of God, and to know that he who is greater than our wildest dreams calls us, adopts us as part of his own family and shares his life with us.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

And then we honor Mary, whom Jesus gave us at the foot of the cross as his prized earthly possession, the one that he honored perfectly in fulfillment of the fourth commandment. We can never honor Mary as much as Jesus honored her. We can never love Mary as much as Jesus loved her, and he loved her so much that he didn’t want her to be alone. He knew that in her humanity, she would be utterly brokenhearted at seeing Christ’s heart ripped open.

In order to console her, he left her his best friend, John the Beloved. He told John, ‘Behold your mother. Take her into your heart, take her into your home, take care of her; Let her be your mother as she was a mother to me. At that moment, John stood as proxy for all those would become Jesus’ intimate friends

If Jesus had other blood brothers, there would have been no need to entrust his mother to John. But because Jesus was not only the firstborn but the only child of Mary, he entrusted her to his beloved disciple as a sign and symbol of entrusting all of his disciples to his mother.

Let us honor Mary, so that by honoring her, she may help us to truly worship Jesus, to truly do whatever he tells us, as she said to the disciples at Cana and to truly experience a transformation of the water of our simple ordinary life, to become more and more filled with the supernatural life of God’s love in the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

Now let us sing in our hearts. We have reason to rejoice because God’s blessing and mercy is upon us. When somebody is really in love, they can’t help but be joyful. When someone is really in love, they can’t help but have a melody in their heart, a new song that wells up inside of them. When somebody’s in love, they cannot stop themselves from singing, from praising, from thanking, even if he can’t sing, even if he can’t hold a note, even if it’s just humming. Yet he does it all with spontaneity, and with freedom.

Think and reflect about what in your life holds you back. What are your fears, insecurities, reservations, prejudices, inhibitions, and wounds? What are the things in your lives that hold you hostage and bind you? Try to identify it.

Whether you’re already working through something or not, try to be open to the Lord. Ask yourself, ‘What are the areas in my life where I can grow in what it means to be more pleasing to You? Where I can grow in what it means to truly experience, believe, and live the truth that I am your beloved? What are the areas in my life where there’s something about my inner freedom that’s being inhibited?’

Do this in the secrecy of your own thoughts. Unite those thoughts to Jesus’s heart and allow the lights, the rays of the heart of Jesus’ Divine Mercy to shine upon your life, especially any aspect of your life that is still in the shadows, and that still hasn’t been exposed to the light of God’s face. Expose everything, the most needy part, the most broken or dirty part, whatever it might be, expose it to the light of God’s Merciful face. Allow your wounds to be bathed in the rays of his heart where there is love and mercy itself.

Have you ever suffered anything that has not yet been united to Jesus’s passion?  Each time you say, “For the sake his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world” unite everything, every challenge and suffering to his passion that it may take on supernatural value and meaning and bring a greater good into your life. It doesn’t matter how embarrassing it may be; there’s nothing the Lord can’t handle; there’s nothing he will condemn, provided you give it to him.

In sacred Scripture, the Lord says to his people 365 times to ‘be not afraid.’ Jesus says, ‘Come to me and I will give you rest.’ After a long life of trying to seek God and in other ways, St. Augustine discovered that our hearts are restless until they rest in him. It’s a blessing to discover that restlessness because we can become so easily distracted, sad, and even satisfied with those distractions. But to find that restlessness, to discover that emptiness in all the things that the world can offer, and then to take refuge in God – is a great victory.

Let us allow our lives to be completely enveloped in love, the light of the Lord’s heart and Divine Mercy.

SOURCE: Soquel Retreat, 2017. Transcribed by Teresa Linda, ocds

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Divine Mercy and Saint Thérèse 1

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1 John 4:11-19Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. 12No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

13This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. 14Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. 15Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. 16We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 17In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world 8There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. 19We love because he first loved us.

In Thirty-three Days to Merciful Love, Father Gaitley talks about St.Thérèse as the great prophet of merciful love. Her approach of confidence in God’s goodness revolutionized Catholic spirituality in light of the errors of the Jansenistic teachings of her time. She breathed fresh air into what it means to live the faith.   Father Gaitley points out that God always gives us saints who are suited for our times, who speak and teach the gospel to history in a way that is relevant and in a way that we need to hear it, as St. Thérèse did. Drawing from Romans 5:20, Father Gaitley explains that in times of great evil, God gives even greater graces.

Similarly, Pope Francis says: “Listen to the voice of the spirit that speaks to the whole Church in this our time, now, today, which in fact is a time of Mercy. I am certain of this. It is the time of Mercy in the whole church.”

Later on Father Gaitley points out that God wants to work some of his greatest miracles in the whole history of the church right now. God wants to take some of the littlest of souls and make them into some of the greatest of saints. He is echoing the prophecy of St Louis de Montforte, who says something similar in True Devotion to Mary. This is really happening.

We also see the fulfillment of Mercy in Padre Pio, a saint who is truly magnanimous and unprecedented in the history of the church. He is the first priest to have carried the stigmata and he did so for fifty years. More than that, Jesus was truly alive in him; Jesus’ gift through him to the whole Church really brought back to life again the power of the apostles and through this human being, we see what took place in the Acts of the Apostles – in our postmodern day world.

In Padre Pio, not only do we see a great example of the fulfillment of prophecy but also proof that God’s Mercy is meant to extend to every one of us in our own ways, in the place we are planted, where we are meant to bloom in our vocation in love.

We all have a vocation. We are all called to bear specific fruit and are meant to make a difference.   This difference may not be recorded in history but it’s a difference that may very well be recorded in the history of someone’s heart. That is what matters. The Lord has a plan for us that involves other people. Our purpose revolves around who we become in relationship with others in this vocation of Love.

Father Gaitley says that “by consecrating ourselves to Divine Mercy we are letting ourselves be carried into a greater work of the spirit that is going on in our day.” He puts the focus where it needs to be, not on us but on trusting Him, the One who died and was resurrected for us.

The first letter of St. John, Chapter 4 speaks of God in a fresh expression of the gospel, putting the focus of redemption on God and on His initiative. He first loved us and He has chosen us to know His love and be filled with it. That love is the focus of our faith, it sets us free, and it gives us refreshment to our lives.

To paraphrase St Thérèse: when we focus too much on ourselves we suffocate the Holy Spirit.   She says: “I never felt more free than when I forgot myself”. That is part of her humility. Living in the truth that sets us free is to allow our lives to be taken in by Him, to be taken possession of, to allow our attention to be on Him rather than on ourselves.

That takes faith because we do not see Him.   We have to see him with the eyes of the heart. It is trust that unleashes the power of His Mercy. Jesus says this most loudly through his Secretary of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina: It is trust that unleashes the power of mercy, the power of his spirit upon the world through the church.

The Lord inspires St Faustina with those most important words in the image which He Himself inspired and dictated to be painted. He himself specifically requested that   the words transcribed at the bottom would be: Jesus, I trust in you.

So Jesus wants to work the great miracle of forming the littlest of souls into the greatest of saints but He needs our trust in order to do it.

This is what Father Gaitley points out in drawing from St Thérèse. Her teachings desire for us what happened to her, that is to set us full sail on the waves of love and confidence, to go in the way of the Holy Spirit’s love and confidence.

SOURCE: San Rafael Carmel Retreat 2016, Transcribed by Linda Dorian

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter Sunday, Entering the Holy of Holies

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Invite Jesus and His resurrection into every detail, every situation and relationship, every fiber of your life.  We begin with simply focusing on the holy presence of Jesus, but at times, we need to move away from the loving awareness of God’s presence.

Sometimes, it feels like, “I’ve done that. I’ve gone as far as I can go with it. I’ve been doing the same thing for twenty minutes, and now I’m falling asleep. Now I feel like I’m running out of batteries.  There’s no more oil in the lamp.  I’ve become distracted or physically tired. I’m finding myself feeling sluggish. At one point there, maybe just for a few minutes, I was very much alive and attuned to God’s presence without knowing how, but there was a spark that was activated, a grace of God’s goodness. There was a flame, a loving attentiveness. But now I’m finding myself disconnected again. Everything was going fine, and suddenly it’s like the channel changes. There’s no longer a clear message coming through, or I’m no longer able to be present.” You need to change it up. You need to put new fuel on the fire.

One way of doing that is inviting the crucified and resurrected Christ into every detail, every situation and relationship, every fiber of your life. Present everything before Him–your past, your present, and your future. Surrender to Him. Invite Him into every aspect of your life. Insert everything of your internal and external life into the eternal mystery of His loving concern for you personally.

Prayerfully and calmly reflect on God’s love, present in your life in concrete ways – in your present, in your past, and surrender your future to Him. See with new eyes, as it were, see through the eyes of God. Recognize that He has been present in every phase of your life as provident protector and provider and as tremendous lover. In every chapter of your life’s story, He was there, resurrecting you. Discover your own salvation history, and see how the Savior has been present in every part of your life story, whether you knew it at the time or not–discover it today.

As Christians, when we say “to meditate,” it means the working of the mind for the sake of coming to the surrender of the heart in love. Meditate upon His steadfast love, mediated to you through the various people He has put into your lives. God’s steadfast love can be mediated to you not only through people, but it can also be mediated to us through pets. God is so awesomely good and humble and down-to-earth that He’ll use a pet if he can’t find a person. Praise God for that!

Now God does put certain people in our lives. But you know what? So does the enemy. The enemy will put certain people in your lives. God does has a plan for us. And so does the enemy. God uses people, and the enemy uses people, good friends or bad friends. At times we wonder, “Well why, God, did you put this person in my life? Why did You allow this person’s path to even cross mine?”

It may well not have been God putting that person in your life. But God can bring light out of it. He allowed it. He permitted it because He could redeem and resurrect it, and because He can bring some good out of it. That’s salvation history.

As we meditate, and it happens in layers, God allows us to see new things about ourselves that we didn’t even know were there, as we discover His presence in our lives in ways that we didn’t dare to even think or weren’t able to acknowledge. God can always reveal new things about who we are, Whose we are, and how He has been present at every step of the way. And having done this, then our response is that from our essence we give God glory and praise! We give God glory and praise for today, for yesterday, and for tomorrow.

Abandon everything, every part of what makes you ‘you’ to His divine disposal. That means being totally disposed to trust in His holy will, which is love and mercy itself. Trust that all can serve His holy will for our well-being. Allow all resistance to trusting in God’s grace to be healed that you may be more free to be who God has made you to be.

To conclude, Desire God ardently. Desire God ardently, as Mary Magdalen searching for Jesus at His tomb when she implores, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put Him.”

St. Anselm expresses his ardent desire for God by these words: “Enter into your heart’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek Him. And when you have shut the door, look for Him. Speak now to God and say with your whole heart: I seek Your face. Your face, Lord, I desire. Lord, my God, teach my heart where and how to seek You, where and how to find You. Look upon us, Lord. Hear us and enlighten us. Show us your very Self. Take pity on our efforts and our striving toward You. For we have no strength apart from You. Teach me to seek You. And when I seek You, show Yourself to me. For I cannot seek You unless You teach me. Nor can I find You unless You show Yourself to me. Let me seek You in desiring You, and desire you in seeking You, and find You in loving You.” Amen.

SOURCE: Auburn Retreat, 2016. Transcribed by Sue Ellen Browder

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

‘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: Holy Week 7, Entering the Holy of Holies

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The second phase in cultivating the prayer of simplicity and recollection is gently fanning the flame. Gently fanning the flame.

So first we need to do our best to quiet ourselves and just be in the moment. Second…though this is how I’m ordering it, the ordering isn’t important to remember – let go and detach ourselves from the multiplicity of our thoughts because, as St. Teresa says, the thoughts are always active like wild horses. The brain is active. The brain always wants to be thinking something. And there’s always a flow of consciousness. There’s always a stream of thinking and monologue going on. In order to let go and detach ourselves of that, we attach ourselves to the one thing necessary, which is the name of all names: Yeshua. Recall the name of God to streamline your thoughts to focus on Jesus Christ.

The Jesus Prayer is the sacred tradition of the Church in this area. The Jesus Prayer comes from the bedrock of Christianity, which is Eastern monasticism. When I say “Eastern monasticism,” I am speaking of the sacred Christian ancient tradition flowing from Jerusalem, spreading throughout Palestine, going into Egypt in the Coptic tradition of the first monks in Egypt with St. Anthony the Great, spreading up to Syria. This is the bedrock of Christian monasticism in ancient Christianity. Eventually, it made its way to Alexandria and Greece, where it took on an intellectual form of mystical spirituality and then of course [on] to Rome.

The Jesus Prayer was taken from the Gospel when people came to encounter Christ and cried out “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Monastics took all the different encounters with Christ, and in them they recognized two essential elements: one, acknowledging that Jesus is Lord; and two, acknowledging that I am not–that I am a sinner in need of God’s mercy. And that’s the essence of reality for us as human beings.

Yes, we’re made in the divine image and likeness. But we’re in need of God’s mercy restoring that image and likeness within us because we’re built with certain inclinations that don’t lead to our true self and true purpose. We need to be saved, as it were, from ourselves in order to truly discover our true selves.

So that simple prayer, composed by taking different encounters from the Gospels and synthesizing them into–“Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner”– takes on different forms. It can be simplified, as it is often done in Eastern Christian monasticism, as “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.”

This prayer can begin to help to simplify our thoughts. Simplify the thoughts. You’re not battling against the thoughts. You’re not forcing your thoughts. But you’re streamlining your thought process. You’re focusing it. And whenever distractions arise, you just bring it back to the Lord. You bring it back to the Cross, or whatever image of the sacred humanity of Christ helps you. You’re not getting upset. You’re not becoming frustrated. You’re just acknowledging it, and then turning it over to the Lord, turning back to this heart of contact, this colloquy, this communion and exchange.

Another part of gently fanning the flame is to avoid all reading except select sections of sacred Scripture. Preference is given to those passages that speak to God’s love for us in a personal life-changing, life-giving way.

In the context of a personal spiritual retreat, avoid the distractions that come from seeking unnecessary knowledge in books. There’s a time to be seeking knowledge in different capacities that is pleasing to God. Our whole person is to be developed in every aspect of who we are as a human being, including our need for leisure, our need for healthy entertainment. But in your spiritual retreats, get down to essentials: the one thing necessary.

Avoid distractions and try to focus just on select passages of Scripture and on the retreat notes that spoke to you, that touched your heart, that God used to speak to you personally. That can be something that you experienced in nature, God speaking to you in creation. It can be something God spoke directly to your heart that didn’t even come from me. But by simply being in this context [of Holy Week] God can speak something particular and special for you. It could be something that happens at Mass or something in a song. There can be all different types of ways that God speaks to you.

It can even be in the shower. As the water is being poured down, that almost takes a quasi-sacramental role and God can speak to us in the shower. As we’re cleaning our minds and just trying to focus and get ready for the day, God is speaking to our hearts and pouring Himself out. (to be continued)

SOURCE: Auburn Retreat, 2016. Transcribed by Sue Ellen Browder

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD.