Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom St. John of the Cross 5

Ubeda, Museum of St. John of the Cross. Photo Credit:thespeakroom.org
Ubeda, Museum of St. John of the Cross. Photo Credit:thespeakroom.org

Faith is always first and foremost the force behind God’s ability to do great things in our lives. For every single person who encountered Him in the gospel – whether they were in need of healing of blindness, healing of withered hands, being paralyzed, being mute, having hemorrhages – whatever it was, faith was always the transformative factor that made the difference in their lives. One of the ways we will experience faith that will really test us is when we are face-to-face with our own poverty or brokenness, in whatever shape that might take. When God awakens us to be aware of those things, we have a significant decision. We are at a crossroads where we have to make a very important choice, a choice of faith. Am I going to believe more in my own weakness, or am I going to believe more in God’s love for me?

It’s so easy for us to believe more in our weakness than in God’s love for our lives. Why? Because I see my weakness everyday, and sometimes, when I’m confronted with this weakness, I’m unaware of God’s love for me. I begin to be deceived by what I see and think, ‘How can God possibly love me in this? How could God possibly love this brokenness?’

Yet Jesus is most radiant in the places from which He suffered most. So too, in glory in heaven, though it is beyond our ability to picture or imagine, what will be most radiant about us is the way God worked in our lives, especially through our weakness. It is our faith that allows Him to accomplish it, faith more in His love for me than in what I see in myself. Our human nature has the tendency to want to earn God’s love, or to want to perform and to do it, to want to take matters in our own hands, and by our own works, and by our own observances – which is all good. But what gets confused is when I put myself at the center of the drama and think that I am doing everything all by myself.

There comes a point when you cannot do it yourself! And God will break that self-centeredness so that ‘No human nature will boast before God’s presence,’ as Ephesians 2 says. You have not gained anything by your works but by the sheer gift of God’s grace. That’s one of the most absolute, primary realities of the God who has called us into a covenant relationship with Him. It is He who has chosen us, and it is He alone who can accomplish the great things that He has in store for us.

When the soul sees in itself, its abundance and greatness in the beauty of God, Saint John of the Cross says, ‘She is given the properties of the Beloved.’ It was so important to go off on that tangent about the wealth of our weaknesses. Otherwise, if we just read these beautiful passages from scripture and our saints about the glory of transforming union without a realistic picture of how to get there, then we’re just going in circles like the Israelites in the desert. We have to have a very real, concrete understanding. For us to allow God and His Word to be made flesh in us, our knowledge of self is essential and foundational in our spiritual lives.

The more we abide in communion with the love of Christ crucified, the more transformed in the Spirit of Our Lord we can become. When Saint John of the Cross speaks in language about the love of Christ crucified, it’s never a love of the cross in and of itself, but a love of Christ on the cross. There’s a big difference. Otherwise, mortification just becomes an end in itself because it’s an obligation, a demand, or what’s needed. There always has to be a relational dimension to our faith lives (to be continued).

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross 4

Segovia. 'Cristo Vacente' by Gregorio Fernandez. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org
Segovia. ‘Cristo Vacente’ by Gregorio Fernandez. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

img_1940 img_1939

Our affliction is a magnet for God’s affection. There’s a tremendous truth behind that. In scripture, we often hear that God is close to the broken-hearted; that is a regular theme in the old covenant. Jesus said, ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me for you, to heal the broken-hearted and to set the captives free.’  In John 20: 19-22, Jesus appears to the disciples and they are despondent in the upper room, where they have been hiding away. They were totally disillusioned and rightly so. Even though they heard the words from Jesus prophesying His death, His words just didn’t register. The raw, ugly, messy, and humiliating cross was so not according to their expectations. Even though they were given foresight, they forgot what they were told, and they became despondent.

That’s how we are. We know about the dark night, we know about the devotion to Christ on the cross, but when something really hard strikes us, more often than not, it affects us unless God sustains us by His grace.

In the disciples’ moment of despondency, Jesus came through the closed door. He didn’t have an invitation, He didn’t knock first, but He just came right through. He appears to them, and he doesn’t scold them the way he would speak to the Pharisees, ‘You fools!’ or ‘I told you so many times!’ Even Saint Paul in Galatians Chapter 1 says, ‘How could you be so stupid!’ Jesus could have said, ‘What were you thinking! What was going through your mind!’

Instead of scolding them, He did the total opposite. He imparts peace in a supernatural way. The most magnificent part of all, was that immediately after speaking the words, ‘Peace be with you,’ he gave forth His breath and the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in their deprivation. From that moment, Jesus met them where they were. Their faith had been so affected, and seemingly shipwrecked. Some of them were considering about going back to their old life. They were so disillusioned that they didn’t know what to do and where to go. Jesus came to them in their woundedness, and after imparting the words of peace and the spirit to them, He shows them His wounds.

As we know, Jesus suffered tremendous wounding on His body, but he only chose five to particularly keep in His glorified body. He deliberately chose to keep the marks of the nails and the spear in His hands, His feet, and His side. He wanted those as a reminder to us of how much we are worth to Him, as the battle scars, the war wounds of what He endured for our sakes. By His wounds we would be healed.

Hence, whenever our Blessed Lord appeared in private revelations to particular friends closest to His Heart – Holy Mother Saint Teresa, Saint Margaret Mary, Saint Faustina, Saint Gertrude – He would appear in His glorified body and the greatest light that emanated from Him came from His wounds. His wounds became the fountain of His blessings. His wounds are the wellspring of all the ways in which He wants us to share in His divine love.

So too with ourselves. Though we would want to cover and hide our wounds, those very things that we wish we didn’t have, or we see as inconvenient, or we just dismiss as getting in the way of growing in holiness, are exactly the means by which we will grow in holiness. Rather than being a stumbling block, they are actually a building block; those wounds are one of the most important building blocks we will have.

In our wounds we can encounter God in the core of our being. In that weakness, we are most united to the truth of our humanity, the truth of our poverty, our nothingness, our need for the Lord, our inability to do anything on our own. In that rock bottom, that ground zero, that nakedness, we can be consumed by the love of God. From that nothingness can come the glorious transformation of our life in His strength (to be continued).

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom St. John of the Cross 3

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Our penances and mortification have to have a Marian character. The touch of Mary in the mortification is the safeguard, for it keeps us healthy and gives us a proper understanding of the purpose of asceticism. I recently discovered something that probably many of you are familiar with, a book titled Mary as Seen by the Mystics written by Raphael Brown. He takes four or five different mystics, and gathers what they all wrote about Our Lady in different parts of her life.

My favorite part of Our Lady’s life is when she was a little girl. I love that! It’s so precious to see and contemplate Mary as a little girl. Brown looks at different segments of what was revealed to these mystics about Mary’s hidden life, and he consolidates them into different chapters. For instance, you read about Mary’s Presentation in the Temple as a three-year-old. At first, I thought, the stories were just pious hyperbole.   The hagiography seemed so romantic that the narratives didn’t seem like they could be real. But that only lasted a second.

I quickly thought afterwards, ‘Why not? She was truly immaculate, she didn’t have any of the defects of intellect and will that comes from fallen nature; she was operating on her faculties from the beginning of her existence and anointed with the fullness of grace on top of that innocent, pure nature. If all that is true, then nothing is impossible. Why couldn’t that happen? Why doubt it? What would anyone get out of doubting the Immaculata?

Her hidden life, as she lived it with her parents, sounds like the life of a saint in a contemplative convent or other saints in the history of the Church. She had a voluntary love for mortification and practiced them in order to give God glory and to offer Him reparation. When you read and contemplate this, it’s so magnificent and inspiring! We need to understand that Marian character. Our Carmelite constitutions say that even our mortification should have a Marian character to them.

The more we abide in communion with the spirit of Christ crucified, the more we are transformed, to become pneumatic, pneumatized, and transfigured in the Spirit. You’re so spirit-filled, the Spirit of God is so palpably living in you that He possesses you. The spirit of the Risen Savior begins to take possession of the soul. One becomes transfigured in the blazing light of the Risen Christ.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a great Russian mystic of the 19th century, a contemporary of Saint Therese, is considered the Saint Francis of the East. In the contemporary world, he lived the authentic spirituality of the desert fathers. Following the pattern of conversation of the desert fathers, Saint Seraphim was asked by one of his spiritual children, ‘What is the goal of the spiritual life?’ His answer was ‘The acquisition of the Holy Spirit.’ In my understanding, the response means, to become pneumatic, to become transformed in the Holy Spirit.

Isn’t that what Saint John of the Cross expresses in the Living Flame of LoveTo enter into the love relationship between the Father and the Son is to be transformed in the Holy Spirit. Saint John expresses it so deeply and explains that the Spirit in the soul begins to love the Father through the Son. You’re taken right into the heart of that dynamic synergy, that interplay and communion. Some mystics refer to it as the dance of divine love between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. You are taken into the way that the three persons of the Trinity love one another.

…that’s just way beyond my ability to express any further… about such things we just must be silent… (to be continued)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom of St. John of the Cross 2

The Foot of St. John of the Cross. Ubeda. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org
The Foot of St. John of the Cross. Ubeda. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

In The Spiritual Canticle, Saint John of the Cross says that the attributes of God – His love, His power, His joy, His wisdom, and so forth “produce in one’s center a most sublime and delightful knowledge of Him. The person is within the divine splendors, and is transformed in them.” In very complex philosophical language, Saint John goes on to talk about the beautific vision. “This cognitive immersion in pure beauty enthralls and transfigures just as fire ignites and makes to glow any combustible objects cast into it.” Cognitive is gnosis – to know. It’s one thing to experience it, but it’s another thing to be able to express it in Saint John’s kind of language. He had such a brilliant mind. He understood the best of theology so well and was able to express truths profoundly because of His experience.

He writes, “This contemplative transfiguration of eternity begins in time.” It begins in time. Saint Paul refers to that as the first installment of the Spirit, the appetizer to the banquet. Those glimpses of glory happen in stages, only as far God ordains according to divine providence. However, they are not necessary because God might not want us to have any glimpses. He might just want us to be satisfied with our three loaves and two fish, just as Saint Therese. He might not want us to experience the full banquet of His miracles.

Saint John continues, “The soul sees in itself the abundance and greatness and beauty of God.” These words from Saint John puts bones on the flesh of what we read from the second Letter of Saint Peter. He’s expressing the same mystical reality of grace through the redemption of Christ and is really just developing what St. Peter obviously knew!

It’s amazing how much Peter was transformed. The gospels are relentless in showing his weakness. The gospels also reveal the weakness of the patriarchs and the prophets. Scripture shows their weaknesses for the purpose of revealing that our election is based on God’s goodness more than our performance. Our election, and our being loved by God is because of His greatness more than what we can possibly offer Him. In so many countless ways, not only with the words, but also with the events that take place in salvation history, God is expressing to us that he is closest to the lowliest.

Therefore, the writers of scripture spare no pain or make no qualms about showing the weaknesses of the a majority of the patriarchs and some of the prophets in order to glorify God and give us confidence that though we are confronted with our weaknesses, it does not disqualify us from being beloved of the Lord.

In fact, the opposite is true, when we genuinely come to know our weaknesses, our weaknesses, really, are our greatest strength. When Saint Paul complained, ‘Get rid of this thorn on my side. Lord, already, please, for the umpteenth time, get rid of this!’ our Lord responds, ‘My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect through your weakness.’

And Saint Therese, in her genius, expressed the wisdom of St. Paul in a very contemporary way. She helps us realize that our weaknesses are our greatest assets in being transformed in the love of God, more so than our strengths; that makes her, the gospel, and Jesus so much more approachable

Yet we think the opposite because of the way we are hard-wired in our human condition. We look at our strengths and we try to judge ourselves based on those strengths, but our weaknesses are really where our wealth is. The more united we are with our own poverty and woundedness and the more we can begin to love that in the Lord, the more He can enrich us with Himself (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. St. John of the Cross, pray for us.

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross 

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross 1

Ubeda Museum of Saint John of the Cross. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org
Ubeda Museum of Saint John of the Cross. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

The Power of God’s Promise. Peter 1: 3-10

3His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power.4Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. 5For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, 6knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, 7devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. 8 If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 Anyone who lacks them is blind and shortsighted, forgetful of the cleansing of his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble.

That’s the most direct passage from sacred scriptures that refers to what the Church Fathers refer to as the transforming union and deification. According Father Thomas Dubay in The Fire Within, “The human person’s deification in Christ is a testimony to the heart of pure Carmelite doctrine. Moreover, it is the complete reason for the incarnation and the redemption. It is the fulfillment of the divine plan.” Transforming union is the whole goal of why God was incarnate in Christ, why He was crucified on the cross, risen and poured out His spirit. This is the crown of redemption.

Father Dubay says, “Thus, all structures of the Church, priesthoods, curias, chancery offices, books and candles and all else, are aimed at producing this abundance of life, this utter immersion in triune splendor, this transforming union” (197). That’s magnificent.

Also, in the beginning of Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer, Thomas Dubay quotes Pope John Paul II, when he was speaking with the bishops of the world. The pope said ‘as pastors, your primary duty is to lead people into divine intimacy with the most Holy Trinity.’ The pope reminds the bishops that their duties are not just about administration, but about leading people to divine union.

Transforming union is entirely related to our universal call to holiness. In the contemporary Church, those terms are very popular and many have heard of that coined expression. The universal call to holiness is characterized as a radical state of healing and wholeness. Radical healing and wholeness. That is holiness.

Saint John of the Cross is a master at expressing what is meant by radical healing. The author who best communicates Saint John in a contemporary tone, without watering him down, is Father Ian Matthew in The Impact of God, where he refers to the dark night as healing. That’s exactly what it is, and that’s a wonderful approach to understand the dark night appropriately. It is a healing of the soul, just what the doctor ordered. Grant it, the dark night is a tough medicine but it’s always for the sake of this greater life, this greater health, this greater wholeness, which is holiness.

“This ongoing growth process in the grace and truth of Christ is one of continual conversion, which is the ultimate life-long love affair with One whom we know loves us with a love which this world cannot give. The state of total union of which scripture and St. John speak and to which we are all called is simply the crowning of all God’s gifts, the full flowering of the life of grace, the maturation of the life within us, of Christ’s supernatural life, into whom we were baptized.”

That reality of baptism is deepened in the Eucharist. Dr. Owen Cummings, one of the professors at Mount Saint Angel’s seminary said, ‘To receive Jesus Christ, the savior, in the Blessed Sacrament, is to feast on the DNA of God.’ His body, His blood, His soul, and Divinity are his DNA! We share in the whole aspect of His person, fully God and fully human; we share in the inner life of who He is in order to become more like Him (to be continued).

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

(SOURCE: Carmelite Nuns Retreat, 12/2013)  Transforming Union: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross- transcribed by TL

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Gettin’ Out of His Way

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

The Litany of Humility is a great introduction to the ‘nada’ the negation of St. John of the Cross. Why? Because his ascetism is all about desire. It’s not about things and it’s not about people. It’s about what’s inside, and the space that we need to make inside for the savior to reside and thrive. The biggest obstacle to this mystical space, the biggest obstacle to this presence of God, the gift of His presence and His grace is nothing less, and rooted in pride – the false pride of an ego-centered existence.

This Litany goes totally against the grain of our human, automatic, natural need. By nature, especially if we’re looking at the human person simply from an emotional and psychological perspective, we need at times, to feel esteemed. We need to be loved. We need to somehow, some way, feel honored; hence, the birthday parties.

We need, at times, to want to be approved and validated. By nature, we cringe and are afraid of being humiliated. We don’t want to be despised. We don’t like to suffer rebukes. Nobody wants to be calumniated, or feel forgotten. Nobody enjoys being ridiculed, wronged, or suspected. In the prayer, we ask God to give us the grace of not allowing our happiness to be dependent on things, and our well-being to be attached and dependent upon other people.

When my sense of self-worth is dependent on other people, and how they respond to me, and if that’s the center, then my life will always be disordered. There will always be something missing, or upsetting me, or disturbing me, or making me afraid – if my life is dependent and entirely intertwined with how other people respond to my personality. This is a recipe for disappointment.

These fears of humiliation, being despised, and of suffering rebukes are normal, but we ask in the Litany, ‘from the fear of this, deliver me!’ Ultimately, what causes this anxiety is pride. The pride that is rooted in egoism is annihilated when I embrace my nothingness, and my total dependence on God.

‘I am not God, I am not in total control, in full charge of all the ramifications that affect my life. I can’t dictate the consequences and outcomes of how everything is going to be. I’m entirely dependent on someone greater than me. I am not sovereign in and of myself.’ That’s embracing my nothingness. I am a human being. I am not God.

Therefore, when I embrace that nothingness, I embrace my own imperfection. I embrace the fact that I am not perfect, nor can I be perfect based on myself and on my own effort. If I am going to be refined and purified by correction, by my faults being brought to my attention – then that is the truth of who I am! That is the truth of my nothingness, and I have to embrace that truth in order to be set free.

If I try to embrace a fundamental falsehood that ‘I don’t need correction, or I don’t need improvement, or I don’t need anybody to tell me what to do and how to become better,’ then I’m going to be subject to these fears. And I’m still going to be enslaved to myself, a slave to myself!

Saint John of the Cross is trying to set us free from that slavery, from that Egypt. He calls us to an exodus, to escape from our self-centered existence.

In the last part of the prayer, we ask, ‘That others may be loved more than I.’ This gets to the core, the heart of how we normally, naturally, automatically think, feel, and desire – based on nature.

According to a secular, psychological perspective of the human being, this request seems like a total contradiction; it’s a total contradiction to healthy, human development, but it’s the wisdom and the power of the cross. This is the remedy to truly make us fully human.

That others may be loved more than I’ – prepares the way, on a human level, a certain altruism, desiring the good of someone else more than your own good. What a breakthrough that is! What a liberation that is! – to be more concerned with someone else’s good than my own?

That others may be esteemed more than I’ – to rejoice when somebody else is praised and I am totally left unnoticed? The moment of liberty is to truly be able to rejoice from the inside out. When you are truly happy from the core of your being for someone else’s accomplishment without a tinge of jealousy, but celebrating their victory as if it were your own – that’s humility. It’s a beautiful thing. That’s truly living as one, as a community.

That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease.’ In other words, according to the spirit of the world, I have no desire to be popular. If I am no longer esteemed as being ‘with it,’ if I am no longer considered to be hip or whatever might make the personality of an individual attractive to the spirit of the world, then maybe, I’m doing something right – in regards to what is attractive to Christ and with respect to my lifestyle.

‘That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease.’ That is an echo of Saint John the Baptist, a restructuring of John 3:30, ‘That He (Jesus Christ) may increase, and I may decrease.’ One of my favorite lines from Saint Athanasius is ‘If the world goes against the truth, Athanasius goes against the world.’

‘That others may be chosen, and I, set aside.’ – that others may be preferred to me in everything!

Ultimately, the crown of them all, ‘That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as God is calling me to be, provided that I BE-come who I am created to BE.’

That’s true humility because humility always breeds confidence. Embracing my nothingness should always lead to a greater embrace of God’s greatness. The two are interconnected. I’m not dust, left to myself; I’m dust, redeemed by the cross, and therefore, united to God’s greatness.

This is a good introduction to the nada, the right kind of emptiness of Saint John of the Cross. We need to understand the right kind of emptiness and self-denial, as it is called in traditional spirituality.

Copyright  2017 Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All rights reserved

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Gettin’ Out of His Way

 

In The Impact of God, Iain Matthew explains that the proper understanding of emptiness requires a fundamental revision of how we perceive our own roles and our relationship to God. He writes, “our main job is not to construct but to receive; the key word will be not be so much ‘achievement’ as ‘space.’” We must make space for God in order to receive.

Iain Matthews points out that Christian progress means searching for the one who is giving joy to my life, who seems to believe in me, who makes me alive. In using the different images in his poetry, Saint John of the Cross emphasizes that our spiritual lives is not about forging a way, but about our getting out of the way. Iain Matthews writes, “Progress will be measured less by ground covered and more by the amount of room God is given to maneuver.” Therefore, space and emptiness are key words which are synonymous with what Saint John of the Cross means for nada, nada, nada.

We must rid ourselves of expectations that are not in alignment with how God is being present, is being active, is connecting and communicating, and which prevents us from even noticing His activity. He is always there constantly, in one way or another, and sometimes, He is more intensely felt than at other times. Even when He is present and manifesting Himself, but not according to our expectations, or even when we don’t recognize Him in our conscious awareness, we have the choice of celebrating the gift and the grace of that manifestation, rather than allowing ourselves to be taken under the rip roaring rapids of other fixations.

Attachment is primarily about attitude. Where is my heart? What is my heart clinging to? Therefore, it’s not about created things, as much as the desire to hold on to certain things. Those attachments don’t necessarily have to be about material things; it could be about interior attachments.

No thing. God cannot be tied down by created order. He’s not a creature and is not part of his creation but rather, He transcends time, space and even human concepts. Human concepts can point us in the direction of what God has revealed about Himself. Right reason enlightened by faith can point us to a relationship with the true reality of God. But ultimately, that reality of love transcends anything that can be tied down. That reality of love is Somebody who is infinite.

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All Rights Reserved

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Pure Gospel Charism

The battle begins in the mind. How do I relate to the thoughts that come into my head which are subject to all types of influences. More than just what I see and perceive with my senses and physically, we’re also influenced by other things that are alive and going on behind the scenes and are alive spiritually. All of that influences us. Through our senses, we process information which then comes into our soul.

More than what we see physically, we’re influenced by other things going on behind the scenes that are alive spiritually. The struggle gets down to a choice. Who’s side will we be on? Every sin is cloaked in deception. For a person to swallow a lie, it has to be sugar-coated with some kind of truth, a half-truth, just enough to make you bite it, and enough to make you sick.

This is our context of our human condition in a broken world before the beauty of God. The fundamental, essential, and basic step to enter into a relationship with God, is the humility to recognize that we are not God – that we need someone greater than us. This is an epiphany and a revelation.

We must recognize that ‘I need to bend my knee to someone other than me.’

Humility is the door of breakthrough for love. The world doesn’t understand that and the world can disfigure the whole notion of humility to mean that you have to be a doormat, that you have to be a slave, or that you have to be subject to a set of rules. You have to do what they tell you and have blind faith, and all these misconceptions and persecutions.

Before, one of my perspectives was that Christianity was just a crutch for weak people who couldn’t figure it out on their own. But after my own conversion, I came to realize, ‘That’s the spirit of the world speaking which bows to the enemy.’

The enemy wants us to believe that Christianity is for weaklings. If you want to be strong, you don’t need a religion. It’s a waste of time. You’re your own master. Do it your own way. In our common fight of faith, these are just some things we will face.

God reveals Himself and He reveals himself through an evolution of covenants. His love is revealed and unveiled in a way that develops over time. The first covenant is the covenant of creation between Adam and Even. He designs creation so that humanity can be in relationship with Himself. He set things up in paradise in a beautiful manner. It was a sheer gift.

He did so not because he wanted a host of subjects and robots. No, He gave us free will. It was a pure, gracious gift. But then, brokenness came and He promised that there would be healing in this brokenness.

And for this complete gift of Himself, despite all the war and brokenness, we must always, forever — be thankful.

Copyright 2017. Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All rights reserved.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Pure Gospel Charism

A reading from the book of Isaiah 43

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. 2When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. 3For I, the LORD, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. 4Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you.

10You are my witnesses, my servants whom I have chosen, To know and believe in me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none. 11I, I am the LORD; there is no savior but me.

Through the power of God’s word, may His spirit make His presence, that His promise may be accomplished in your life. May the blessing of Almighty God come upon us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Oh sweetest love of God, so little known. Whomever has found this rich mine is at rest.” That is from the Sayings of Light and Love, by Saint John of the Cross. Truly, we are meant to know the love of God from the inside.

Maybe once, we practiced our own religion – perhaps when we became teenagers and we started to think for ourselves,  we went through growing pains, that development process when we were trying to discover our own identity apart from our parents and family.

A normal part of the development of faith as a human being, be you male or female, is that young people will eventually begin to disengage themselves emotionally from their mother, father, and immediate family in order to discover their own individuality and what makes them unique. What they had normally previously assumed, received, and trusted in, starts being called into question. Everything is called into question.

We start to question everything and there’s a distrust of authority, especially religion. We can’t always fully and immediately explain religion with reasons that are at our fingertips. Often, in matters of faith, we have to have faith before we receive understanding.

But the problem is that when we question matters of our faith, we take the position of pride. ‘Unless I understand, I won’t believe. Unless you prove it to me, you won’t have my trust.’

We become aloof, and eventually, little by little, our faith can shrink. An erosion process based on the lack of trust happens. Eventually, we can even become strangers to God, ‘enemies of the cross.’

I also experienced this erosion process and became an enemy of Christ and the cross, but by God’s grace, He called me back to Himself. He calls all of us differently, at different times in our lives, and at different times of our growth. Usually, He will use a crisis to wake us up and to recognize our vulnerability, and need to get down on our knees, to recognize that we’re not all in control and that we are not invincible.

The fundamental first step of any recovery from any addiction or dysfunction requires that one act of humility – ‘I can’t save myself. I can’t cure myself. I need the humility to ask for help.’ This is when breakthrough happens.

However, the way and wisdom of the world says that to be powerful means you are independent and autonomous. You need nothing else besides yourself. That is strength. That is power. That is exactly what the serpent said to Eve in the original garden.

To create distrust, the serpent said, ‘What? God said that? Oh no, let me reframe the situation for you.’ This false perception and perspective was part of the deception to break down trust that would eventually lead to disobedience.

He said, ‘God only said that because He knows that if you eat from the tree, you are going to be like Him. He doesn’t want competition. He wants you to be submissive. But if you eat that fruit, you know what? You’re not even going to need Him anymore. You are your own person. You are your own god.’  That is exactly how we, and most especially the younger generation, are being challenged in our faith.

We are at a war, at war between light and darkness, and our souls are at stake. Our choices make the difference in our destiny. Where does this battle begin? – in the mind, and in our thoughts. If we don’t’ guard our thoughts, our thoughts will become our words. If we don’t guard our words, our words will become our actions. If we don’t guard our actions our actions will become our habits and our character…And our character becomes our destiny. (to be continued)

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All Rights Reserved

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Saint Thérèse the Warrior

Date: January 1889, several days after Thérèse’s clothing. Photo Credit: Fr. Gombault

Father Robert explains Saint Thérèse’s methods of overcoming her temptations  and “natural antipathy” in the context of her community:  “I want to be charitable in my thoughts toward others at all time,” she says, for our thought life is where the battles for our souls begin and play out. He also talks about Saint Thérèse as a warrior in the darkness of her spiritual purgation as she lay dying of tuberculosis.

Click on the triangle to play – Please do not download.

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All Rights Reserved. 

REMINDER OF UPCOMING EVENTS! – We hope that you are able to join the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites of the CA-AZ Province in spirit by keeping these evangelization efforts in your prayers.

November 2-5 2017: OCDS (Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites) Congress in San Antonio, Texas.

Saturday, November 11, 2017: A retreat day offered by the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites of Santa Clara, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. At the Carmelite Monastery 1000 Lincoln Street, Santa Clara, California. Everyone is welcome! For more information and to register, click here

An Encounter with St. Thérèse of Lisieux and her parents, Saints Louis and Zélie Martin  -Three conferences by Maureen O’Riordan of Philadelphia, Pa., curator of “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway

 

Sunday, November 12, 2017: “A Map of the Way of Confidence and Love of St. Thérèse of Lisieux,” 3:00 pm at Mt. St. Josephs Monastery, 12455 Clayton Road, San Jose, California. The conference and question and answer period will end before 5:00 p.m. You are welcome to stay for Evening Prayers and Benediction with the Carmelite Fathers and Seculars. No registration or tickets necessary. Free-will offering welcome.

Audios on the conferences and other talks by Father Robert Barcelos, OCD, Father James Geoghegan, OCD, and Maureen O’Riordan, will soon be available on http://thespeakroom.org/ for purchase.