Father Robert Elias, OCD: Fatherhood

Photo credit: Lorelei Low (Mount Saint Joseph Monastery, San Jose, CA)

This homily or conference was given by Father Robert Elias, OCD at the Carmelite House of Studies in Mount Angel, Oregon as part of a private retreat to friarsin formation during the season of Epiphany 2020.

In this homily, Father Robert Elias reminds us that the bounty of God’s divinity is linked to our frail humanity through the bridge of His merciful love. It is there in our woundedness that we are able to encounter the Father’s Love and experience our epiphany and our path to healing.

Father Robert Elias, OCD
Friars Retreat, Carmelite House of Studies Mount Angel, Oregon. Epiphany 2020

Father Robert Elias, OCD: behold the Beauty of Christ

This homily or conference was given by Father Robert Elias, OCD at the Carmelite House of Studies in Mount Angel, Oregon as part of a private retreat to friars in formation during the season of Epiphany 2020.

In this homily, Father Robert asks, “How has God inspired a fire in your life? What are the lights that have spoken to your understanding and kindled a fire? These are the stars that have lead to our deeper understanding of who God is.”

Father Robert Elias, OCD
Friars Retreat, Carmelite House of Studies Mount Angel, Oregon. Epiphany 2020

Saint John of the Cross, Part II: Father Kevin Joyce

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

Father Kevin Joyce introduces the writings of Saint John of the Cross. He wrote four books, which are commentaries of his poems, where he describes in detail, the spiritual experiences that are possible for people to experience on earth: The Dark Night of the Soul, The Ascent to Mount Carmel, Spiritual Canticles, and The Living Flame of Love.

In these works, Saint John of the Cross explains that our spiritual journey is a process of transformation that takes place in which “the soul becomes God through participation in God, and in God’s attributes.” How is such transformation possible? This is the subject of Father Kevin Joyce’s second conference on Saint John of the Cross.

Source: Day of Recollection, Santa Clara OCDS Infant Jesus Community, September 2019

St. John of the Cross, Part I: Father Kevin Joyce

December 14: The Feast of Saint John of the Cross

Saint John of the Cross, Museum of Saint John of the Cross, Ubeda Spain

In this conference, Father Kevin Joyce explains the influences that brought Saint John of the Cross to his Carmelite vocation. What attracted Saint John of the Cross to the Carmelites was their contemplative spirit, as explained in one passage that touched him deeply: “Part of the Carmelite’s goal, is to taste, somewhat in the heart and to experience in the soul, not only after death, but even in this mortal life, the intensity of the divine presence and the sweetness of the glory of heaven.” This is the vocation of all Carmelites.

SOURCE: September 2019, Day of Recollection, Santa Clara Discalced Carmelite Secular community of the Infant Jesus

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: Christ the King

Image from Creative Commons

SOURCE: The Feast of Christ the King Homily, St. Victor’s Church, San Jose, CA. November 2018)

(Click on the triangle to play)

The Trial before Pilate (John 18:28-38)

28Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was morning. And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.

29So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring [against] this man?” 30They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”

31At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews answered him, “We do not have the right to execute anyone,” 32*in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled that he said indicating the kind of death he would die.

33So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” 35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”

36Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”

37So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him.

Today we celebrate a King – not a czar or a political figure – but a King who’s status ranks second to none. To this king belongs the primacy and priority. Another way of understanding a king is a champion, a chief, a master.

As we celebrate the King of the universe, the question for us, is ‘Are you down with the King? Are you willing to lay your life down for Him, as He has laid His life down for you?

Christ the King desires to reign not only in nations, but also in our hearts. His rule is redemption. He restores all things of who I am and who I am meant to be, and I say that speaking for everybody. As soon as I surrender my life to His, He starts to write straight on crooked lines. He begins to turn my wrongs into right. He desires to reign in our hearts for our sakes, and not for His own, so that He can liberate us from all that can shackle our capacity for happiness.

What shackles our capacity for happiness more  than anything else? — sin and death – but He also came to liberate us from everything in between. For example, fear in all its forms – the fear of death, or even fear as a sole motive of obedience to God. He wants to set us free even of fear of the Lord if that’s the only motive of why we believe.

For He came that we might be free, so that our obedience can come from a place of freedom and love. In calling us to be free, He is calling us to victory. Our identity as believers in Christ is victory; therefore, we are not called to be victims of anybody or anything – not of our past or of our past choices or decisions. Nothing is capable of limiting us but our own selves.

God’s victory is vast and He has a vast vista, a broad horizon for who we are and what we’re capable of. We’re not to be victims of the past, of persecution, of oppression, or of abuse; we are not to be victims of pain because victory is our birthright and He is the King.

As the Psalms says, ‘His throne stands firm.’ Jesus is still seated on His throne no matter how bad things get; no matter how ugly things get in the world, in the Church or in your personal lives, Jesus’ throne stands firm. He’s still in control, He’s still in charge, and He’s still the chief. He is still writing straight out of crooked lines, bringing good out of everything.

His dominion is everlasting – definitive and indestructible. No one has more authority than Him in the whole universe. How did this King, our King accomplish this victory? – by Himself becoming a victim, out of empathy for our battle, and for the fight that we have to fight in order to be saved.

The victor became a victim. And how did He win this victory? In the second reading, it says ‘to Him who loves us and freed us’ – that’s how we won the victory – by His love. His love is the power that allowed Him to obtain the victory on our behalf. It was love that gave Him the strength and courage to lay down His life for our sake in order to lift us up; He lay down His life to give us the victory that we could never accomplish by our own strength.

He won the victory by His blood and by the sacrifice of His life on the cross. He who was pierced allowed His heart to be broken; He allowed His heart to be pierced in order to open up paradise for us through the forgiveness of our sins and the restoring of our lives.

He who was pierced became the victor. In the Book of Revelations, He says, ‘I am the beginning and the end of all time. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is, who was, and who is to come, to Him be glory and power forever and ever.’

Photo credit: The Speakroom

He is the source and summit of everything and everything in between. All life revolves around Him – not us. He is the center of the universe – not me.

The wisest thing we can ever do is to give our lives to worship Him. That’s wisdom, because by worshiping Him, be become united to Him whom we love, and when we’re united to Him whom we love, we’re united to all that belongs to Him. And His life is victory. It is eternal and indestructible.

That’s not simply a hope for our future, like fire insurance or a back-up plan, it is a victory and reality of love; we’re meant to know the power of His love working in our life today, in our concrete circumstances and situation. In whatever challenges you may experience, the presence of Jesus and His victory is taking action, and taking flesh in your particular situation and in the context of your relationships.

Being united and being children of the King means that our blood is royalty. It means we have birthrights to His blessing. We share in His authority.

When we pray, we have the power to pray in the Spirit, to declare His promises over our lives, and to claim His victory in advance in the midst of the trial; knowing that if we trust, the Lord is going to transform this trial into a triumph. I don’t know how He’s going to do it, but I know He is. We can possess that kind of confidence when we belong to the King because the victory has been won and it just has to be daily reinforced in you and me.

We heard about His majesty prophesied in the first reading from Daniel, centuries before Christ even came to the world. It was prefigured. And in the gospel, Jesus says, ‘For this I was born, and for this, I came into the world to testify to the truth,’ – a truth that is not of this world, a truth that is greater than common sense or natural wisdom, a truth that sometimes might contradict what you might expect, a truth that will really set you free, more than anything or anybody could or can.

This truth will set us free from slavery from a lesser self and a lesser way of living; this truth is not a something but a Somebody, and is all centered in the person of Jesus, the King of the Universe.

Jesus says, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ It’s not political but spiritual; not temporal but eternal. Everything belongs to Him, both seen and unseen – in our physical body, on our health, the health of the planet, and all the cosmos. Everything is in His hands.

Therefore, our destiny is not limited to this world. It’s but the training ground and platform. Sometimes, this place where we must work out our salvation can be a battlefield. But Jesus says ‘I am not of this world’ and we too, if we really belong to Jesus, we also have to say, ‘I am not of this world. I belong to the truth. I belong to Somebody who loves me and who has given His life for me.

His victory is my identity; it is my birthright as a believer in Christ. I am called today to share in the victory of Jesus as King and even if we don’t literally win at everything, which is very possible, even if we don’t always win, as long as we learn and rise up – that’s where strength is found. That’s where true victory lies – in the cross.

Jesus referred to that cross as His glory yet it is seen to be far from glory for those who are worldly-wise. And yet He refers to that cross as His glory because it is the means for His resurrection, the means of His victory.

So too is every struggle and cross in our lives, every sacrifice of obedience of God’s law and will, even when it hurts to love in the way we are supposed and are meant to; it’s in the pain that we find the cross that is life-giving. And it’s by the cross that we shall be crowned.

No cross, no crown. Where there is the cross, there will be the resurrection. Jesus desires and He died so that He could crown our lives with His glory – so that His cross may be our anchor.

Are you down with the King? The choice is up to each of us whether or not we are willing to lay down our life in love, for Him who laid down His life for ours.

O lavish Giver of light, You alone are the fullness of life. Teach us to relearn how to listen, so as to be filled with the love of Your wisdom, and abide in the beauty of truth & holiness. Our heart of hearts is the Holy of Holies of Your dwelling, Lord God of Hosts. Enrich us in hope and in the power of the Holy Spirit’s Effervescence. May his blazing radiance take possession of our hearts, now and forever. Amen.

New Podcast Episode: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Photo Credit: The Speakroom (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Philippines)

New on The Mystical Life podcast, in honor of today’s Feast Day for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Father Robert Elias Barcellos, OCD, explains the role of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the life of the Carmelite order.

You can listen to this episode below, or subscribe on iTunes (and on Apple Podcasts) or iHeartRadio or your other favorite podcast app.

Welcome to “The Mystical Life”

Welcome and SUBSCRIBE to our new podcast called “The Mystical Life.” We’ve just launched a new way for you to take Carmelite spirituality and teaching with you on the road.

In our first podcast, Father Robert Elias Barcelos explains that true holiness and joy come from abiding and sharing in perfect Love, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as exemplified by Saint John of the Cross

You can listen online here, or just search for “The Mystical Life” on the Apple Podcasts app or iTunes, and you’ll see this image:

When you subscribe to the podcast, you’ll automatically get all new episodes as we create them.

Brother John Mark Charlesworth, OCD: The Holy Trinity

The Sea of Galilee, Photo credit: Miriam Lopez
Click on the triangle to listen to Brother John Mark, OCD sing his composition of a song about The Holy Trinity

NOTE: Brother John Mark is a friar at Mount Saint Josephs Monastery in San Jose, California. One of his many hobbies is writing poetical lyrics and transposing them onto well-known Catholic tunes.

What love henceforth comes from my heart,
To Thee my God, as One yet Three,
But how can I in Thee take part?
By what Each One does lovingly.

I thank Thee Father for Thy love,
For deigning I, created be,
Sustaining too, that high above,
I someday love eternally.

For sharing now with love Thyself,
For gift of faith, for Church of Thine,
And all relations, vows, and health,
As all’s by Providence, Divine.

I thank Thee Jesus, loving so,
For Incarnation, life on Earth,
Thy granting grace, that love may grow,
For Passion having endless worth.

For Sacraments, such gifts, sublime,
And by them, grace throughout my days,
For Mary, being Mother, mine,
Enkindling love with loving gaze.

I thank Thee, Spirit, Love, Divine,
For love enflaming deep within,
That I may love with love of Thine,
As Heaven, here below, begins,

For having one so weak proclaim,
No matter what, deep love and praise,
For having love change all to gain,
As in Thy hands, I’m all my days.

O Trinity, with love of Thine,
Art reaching deep within to me
Thy very Self, Thy Love Divine,
I love unto eternity! Amen.

Father Robert Elias, OCD: ‘Do you love me?’

Click on triangle to play. SOURCE: Santa Clara OCDS Friar’s Conference, May 2019.
Father Robert Elias, OCD

NOTE: I am reposting this to include the audio. All posts on The Speakroom in June will come from previous posts. Our team needs this month to work on back-end projects like developing more social media presence through Instagram, Facebook, Podcasts, and products on Shopify.

JOHN 21: 1-19

At that time, Jesus revealed himself to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.

Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish.This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

by John August Swanson

One of the most popular books in the past is The Five Languages, a book about how people by their character, communicate love.  Most of us are better at one or two rather than all.  The languages are

  • Words of Affirmation – People who speak words of life in their ordinary life, are able to see the Lord in the other person; they can acknowledge a person’s beauty and purpose, and draw it out of them. They validate a person’s sense of being lovable; this gift is not that common
  • Touch – Giving expressions of love through embrace and touch
  • Actions – Giving through works of devotion & service; this gift is usually found in men (as in household repairs). Doing something that is helpful.
  • Gift giving – The ability to find and give gifts that expresses the essence of a person
  • Quality Time –Spending important time together.  Even though it doesn’t feel like we’re doing something productive, I’m here for you.

The gift of Quality Time is the lens through which we must understand prayer and contemplation – being with God.

In today’s Gospel Jesus asks Peter the most important question – Do you love me? The first two times he asks, Jesus says, in the Greek translation, “Do you agape me?”  He was asking Peter to go to the next level of living in His love.  Agape is that self-sacrificing, self-annihilating love.  It is a radical, divine love that we’re all capable of –but it requires stripping.  It is the white, hot love that is divine and eternal, yet it happens now.

Agape love is summarized in John 15, ‘That you lay down your life for the one you love.’  There has to be a sacrifice, a holocaust and cost to self for the other. As a result, the gift of self is amplified.

Our Lord asks this important question, ‘Do you love me?’ –  to Peter, who is being put on the spot in front of his friends by the charcoal fire. And he is being humbled by it that he may learn the lessons of humility in order for him to truly love. 

The last time Peter was at charcoal fire, he denied having known our Lord, when he had just earlier in the day, sworn that he would do anything for Him.  Peter’s disordered self-love prepared the way for his fall, though he really did love Jesus.   He really did love the Lord, but Peter was fearful. 

Peter reveals that fight between flesh and spirit in every human being, the weakness of humanity left to ourselves apart from the grace of God.  Left to ourselves, we’re no better; like Peter, our real character and virtues are seen in positions of adversities.

But Peter was transformed after his own experience of cowardice and weakness apart from Our Lord. We have to have a true sense of who we are apart from God so that pride can’t get in the way of real love –humility allows our soul to be better cultivated for a lasting fruit of Love that doesn’t come just from human motive, but from God.

In this exchange, Jesus calls Peter Simon, Son of John. Why?  Peter represents rock; Simon represents sand.  Peter is the title he had been endowed with by Christ-  ‘the boss in charge,’  ‘the head hancho.’  Jesus doesn’t call him by his title but by his humanity. He calls him by his old name, by which those who knew him as a child knew him, and reminds Peter who he is left to himself.

Jesus wants to speak to the child, the vulnerable in Peter because He wants to bring strength in his weakness.  He is bringing him back to Galilee, his first calling and first love.   As you remember, Jesus called Peter first as he was fishing.  Now, He is renewing Peter’s calling at a time when Peter was about to give up his vocation, and just wants to go back and continue fishing.

Jesus asks ‘Do you love me’ three times to make reparation for the three times Peter denied him.  In so doing, He gives Peter the chance to renew his calling and to repair his vocation to Love.  Now, Peter learns the humility and has the proper foundations to be a servant of Love.

In the Greek translation, Peter does not respond with the agape word for love, but with the word, eros, which is a friendship love.  Before, when he overestimated himself, he could say that he could give Jesus the agape love.  But now, after having been humbled, he is finally acknowledging and can admit that he can’t love Jesus in the way Jesus has loved him. 

The third time, Jesus asks the question, He says, ‘Do you eros me,’ and that is when Peter is able to say, ‘Yes, Lord.’  This shows us that Jesus accepts us as we are and not as we should be.  The Lord knew that Peter had no more to give and wasn’t ready to give an agape love, but He still appointed him to be the leader and shepherd of His Church.

Jesus accepts us as long as we are giving all that we can give, and it is His Love that allows as to grow in Love.  According to Saints John of the Cross and Teresa, we are unable to give that agape love until the 5th mansion, which is where the Holy Spirit is doing all the work.  We can’t get to agape love without the Holy Spirit.  

But before that, God has to purify us, and we have to be willing to undergo the painful, humiliating journey.

Eventually, at Pentecost, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, after he had been purified, Peter is able to love with the agape love.  After Pentecost, Peter is able to rejoice that he was counted worthy to suffer insult for the sake of Jesus’ name.  Only the agape love of the Holy Spirit was able to bring this about in Peter and can bring it about in us.

Jesus’s love is so profoundly and scandalously humble. In the Book of Revelations, we see the lamb being glorified and exalted. Why not the eagle or the lion?  The lamb is the sacrificial animal, which represents the sacrifice of Love. The Most High became the most low for our sake.  He didn’t need to do it; God doesn’t need anything. But He did it all for us.  He says, ‘I am giving my life – for those whom I love.’

The whole universe exalts in the victory of the Lamb.

From the shore of Galilee, Jesus asks the disciples to put the net on the right side of the boat. The moment Peter obeyed, he received a super abundance of grace.

Peter had to be stripped and emptied, which is represented by his ‘stripped’ clothing during this account, when he tucks his garments and swims toward Jesus after recognizing Him. Similarly, once we choose God’s will over ours, and strip ourselves, that is when we really begin to live a more abundant life, through the Lord’s provision and not what we do ourselves. 

At first the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus, which represents a spiritual journey that involves a dynamism of awareness and mystery.  They only realized who he was at the breaking of the bread and at the feeding of fish, and when He acknowledges that He will feed them with that agape love.

The humility of God is so radical. When St. Augustine had not yet discovered God in his life, when he was seeking truths in the wisdom of the day and all its eloquence, he was at first disappointed by Scripture; it was too simple and lacked the language of the sages he studied.  However, as he grew in faith, he discovered the hidden wisdom of Christ that exuded from scripture. 

That is how God always works – he chooses the humble instruments to hide His grace. Only the humble can find the hidden treasure.

In Eastern iconography, the paintings are stark, but they are a bridge to prayer. Only when a person enters into the simplicity of the image in prayer, can they experience God’s grace and beauty in the icon.  Only through prayer can that be received.

And there’s nothing more humble than the Eucharist, which is where we receive God’s agape love.  He calls all of us to be his lambs and to live a life of Love.  He trains us through a life that is nourished by sacrifice; this is the action of God’s movement in us. 

The measure by which we unite ourselves with the light of Love through The Lamb, and the transformation of love in this life, is the measure that we will we share in His blessing forever and ever.

SOURCE: Santa Clara Order of Discalced Carmelite Seculars (OCDS) Formation, Father Robert Elias Barcelos, May 2019

Father Robert Elias, OCD: at the Holy Sepulcher

A loose transcription of the Homily is below:

The Word, Jesus Christ, penetrates this great mystery of mysteries in being welcomed and privileged to enter into the Holy of Holies, the innermost dwelling place, God’s sacred heart.  God so loved the world that He revealed to us this Holy of Holies of who He most deeply is.   This is best expressed, and imparted through His Son. God the Father, the eternal, I am who am, Adonai, Eloahim, El Shadai – communicates His love, divine affection and identity in His Word made flesh.

And His Word, God’s self-understanding and knowledge of Himself, is given to us out of love, in His Son, who was born into the world. The Creator entered into His own creation to give His life through the cross. This was the impetus, the pulling of Jesus’ life; He was magnetically pulled to Jerusalem the whole thirty-three years of His life. He came into the world to die because His death would be the greatest life this world would ever see, and it would be life-giving; it would destroy death and the obstacles to being made in God’s image and likeness.

Every human being – whether they believe in God or not, whether they know Jesus or not, whether they are Christian or not – have been built in the image and likeness of God , and are built with an innate potential to know and love God. This potential – for which we are all made – for everlasting happiness through a knowledge of God and His truth is tapped into in an unprecedented way in Jesus Christ. God’s love is given to us in a universal, unrepeatable manner in Yeshua, the Messiah, the Anointed One.

In Christ’s baptism, God the Father declared to His Son, ‘This is my beloved.’ This is the one I want to give you to know Me. Because no one can come to the Father except through the Son. And there’s only one mediator, one bridge between heaven and earth, and His name is Jesus of Nazareth. There is no other name under heaven by which we shall be saved than by the name of Jesus.

This is God’s greatest self-communication out of compassion – the full revelation, the full splendor, the full beauty of His truth is revealed in Jesus and His Holy Face. We cannot look upon the face of God in all its glory and majesty apart from Yeshua.And when we meditate on the cross of Jesus – this greatest sermon of the Prophet above all prophets; who shares in the divine being and nature of the Father, Jesus the only begotten Son of the Father;  whose whole life is perfectly revealed on the cross, the capstone of His sacred humanity – we see the whole mission of Jesus.

Remember, He lived thirty years hidden and in obscurity, and only three years in public ministry. We can never for a moment dare to think that those thirty years were not important, even though they were obscure, hidden, and unknown. Though he wasn’t manifesting publicly, those hidden years are utterly important because by His very love, He was redeeming the world. 

His hidden years remind us that our hidden life – every sacrifice we make; every ‘No’ we say to sin in the secrecy of our thoughts and the allurements to the world in the desires of our hearts; every ‘No’ that we make to Satan in fighting temptations in our spiritual battles, seen to no one else but the eyes of God – are all very important for our salvation, and what it means to live by the Spirit of Jesus and not by the flesh. The hidden battles are all very, very important to work out our salvation and to allow our faith to be built up by love. 

And what is love? It isn’t about our feelings, but our choices.  ‘Even though I don’t feel Jesus, I choose Jesus.’  That’s love. ‘At whatever cost to myself, I choose You, Jesus, even when I don’t understand – be it done unto me as the Lord wills ; not my will but Thy will be done.’ That’s salvation working itself out. That’s the Holy Spirit coming to new birth in you by your being crucified with Christ.

Why do we meditate on the Passion? -to inspire love and courage to say ‘No!” to the world, the flesh, and to Satan.  And ‘Yes!” to Jesus; to inspire the determination to persevere until the end, – as a believer, a disciple, and a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. 

That is not easy. It will require spiritual warfare, a war against my flesh, against secular mentalities that are opposed to the Lord, a war against Satan’s cunning and snares, and who will try and keep me from being wholly united to Christ for the glory of God.

As Christian Catholics, we meditate on the Passion so that we can grow in the love beyond all telling – to love even though it hurts, to see our crosses, our inconveniences, our discomforts, our contradictions, our unknowing, our mysteries, our afflictions – to unite all that to Jesus in order to receive a proper redemptive perspective, a resurrected vision to everything we have to go through to get to heaven.

We meditate on the Passion to know that the victory is ours. No matter what you go through, it will grow you.  The victory belongs to us.  God will bring good out of everything and we need to be reminded of this because we are all prone to discouragement.

Your human nature is no different from mine. My human nature is no different than yours.  Our human nature is no different from any of the saints whom we honor because they help us give greater glory to God. We’re all in the same boat – we are all sinners.

But as Christian Catholics, we are all beggars and we know where the bread is. It is in the Word of God and the Word of God made flesh in the Blessed Sacrament: as true presence and not symbol; as a bringing back to life again the sacred mysteries of Jesus;  as an extension of the incarnation;  as a feasting of victory; as an entering into – now – who we shall be with God for all eternity.

We are here, in a modest chapel that is meant to represent coming out of the tomb because though Jesus is on the cross in our churches to symbolically remind us of the love and price of our salvation, and to inspire us to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, we know that in heaven, Jesus is no longer on the cross.

The Holy Sepulcher: the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection.
Photo credit: Lorelei Low, ocds (Jerusalem, 2018)

Jesus is risen! He is resurrected! He is victorious!  And He already prepares a mansion and dwelling place for us to share in this victory – and we are all called to share in His victory of love over evil, of life over darkness.

Where does that battle start? It starts in my thinking and my attitude – I must convert my attitude and my way of thinking. Then the conversion must go to my speaking, my words. I must live in the light of God’s love, His truth, and His grace. The whole battle begins in my thoughts and is in the mind.

Our thoughts are formed by our past experiences, relationships, and emotions.  I must claim the victory of Jesus’ resurrection and the significance of that resurrection for me as His child and beloved friend. 

I must allow the significance of the resurrection to change and transform me in my identity. I’m still moody, I can still get depressed, I can still get nervous and anxious.  We all do! We’re all on the same boat. We all have the same flesh. If you hit me, I am going to bruise and bleed just like anybody else.

But we use the truths in Jesus as a weapon of strength to be transformed by the renewal of our mind, to know God’s will in what is true, good, and beautiful, and to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice of praise to His glory.  This is how we live by the Spirit.

If we don’t start with our thoughts and our words, it will be very hard to control our choices and actions.  We will be guided by our impulses.  The battle and the victory all starts in the mind, which connects to the heart.

Today, we give our hearts to Jesus, that He may bring about a resurrection now.  To be a Catholic Christian in Christ means that Jesus’ resurrection has impacted my life personally. Jesus is real to me.  He is not just a historical figure, or an image or statue in my house; He is a living being, a living savior in my heart and soul. The resurrection has given me new birth.

I am still weak, I still have faults, and I still make mistakes – but my savior is with me, and I know in whom I place my trust. And nothing is impossible for His mercy.

His mercy will accompany me.