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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Palm Sunday, often known as Passion Sunday, is the beginning
of Holy Week. It is when our Blessed
Lord entered into Jerusalem in triumph. It was a foretaste, a prefiguring of His
victory of the resurrection. But He knew
that the same people who were praising and celebrating Him would turn their
backs on Him, totally backstab Him, and cry out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
We as the body of Christ who love Jesus, in reading that
long gospel on Palm Sunday, and in taking the parts of the people – it hurts us to have to say those words.
During Holy Week, we are called to enter into one, the reality of His Divine Mercy and
two – into our responsibility to
enter into this grace; recognizing that because of our human woundedness, when
we fail in charity and true love for others, as our expression of true love of
God -–, we too are subconsciously crying out ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!”
This understanding calls us to conversion, to allow Jesus to
give us heart surgery, that He may take out what is not of His Spirit and put
in what is. Holy Week is calling us to enter into the holiness of God’s heart
as perfectly revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.
It’s so hard for most people, who aren’t brought up in the faith, who don’t yet know Jesus as Lord and God -Man, to recognize that Jesus is more than just a teacher, an important religious figure, a spiritual hero, a holy man, a western version of the Buddha, a prophet – or any representation of Him. He is more than Muhammad; He is more than Elijah.
It takes the grace of the Holy Spirit through the enlightenment
of the Father to recognize that Jesus, as Hebrews Chapter 1 says, is the perfect
image of God’s divine being, the
refulgence of His glory in human form.
Colossians, Chapter 1, says that the whole universe came into existence and being through God’s Beloved Son, His Eternal Word. That revelation recognizes that everything came into being, and received its life through the Divine Word of God’s only-begotten son. In His self-communication, He came in as the second person of the Blessed Trinity and He would become incarnate, taking on the name Yeshua – Yahweh saves; Immanuel -the Divine Reality of God in our midst.
It takes the grace of God to recognize that Jesus is more
than just an awesome human being.
When we enter into Holy Week, in order for it to have its full impact, we must come with this understanding as the basis of our faith. But then there’s a second part. We must not only recognize Jesus as Lord, but recognize that He is Lord now, today.
He is present now in the celebration of the sacred mysteries through the Divine Liturgy, through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, through the Mass – Missa – the Mission of God – the communication of God. God is bringing back to life, today, here and now, the reality of who He is and what He did once and for all.
Who He is and what He did in embracing all of us on the
cross and lifting all of us personally through the resurrection – is being made
present, real, and alive again. It is
being given again as if we were Jesus’ contemporaries.
How is this happening? This is the Theology of the Sacraments, the Theology of
Mysticism – the mystery of Christ in our midst.
We’re called to enter into this mystery of God embracing us through
Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
When we celebrate Passion Sunday, when we celebrate Holy
Thursday, the continuation of Jesus’ priesthood through His ministers, the
institution of the Blessed Sacrament, His Divine Presence in the Eucharist;
when we celebrate Good Friday, His life-giving death – that death may not be
the end of the story, but the transition of our story to our total destiny; when
we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, especially during the Easter Vigil,
when it is celebrated with reverence – all of these aspects of the Liturgy is
Jesus bringing back to life again, the most sacred mystery that ever happened
on this planet.
God wants that most sacred gift of Himself to be our
possession. He wants to possess us through the Holy Spirit.
The Theology of the Sacraments teaches that God’s sacred gift
happens, not in a physical or literal way. Jesus isn’t suffering or being
crucified again. The spiritual significance of what he did, is being given to
us, through the grace of the Holy Spirit by way of signs – every thing that we
use physically and materially to express the mystery.
For instance, in the sacrament of Baptism we use water; in
the Eucharist, we use bread and wine, at the Easter Vigil, we use candles; we
have chrism oils. All of these are signs
that point to the perfect reality that God is giving Himself to us and through
these signs, God gives us the actual grace – the Holy Spirit. He manifests Himself.
Baptism is such a simple sacrament. The ideal method is
immersion, because it expresses our immersion into the life of God. But even
with just the sprinkling of a few drops of water, the same reality
happens. It is totally invisible to our
senses. We don’t see the transformation,
but in the essence of that person’s soul, a metamorphosis takes place. The Word is made flesh. Through faith, we
receive this grace, though our senses don’t perceive it.
Another understanding of entering Holy Week to worship God
in spirit and in truth is that we receive from the Liturgy what we put in it
through faith. In the measure that we have an understanding and knowledge of
what is happening intellectually or intuitively, our heart’s faith is fueled to
enter into the mystery that we may allow ourselves to be loved by Jesus here
The measure of our understanding allows Him to take
possession of our lives, and to have His mystery be enfleshed in our lives; it allows
His cross and resurrection to transform our lives in the way that the cross is
How is the cross present in your life?
It is already there.
You don’t’ have to look for one. It’s in your son who doesn’t go to
church, who gives you a hard time, and pushes you to witness to your faith by
your actions rather than by your words – more than by your nagging him to go to
Church. It’s in your daughter who is
sick with illness like cancer. It’s in
your husband who, when you get home, is just asleep on the couch; but your dog
gives you more joy than your husband does!
It’s there in countless ways when your heart, which is made
for love, is disappointed.
It’s there in every way that your love is challenged. It’s there every way you experience your own
brokenness and limitation and inability to love with freedom. The cross is everywhere.
The question is, what do we do with it?
Do we dismiss it as an inconvenience and a contradiction? As
a nuisance and a curse? Or do we embrace it and accept it as a blessing in
disguise? Do we accept it as the wisdom and power of God? As a promise to
something better, as a potential that can teach us something and ignite passion
in our hearts?
The cross is already there.
How we embrace the cross will make the difference in how
beautiful our crown will be. You can
have a little itty-bitty crown – if you want a little cross. If you want a big
crown, you need a big cross. Simple as
that. The bigger your cross, the bigger
The more you concretely participate in the sacrifice of
Jesus through your choices, the more you will share in His victorious glory. The choice is ours. May He strengthen us to
have courage. May he strengthen us to
have the faith to persevere. May he strengthen us to become saints.
SOURCE: Lent 2019 Formation Conference for Carmelite Novices & Postulants by Father Robert Elias, OCD. Mount Saint Josephs Monastery, San Jose, CA
(Below is a loose transcription of the audio)
The spirit of prophesy is embedded in Carmel’s identity. It is the breath of Carmel in the Holy Spirit. Elijah is the greatest prophet of the Hebrew Scriptures and he embodies for us what the life of a prophet looks like at its greatest. It takes on different forms and we all have a different calling to a spirit of prophesy in Carmel..
As our spiritual father, and as Edith Stein says in a short
article on Carmelite spirituality, the presence of Elijah as our spiritual
father is not some type of legend or myth.
He isn’t simply a historical figure of our imagination. He’s a real
presence and communication of Christ’s grace that is personal and relatable.
Elijahis capable of befriending and fathering us in Carmel;
much like a more modern and contemporary saint like Padre Pio, who is more
relatable, is acknowledged today by many as a spiritual father. Elijah is just as much as real as a saint and
father to us. But this understanding is harder for us in the Western Church to
acknowledge than those in the Eastern Church.
The spirit of prophesy has always intrigued me. My first
personal introduction to the vocation of the prophet before I came to know Jesus
Christ as Lord is through the book The Prophet written by Kahlil Gibran,
who was a Lebanese poet and artist, probably of Maronite Christian descent.
This understanding of prophet has remained a vital part of my soul’s quest for
union with God.
What does it mean to be a prophet?
Throughout scripture from Genesis to Apocalypse, we see a
spirit of prophesy. The spirit of prophesy is very much part of the
Judea-Christian tradition. When we look at comparative mysticism in other
religious, in the eastern mystical religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism, their understanding
does not have a prophetic tradition in the way we do in the Judeo Christian
understanding, with Elijah as our model.
In the Old Testament, Moses prayed that his spirit of
prophesy would be bestowed on the 72 elders, when his father-in-law said that
he needed to delegate his duties and to pray that what God had given him would
be given to others. Because only a
person that has a spirit of prophesy can give the spirit of prophesy. You can’t give what you don’t have.
But what did he give them? It says in scripture that ‘The
spirit came upon them and they prophesied.’
What did that mean? That question has always been a
curiosity that has led me to a quest in finding this treasure.
The Wisdom literature describes a prophet as an intimate
friend of God, someone who has a personal experience, and direct contact with
the living, transcendent God, and who has a heart knowledge of this Divine Being.
And as a result of this friendship, they are called, often reluctantly, to
communicate to a people who are deaf and not listening.
The relationship first involves contemplative prayer, which
is then shared. The prophet bears the burden ofdivine mercy, according to Thomas Merton. You’ve experienced a
cutting of your heart and now that you’ve allowed this healing, God asks that
you communicate this same grace to others.
But here’s the catch.
They may kill you as a result because they are blinded by the sin like
the prodigal son. You have the responsibility now that you know God intimately,
to communicate a truth, which will be an inconvenience and a controversy to the
people. That’s the burden of divine
mercy. That’s one of the vocations of
the prophet of Carmel.
One of the great wisdoms of Eastern Christian mysticism,
teaches that a lay person can have a spirit of prophesy more than a priest – neumaticos – a person anointed with the
Spirit to pray with power. ‘This power is not human eloquence or wisdom,’ as
St. Paul says. St. James in the fifth
chapter of his letter, says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful
indeed and he says, ‘remember Elijah who by his very words called fire upon
heaven to consume the idolatrous offerings’
The power of prayer can only be inspired by God. St. Paul
says in Romans 8 that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and those who pray by
the power of the Holy Spirit, pray by the anointing of God. This praying with power is what Jesus calls
But we first have to believe in the power of God’s word, and
that faith will empower us by the Holy Spirit, having penetrated and changed
our lives by the renewal of our mind with truths that are not of this world.
The prophet isn’t zealous for the law in of itself. The prophet is zealous for the spirit of the
law. The prophet has the wisdom,
insight, and spiritual vision to see the presence of God and what His will is
in different situations, and desires His will.
St. John of the Cross is the best example of someone with
the evangelical spirit of prophesy. The
prophet is not a legalist or a Pharisee. St. John says that there is no cookie
cutter, sound byte that will fit every soul. Every soul is unique and you have to be open
to the mystery of how God is working in each person.
That doesn’t mean relativism, but that God’s spirit is
incarnate in people uniquely and is given as gift in each soul in the order of their
ability to understand. The spirit of prophesy
is not based on externals or obsessed with accidentals; it is not pharisaical, but it longs for the essence, the pure spring.
The Carmelite Rule mentions the Spring of Elijah – the
spring of the Holy Spirit by which we are able to enter into the gift of God as I a who Am – Love. The spirit of
prophesy is that of simplicity,
humility, and purity of heart to be able t o realize with Easter eyes, the true
presence of Jesus – in His essence, in the Holy Spirit.
For example, Carmel’s cry in the wilderness, it’s longing
can be expressed in the two words – ‘God
Alone.’ These wordsexpress a
heart knowledge of God as the ground of life, as I am who Am, as the absolute Absolute. And the one thing necessary is to love Love
with all one’s life. Everything else is a distant second to that.
Carmel finds this pure love in silence – in the nada – that holy nothingness of entering
into communion with God that is beyond anything that can limit His gift of Himself
to us – the transcendent God.
To enter into a pure gift of God’s love is to pray with
power, with the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Holy of Holies. Only the Holy
Spirit can bring us to that place, that Holy of Holies.
An interior life with God is the essence of the spirit of prophesy.
It means Faith in the power of prayer,
confidence in god’s faithfulness, and taking Him and his promises at His word. He does not abandon his children. He does not
divorce his bride.
The prophet proclaims God as divine mercy, not as laws. He’s
not fixating in anything but God alone. Our religion isn’t a matter of a list
of rules. The rules are indispensable, especially Jesus’ commandment to love
God and to love your neighbor – but these rules are for divine communion.
At the same time,
when the prophet sees commandments desecrated in culture, the prophet is called
by God to awaken people’s consciences to something that God sees as important
about our humanity and our moral life.
This is why many prophets are martyrs. One author said, ‘The purpose of life is to
love with your whole being and might. And if you do it, they’ll kill you.’ Even though we are made to know and love God,
those who actually communicate this love – the saints- will have to suffer for
it. Jesus Christ is the ultimate
A prophet is called to witness to God’s mighty love.
Transformation in this divine love is the ultimate longing of the prophet and
the heart of Carmel. This grace possesses two wings– silence and solitude. That
is how we are called to live the Carmelite Mystical and Prophetic charisms.
The Mystical expresses the gift of God – the Prophetic
aspect expresses the responsibility – the demands this love makes so that we
can become who we are in Christ. Love is
a gift and a responsibility. It’s not easy. It requires true death to the ego
As members of Carmel, we are descendants and heirs of
prophets. Saint Elijah, our father, stands as a bedrock; he is our
source of inspiration as he burns with zeal for God’s glory. As Catholics we
don’t question that idea as a Protestant would.
When Protestants hear that anyone other than Jesus is a
source of inspiration, it’s taken as idolatry. But for Catholics, we see Elijah
as Jesus in miniature. Jesus is the new Elijah – His ministry and miracles are
a perfection of what God did in Elijah. The saints are an echo of Christ, an
extension of Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit to us.
As Carmelites, we celebrate people like Elijah because he
exudes Jesus to us and embodies Him. We
praise God for friends in these places.
Elijah means ‘My Lord is God’ – his name describes his identity and
essence. God is the substance, not the substitute – of his life.
Luther venerated Mary very much, but the rationale behind
the protest of the Protestants was that many uneducated Catholics would make
the saints the substance of their lives and not Jesus – and yes that was
idolatry. To make anyone the substance of one’s life is a substitute. We’re called to make God alone as the substance, the center of our lives, and we are not
to give that holy of holies to anyone else.
The prophet is called to cast out the false god in people’s
lives, and to break the chains of attachments that enslaves us to a lesser
self. And the truth is the sword by
which chains are broken in Jesus’s name.
The truth unmasks the lie and imparts the faith that allows God to work
the miracle of freedom in our lives.
This is the teaching of Saint John of the Cross, a contemplative way
that sets us free from our attachments. And like Jesus he didn’t despise
anything that God made in itself – the problem is not a person or a material
thing, but how our heart relates to it.
The ultimate false god in this world is money. Our Lord says you can’t love both God and money, because money can mislead
our hearts into a mindset that is not of God. But the error is to make the
false conclusion that money is evil.
That is not holistic Christian thinking – scripture says the LOVE of
money, not the money itself, which leads to evil.
I am very aware that my tongue can be used for great good or
great harm in regards to using it in anger. Scripture says that ‘life and death
are in the power of the tongue.’ Because I have sinned with my tongue in a
moment of righteous indignation, chopping off the head of others, the way Elijah did, with my tongue – I am sinning. That is not
pleasing to God because charity is being sinned against. The ultimate rule of
life is Jesus Christ and his commandment to love your neighbor. It is better to
be righteous than to be right.
But does that mean I should cut off my tongue – of course
not. The right way of relating to something the evil is not the thing itself,
but how it is used. The Prophet is
called to set captives free from their slavery and a prophet can do that in
prayer, but there’s usually a time when a prophet is called to speak, and their
mouth is meant to be the instrument of God’s Holy Spirit of grace and of Jesus Christ saving souls.
Zelos zelatus sum
– with zeal I have been zealous for the Lord.
Elijah is the man of zeal, the prophet of fire who is a champion of the
true God, and a herald of God’s mercy.
He is spiritual warrior who breathes the fire of God. We are called to breathe the same fire of
Elijah– the fire of the Holy Spirit. And we too will have to be purified in the
interior deserts of life. There is no true
prophet who has not experienced deep purification and healing. Prophets are often led into the desert so
that God can work in them, and so that He can use them to help others in a way
that builds and exhorts.
To conclude, we pray that the Holy Spirit lavish upon us, Jesus’ divine love, that the humanizing power of the gospel stir
us to be zealous with passion for the Lord God of hosts who loves us fervently
unto the full.
Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy
Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without
JOHN 2:1-11 – There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from — although the servers who had drawn the water knew —, the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him.
There’s a lot in this scripture to capture the significance of this vocation of marriage. In God’s providence, He chose to manifest His Divine identity in the context of a wedding. In the Old Testament, God refers to His covenant with His chosen people as a spousal relationship. Isaiah refers to our God and our maker, as the Bridegroom.
God has a love for His people as a husband has a love for His wife. And Jesus came to bring about this mystical marriage between our humanity and God.
This Mass is going to be for the couples who are here present, number one. Two, for those of you who are married but your spouse isn’t present, I invite you also to renew your covenant with your spouse who is back at home. And as the couples here renew their vows, hold your hand with your wedding ring and renew your vows with your spouse. Invite the Lord to bring healing into your relationship, if there is need of emotional healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, or of resurrection in your relationship with your spouse.
The third intention is for those who are widowed; pray for the eternal rest of your spouse that they may rest in the peace of God. The fourth intention is for those who are divorced. Love your enemies and your persecutors, whether they’re remarried or not. Some divorces are really traumatic and hard, so pray for healing. In some divorces, you just divorce as friends and you go your separate ways, and you have a friendship for the sake of the children. Pray for your ex-spouse, but pray especially for your children because they experience the effects of the divorce differently than you do.
And fifth, for those who are single and are still open to the possibility of marriage: if that is God’s divine will for you, pray that God will bring the right person in your life, the person that He knows will be the best for His plan for your happiness. For those who are called to the single life, and didn’t want to have a single life, who wanted to be married but never found the right person –pray for the peace of acceptance because God’s vocation of love is ever alive in your life.
Pray for the acceptance in your life, knowing that you are not any less lovable in God’s eyes. You’re not in any way less than those who are called to marriage. Pray for that acceptance in discovering God’s vocation of love for you because God needs you to flourish in the gift of love that you have to offer, whatever it may be.
Pray for the acceptance that ‘Yes, God has chosen me for a vocation of love and it doesn’t mean that I am any less qualified for marriage than anyone else, but that God needs me where I am, and where I’ve been planted.’ Pray for the acceptance to grieve for the fact that ‘I may not have been able to be married and be a parent.’ Grieve this gift of experience that you may be free to live the gift of where you are called to now.
As we celebrate the Eucharist, and as these couples renew their covenant, let us renew our covenant, first and foremost, to God because He is the love of all loves and the only love of our lives that is important.
Those who are married know that to love is a battle. Sometimes, those who are married wish they weren’t married, and those who aren’t married wish that they were. We’re always admiring the ones on the other side. We hear from the scripture that love is a battle. It’s not easy and we need God’s grace.
And ultimately it’s God’s love that is the only love that does not disappoint. As human beings, we are so flawed and broken that we make mistakes. Inevitably, we will let down those who rely upon us. There is no perfect person and we have to learn to be comfortable with the imperfect, to accept the weakness and to find grace in the midst of it.
It is with faith that we celebrate love, especially the love of God who is the center of all of our lives.
Homily at the Shrine of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist – Madaba, Jordan
(Click on the triangle on the left to listen to the audio. Below is a loose transcription of the homily).
Ambition of James and John. (Mark 10: 35-45)
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36He replied, “What do you wish [me] to do for you?” 37They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. 42 Jesus summoned them and said to them,“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. 43But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; 44whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. 45For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In the video we watched in the bus on the way here, I was pretty impressed by the King Abdullah II of Jordan. He was so down to earth and so in touch with his people, in regards to his authentic ways of living with passion, in his heart, and being very, very conscientious of the people whom he serves in a wholesome way. Seeing him dressed in civilian clothes, and the way he greeted his people and sat among them reminds me of the example Jesus is presenting to us in the gospel, where he says that ‘those who want to be great among the Gentiles, lord it over them, but it shall not be so among you.’
The King of Jordan shows us a wonderful example of the proper use of power for the sake of his people and how to serve his people as king. In fact, when he was chosen to be King, he never aspired for the position, and that is exactly why he was chosen. They told him, ‘We see the qualities that you have and you are not hungry for power.’
Gandhi once said, “The world will never know peace until the love of power is replaced by the power to love.” Gandhi also says something like greatness is not a matter of achieving our personal goals, in regards to my accomplishment for my ego’s sake, but rather true greatness is the transformation of the self. And that transformation, that living and bringing out of my better self, and allowing Jesus to show me my best self, that transformation of daily conversion begins with humility.
In today’s gospel Jesus says ‘Whoever wants to be great gives his life for others.’ That’s where you’ll find your greatness — in humbling yourselves to become a gift for others. First, you have to recognize that you are a gift. Know that you are a gift! Don’t underestimate the gift that you are. Your life is a precious gift.
We all acknowledge the sanctity of the unborn and we’re willing to sacrifice our own comfort to stand up as a witness to the gift of life. We have to allow that acknowledgement of that gift of life to begin with ourselves, in order to have the proper courage to allow God to bring out the greatness in us. In other words, God who desires the best for you, wants you to be the greatest of who you can be – in Love.
Your life is meant to be a transformation and resurrection, a finding the greater beauty of who you are us a gift. But that can only be discovered when we give our life away, when we give of yourselves — especially when we give out of our comfort zones, beyond what we thought we were capable of, beyond the limitations we put upon our own striving.
In order to be great, we first have to recognize that the greatness of God lives in me and loves me. Therefore, what I have to give is important and is treasured by Him. This humble recognition gives Him glory, no matter how small it might be, and Therese is the great prophet in teaching us that. The smallest act of kindness, even if it’s a smile, if it’s done out of pure love and the glory of God for the good of the other, is utterly important in God’s eyes.
We celebrate in this church, the Shrine of the Beheading of St. John of the Baptist; after our Blessed Mother, Saint John the Baptist was the greatest saint. Jesus himself acknowledged that. He not only baptized Jesus, but he was also the first one to enter into Jesus’s baptism, as in this gospel.
Two of the most passionate apostles, Saint John and Saint James, the Sons of Zebedee, were known as the Sons of Thunder and as great apostles. Yet they too had to undergo a conversion process. They weren’t born saints. They too had to mature in what it means to be a faithful friend of the Lord.
They approach Jesus and ask a question that sounds egotistical. They start with ‘Teacher,’ and not ‘Lord,’ which shows an earlier state of spiritual growth. They haven’t fully surrendered themselves and acknowledged Christ as Lord. They haven’t given their lives to Him. He’s still just a teacher. What do they ask? We want you to us give what we want from you. Give me! Give me! Give me!
This is not the attitude we’re called to foster. Our disposition, in order for us to draw new life, new spiritual life out of our spiritual pilgrimage is to recognize that it is Jesus who says to us, ‘Give me, give me, give me… of you, your heart, your trust, your hope, your life.’ And we must come to give ourselves more, and more, and more to this living encounter with Him, and through Him, and in Him.
This is the pilgrimage we are seeking to foster, this living exchange with Jesus of our heart for His heart for ours, that we may know him as our Beloved. “My Beloved is mine and I am my Beloved’s,” says the Song of Songs.
Jesus acknowledged St. John the Baptist as the greatest among the saints, but where do we see his greatness most? In John 3:30 in which St. John the Baptist says, “I must decrease, that He might increase.” This means – to learn how give our lives in order to receive new life; to know how to empty ourselves, in order to be filled with Himself.
This is the purpose of humility. It’s not becoming a doormat, not taking on a martyr complex or a victim complex. It’s meant to be liberating. It’s meant to lead to a fuller sense of self as God’s child and friend. That’s the fruit of true humility.
Another fruit of true humility that leads to this greatness that God wants for us, this greatness of living in Him, with Him and through Him – as St. Therese says, this humility – bears the fruit of great confidence in God. This is what Jesus wants from us. God delights to see His children full of joyful confidence; it charms and brings joy to the heart of God when he sees us full of this audacious trust.
In Hebrews, Chapter 4, it says, “Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy in need, in time of help.” God wants us to receive His grace and mercy. And as our Lord taught Saint Faustina, in the measure that we trust, have a living hope, in the measure that we are confident with this trust and that our heart is open to a resurrection faith, in that measure can we receive. We receive in the measure that we believe and hope.
And God wants us to receive a lot of who He is because there’s no greatness without Him. Left to ourselves, whatever greatness we might imagine is passing away. We’re only great in the measure that we are united to God in love. God’s love in us is our strength. That’s what lasts forever, the greatness of God.
He wants us to be confident to draw from Him and assures us that in having this humility to recognize that I cannot be great by my own will, by my own strength, my own ideas, my own gifts, my own plans. That’s not going to bring greatness. Surrendering my will to His will brings greatness. Bringing my weakness to His mercy will bring greatness.
We have such a Great High Priest who knows how to sympathize with our weakness. He uses His authority as Good Shepherd by coming to us at our level. He engages in our weakness. He knows our weakness from within our skin. He Himself knows what it’s like to be tested, crushed, and afflicted.
The Passion of Christ was prophesied in Isaiah “that the Lord was pleased to crush Him in infirmity because he gives his life as an offering for sin that the will of the Lord to save us may be accomplished through Him.” Through His suffering, says the Lord God of Hosts, my servant will justify many.
And Jesus knows the daily responsibilities of your life. For those of you who are married, Jesus knows your battles to be faithful to your spouse, to be faithful to your children. And if you’re not married, He knows your battle to be faithful to the Church in a secular world. He knows your battle to be faithful to whatever other obligations or responsibilities you might have. And he sympathizes in everything that you have to go through.
Christ in His Passion is the full expression of divine empathy. God empathizes with the process of everything that we have to go through that grows you. As we enter into the sacrifice of our Great High Priest who gave His life for us, may we give our lives to Him, and for Him, to others, and find our greatness in God alone – in giving ourselves us gift to others as He has given Himself as gift to us. In this process, we come to the throne of grace, the cross, with confidence, to draw mercy from the heart of Jesus and to find grace for every detail and need that we present before Him.
Unlike the apostles, we don’t say, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” We don’t come with that kind of confidence. Instead, ask God for His kingdon to come in a particular situation in the way He knows best and our soul waits for the Lord.
We wait with hopeful expectation that God will come in the way He knows best. With peace, we let go, we let God, and we thank Him in advance.