Teresa Linda, ocds: poems of resurrection

Zion

In having breathed in the dust of the Holy Lands
Where my Lord once taught, healed, bled–and died,
He who loved me first and has loved me eternally –was resurrected
In the landscape of my soul, the New Jerusalem.

At the Sea of Galilee. Photo credit: Lorelei Low, ocds (2018)

Adoration

I only have now and in this moment,
The prayers of the Church,
All the hosts of angels and saints,
And creation from the beginning of time, until the end of time,
Are united with mine.

The Promise

Deep calls to deep,
Where all time and all space,
Are all in the Almighty,
The Word of God,
Made Flesh by the power of the Spirit
Who dwelt among us, who dwells within us

The Mystical Chase

When it is dark, and the last rays of the day
Dip into the horizon and inflame the blue ocean of sky,
I run to catch a glimpse of You, my Beloved

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.

Father Robert Elias, OCD: the divine time of Holy Week

Click on the triangle to listen to the audio.

SOURCE: Lent 2019, Conference to Santa Clara, CA OCDS, Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD

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. 

Jerusalem towards Mount of Olives. Photo credit The Speakroom. Holy Land Pilgrimage 2019.
Jerusalem towards Mount of Olives. Photo credit The Speakroom. Holy Land Pilgrimage 2019.

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 and now. 

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 already present.

Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem by Hippolyte Flandrin (1846)

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 your crown.

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.

Father Robert Elias, OCD – Carmel & Elijah’s Spirit of Prophesy

Press the triangle to listen to this audio (40 minutes)

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 of divine 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 us to.

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 example.

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 and sacrifice.

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 end. Amen.

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Father Robert Elias, OCD: Lent & the Carmelite desert identity

 

By Romero Zafra

(40 minutes) – To listen to this audio, click on the triangle.

SOURCE: Lent 2019. Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD at Mount Saint Joseph’s Monastery, San Jose, California.

Father Robert Elias, OCD: Lent & the Divine Physician

Photo credit: the Speakroom

Luke 5:27-32: Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

NOTE: Click on the triangle to listen to Father Robert’s conference.

What is our Lord saying to us about our observance of Lent in the scriptures? The scriptures of the Liturgy of the Mass give us guidance for spiritual growth; our call to penance, to conversion is a call to health.

Jesus says those who are healthy do not need a physician. The practice of Lent, in adopting for ourselves exercises of deeper prayer, of fasting, and works of mercy is for the sake of our own healing, the healing of humanity, with its disordered desires – to bring true health to the soul.

Whenever St. John of the Cross talks about purification in his spiritual teachings, for example in The Dark Night, he always talks about this purification, this refiner’s fire bringing about a new health in the soul, healing the soul. And the Divine Physician is our Blessed Lord in His divine love, who says, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Those who are self-righteous never think that there is any sickness in them. The closer we draw to the light of God’s love in a genuine devotion of conversion of heart, the more we see what is unhealthy in us, what is in need of healing, the more we see the sickness that we are sinners.

We are an interesting mix. All of us as human beings are a mix of light and of darkness; we are a living contradiction. In the one sense, we are sinners but on the other hand, we also possess the seed of eternal life and of divine life through grace in Christ. We have both of these realities – a broken human condition and a potential to share in the divine nature.

Lent is a time for healing, for the aligning of our wills to what God wants of us. For this reason, the psalm says, ‘Teach me your ways, oh Lord” – not my way, and not the world’s way. Teach me your way of the best manner of life, the best way to live. Show me what it means to live the best life I can live. Show me how to become my best self and your way in bringing about your dream for my life. Teach me. I need to be taught. I need to learn from You.

It is the humble of heart, and not the self-righteous who can make this prayer to allow oneself to be coachable by the Lord of what it means to walk in His truth. If we are humble, we realize in one level, that in a sense, we all have to go back to the beginning, the genesis. We are all beginners, and we all have to go back to the fundamentals, the basics of what it means to be a believer and disciple of Jesus Christ.

We have to go back to the simple gospel of The Beatitudes. Teach me, Lord, how to live this. Teach me Lord how to understand this. Show me daily. Be my personal life coach from the moment I wake up until the moment I take my last breath, show me and teach me through everything.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that the Lord wants to teach us His way of mercy, par excellence. So many times in both the New Testament and the Hebrew scriptures, we hear Jesus say, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ It’s not that sacrifices aren’t important, or that there’s no need anymore for asceticism, but the purpose of sacrifice is for the sake of learning mercy. This is the way, the will of the Lord, the manner in which we grow in wisdom – that we learn what it means to be merciful.

The scribes and the Pharisees were far from being merciful as the Lord is merciful. Their pride and self-glorification blinded them from God’s wisdom of mercy. It blinded them from the will of God. They were hyper-religious, but their religiosity was something of their own performance and their own ego. Christ calls us to be converted from that tendency.

To be true disciples of Christ is to be true friends of the Lord and this means the way of mercy. When we begin to walk this way of mercy through humility, Jesus promises that we can become like a watered garden; we can become a spring with the holy spirit. Jesus promised that fulfillment. ‘Whoever believes in me, from their hearts shall flow waters of living waters, bursting forth into eternal life.’ You won’t be able to contain it and hopefully it will just come out in praise and jubilation, glorifying God.

We can’t always live at such a peak experience at every moment of our day, but there should come some moments when the presence of the Holy Spirit takes on a high pitch and becomes piping hot – to be zealous for the Lord and on fire for God.

We embrace the purification, that we may be transformed into fire, the living flame of love, where we may delight in the Lord as he leads us into his heights.

Lent is a desert journey; like the climbing of a mountain, we’re called to ascend to the heights of a new communion with Jesus Christ, the most high who became the most low in His humility. The most high, transcendent God emptied himself and became the most low. The only thing God competes with us for is the lowest position. He is always competing for the last seat – not because he wants to sit at the back of the church – but because he’s the most humble slave.

SOURCE: Lent 2019 Homily, Mount Saint Joseph Monastery, San Jose, Califormia

Father Robert Elias, OCD: The truth of the cross

1 Cor: 15:54-58

Brothers and sisters:
When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility
and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality,
then the word that is written shall come about:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters,
be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord,
knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Basilica grounds, Iria de Cova Fatima. Photo credit, The Speakroom

Saints John of the Cross and Saint Teresa loved the Gospel of John as the most contemplative gospel and as one written by a friend of the Lord who contemplated His life, and the mysteries he had experienced in his encounter with Christ.

St. John the evangelist is symbolically represented as the eagle, the bird that flies the highest and a most majestic creature. Eagles soar at the highest altitudes and can see the furthest. This is symbolic of St. John’s soul as the beloved, the divine, the theologian. He is not just someone who is smart, but someone who has a heart knowledge of God and has been enlightened to penetrate the understanding of God as God.

This knowledge comes, not just through intellectual reasoning, but through a deep love which prepares the way to revelation, and opens the gates for God’s glory to come upon us so that we can come to know God through the depths of our hearts.

This divine intimacy is true theology – St. John is a true spiritual master in his relationship with God through a life of hope, faith, and love.

In Luke Chapter 6, one of the themes was that no disciple is greater than the master. [“No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher”] (Luke 6: 40).

In this gospel, we see an iconography, as we see in the iconographies in the Eastern Churches, where it is difficult to distinguish Jesus from the apostles among the written images. Why? This shows that true friends of God begin to look like the Master and to radiate the Master because God has been en-fleshed in their lives.

St. Symeon the New Theologian [949-1022 AD] was a mystic of fire and light, of the Divine Word. The eternal Word of God became flesh through the ‘Yes’ of Mary and was incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. St. Symeon points out that though the whole of creation and the world came into being through Christ, the Holy Spirit did not take on a humanity as Jesus did. However, the Holy Spirit’s manifestation becomes flesh, is incarnate, in the lives of the saints, who are the hypostasis [the fundamental reality and substance] of the Holy Spirit.

This is the mystical life of grace that St. John and St. Teresa talks about, which is best reflected in the Gospel of John. [In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be] (John 1:1-3).

In John 14-17, Jesus gives his Farewell Discourse to his disciples and tells them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (John 14:1) and “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Jesus is preparing his disciples for His departure and is building their spirits before they are to face seeing their Savior being crucified – in order to root them to be stable amidst the storm on the way. This final discourse is given in the context of The Last Supper.

Just before this, Jesus gives his Bread of Life Discourse, when He says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6: 35). Thus, the anchor of hope and strength for perseverance is found in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

John’s understanding of who Christ is has to be balanced with our experience of the cross in our lives, and the wisdom and power of God working through that cross. St. Paul boasts in the cross of Christ in Galatians 6:14 when he says, “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He again exclaims that the cross is the wisdom and power of God in First Corinthians, Chapter 1.

Archbishop Sheen has said that before we can have wine and bread at our altar, it had to first be found in the fields of grapes and wheat, which start off as seeds until they mature to bring about a new kind of life. The wheat and the grapes must then be crushed and destroyed before they can become bread and wine.  These external forms, regardless of a priests holiness or not, becomes Jesus present in the Sacrament – body, blood, soul, and divinity – in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

In the same way, interiorly we will feel crushed. But out of that, God brings transformation, something better than before. From death emerges new life, just as the grapes and wheat takes a new life, the life of Christ.

Death to self leads to conversion; in the midst of death is hidden a victory and that victory is that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and I couldn’t have accomplished this victory on my own. Only God could’ve done it, using external instruments to bring about the chiseling of a masterpiece from the marble. Only He can make a masterpiece out of the mess.

Life will emerge from the cross. We need to face this truth head-on and we will have to face the cross. Yet the cross is God’s instrument for metamorphosis, where the soul can become divine, and our humanity becomes united to Christ in the Holy Spirit. In today’s second reading in First Corinthians, Saint Paul says, ‘Oh death, where is your sting? O death where is your victory?’ This miracle of life despite death cannot happen without the cross.

The truth of the cross passes the test of time and experience. I have found tremendous consolation in this truth, which has helped me in the deserts and steep mountains that I have had to cross and climb. With each new difficulty, I remind myself of these truths and am able to draw vitality – like an umbilical cord, my source of life – from the heart of God, to be able to pick up my cross, knowing that Jesus makes all things new — and I am able to keep going.

There’s a lot of power when we profess the truth of God in our lives because the enemy will try to provoke fear and frustrations subtly to master our emotions. Once we realize that ‘I’m being worked on here by the enemy’ and that ‘He is attacking my woundedness to keep me stuck,’ once I realize this, I have to make a choice.

Stand on the rock foundation to squash the lies and renounce them in Jesus’s name, professing Christ’s truths – ‘I am with you always’ …‘Peace be with you’ – the words of Christ come from the Word made flesh, and His words are our inheritance

When you do this, something deep inside of you that wasn’t there before will grow and erupt because you made an act of faith. Truth is what strengthens faith – not feelings. That act of faith allows Jesus to manifest.

Only God can tell us who we are, and it is our prayer that throws light on previously unexamined parts of our souls. All falsehood becomes more apparent as we ground ourselves in the truth.

Sometimes, when we have been given enough tools of faith to face a challenge, it feels like we are alone to fend for ourselves, especially in the beginning, during the Purgative Way, and much later in our spiritual journey, during the Dark Night of the Spirit. In these times, we are aware only of our own capacity to sin, the rawness of our fallen condition, and how broken our humanity is.

This darkness exposes the roots of our condition for healing by the Divine Physician. He is healing us at our core – as we will the good despite what we feel, freeing us from attachments, all aspects of our false selves, our idols, and the chains that we weren’t even aware we relied on – all through prayer.

Contemplation is openness to God’s love, even though His ways come in ways that feel dark and we experience loneliness. Yet His transforming love is working.

John’s gospel and his other writings don’t wallow in suffering –they are victorious. Night is a truer guide than the day. God works His greatest miracles because of the cross and not through the periods of consolation.

The flame that once burned and cauterized will one day bring healing. Carmel testifies that God’s love is always present in the debris of life, and only faith can give us the eyes to see this.

SOURCE: March 2019, Secular Discalced Carmelite community meeting, Santa Clara, CA

Living our identity

LIVING OUR IDENTITY
(Teresa Linda, 2/2019)

You, oh Lord,
Who multiply out of nothing
Are our God and King.
And we thank You and praise You,
For every gift you have given creation.

How is it, our Lord,
That in the perfection of your Fatherhood,
Through the power of the Spirit,
And with the incarnation of Your Son, the Christ,
We have come to be your adopted children?

We desire, our God and King
To live this identity – in this life
Not just in the life to come – but in this life

For You who have promised and willed,
On earth as it is in heaven,
Have made all truth come to pass.

Only, let us not get in Your way, oh Lord,
And give us the grace to move
In You, with You, and through You
In our every breathing