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Agape: Love Meal

 

Prayer for Spiritual Communion

Jesus, invite me to your Love Meal

At this Eucharistic Celebration in my heart.

Lead me to spiritual communion with you

And with my sisters and brothers.

Help me to put myself at your disposal

To awaken my heart for union.

 

Jesus, let me join you at the Last Supper.

There you prepared your heart for self-sacrifice

By washing the feet of your disciples

And drying them with a towel at your waist.

Would that I could wash their feet

To arouse my heart for self-sacrifice.

 

Jesus, I offer you my food and drink,

This bread and wine, symbol of my life.

Symbol of my desire to join you in sacrifice.

Symbol of my desire to enter into communion

With the Trinity of Love through your crucifixion,

Creating the fiery crucible of Divine Love.

 

Jesus, they crowned your head with thorns.

They beat your body with iron-studded

Whips to tear your flesh. They pounded nails

Through your hands to a wooden cross.

They nailed your feet to its vertical post.

They pierced your side with a lance.

 

Jesus, it is not your wounds that I love.

It is your love that I love.

It is your desire that I love—to bring me

Into communion with the Trinity of Love.

It is your eros that I love—to unite me

With you in one Mystical Body.

 

Jesus, make me one with you in sacrifice.

With your presence and love, consecrate

My gifts of bread and wine, my very self.

Fire up your crucible of Divine Love

With Calvary’s fire. Plunge me in and forge

And seal me in spiritual communion.

 

Jesus, co-mingle me with yourself

And my sisters and brothers in the bread

Of the hosts and in the wine of the chalice.

Anoint me for greater love and unity.

Make me Eucharist for sisters and brothers

To receive me as bread and wine.

 

Jesus, bring me into spiritual communion

With you and my sisters and brothers.

In your crucible of love, melt down

My intolerance of others’differences with me

And from me. Let my spiritual communion

Help create the Beloved Community!

Amen.

Practice Jesus’ Ongoing Incarnation

Through his Resurrection, the Risen Christ unleashed three major spiritual realities. He transformed the whole life of the historical Jesus into a sacramental power source present here and now. He poured forth the power of his Spirit who acts as our constant guide and mentor. And he incorporated the Body of Christ, continuing his Incarnation in us and thus empowering us with his presence and powers, both as members and as a community. How do we manifest the Risen Christ within us? Practice Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation in us by exercising his powers in our actions and relationships to others.

Be Sacraments to Others. As members of Christ’s Body, we are empowered to carry on the work of Jesus. We continue the work of the sacraments. Whatever the sacraments do, we do for one another. We forgive, we heal, we bind others to Christ through our love. In his book, The Holy Longing, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser states that when we continue to love and forgive the sins of others and, insofar as they receive that love and forgiveness from us, they are receiving love and forgiveness from God. Why? Because we are part of the Body of Christ and they are touching us. “What Jesus did we too can do; in fact, that is precisely what we are asked to do,” he writes. Be sacraments!  

Be Compassion to Others. In Jesus Before Christianity, Fr. Albert Nolan describing the taboos against social mixing between the clearly defined classes within Jewish society in Jesus’ times states: “The scandal Jesus caused in that society by mixing socially with sinners can hardly be imagined by most people in the modern world today. It meant that he accepted them and approved of them and that he actually wanted to be ‘a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” Jesus gifted society’s outcasts with his presence and affirmed their giftedness. He exercised compassion in the sense of making himself fully present to them, with all his mind and with all his heart in order to receive their presence and their giftedness. For Jesus, all persons were gifts; there were no cellophane people. In solidarity with the Father, Jesus saw others as the Father saw them—unfinished creations of the Father, diamonds in the rough. Be compassion to others!

 Be Communion to Others. When we live compassionately for others to its fullest degree, we become communion to others. As compassion is being spiritually present to others, communion is being physically present to others. In his book, Our Journey Home, Jean Vanier gives us an insight into the meaning of communion. He says that communion is being bodily present to others. Body language—gestures, tone of voice, the look in our eyes, a handshake or a hug—is the fundamental instrument of communion. In the way we look and listen, we can reveal to someone his or her importance and unique giftedness. Be communion to others!

Be Channels of Faith. Fr. Nolan points out that Jesus was unlike the holy men of his times who worked healings. They relied upon their own holiness, their own esteem in the eyes of God; Jesus relied upon the power of faith of others. Jesus said to the persons he cured: “Your faith has healed you.” Nolan states: “He is saying in effect that it is not he who has healed the sick person….Jesus’ own faith, his own unshakable convictions, awakened this faith in them. Faith was an attitude that people caught from Jesus through their contact with him, almost as if it were a kind of infection….Jesus was an initiator of faith. Be channels of faith for others. Let your faith awaken faith and hope in others!

Where is the playing field for practicing Jesus’ ongoing incarnation in us? In our everyday lives, everyday dialogues, everyday relationships. And in carrying out Jesus’ mission to free people of every form of oppression—social, political, institutional.

Jesus Process

One way to describe the tremendous action and results of Jesus’ resurrection is to say that Jesus set in motion the Jesus Process. What is the Jesus Process?  First, let us make these observations. If we don’t appreciate the significance of Jesus’ resurrection, we will think of Jesus’ life on earth, his resurrection and the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost as separate historical events. These events become an endless loop within Jesus’ life which we will celebrate but without any apparent relevance for us. However, the reality is that the Risen Christ has ushered in a whole new spiritual reality by transforming these historical events into an ongoing process—the Jesus Process.

Now let’s look at the chart. It shows us both the dynamics of the Jesus Process and the dynamics of the spiritual life. Jesus’ lived experience on earth is the core element driving the Jesus Process. Second element is Jesus as the Risen Christ, no longer limited by time or geography, who transforms Jesus’ historical experience on earth into a power source, present here and now in the 21st Century. Out of this power source, the Risen Christ gifts us with his Spirit who empowers us to live lives of deeper faith, stronger hope and greater love of Jesus.

Further, it is only fitting that the Jesus Process which began with the historical Jesus should find its completion in the historical Jesus, since he is the image and mirror of God. For this reason, the goal of the spiritual life is a greater love of Jesus. And when we talk of greater love of Jesus, we cannot omit greater love of our sisters and brothers in Jesus, since Jesus has made us all members of the Body of Christ.

What should the concept of the Jesus Process do to our perception of the historical Jesus? It should transport the historical Jesus into the present moment for us. It frees him from being locked into past history. It removes all bounds of time and space so that we can relate intimately to Jesus here and now in our lifetimes. It is as if we can meet Jesus for the first time in history, walking the roads of Galilee and Judea, and Jesus turning his face toward us and asking: “What do you want of me?”

St. Teresa of Avila called the historical Jesus the anchor in her spiritual life. For someone in the upper reaches of the spiritual life, she needed the historical Jesus to hold her to reality. That is good spiritual psychology. But an anchor is a dead weight. The concept of the Jesus Process turns the historical Jesus into someone who is alive and present, and who is an activist: his lived experience is the core element driving the Jesus Process, driving the dynamics of our spiritual life.

While great classics in the spiritual life have promoted the imitation of the historical Jesus, the reality of the Jesus Process reveals that it is not a matter of imitating Jesus’ past life. Rather it is a matter of uniting ourselves with the very presence and life of Jesus and letting that presence and life plunge us here and now into the Jesus Process, unleashing the power of the Risen Christ in our lives.

Jesus’ power still goes out from him 2000 years later through the Jesus Process. However, to get in touch with his power, we must practice union with Jesus in everything we do. Let Jesus drive the Jesus Process and the dynamics of our spiritual life!

The Jesus Process explains why we need an integration of three spiritualities—the historical Jesus-centered spirituality, the Risen Christ-centered spirituality and the Spirit-centered spirituality. In the article, Fully Integrated Spiritual Life, we described the psychological-spiritual reasons for pursuing an integrated approach. But there is more at stake here than good spiritual psychology. We are talking about a spiritual reality. The three spiritualities comprise a dynamic process, which we are calling the “Jesus Process.”

Community Power

Through the ongoing Incarnation of Christ, each of us has the powers to heal others and to bind others to Christ through our love. Our powers are derived from the fact that we as individuals are incorporated into the Body of Christ. The question remains: Does the special presence of the Risen Christ in communities give any special powers to those who come together in community?

Growth Power. Something happens when people come together in the name of Christ. The Risen Christ is present, gifting them with His Spirit. In this environment, they have the capacity to actualize the power of the indwelling Spirit within each other. Given the chance, the Spirit releases dimensions of our personalities that in our ordinary lives we are unwilling or unable to display. We call these growth experiences moments of Spirit-empowerment through Christian community, Cursillo’s special charism.

Psychologists tell us that we grow or become more fully ourselves through other people. As Christians, we would say that differently, because we believe that there is essentially a spiritual reality that we are dealing with, namely, an encounter with the Spirit’s power in our relationships. Of course, we must come to Christian community (Ultreya, Group Reunion, etc.) with openness to the empowerment of Christian community, with an awareness of Cursillo’s charism, and with an expectancy that the Spirit will empower us to grow individually and as members of our community.

Prayer Power. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells us: “Everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds.” But why does God not answer our prayers? We ignore the meaning of Christ’s ongoing Incarnation. In his book, The Holy Longing, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser answers that question by making two distinctions. First, when we petition God through Jesus Christ, what is being asked for must be asked through Jesus Christ and ourselves as members of the Body of Christ. Second, he says: “Prayers of petition have power to the extent that they are linked to concrete action within a community of faith and love.” For example, our personal Palanca is part of a communal effort to petition Christ’s Spirit for candidates’ conversion. Christ’s ongoing Incarnation has changed the way we petition God: we flesh out our petitions with action.

Forgiveness Power. As Catholics, we believe in the forgiveness power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That said, Rolheiser points out the role of community in having our sins forgiven: “To state things rather crassly…if I commit a serious sin on Saturday night and, whatever my physical state on Sunday morning, enter a church with some sincerity and contrition in my heart, I am forgiven my sin. I am touching the hem of Christ’s garment….We can forgive each other’s sins; not we, but the power of Christ within us.” He points out that St. Augustine stated that when Christians stood around the altar as a community and prayed the Lord’s Prayer, any sins they had ever committed would be forgiven. Such is the forgiveness power of community.

Infallibility Power. Infallibility is another power of Christian community. Are you surprised? Fr. Ladislas M. Orsy, SJ, a professor of law at Georgetown University, quotes the Vatican ll documents: “The whole body of the faithful who received an anointing which comes from the holy one…cannot be mistaken in belief. It shows this characteristic through the entire people’s supernatural sense of the faith, when, ‘from the bishops to the last of the faithful’ it manifests a universal consensus in matters of faith and morals.” Fr. Orsy writes: “Infallibility is not the exclusive privilege of the pope and of the bishops in council: it resides in the whole people.” Of course, the pope is the guide and spokesperson for the gift of infallibility.

Obstacle to Solidarity

In Incarnational Spirituality, we celebrate solidarity with others because we are all members of the Body of Christ. While this is a spiritual reality, we cannot say that we experience it deeply or often. The great obstacle to living this solidarity is the basic flaw in human nature of alienation, the result of Original Sin.

Some Christian writers have interpreted Original Sin as the sin of pride, while for others it was disobedience. St. Francis of Assisi gave another explanation. Our first parents were created in the image and likeliness of God. The devil’s offer to make them on the same level as God was like selling them the Brooklyn Bridge. A terrible deception. St. Francis interpreted Original Sin as our first parents being grasping, wanting to possess what they did not already have. This lust for possession was the Original Sin that resulted in alienation from God, self and others─with some interesting consequences.

Alienating Possessiveness. Have you noticed how thin-skinned we are? We are easily offended by people being different from us. If they think differently from us, we are offended. If they act differently from us, we are offended. If the way they dress is different from us, we are offended. The French may say, “Vive la Difference!” when it comes to the differences between men and women, but countless books are written about men being from Mars and women from Venus. And the marriage statistics demonstrate that the difference in gender is hard to cope with.

It seems that we possess very strongly what is peculiar to ourselves—our style of thinking and acting. We possess our personal qualities so strongly that we feel endangered by others being different from us. Fear sets in that we may lose what we possess. St. Francis put his finger on it—lust for possession. In reality, a lust for psychic possession. Our deep-seated alienation toward others is awakened by their differences.

What does this fear do for our relationships? When St. Francis met the leper, he was able to embrace him. When we encounter people who exhibit differences from us, they become lepers to us, and unlike Francis, we are unable to embrace them.

Unifying Poverty. St. Francis countered against human lust for possession by emphasizing poverty. Yes, material poverty, but also spiritual poverty. In the Gospels, we read: Blessed are the poor in spirit. When we deeply experience the insight that all that we possess has been given to us by a loving and gracious God, we can begin to take steps toward spiritual poverty. Ultimately, our deep-seated alienation is a rejection of our creaturehood and a refusal of gratitude to the Creator. Living deeply a life of gratitude to the Divine Giver will help us grow in spiritual poverty and become more open to others and their differences.

The spiritual exercise of practicing compassion is another help to growth in spiritual poverty. Here we attempt to become fully present to another, in a caring and attentive way, so as to receive the presence and the unique gift of the other. Through this exercise, we give ourselves away as a gift to others, making ourselves spiritually poor. For the moment we shed our psychic possessiveness. We deliberately set aside our alienation toward another with the expectancy of discovering the giftedness of the other. In the process, we suspend judgment of the other and we see the other in a different light.

The ultimate growth experiences in spiritual poverty come from the progressive surrender to the Spirit’s possession of us. Our lust for possessiveness can only be remedied by Spirit-possession. We demonstrate our Spirit-possession by our total dependency on the Spirit. Only the Spirit of love can dispossess us of our psychic possessiveness and free us for compassionate relationships with others.

Solidarity through Incarnation

Solidarity through the ongoing Incarnation of the Risen Christ is not just our personal union with the living Christ. It is a solidarity with all the members of the Body of Christ. It is a solidarity that exists in God’s plan for us from all eternity and that can be witnessed in the supreme spiritual exercise of the Mass. For the Mass should be seen as a work in progress of the Risen Christ bringing about solidarity among all the members of His Body. Indeed, Mass is a ritual of love, remembering Jesus’ great love for us and intended to transform us into lovers of one another.

Eucharistic Solidarity. In Making the Eucharist Matter, Fr. Frank Andersen, M.S.C. states that the words that the priest speaks over the bread and wine are spoken for us: “In the Eucharist it is our body that is given, our blood that will be poured out. Jesus made his offering once and for all. In his memory we offer ourselves as we become part of what he did and who he is…..Our privilege is to now make our own offering, made in the same spirit, the same generosity, using the very same words over the very same symbols of bread and wine.” Not only are we making an act of faith in the Divine Presence, we are also making an act of love to others.

Along with Christ and the celebrating priest (in a special way), we offer ourselves at the consecration to God. Also, we are offering all the members of the Risen Christ in a grand solidarity with others. For we cannot isolate the members of Christ’s Body. Further, in receiving the Risen Christ, we are receiving others and they are receiving us because we and others are members of the Body of Christ. That is truly communion, truly solidarity with our sisters and brothers.

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., preacher in the papal household, reveals his awakening to the meaning of the Mass: “Up to a certain time I used to live the moment of consecration at Mass by closing my eyes, bowing my head and trying to estrange myself from everything around me, and to identify myself with Jesus who uttered these words at the cenacle. Then, one day, it struck me that the Jesus of the cenacle no longer exists! The risen Jesus exists now….And this Jesus is the ‘total Christ,’ head and body inseparately united. So, if it is this total Christ who says the words of consecration, I, too, say them with him.” No longer does he close his eyes, he says, but looks at the sisters and brothers whom he will serve.

We all are addressing our brothers and sisters with the words, “Take, eat, this is my body; take, drink.” At the consecration we all are sacrificing our body and blood, offering our time, energy, ability, resources, our very life to others. Our solidarity with others has taken us into deeper waters. We all are offering ourselves at the Eucharist to others. That is why the Mass is a ritual of love.

Spiritual Solidarity. While we are gifting ourselves to others in the sacrifice of the Mass, the Risen Christ is gifting us with His Spirit to complete the work of our transfor-mation. The Spirit takes the Liturgy of the Word presented at the Mass’ beginning and pervading the entire Mass, and continues the call to conversion after we have left Mass. If the words of scripture and the sermon are not echoing in our heads and hearts, we are only attending a ritual, and certainly not a ritual of love.

We are all divine creations. That is why there is so much diversity among us. Diversity is God’s creativity. However, we find it difficult to tolerate diversity because each of us thwarts God’s plan for us. Only when we allow the Spirit to transform the canvas of our divine creation into the masterpiece that God desires for us will there be solidarity among the members of the Body of Christ. Let us cooperate with the creative Spirit!

Mass as Medium

Is the Mass a drama or a medium? Certainly, it is the dramatization of our faith in Jesus. But is it more? Is it not the medium for fulfilling Jesus’ goal of creating the Christian Community, the Beloved Community?

Jesus revolutionized public worship. He changed it from a ritual performed exclusively by and for priests and levites, centered around a bloody sacrifice of animals, exclusively in the temple at Jerusalem—to a celebration in a Eucharistic Community, centered around a love meal, wherever Jesus’ followers come together.

Moreover, Jesus gave us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Not as we love ourselves, but as Jesus loved us. Jesus would not have given us this new commandment without giving us the means for accomplishing it. The Mass is, or should be, the medium for accomplishing Jesus’ goal of creating the Beloved Community.

Perceiving the Mass in this way opens us up to its spiritual potential. Naturally, when we join in the celebration of Mass, we enter into the ritual as individuals. But given the right intentionality and interior disposition, when we leave Mass, we could leave as members of the Beloved Community. A good sign? When we find ourselves being carried beyond ourselves to reach out to others, we know that we have fulfilled Jesus’ goal.

Of course, the Beloved Community doesn’t happen automatically. We must bring deep spirituality to bear on the ritual of the Mass. What kind of spirituality? A spirituality focused on personal transformation. Transformation from negative attitudes and behaviors. Transformation into becoming agents of the Spirit, beauty and new life for others as Jesus was. Without personal transformation as our goal, we will not possess the right intentionality to create the Beloved Community. The two are intimately connected.

Follow the Drama. At the level of drama, the Mass’ liturgical ritual takes us through Jesus’ Incarnation, his life of teaching on earth, his death, resurrection and incorporation of us into his Risen Body. Now let’s look at the Mass as if it were a drama with a number of movements or themes that represent different approaches of spirituality—all built on the basic liturgical movement that we are all familiar with.

For the sake of clarity, these different spiritual movements will be described as separate spiritualities, but in practice we will weave them in and out of the Mass ritual. We will move from one to the other as the Spirit guides us. Our intentionality remains the same —the creation of the Beloved Community through self-transformation.

Embrace Mystery. Before Mass, let us enter the first movement of spirituality. Here we ponder the great mystery of the infinite love of God dramatized in the Mass. We ask the Spirit to help us fathom the mind of God just a little as to why the Infinite Being should want relationship with us.

For a moment, contemplate the Infinite Being taking on finite form at Jesus’ Incarnation. How incredible! How wonderful! The Infinite Being living our finite lives to teach us how to live. How incredible! How wonderful! The Infinite Being dying the  death of a finite being! How incredible! How wonderful! The Infinite Being becoming finite material, our bread and wine in Eucharist. How incredible!  How wonderful!

We can understand why Fr. Henri Nouwen described this demonstration of Divine Love as God’s descending way of love. Let this incredible mystery capture our full presence, hearts and minds as we enter into the celebration of the Mass.

Seek Conversion.  As the Mass begins, we enter into the second movement of spirituality. We ask ourselves: Do we need to ask for forgiveness? What does God want us to change in our lives? Is it our attitudes toward God, others, ourselves, life, reality? It focuses on the metanoia process—Invitation, Surrender, Empowerment and Union, described elsewhere in this Program.

Mary is the exemplar of this process. The Spirit invited her to be the mother of Jesus. She surrendered to the Spirit’s invitation. She was empowered by the Spirit. She was united with Jesus.

For us we seek to find the Spirit’s invitation for self-transformation in the Scripture readings and sermon. We may not always discern it. More important are our openness and desire to find the invitation. When we do discern the Spirit’s invitation for transformation, we should follow Mary’s example at the Annunciation: Surrender to the Spirit’s invitation. That is our gift at the Offertory.

At the Consecration, we are both priest and victim with Jesus, sacrificing whatever prevents us from saying “Yes” to the Spirit’s invitation. We pray for the Spirit’s empowerment to accept and live the invitation. In receiving Holy Communion, we embrace the Spirit’s invitation to self-transformation. Our personal transformation leads us to greater union with God and opens us up to greater union with the Beloved Community.

Engage the Jesus Process. While the second movement of spirituality concentrates primarily on self-transformation with the Spirit’s help, the third movement focuses on Jesus doing the transformation from within us through the Jesus Process, an article in this Program.

By “Jesus Process”, we mean that the Risen Christ has preserved the historical Jesus’ life experiences, and has created through them a power source at the center of our personhood. It is from this inner power source that the Risen Christ gifts us with the Spirit’s gifts. That’s the Jesus Process. We need to engage the power of the Jesus Process within us and surrender to its dynamics.

Our prayer: “Jesus, be the center who transforms us from the inside out through your Spirit’s gifts of greater love, hope and faith.” Our desire here is to connect with Jesus and unleash the Spirit’s gifts. This spirituality focuses on Jesus powering our lives to carry on his on-going Incarnation that we might become sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness to our sisters and brothers, and create the Beloved Community.

So we must surrender to the Jesus in the Jesus Process within us when we listen to Scripture and sermon.  We might pray: “Jesus, be the center who enlightens us through your Holy Spirit.”

At the Offertory, we surrender to Jesus in the Jesus Process within us when we recall Jesus at the Last Supper preparing his heart for self-giving by washing the feet of the Apostles. We know that we too must prepare our hearts for self-giving to join Jesus’ self-giving at the Consecration. So we offer up bread and wine as symbols of our lives, and pray that this offering will prepare our hearts for sacrifice in union with Jesus and life in the Beloved Community.

At the Consecration, when the priest offers up the Consecrated Bread and Wine, he offers the Risen Jesus and us as members of the Body of Christ. We must surrender to the Jesus in the Jesus Process within us as he takes us down the descending way of Divine Love with him to make us share in the sacrifice of the Mass. With Jesus, we too are sacrificed for our sisters and brothers. We must ask the Risen Jesus for the Spirit’s power to live our self-gift to God and others in the Beloved Community.

At Holy Communion, we must surrender to the Jesus in the Jesus Process within as he takes us down the descending way of Divine Love with him to make us Eucharist with him. We receive the Body of Christ and our sisters and brothers in the Body of Christ receive us as bread to eat and wine to drink, uniting us all in solidarity to become the Eucharistic community, the Beloved Community. 

Conclusion. The ritual of the Mass is at the heart of our faith. For it is a dramatization of our Christian beliefs. The challenge is to enter deeply into that drama to create the Beloved Community. However, we celebrate it in the context of public worship. As necessary as that must be, the problem is that public worship orients us toward the external action of the Mass.

To engage in spirituality that recreates us to create the Beloved Community, we must re-orient our experience of the Mass by taking a contemplative approach to it. We must bring to bear our spirituality—our wonder at the mystery we celebrate, our intentionality for self-transformation, our surrender to Jesus in the Jesus Process who brings about our transformation from the inside out. Only then will we be able to experience the Mass as the medium for accomplishing Jesus’ goal of creating the Beloved Community.

Signs of the Beloved Community in the process of becoming are seen in the way we offer the Kiss of Peace and the way we greet and relate to one another after Mass. But the truly Beloved Community does not turn in on itself. Rather, it radiates out the Spirit of Jesus to the larger community of society.

(See Hymn, Dance of the Mass, which focuses on Jesus’ Love Meal under Music on the masthead.)

Faith in Prayer and Sacrifice

As Cursillistas, we are called to be Palanca people. On our Weekend, we discovered a faith community who believes in the power of prayer and sacrifice to open others to the Spirit’s empowerment. There are hidden depths in our practice of Palanca. When we discover them, we realize that its practice offers us the opportunity to deepen our faith and spirituality.

Palanca is essentially intercessory prayer. However, when we really pray for another, not just say words that are nice, we take that person to our inner center, where we share that person’s concern with God. We become gift to the other person through the operation of the Spirit. So intercessory prayer benefits us first of all by turning us into gift. When we reveal our prayer to the person for whom we are praying, we are encouraging that person by our support. My revelation stirs the Spirit within that person. Whether or not the Spirit heals that person, or provides the strength to accept his or her problem, something has happened. The Spirit in us has moved the Spirit in another. Our Palanca give us the opportunity to experience this spiritual communion with another.

Father Ronald Rolheiser in his book, The Holy Longing, tells us that our faith in the power of prayer depends on an important piece of theology—Christ’s Incarnation. If we look upon the Incarnation as a 33-year experiment with Christ physically walking the earth and today present just in the Eucharist, leaving us the Holy Spirit, a real but less physical presence of God, we don’t have the whole picture. The Body of Christ also means the community of believers, which is also the real presence. So Christ is Jesus, the Eucharist and the community of faith. Through us, Christ still has physical skin, and can still be physically seen, touched and heard. Not metaphorically, but in a real sense.

Not only is this a dogma to be believed, but it is the core of Christian spirituality—with important consequences for our understanding of the power of prayer. We often wonder: “Why does God not answer our prayers?” Rolheiser says that prayers of petition have power to the extent that they are linked to concrete action within the Christian community: “To pray …demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in the prayer.”

Thus, our Palanca is based on solid theology and Christian spirituality. It is not just some nice practice. It is incarnational, meaning that it is physical. We don’t just remember the candidates in our prayers. Palanca is putting flesh behind our petitions. We make sure that they know about our prayers and sacrifices. We are the hands of Christ that write the letters.

Further, our personal Palanca is part of a communal effort to enable Christ’s Spirit to empower the candidates to conversion. Our prayers and sacrifices are added to the concrete efforts of the team and the outside community. In so doing we are living the dogma that Christ is present in the community of believers.

Also, we deeply believe that our Palanca, in the form of sacrifices, put us in touch with Christ’s suffering. Through Christ’s Self-gift, he won for us a great victory of reconciliation, making possible personal integration, union with God and others. Through our self-gift in our Palanca, we fill up what is lacking in Christ’s suffering to secure wholeness and healing for others.

Yes, Palanca is intercessory prayer at its best, but it is so much more than that. Palanca is living the ongoing Incarnation of Christ in his community of believers.

Further, our acts of Palanca are a manifestation of our faith and the opportunity to grow our faith and spirituality.

God-centeredness

Our hearts are divided. Our very positive heart wishes—to love, to be loved, to share our experiences and to grow—program us for infinity, for love encounters with God and others. On the other hand, our wounded hearts drive us to self-centeredness, the force that alienates us from God, others and even ourselves. Only a God-centered vision of life empowers us to fulfill our heart wishes, to live the fully human life, and to grow in holiness. Thus, the first and primary virtue for cursillistas is God-centeredness.

How do we struggle against our self-centeredness and make God-centeredness the focus of our life vision? John Powell, SJ tells us that our life vision consists of five attitudes—our attitudes toward God, self, others, life and creation. Saints and sinners, and everyone in between, we all have some kind of a vision or set of attitudes that account for the way we live our lives. However, when we choose God or self as the center of our life vision, a choice we are faced with each day, that decision impacts all the other factors in our life vision. Then we perceive the other factors either through God’s eyes or through our eyes.

To choose God as the center of our life vision, we must grow in our appreciation of who God is so that we can give God top priority. So we must begin with our concept of God, our attitude toward God.

Actually, the Trinity reveals who God is. God is the love relationship at the heart of reality. We who are made in God’s image are loved by the boundless love of an Infinite Lover. God is both Father and Mother. God is incarnate, flesh and bones, in Christ, Who remains incarnate in the Eucharist. At the same time, Christ is the Mystical Christ Who embraces all humanity in His Mystical Body. Further, At the same time that God is Transcendence and Majesty, God is love and presence and self-giving in His Spirit. Indeed, God is a many-splendored God Who satisfies all the wishes of our hearts.

When we progressively come to appreciate more deeply who God is, what He desires

for us and what He has done for us and does for us, this new appreciation radically changes the I—God relationship, our attitude toward God. Then our attitude toward self changes: I am no longer God, but I am uniquely gift and the recipient of a continuous flow of gifts from my Creator-Lover.

Once we have changed our attitude toward God and ourselves, we have changed the two key factors in our personal vision. This metanoia (conversion) impacts all the other factors in our personal vision—our attitude toward life (a gift of God), others (my brothers and sisters) and creation (a gift of God).

While this moment of conversion is sweet, due to our wounded nature, we must work each day to grow in the virtue of God-centeredness with all our relationships flowing from our relationship with God. We must strive each day to see through God’s eyes ourselves, others, life and creation. That is the ideal vision, the Christian Vision.

Another way of looking at holiness is that holiness is the ideal vision that drives our ideal values and our ideal practice (the way we live our lives). The basic dynamic model of Cursillo spirituality is: Vision, Values and Practice. Give a person the ideal vision, and that vision will impact the person’s values and the way he or she lives their lives. That is what the Cursillo Weekend is all about. That is what our Fourth Day is all about, bringing our values and practice in line with the ideal vision, the Christian Vision. Cursillistas are visionaries.