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Jesus’ Transformation

In the early 1900’s, the psychologist William James wrote “Variety of Religious Experiences”, the classic study of everyday “mystical” experiences. He recounts the transforming moments in people’s lives when they discovered deeply the presence of the divine in their lives and the impact such peak experiences had on them. They were found to be a relatively common experience among common people. Simply a surprising gift given without any concern for merit or learning.

Might not we suppose that Jesus, being the most human of human beings, must also have experienced such a peak experience that became a transforming moment in his life? I believe so. Therefore, I want to share the transforming moment in my life and attempt to draw parallel insights about Jesus.

In My Life. My transforming experience took place on a weekend retreat. I had brought to the retreat a lot of psychological baggage. On the first morning of the weekend, the presentation dwelt on our “persona”, the masks that we wear to hide our true selves so we can project a public self of self-esteem and confidence. During my meditation on this subject, I saw clearly the pockets of self-hate in my life as if they were on stage.

I became angry with myself that I had allowed so much self-hate to operate in my subconscious. I swore that I would never let that happen again. And suddenly I broke out into ecstatic joy. At that moment, I knew beyond doubt that love was at the heart of reality, Whom I called God, that all creation was lovable, that I was lovable. Instantly, my life vision was transformed—the way I saw myself, God, others, life, creation.

In Jesus’ Life. As Jesus studied the Scriptures to learn about God’s relationship with Israel and, more importantly, to learn about his mission and destiny, what must he have felt when he read the words of the prophet Isaiah 50:60 describing the obedience of the Lord’s servant? “I bared my back to those who beat me. I did not stop them when they insulted me, when they pulled out the hairs of my beard and spit in my face.”

Jesus was no dummy. He realized that those words applied to him and that he would become the suffering servant of God. Might Jesus have wondered to himself: “Is God a God of vengeance? Am I to be the victim of God’s wrath?”

I believe that it was only through deep contemplative prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit that Jesus came to discover God as Compassion Who loved all beings and creation with unconditional love. What the Old Testament did not reveal to Jesus, his contemplative prayer did. It was at that point in Jesus’ life that he must have come to know beyond doubt that God was love, that all creation was lovable, and that he was the beloved Son of God. In that moment, Jesus experienced transformation.

More than ever before, in that special moment Jesus began to enjoy the unique experience of intimate closeness to God—the Abba experience, the experience of God as a compassionate Father. Perhaps too it was at that moment of transformation that Jesus decided to quit the quiet, private life ofNazarethand embark on his public life and divine mission.

Transformation’s Effects. Transforming experiences are empowering, because they are a kind of a death/resurrection experience—moving one from self-hate to self-love, from self-ignorance to self-knowledge, from fear of God to deep faith in God as Jesus experienced.

Transforming experiences are vision changing experiences. When I returned from my transforming experience, I saw people as persons. My attitude toward women changed dramatically. They were persons, not sex objects. I was aware that all persons experience the pain of being human, as I had, and deserved my compassion. Likewise, Jesus too had experienced the pain of being human and his newly acquired solidarity with God created solidarity for him with all persons. The driving force behind his mission would become compassion for others: he would liberate them from all forms of oppression.

Transforming experiences open our eyes to creation. When I returned from my transforming experience, I was moved by a deep eros for creation. I wanted to touch the leaves of trees. I wanted to feel the essences of things, such as trying to feel the essence of water that was real but could not be grasped. I can easily imagine Jesus at night marveling at the moonbeams shimmering on the Sea of Galilee, or being filled with wonder at the mighty olive trees.

This erotic awareness of nature soon became an awareness of the gift dimension of creation and life. Through this discovery of the gift dimension of creation I experienced creation reverberating with God’s presence, love and attention. Creation gave me the gift of God’s presence. I felt that I was surrounded by God’s love in creation. Likewise, from human experience we can deduce that Jesus must have experienced the presence, the beauty and the wisdom of God in creation.

Transformation and Spiritual Life. What is the nature of transforming experiences?  When we discover that Love is at the heart of reality, we discover that Love Center that resides within us at the core of our personhood and Who radiates out the energies of love through the pathways of our minds, hearts and wills, and makes everything lovable to us—we are lovable, others are lovable, creation is lovable.

For a short but ecstatic period of time, I felt driven by my Love Center, Divine Eros. I believe that Jesus experienced this kind of transformation, only he was able to hold onto it and to live fully a life of love. However, I have come to believe that such transforming experiences are not just one-time episodes in our lives to be enjoyed for a brief time.  Rather, they can happen many times and each time they once again disclose to us the  depths of our spiritual reality and set a goal for our spiritual lives.

It is as if each day our love capacity falls to the default position of our self-centeredness, and we must raise ourselves to God-centeredness. Each day, we must recreate ourselves from the inside out; we must connect with our center, our Love Center. Each day we must rediscover our Love Center at the core of our personhoods and let it radiate out through our minds, hearts and wills. Each day we must re-experience our transformation.

 

 

Spirit-possessed

Scripture tells us that we have been created in God’s image and  likeness. What an uplifting statement! But what does it mean? For one, it means that we think, love and will as God does. However, that understanding describes only the similar functional capabilities we share with our Creator. Our divine likeness goes much deeper.

Christ revealed to us that God is a Trinity of Persons, the Father loving the Son, the Son imaging the Father, and the Spirit proceeding from this love relationship. Do we share this essential likeness to God? We do. The Spirit is integrated at the core of our beings. St. Paul describes this human-divine condition as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We truly are created in God’s image and likeness─at the level of our essence.

Further, we can say that God programmed us for the fullness of human life through our union with His Spirit. Before the Fall, our happiness would have been to be fully aware of God’s Spirit inspiring our lives, and we willfully and joyfully living our lives in accordance with the Spirit’s promptings. That was to be our glory as human persons

What the story of Original Sin tells us is that our first parents rejected God’s plan for the human race. They rejected dependency on God’s Spirit. They wanted self-depend-ency, self-determination. In place of a life of God-centeredness, they chose a life of self-centeredness. The result? This rejection of God’s plan alienated the human race from God’s relationship, and alienated us from ourselves, others, life and creation.

However, despite the fact that God’s plan for the human race had been rejected, the plan still stands. But given our woundedness, it is more difficult to live. We are not our own. The Spirit still possesses us. We are still created with an inner movement toward God, and yet we cannot make a move toward God without the Spirit’s empowerment.

If through Original Sin we rejected the Spirit’s possession of us, growth in the spiritual life entails progressive surrender to the Spirit’s possession of us. Thus, the spiritual life is essentially not about adding something outside ourselves like religious practices or rituals but about unleashing the Spirit usually locked up within ourselves.

One of the consequences of this human-divine condition is that prayer is not primarily something that we do as it is something that God does in us: “We who have the first fruits of the Spirit…do not know how to pray as we ought, but the very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Romans 8:23-26. Even our desire for growth in relationship with God is not primarily the human act of yearning, but a Spirit-inspired assent to the very way in which we were created. We are in the Spirit’s possession!

The same is true of spiritual formation. We are so complex as human beings that we do not know what spiritual insights we need to grow in the spiritual life. We must acknowledge that some of our old beliefs about God and the spiritual life are no longer working, and ask the Spirit to open us to new understandings that could change everything, and the courage to embrace His promptings.

What about our efforts at evangelization? The Fundamental Ideas states: “The Spirit acts through all evangelizers who allow themselves to be possessed and led by Him; who puts on their lips the words which of themselves they would never be able to find; who explains to the faithful the deep meaning of the teachings of Jesus and of His mystery; and who predisposes the minds of hearers to be open and receptive to the Good News.” These hearers of our words are likewise possessed by the Spirit. Our task is to encourage them to free the Spirit within them

The prayer, “Come Holy Spirit” should be on our lips throughout our day as we live and grow in lives of Spirit-possession.

Vision for Life Meditation

For a long time I have prayed the Vision for Life Prayer each day, because it sums up the Christian Vision succinctly and reminds me of the virtues that I need to live the Christian Vision. Then one day I began to meditate on this Prayer. I have received much inspiration from this practice, and so I want to share my meditation with you in the hope that it will inspire you to create your own meditation. The prayer appears in boldface; my meditation in lightface:

VISION FOR LIFE PRAYER

My God, be the center of my life.

Be the center of my feelings, desires,

intentions, relationships,

energy and creativity.

Be the center Who brings order

out of the daily chaos

in my mind, heart and will.

Be the center Who empowers me

to cope with my daily dialectic

of positive heart wishes

and powerful death wishes.

Be the center Who calls me each day

out of my tomb to new life

like Lazarus.

Be the center Who awakens my heart

to the possibilities of love each day.

 

Let me see all through Your eyes.

Through the eyes of the Creator

who brought all into being

and saw that it was good.

Through the eyes of the Divine Artist

who brought all into being

in such magnificent beauty

and exquisite design.

Through the eyes of our Father

who loves all his creations

with unconditional love.

Through the eyes of Divine Compassion.

Lord, You are fully present to all Your

creations with infinite love and infinite

attention. You “receive” the presence

and giftedness of each of Your

creations, and You pour out Your life

energies to sustain each in being.

 

Let me see myself as beloved by You.

And that from all eternity.

 

Let me see others

   as my sisters and my brothers.

Equally beloved by You

from all eternity.

We are Your unfinished creations.

We are Your creatures

in the process of becoming.

We are Your diamonds in the rough.

We are Your Spirit-driven creations,

For each of whom You have a vision:

Christ incorporated us all into Himself

at the beginning of time,

and at the end of time

Christ will gather us all unto Himself.

 

Let me see life and creation

   as Your gifts to me.

The gift of personhood.

I am a knowing, loving, willing being

infused with the Spirit

Who empowers me to live a life

of faith, hope and love.

Life is beautiful. Life is Your gift to me.

Creation too is Your gift to me.

You created out of Your own

resources a stage for me to live

my life on, an environment for me to

discover Your presence, beauty and

wisdom.

Creation is beautiful.

Creation is Your gift to me.

 

Jesus, let me see You as the model           

   of compassion to others.

You gifted others with Your presence

and You affirmed their giftedness.

And You carry on Your life

of compassion and communion to

others through the likes of me.

A poor substitute!

So empower me to live like You,

fully present to all my sisters and

brothers with a caring heart

and an attentive mind.

Empower me to be sacrament

of peace, healing and forgiveness

to my sisters and brothers

   as You were when on earth.

Empower me to be channels

of faith, hope and love  to my sisters

and brothers to awaken their faith,

hope and love, as You did

 

Let me see Your presence in

   community as the source of Spirit-

   empowerment.

Let me see Your presence in

   community as the source of my faith

   in community prayer and action.

Risen Jesus, You sacramentalized

community and made it an occasion

for us to grow our souls

through one another

in union with the Spirit.

You empowered community

to be a force for compassion and

enlightenment in their environments.

Risen Jesus, help me to believe

that You still penetrate closed doors

and rooms, closed minds and hearts

to gift us with Your peace

and the Spirit’s powers.

 

Spirit of Jesus, let me see You

   as my Higher Power who guides    

   and enlightens me.

You are my inner guide, my inner

mentor.

I need Your guidance and mentoring

to discern God’s will for me

and the direction of my life

that God desires for me.

Let me see You as the source

   of my courage to act and to lead,

   Completing Christ’s mission.

Spirit of Jesus, put heart into me,

lest I become disheartened.

Due to my own weakness.

Or due to the weakness of my com-

munity that I need so desperately

to support me.

 

Let me see You as my power

   to live the discipline of love.

Spirit of Jesus, Spirit of Love, Divine

Eros, let me see You as my power

to live Jesus’ life vision

of the primacy of love.

Jesus manifested the radical love

of God in a radical way and

gave us a life vision of radical love,

the primacy of love.

Spirit of Love, Divine Eros,

help me to live Jesus’ life vision.

Spirit of Love, let me see You as my

power to live the discipline of love—

to love despite my feelings, my

fatigue,  my differences with others,

and despite the arrogance and

self-centeredness of others.

Spirit of Love, let me see You as my

power to concentrate on pursuing

Jesus’ life vision. Keep it in my focus

through Your initiatives,

inspirations and invitations.

Spirit of Love, let me see You as my

power to patiently pursue Jesus’ life

vision,  one act of love at a time. Amen

 

 

Model for Holiness

Prior to Vatican ll, holiness was viewed as being a goal only for religious and priests. Since Cursillo was founded prior to Vatican ll, it was only proper that the founders should use the term “piety” for holiness, laypersons being only able to aspire to piety. However, the Spirit was alive in the Church, and Vatican ll proclaimed that holiness was for everyone. So, Cursillo exchanged the term of piety for holiness, but in fact holiness for Cursillo has remained piety since we dwell on external practices, rather than on interior dispositions or virtues.

The good news is that the Spirit is alive in Cursillo. Thanks to the Internet, a proposal for a Cursillo Holiness Model was endorsed by a Cursillo founder on April 1, 2000. These past months, we have been reflecting on this Model of seven Cursillo virtues one at a time.  It should be noted that the founders gave us a living model of holiness, a living experience of holiness which we experienced on our Weekends. It was from this experience that the seven Cursillo virtues were deduced. Now let us ask ourselves: What does this Holiness Model give us and what do we do with it?

First, living the Cursillo Holiness Model will deepen our relationship with each Person of the Trinity. Take the virtue of God-centeredness. As we seek to break out of the prison of self-centeredness and live lives of God-centeredness, we will make God the center of our lives, seeing ourselves, others, life and creation through the eyes of God. God will become our Vision for our entire life. We will become visionaries.

Living the Cursillo Holiness Model will deepen our relationship with the Spirit. As we practice the virtue of dependency on the Spirit, we will look to the Spirit more and more in moments of confusion or when we strive to cooperate with the Spirit’s inspirations. As we strive to grow in courage, we will look to the Spirit to give us the right words to say in our evangelization. Even our resolution to exert discipline in our spiritual lives will be performed, knowing that we are powerless to grow unless we have the power of a Higher Power, the Holy Spirit, to advance in the spiritual life.

Living the Cursillo Holiness Model will deepen our relationship with Christ. Each time we encounter our Christian community, such as at Ultreya and Group Reunion, we will realize that Christ is truly present in this body of believers and that we must grow in the virtue of openness to Spirit-empowerment through Christian community. Further, we will grow in faith that our Palanca prayer and sacrifice will be effective prayer since it is linked to concrete action within the Christian community, where Christ is vitally present. Lastly, as we progressively grow in our capacity to live lives of compassion and communion for others, we will enter more deeply into the life and mission of Christ.

Second, the Cursillo Holiness Model will give direction to our spiritual lives. Depending on our personalities, some Cursillo virtues will be more difficult to acquire than others. The Model reminds us that to live Cursillo spirituality, to live the fully human life, and to become effective evangelizers, we must acquire all seven virtues.

Third, the Cursillo Holiness Model gives us an effective tool to measure our progress in holiness. Asking ourselves in Group Reunion the question: “What spiritual aids have helped me in my spiritual growth?” puts our quest for holiness at the level of practices. The Pharisees would have had a field day with that question. They kept the Sabbath. They gave tithes. And on and on. More appropriately, we can now ask ourselves: “Have I grown in one of the seven Cursillo virtues?”  In effect, this question asks whether we have grown in our relationship to God, to Christ and to the Spirit through our pursuit of the Cursillo virtues. The Cursillo Holiness Model is truly a model for holiness!