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Do Not Cling

 

The greatest love scene in the Gospels between a man and a woman is the most profound revelation of who the historical Jesus is NOW for us and what our relationship is with him.   Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, author of The Wisdom Jesus, calls the bond between Mary Magdalene and Jesus “love, pure and simple.” The Risen Jesus appeals to this love bond to reveal the new possibilities of mystical love, mystical union with Jesus to Mary Magdalene—and to us. A revelation that the Church has ignored for over 2,000 years.

The scene is early Easter morning (John 20:11-18). Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb and sees that the stone has been removed from the entrance. Refusing to accept the word of the angels that Jesus has risen, she implores a man whom she takes for the gardener to tell her where he has put him and she would go and get him. Jesus answers her: “Mary!” She turned to him and said “Rabboni.”

“Easter Sunday begins with the energy of this encounter; it reverberates with two hearts reunited, her yearning met in his response. At the epicenter of what Christians call ‘the Easter kerygma’ (the proclamation of the good news of the resurrection) is a powerful moment of pure love,” states Rev. Bourgeault.

But where is the revelation? In the Risen Jesus’ words: “Do not cling to me.” Puzzling words to Biblical scholars. But understandable to lovers. The Risen Jesus was revealing to Mary that their relationship had changed, and by extension, that our relationship with the historical Jesus had changed. No longer could she enjoy relationship with the physical presence of Jesus who had ceased to exist. She, and we, would enjoy something much better, something much deeper, a mystical union.

New Jesus. Let us hear in our imaginations what the Risen Jesus was telling Mary. “Mary, I am no longer the Jesus whom you knew. The Jesus you sat before and listened to in rapt attention. The Jesus you hugged. The Jesus whose company you warmly desired. Yes, I am that person but I am much more than that person. Do not cling to the historical Jesus!

“Be consoled, Mary. Jesus’ life experiences live on in me. They will be forever available to you. Your love will unite us. Just remember and relive the times we were together, embracing them with all your heart, and we will be reunited. My Spirit of Love will make our union happen. You need only call upon me, the Risen Jesus, and I will breathe into you that same Spirit who drove Jesus all his life. And that Spirit will guide you, unite you with Jesus.”

Jesus Unbounded. What the Risen Jesus was telling Mary, and us, is that the historical Jesus is now unbounded. The possibilities for relationship with Jesus are unbounded. The possibilities for loving union with Jesus are now unbounded. Jesus is no longer bound by the limitations of time and geography. The historical Jesus has been freed from history. Jesus has been transported into the present moment for us 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 us: “What do you want of me?”

Not only has the resurrection unbound Jesus for greater mystical love and union with us, it transforms the history of an itinerant preacher into a here and now power source for us. The Risen Jesus has transformed all Jesus’ life experiences into sacramentals for us. Sacramentals that are not only symbols of a spiritual reality but also the means of conveying the spiritual energy to follow the way of his teaching. If we call upon the Risen Jesus, he will empower us to carry on Jesus’ life of bringing people peace, healing and forgiveness. Jesus’ Spirit of Love will be our empowerment.

Jesus Process. The flesh and bones historical Jesus no longer exists. There is a new reality. A new Jesus. The new Jesus is in fact a dynamic process. Today, when we encounter Jesus in the Gospels, we must be aware that Jesus is much more than the historical Jesus. Jesus is now the medium for us of the Risen Christ and the Spirit of Love. The Risen Jesus now contains Jesus’ lived experience and has transformed it into a power source, present here and now in the 21st Century. Out of this power source, the Risen Jesus gifts us with his Spirit who empowers us to transform ourselves and the world around us.

Let us see how the Jesus Process works. Take the Gospel reading that describes Jesus going up into the mountain to pray. When we are ready to pray, we can connect in our minds and hearts with Jesus in prayer. The Risen Christ has transformed Jesus’ prayer life with the Father into a power source, out of which the Spirit empowers us to pray. Let our prayer begin with the historical Jesus, but move on to beseech the Risen Jesus to breathe the Spirit upon us to gift us with Jesus’ power to pray.

Note: the historical Jesus is forever the medium of encounter with this powerful spiritual reality. Besides being the catalyst of the Jesus Process, the historical Jesus is our “powerful psychological anchor” in the words of St. Theresa of Avila, in our efforts to encounter the Trinity of Love. The historical Jesus is the image of God. He is the mirror of the invisible. Just don’t cling to him. Be ready for mystical love and union with him.

Conclusion. Fear of human sexuality has driven the Church to ignore human love as the model for spirituality, despite the fact that the Risen Jesus chose that model as the point of departure for Christianity on that Easter morning. The result? The Church has clung to the historical Jesus, making him a moral teacher and depriving him of his powers. Little is spoken of the Risen Jesus and the Spirit. It is preaching an unspiritual spirituality!

Here is how Rev. Bourgeault sums up Jesus’ and Mary’s Easter Sunday encounter: “Clearly a very deep mystical bond between the two of them, stronger than physical life and death, becomes profoundly engendering to the whole subsequent unfolding of Christianity. In a sense—and without wanting to make unfair distinctions—one must honestly say that the Christian path was not founded by the male disciples, although they are given the credit for it. It grew heart and soul out of the pure love and trust between a man and a woman who had, in a deep way, transcended their male- and female-ness to become living spirits.”

In a sense, we are all Mary Magdalenes on that Easter Sunday morning. The Risen Jesus is saying to us: “Do not cling.” He is inviting us all to a deep relationship with Jesus in all his dimensions—the New Jesus, the Unbounded Jesus, the Jesus Process—the medium for us of the Risen Jesus and the Spirit of Love.

We have Jesus’ promise of this deeper life with him: “When I go, you will not be left orphaned; I will come back to you. In a little while, the world will see me no more, but you will see me; and because I live, you also will live. When that day comes, you will know that I am in my Father and that you are in me, just as I am in you.” (John 14: 18-20

Catch the Vision

 

The Christian Vision is not about a set of dogmas or about a set of pious practices. It is all about a person named Jesus. The Christian Vision is about: (1) Jesus’ life vision, (2) Jesus’ life mission, (3) how he calls us to complete his mission, and (4) how he has empowered us for that mission.

Leave out any one of these four elements and the Christian Vision is incomplete. Omit Jesus’ call to us to complete his mission, and a critical part of the Christian Vision is lost. Ignore the fact that Jesus has empowered us for our task, and we are left with an impoverished Church attempting the impossible.

Ultimately, if the Christian Vision is worth anything, it should move us to a dynamic relationship with Jesus. If it does not, our understanding of the Christian Vision is incomplete or we are rejecting one of its essential elements.

For is not that the fundamental spiritual issue each of us faces? How do we transform a figure who lived 2000 years ago into a present day force in our lives? How do we make Jesus come alive? How do we make Jesus religiously compelling and spiritually transformative for ourselves, today, here and now?

In the end, the Christian Vision reveals that Jesus is not frozen in time 2,000 years ago, but is alive today and is the catalyst of a dynamic spiritualization process in our lives. We can have a dynamic relationship with Jesus because Jesus is a dynamic force. But first let us look at the historical Jesus.

Jesus’ Life Vision. What was Jesus’ life vision?  Let us first define what we mean by life vision. Life visions are all about attitudes, our attitudes toward God, self, others, life and reality. Now a key question is what was Jesus’ attitude toward God? The answer to that question will determine Jesus’ total life vision.

In Jesus Before Christianity, Fr. Albert Nolan, O.P. states: “It is generally agreed that somewhere at the heart of Jesus’ mysterious personality there was a unique experience of intimate closeness to God—the Abba experience…we know that the Abba experience was an experience of God as a compassionate Father.” As a compassionate Father, God loves all persons.

Here is the important insight. Jesus’ solidarity with God created solidarity for him with all humanity. The driving force behind Jesus’ life vision was compassion for others. Jesus’ God-centeredness impacted all the elements of his life vision, because he saw all through God’s eyes.

What Jesus teaches us is that once we enter deeply into solidarity with God, we will become compassionate persons because God is compassion. The move from self-centeredness to God-centeredness is the breakthrough conversion in our life visions, and therefore in our spiritual lives. We see ourselves, others, life, reality in an entirely new light, because we view all through God’s global view rather than through our narrow point of view.

Jesus’ Life Mission. Jesus’ life vision would become his life mission. Fr. Nolan points out, that unlike John the Baptist, Jesus did not feel called to save others by bringing them to a baptism of repentance. Jesus saw his mission as liberating people from every form of suffering—physical, psychological, spiritual, social, and political. Jesus would become God’s compassion incarnate.

Jesus would seek to win over all people through compassion. His one  and only motive for healing people was compassion, not to prove that he was the Messiah. He mixed socially with society’s outcasts, sinners and tax collectors, completely ignoring the scandal he was causing, so that they would know they were accepted by him.  He fought the oppression of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of the times, because they imposed a loveless, burdensome religion on the people.

Fr. Albert Nolan writes: “The kingdom in which Jesus wanted his contemporaries to believe was a kingdom of love and service, a kingdom of human brotherhood and sisterhood in which every person is loved and respected because he or she is a person.”

Jesus’ Call. In his radical love for us, God sent Jesus to save all humanity. And Jesus calls us to dream the impossible dream of joining him in his mission to liberate people from every form of suffering—physical, psychological, spiritual, social and political. Jesus wanted all people to experience the fullness of their humanity. We are called to make his mission our life vision and our life mission!

Jesus’ mission is what we call broadly today “social justice”, and is the essential mission for us. Over time, Jesus’ mission has expanded to include many missions, among them Christianizing our environments and teaching catechetics. But in whatever mission we are involved, we are called to manifest Jesus’ compassion, gifting others with our presence and affirming their giftedness. Our compassion toward others opens them to Jesus’ message.

Jesus, Our Brother. Who is it who calls us to complete his mission of saving the whole world? Jesus, our brother. Jesus, though divine, was no make-believe human being. Jesus had to grow in understanding by moving from ignorance to knowledge, from doubt to certainty, from indecisiveness to decision, just as we do. Jesus learned from his Jewish culture as we learn from our culture. Jesus learned from his personal relationships as we do. Jesus learned the way every human learns.

Only when we can sense Jesus’ confusion as to where the Spirit was leading him, can we feel at home with our brother Jesus and be open to his call to mission. So many times we read in the Gospels that Jesus left the crowds behind and went off to pray. What he prayed for was guidance.

Further, Jesus was no solitary man. In pious literature, Jesus is presented as self-sufficient, self-reliant. But the Holy Spirit was his tutor every step of the way. He depended on the Holy Spirit as his mentor and guide, just as we have to do. Truly, Jesus became our brother and embraced our human condition, except for sin. For this reason we can relate to Jesus as brother and friend.  This is the Jesus who calls us to complete his mission.

Jesus, Our Crucified Lover. In time, our brother Jesus became our Crucified Lover. Jesus’ priestly mission came to a shameful, horrific end. How we explain his passion and death can either cloud Jesus’ triumph of love for us and weaken our response to his love, or it can transform us into tremendous lovers of Jesus and committed disciples.

For over a thousand years, theologians have been obsessed with the explanation of penal substitution as the rationale for Jesus’ death: Jesus stepped into our place and experienced for us God’s vindictive justice. Thus, God is a cruel God, even a child abuser. Ultimately, we must conclude that we are dealing with mystery, the mystery of God and evil.

However, Jesus’ love for us is not a mystery.St. Augustineasked: “What is the beauty we see in Christ?…The crucified limbs? The pierced side? Or the love? When we hear that he suffered for us, what do we love? The love is ‘loved.’ He loved us so that we might love him back…”

What St. Augustine is telling us is: Don’t focus narrowly on Jesus’ suffering which he willingly undertook for us: concentrate on Jesus’ love for us. Let us remember that for each of us personally, Jesus in his passion and death took upon himself all of our pains, anxieties, fears, self-hatred, discouragement and all our accumulation of wounds that we bring from our childhood and our childish ways of trying to survive. He did this out of love for each one of us.

It would be helpful to imagine the love life of Jesus as he encountered his agonizing last days. Imagine Jesus going up the mountain with the apostles and being transfigured before setting out on his journey to Jerusalem and certain death. Jesus thinks to himself: “I choose to live for and with those for whom life is one long, desolate corridor with no exit sign. This is the way I’m going… If it means dying for them, I’m going that way, because I heard a voice saying, ‘Do something for others’….We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter to me now. Because I have been to the mountaintop….I just want to do God’s will…I have seen the promised land… My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

These are the words of Reverend Martin Luther King who prophesized the end to his life, a life of vision and mission. His words give us only a glimpse into the mind and heart of Jesus, our tremendous lover, the image and mirror of God, the Radical Lover. This is the Jesus who calls us to complete his mission.

Jesus, Our Leader. Jesus assures us: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Fr. Nolan writes:  “Jesus was experienced as the breakthrough in the history of humanity. He transcended everything that had ever been said and done before. He was in every way the ultimate, the last word. He was on a par with God. His word was God’s word. His Spirit was God’s Spirit. His feelings were God’s feelings. What he stood for was exactly the same as what God stood for. No higher estimation was conceivable.”

Jesus in his humanity is the physical revelation of the infinite God who is invisible and beyond our comprehension. If Jesus is forgiving, God is forgiving. If Jesus is compassionate, God is compassionate. Jesus is the image of God, the mirror that reflects God in all his reality. This is the kind of leader we have—a brother, a Crucified Lover and the very image of God. This is the Jesus who calls us to complete his mission. Nor does he do so without giving us the power.

Jesus, Our Empowerer. For too long the Church has ignored the meaning and significance of the Resurrection. The Resurrection is not just an historical event. It is not the anti-climax to what took place on Good Friday onCalvary, as it has been treated by the Church.

The Resurrection is all about Jesus’ triumph over death and coming into the power of the risen life, and empowering us. If we minimize the Risen Jesus, we minimize the powers Jesus gave us. We are Resurrection People—full of faith in the power of the Risen Jesus, and thus full of hope. The Risen Jesus is the magnificent power broker. With Jesus we can do all things. Let us look at four power sources that the Resurrection opened up to us:

(1) The Risen Jesus sacramentalized the historical Jesus’ whole lifetime by transforming his life events and words into a power source. It is as if Jesus’ life events rose from the dead with him. Jesus lives here and now with all his life events acting as power sources for us. When we unite ourselves with Jesus’ life events in our prayer life, in our spiritual formation and in our evangelization of others, in our suffering, we are empowered by Jesus because his life events live on as sources of power for us. We only need faith in the Risen Jesus.

(2) The Risen Jesus continues his Incarnation on earth through us by incorporating us as members of his Body. And he empowers us with the same powers that the historical Jesus enjoyed—to bring peace, healing and forgiveness to others. When we employ Jesus’ powers, we manifest the Risen Jesus within us to the world. The challenge for us is to take possession of Jesus’ powers. We have been given the powers. We only need faith in the Risen Jesus.

(3) The Risen Jesus pours out his Spirit on us, constantly empowering us with his Spirit’s powers to bring us to self-discovery and to transformation into Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation within us. The Spirit is our inner guide and mentor. God carries on a Divine Dialogue with us, making known his will and direction for our lives, and it is the Holy Spirit who confirms within us that we have recognized God’s word to us. It is through the Spirit that we gain the courage to complete Jesus’ mission. It is through the Spirit that we grow in the discipline of love to be self-giving persons as Jesus was. We only need faith in the Risen Jesus.

(4) The Risen Jesus sacramentalized Christian community and continues to do so. He promised that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he would be present. Think of Jesus’ disciples hiding in the Upper Room behind closed doors. Imagine the Risen Jesus here and now penetrating our communities, and most importantly, penetrating the closed doors of our minds and hearts, opening us up to his Spirit. Imagine Jesus saying to us: “Peace be with you!” and breathing his Spirit upon us. The Risen Jesus continues to empower us through the Spirit in our Christian communities. We only need faith in the Risen Jesus.

Thus far, we have seen how Jesus’ solidarity with God who is a compassionate Father created solidarity for him with all humanity. His life vision became his life mission. Further, Jesus invites us to live his life vision, the Christian Vision for us, and to commit to his life mission. Lastly, the Risen Jesus has empowered us to complete his mission to the world.

Embracing the Vision. What remains to be answered is: how do we embrace the Christian Vision? Earlier we said, the Christian Vision is all about a person, a person named Jesus. We live the Christian Vision by embracing Jesus as ardently as we can and as often as we can. Does that mean embracing just the historical Jesus? No, it means embracing the total Jesus—the historical Jesus, the Risen Jesus, and the Jesus who gives us his Spirit. How do we embrace Jesus?

(1) Practice Resurrection. When we embrace Jesus’ Resurrection, we embrace Jesus. At every Mass we attend let us rejoice in the rising from the dead of our Crucified Lover who carried our burdens on his cross and celebrate the Risen Jesus coming into his triumph and power—the power he has shared with us. Let us celebrate his ongoing presence among us, his ongoing Incarnation in us, his ongoing transformation of us, his ongoing empowerment of us, his ongoing bringing us into union with all men and women who are the Body of Christ. At the consecration, when the priest holds up the host, let us be aware that we are included in that host as members of Jesus’ Body, and let us offer up ourselves as self-gift to Jesus and to our sisters and brothers.

When we are in Christian community, let us remind ourselves that the Risen Jesus is present in our midst, still gifting us with his peace and the Spirit’s empowerment as on the first Pentecost.

(2) Practice Union with the historical Jesus. When we embrace Jesus’ humanity, we embrace Jesus. Let us be keenly conscious that Jesus’ power goes out from him 2000 years later due to his Resurrection. So let us practice union with our brother Jesus. Let us get in touch with Jesus’ power in everything we do—in our prayer life, in our spiritual formation, in our evangelization of others.

(3) Practice Pentecost. Our dream of joining Jesus in his mission to save the whole world is the impossible dream unless we have a Higher Power. That Higher Power is the Spirit whom the Risen Jesus continually pours out upon us. So let us practice Pentecost. Let the Spirit become our guide and mentor. Let us pray the Come Holy Spirit prayer daily and many times during the day for the courage to act and lead to complete Jesus’ mission, and for the power to love others with a radical love. When we embrace Jesus’ Spirit, we embrace Jesus!

(4) Practice Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation. When we embrace the Risen Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation in us, we embrace Jesus. Let us manifest the Risen Jesus within us. Let us practice being sacraments to others—bringing peace, healing and forgiveness to others as Jesus did. Let us practice being Jesus’ compassion to others by gifting people with our presence and affirming their giftedness. Let us practice being communion to others by being bodily present to others with our gestures, tone of voice and our attention to them. Let us practice being channels of faith and hope to others to awaken faith and hope in them.

Embracing Dynamic Jesus. The Christian Vision understood in all its splendor reveals the answer to the fundamental question: how do we move toward a dynamic relationship with Jesus. The short answer is: embrace the total Jesus revealed at the Resurrection.

For the Risen Jesus transformed Jesus’ life on earth into a power source. Out of this power source, the Risen Jesus gifts us with his Spirit who empowers us to live lives of radical faith, radical hope and radical love. The historical Jesus has become and is the catalyst of a dynamic living process of spiritual empowerment for us by bringing into play all his dimensions—his humanity, his resurrected life, and his Spirit. We can have a dynamic relationship with Jesus because Jesus is dynamic!

 

Resurrection Mindset

As St. Augustine said, “We are Resurrection People.” So, we must have a Resurrection Mindset. In our series of articles on the Resurrection, we have looked at our spirituality through a Resurrection Mindset, seeing all facets of our faith and spiritual practice through the lens of the Resurrection: How the historical Jesus is the dynamic catalyst of the Jesus Process leading us to the Risen Jesus and the Spirit’s powers. How the Resurrection affects our prayer life, how it affects the way we pray the Mass, how it affects our reading the Gospels. How we cope with life’s death experiences. How we view Christian community as the source of Spirit-empowerment.

All these outcomes of the Resurrection flow from Jesus’ death and Resurrection. The great Christian paradox: out of death comes life. Yet, how many practicing Catholics cling exclusively to the historical Jesus? They are happy to draw inspiration and wisdom from the earthy Jesus, but dismiss the “mystical” stuff. They accuse the Church of mythologizing Jesus with its talk of the Risen Jesus and the Holy Spirit. These people must die to their too great comfort with the historical Jesus in order to grow into the Christian Vision.

Evolutionary Mindset. Now we want to consider how a Resurrection Mindset impacts the process of our spiritual development. Here is what Maryknoll spiritual writer Fr. John Walsh, M.M. says about the necessity of a growth-oriented mindset: “People cannot evolve without an evolutionary mindset. Unfortunately most cultural Christians (those born into the Faith) still live in a static universe.”

Our Resurrection Mindset is just such an evolutionary mindset. It is a process mindset because Jesus is the dynamic process, the catalyst of the Jesus Process, the driver of the Resurrection Process, constantly calling us from death to life.

Let’s further define a Resurrection Mindset. It is comprised of two elements, a lively faith vision, and a realization that only by dying to oneself can we experience new life. First, our faith vision assures us that Jesus is dynamically alive and calls us out of our tombs, as he called Lazarus, to partake more deeply of life. As Resurrection People, we will experience death many times as we move to new life, new periods of growth.

Second, we must constantly ask ourselves: what must I die to in order to move to new life? What attitudes of my life vision require change? My attitude toward God, Jesus, Spirit, ourselves, others, life, reality? Wherever we are on our spiritual journey, we must look upon ourselves as ever evolving to new life, but always needing to die to grow.

Evolving Spirituality. In Evangelization and Justice, Fr. Walsh cites the stages of spiritual maturity. Given a transforming environment, such as a Cursillo Weekend, most active Christians will move out of the traditional stages of absorbing their faith from others and will make a conscious decision to take possession of their faith. But they will have to die to the comfort of letting others think for them. When this happens, they will grow up spiritually.

Unfortunately at this juncture, they will normally adopt one model of Christian living. Their spirituality will be predominantly either head-oriented or heart-oriented; group-oriented or individualistic; action-oriented or contemplative-oriented. But to continue their growth, they must die to what hinders their progress to move to the conflicting polarity. If they are predominately action-oriented, they must become more contemplative-oriented. Likewise, they must grow into the other opposing models, leading eventually to a richly integrated spiritual life. The final stage of growth is when we become Spirit-possessed and allow the Spirit to create prophets and mystics out of us.

Evolving Heart Wishes. What helps us to evolve our spirituality? Fr. Walsh responds that we must surface and expand our basic heart wishes to embrace all the models of Christian living. He enumerates these heart wishes as follows: 1. We want to love. 2. We want to be loved. 3. We want to share our experiences, and we want to enter into the experiences of others. Actually, we hunger for solidarity with God and others. 4. We want to grow our potentialities. We must be keenly aware of our heart wishes and attempt to discern these movements in our everyday lives, for it is the Spirit at work inviting us to come out of our tombs and grow our souls. We will have to sacrifice something to respond. What is it? Ultimately, we come to the realization that only by encountering fully God and our sisters and brothers that we attain our heart wishes.

Evolving Self-discovery. Besides having positive heart wishes, we also experience the shadow side of ourselves. Call them death wishes for they destroy or hinder our spiritual progress. Here too we must surface our feelings and discern our fears, hostilities, passivity, self-centeredness so that we can handle them at a conscious level, rather than allowing them to sabotage our relationships with God and our sisters and brothers.

So, in our spiritual lives we are faced with the challenging conflict of our positive heart wishes and our death wishes. Only Jesus through the Spirit’s powers can enable us to cope with this inner, never-ending conflict. But Jesus will lead us out of the darkness of our ignorance to reveal to us our human condition. The evolution here is one of continuing self-discovery and acceptance of reality, leading us to deeper dependency on the Spirit.

Ultimate Evolution. What is the ultimate evolution in our personal/spiritual development? Fr. Walsh responds: “It is ourselves with our resurrected bodies, alive in a radically changed universe that has become the site of these resurrected bodies…It is only when we pass through the evolutionary transition called death-unto resurrection that we can experience the fullness of evolution without extinguishing our individuality. In fact, just the opposite will happen: Through our ultimate encounter with Christ and others, our own personality will be enhanced beyond our wildest dreams.” We will be swept up into the inner love-life of the Trinity through the risen Christ. Until our personal resurrection, our personality, our true self is incomplete. Only then will our heart wishes be fulfilled in union with God and our sisters and brothers.

With a Resurrection Mindset, we will be sensitive to Jesus’ calling us constantly from death to life throughout our lives and into eternity. All life is Resurrection from the dead into new life!

 

 

 

Praying the Gospels

In previous articles, we explored how our deeper understanding of the Resurrection and of the Jesus Process changed everything—the way we pray, the way we participate in the liturgy of the Mass. Now let us examine how the Risen Jesus changes how we read the Gospels, how we preach the gospels, and how we practice faith-sharing based on the Gospels.

When it comes to the Gospels, the tendency is to focus solely on the historical Jesus’ every word and action. But if we go no further, we lock Jesus into history and he becomes only an inspiring figure, whose words we use to moralize to improve our own or others’ conduct. But by so doing, we encounter only one dimension of Jesus. Thus, he does not become the catalyst of the Jesus Process whereby he leads us to the Risen Jesus and to the Spirit’s empowerment of us.

We must read the Gospels three dimensionally. We must move the focus of the Gospels ultimately to all the dimensions of Jesus—the historical Jesus, the Risen Jesus and the Jesus who gives us the Spirit. Otherwise, we miss the power of the Gospels to transform us into persons who carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation. Fr. John Walsh, M.M. says that we have to look at the Gospels as unfinished: we have to write the latest chapters. It is as if the Gospels are contained in a loose-leaf binder. However, to do so we must grow deeper in the awareness that we have been empowered by the Risen Jesus.

The Risen Jesus has empowered us to carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation by giving us the same powers Jesus exercised in his earthly life. The key questions we have to ask ourselves are: How does the Scripture passage, which we are reflecting on, reveal the powers that the Risen Jesus has given us?  How do the Gospels empower us to carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation?

Take the Gospel story of the woman “who had suffered from severe bleeding for 12 years. She had spent all she had on doctors, but no one had been able to cure her. She came up in the crowd behind Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak, and her bleeding stopped at once. Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’” Despite the denials of everyone, Jesus insisted, “Someone touched me, for I knew it when power went out of me.” Today, we have to be the hem of Jesus’ garment. If people in need touch us, they touch Jesus. His power will go out from us—if we have faith, if we have taken possession of Jesus’ powers given to us by the Risen Jesus.

How do we carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation in us? How do we write the next chapters in the Gospels? We must exercise the powers given by the Risen Jesus to be sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness. The Gospels are all about these powers.

Does our reading of the Gospels awaken our faith in our powers to be sacraments to others? Fr. Ronald Rolheiser writes in The Holy Longing: “We can forgive each other’s sins; not we, but the power of Christ within us.”

Does a sermon on the Gospels inspire us to bind sinners to Jesus through our love for them? Fr. Rolheiser states: “If a child or a brother or a sister or a loved one of yours strays from the church in terms of faith practice and morality, as long as you continue to love that person, and hold him or her in union and forgiveness, he or she is touching the hem of the garment….and is forgiven by God.”

Does the compassionate life of Jesus that the Gospels relate raise our awareness that the Risen Jesus has given us the powers to be compassion and communion to others? Do our Gospel readings empower us to be channels of faith, hope and love for others as Jesus called forth faith, hope and love in others during his earthly life.

Prayer & Risen Jesus

The people in the Gospel stories had a great advantage over us when it comes to prayer. Jesus was present to them as a person, whom they could see and touch. The Jesus we know through the Scriptures no longer exists. Only the Risen Jesus exists. This leads us to two questions: First, in light of the Resurrection, to whom do we pray? Second, what is the place of the historical Jesus in our prayer life?

Fr. William Johnston, SJ. in an introduction to The Cloud of Unknowing answers our first question in this way: “Now the Christian, following St. Paul, does not pray just to a historical figure but to the now existing risen Christ who contains in himself all the experience of his historical existence in a transformed way, as he indicated by showing his wounds to his disciples.” So, the object of our prayer is clearly the Risen Jesus.

In response to the second question about the place of the historical Jesus in our prayer life, Fr. Johnston states that the problem is that “Christian theology, following the New Testament, situates the historical Jesus at the very heart of prayer—Christ the man, the Incarnate Word.” We are comfortable with the historical Jesus. We can have thoughts and ideas and images of Jesus through his life events. We can have no adequate picture of the Risen Jesus. How then do we make our prayer Christocentric and at the same time relate to the Risen Jesus?

The Jesus Process. We have described the results of Jesus’ Resurrection as the Jesus Process, described in this program. First, let us revisit that concept and then explore its relevance to our prayer life. Jesus’ lived experience on earth is the core element driving the Jesus Process. Christ, as the Risen Jesus, no longer limited by time or geography, transforms Jesus’ historical experience into a power source, present here and now in the 21st Century. Out of this power source, the Risen Jesus gifts us with his Spirit who empowers us to carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation in us and manifest his powers for others.

Seeing the historical Jesus as the catalyst of the Jesus Process enables us to make our prayer Christocentric and at the same time enables us to embrace the imageless Risen Jesus. Besides being the catalyst of the Jesus Process, the historical Jesus is our powerful psychological anchor in our efforts to encounter the mysterious Risen Jesus, according to the mystic St. Teresa ofAvila.

Power Source—To the two questions we raised at the very beginning about the place of the historical Jesus in our prayer, we should add one more question: What is the place of the Risen Jesus in our prayer life?  We must situate the Risen Jesus at the very heart of our prayer, the very center of our prayer. For while the historical Jesus is the catalyst of the Jesus Process, it is the Risen Jesus who POWERS the Jesus Process.

Through the Risen Jesus sacramentalizing Jesus’ life and actions on earth, the Risen Jesus empowers us to practice union with Jesus’ life and actions. Through the Risen Jesus pouring out the Holy Spirit upon us, the Risen Jesus empowers our hearts to be awakened to the Holy Spirit who grows our faith, our hope and our love. And through the Risen Jesus incorporating us into the Body of Christ, the Risen Jesus binds us to our sisters and brothers in the Body of Christ, and empowers us to carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation by being sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness for others, by being compassion and communion to others, and by being channels of faith, hope and love for others.

Our prayer should always begin by praying to the Risen Jesus, the power source of the Jesus Process. Before we say prayers of petition, thanksgiving or adoration, let us begin by praying that the Risen Jesus unite us with the human experiences of Jesus, such as Jesus going off to the mountains to pray. Let us then ask the Risen Jesus to open our hearts to the initiatives, invitations and inspirations of the Spirit. The Risen Jesus brings all the players in the Jesus Process together to make our prayer effective.

Also, in centering prayer we should begin by praying to the Risen Jesus. In centering prayer, we attempt simply to be fully present with all our heart and mind to the presence of the Risen Jesus. It is a wordless, imageless way of prayer to the Risen Jesus who is imageless. So, it is a very appropriate form of prayer.

An important aspect of centering prayer is our intentionality. Here we attempt to establish beforehand our desire to surrender to the Risen Jesus’ mysterious presence. Praying the Jesus Process prepares us for centering prayer. Before we begin, we should ask the Risen Jesus to give us the desire of the historical Jesus for contemplation, and the fire of the Spirit to lose ourselves in union with the Risen Christ.

Let us make the Risen Jesus the center of our prayer life. The Risen Jesus is the only Jesus we have!

Resurrection-based Spirituality

Who can stop us from celebrating? Jesus is risen from the dead. The Resurrection is the second “Big Bang” in the universe, the “new creation” of God’s relationship with us. The Resurrection opens us up to spiritualities that are centered on a dynamic relationship with the historical Jesus, on a dynamic relationship with the Risen Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation in us, and on a dynamic relationship with the Spirit. Let’s take a closer look.

Dynamic Spiritualities. (1) The Risen Jesus sacramentalized the historical Jesus’ whole lifetime by transforming his life events and words into a power source. It is as if Jesus’ life events rose from the dead with him. The Risen Jesus contains in himself all the experience of the historical Jesus in a transformed way, still empowering us as in Jesus’ earthly life.  

(2) The Risen Jesus continues his Incarnation on earth through us by incorporating us as members of his Body. And he empowers us with the same powers that the historical Jesus enjoyed—to bring peace, healing and forgiveness to others. Even to bind others to Jesus through our love. Further, he sacramentalized Christian community and continues to gift us with his peace and to breath his Spirit upon us whenever we gather together in his name.

(3) The Risen Jesus pours out the Spirit on us as he did on that first Pentecost, constantly empowering us with the Spirit’s powers to bring us to radical love of God and others through self-discovery and transformation.

Growth Spiritualities. Like any relationship, each of these three spiritualities must be developed. To grow in these spiritualities, we must practice union with the historical Jesus, we must practice Pentecost with the Spirit and we must practice the ongoing Incarnation of the Risen Jesus. We are called to grow in union with Jesus’ life events in our prayer life, in our spiritual formation and in our evangelization of others, and in our suffering. Only then can we be empowered because Jesus’ life events live on as sources of power for us.

We are called to grow in faith that we possess the powers that Jesus exercised on earth. Only when we exercise those same powers will we manifest the ongoing Incarnation of the Risen Jesus within us to the world. We are called to grow in awareness of the Risen Jesus’ presence in community and approach Christian community with great expectancy of the Spirit’s empowerment.

We are called to grow in faith that the Spirit is our inner guide and mentor. God carries on a Divine Dialogue with us, making known his will and direction for our lives and it is the Holy Spirit who confirms within us that we have recognized God’s word to us. Further, it is through the Spirit that we gain the courage to complete Jesus’ mission. And it is through the Spirit that we grow in the primacy of love, and in the discipline of love to be self-giving persons as Jesus was.

Integrated Spiritualities. Not only does the Risen Jesus launch these three spiritualities, but he puts the historical Jesus on center stage of the three spiritualities. Our chart shows that each of our three spiritualities ends in our deepened practice of the Jesus Process. However, not only does the Jesus Process  integrate all three spiritualities, but it also empowers them. The Process begins with uniting ourselves with the historical Jesus’ life experiences and the Risen Jesus transforming them into sources of power from which we are gifted with the Holy Spirit who empowers us to a greater love, hope and faith in the historical Jesus. But the Jesus Process does not end there. The Jesus Process deepens our relationship with the Spirit who drives our quest for holiness and it deepens our relationship with the Risen Jesus who seeks to take possession of us that we might manifest Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation in our mission of evangelizing others.

All spirituality is Resurrection-based spirituality. Practicing Resurrection and the Jesus Process that flows from the Resurrection leads us to a deeper practice of each of the three spiritualities—the historical Jesus-centered spirituality, the Risen Jesus-centered spirituality and the Spirit-centered spirituality. Practicing each of the three spiritualities reinforces the others. And the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

We are Resurrection People empowered by the Risen Jesus! Who can stop us from celebrating?

Practice Union with Jesus

We have said that living the spiritual life is a life lived in the Jesus Process. We have defined the Jesus Process as the Risen Christ transforming Jesus’ lived experience on earth into a power source, out of which the Risen Christ gifts us with his Spirit who empowers us to live lives of faith, hope and love.

Now let us ask ourselves: How do we live the reality of the Jesus Process? The simple answer is: Practice union with the historical Jesus in whatever you do in the spiritual life. Practice resurrection with the Risen Christ. Practice empowerment with the Spirit. Not as isolated practices but each flowing from the other in the dynamics of the Jesus Process. Here we will focus just on practicing union with the historical Jesus.

The Cursillo Tripod defines what we do in the spiritual life. Can we apply the Jesus Process to the living of this growth model? Our pursuit of holiness, formation and evangelization are in fact encounters with the Jesus Process. Being a fully human being, Jesus had to grow through this growth model as he grew in wisdom, age and grace, prompted and supported by the Holy Spirit. As the Risen Christ, Jesus perpetuates his developmental process, so that Jesus can now invite us into the Jesus Process of his growth experience.

The reality of the Jesus Process transforms the Cursillo growth process for holiness, formation and evangelization from simply a methodology based on good human psychology into a personal relationship or encounter with Jesus. Previously we defined these terms in the abstract and set them up as a model to live by. But what the reality of the Jesus Process does is to encourage us to unite ourselves with Jesus in his search for holiness, in his efforts for spiritual formation and in his efforts at evangelization. Jesus invites us to experience with him his lived experience of his developmental process and his evangelization activities as here and now experiences.

Practice Union in Holiness. Before praying the Vision for Life prayer, unite with Jesus imagining him praying to obtain God-centeredness: “My God, be the center of my life. Let me see all through Your eyes. Let me see myself as beloved by You from all eternity.” Then let Jesus lead you to the Risen Christ’s resurrection and the Spirit’s empowerment. Before attempting to grow in any virtue such as compassion for others or dependency on the Spirit, or before entering into any prayer, let Jesus lead the way.

Before Mass unite with Jesus at the Last Supper when he washed the feet of the apostles and gave himself as self-gift to us in the Eucharist, truly a love feast. Let the Risen Christ transform that historical event into an ongoing love feast and empower us with the Spirit to make it a here and now experience for us to love Jesus and others more.

Practice Union in Spiritual Formation. Before spending time studying scripture, performing spiritual reading, or attending retreats or lectures to form ourselves in the spiritual life, let us unite with the historical Jesus. Imagine Jesus unfurling the scrolls of the Old Testament and spending much time studying them in an effort to discover His identity and mission. Again, let Jesus lead you in your pursuit of spiritual formation. He will change everything from history into a here and now experience through the Jesus Process.

Practice union in evangelization. Before attempting to help people to enter into themselves and discover themselves as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well or with Nicodemus who sought Jesus’ wisdom, let us unite with the historical Jesus. Let Jesus begin our evangelization efforts and be the catalyst of the Jesus Process.

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.”

End Plan

We commonly hear that the Eucharistic Meal, the Love Meal, is a memorial of Jesus and all that he has done for us. True, that is how the Eucharistic Meal began. After Jesus’ death, it became a way for his apostles and disciples to remember Jesus. That concept has prevailed. However, I believe that Jesus had a greater plan for the Eucharistic Meal that he instituted at the Last Supper.

The term “memorial” looks back at what Jesus did. It does not look forward to Jesus’ goal of creating community, the Beloved Community. The term does not highlight the notion of Jesus empowering us to become community, anointing us to become the Beloved Community, through our Eucharistic celebration.

God’s Plan. Permit me a moment of fanciful imagination. The scene is a brainstorming session among the Persons of the Trinity. It takes place before Jesus’ Incarnation.

Christ begins the discussion: “I understand that our plan for salvation calls for me to be incarnated, taking the form of a human being.”

“That’s right,” the Father replies. “You will enter into human history to demonstrate that Infinite Love exists at the heart of reality and that there is hope for all humanity.”

Christ continues, “I’ll spend some 30 years on earth teaching people how to live their lives and live a relationship of love with one another.”

The Spirit notes, “After you physically leave earth, I will be your continuous presence in the world and remind your followers of all that you have taught them. I will be enlightenment and inspiration for all.”

“But what is the end plan?” Christ asks. “I know that I will suffer a shameful death and rise in glory on the third day. But does the divine plan end there?” After a moment of reflection, Christ answers his own question:

“I will become the ultimate and eternal source of consecration, holiness and anointing for all humanity. Our glory will be all our people fully alive through me and united in me. Our glory will be the Beloved Community.”

On that note, the planning session ends.

Plan Accomplished. Although the above divine dialogue is a flight of fantasy about a great mystery, it helps us to envision the divine plan for salvation. Namely, that it would redefine God’s relationship with us and what would bring the fullest glory to God. There are hints of that in the Old Testament. God tells his people that he does not want their bloody sacrifices of animals to do him homage. Instead, God wants their hearts.

At the Last Supper, Jesus accomplished this new direction in God’s relationship with us through the institution of the Eucharistic Meal, the heart of the Mass. He threw out a 1,000-year-old tradition of animal sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem conducted by priests and levites. He replaced it with the Love Meal for a Eucharistic community to create the Beloved Community.

This Love Meal celebrated at Mass is more than a ritual. Through it, Jesus perpetuates his presence in the Eucharistic Community and perpetuates his empowerment of the Eucharistic Community to become the Beloved Community. It is not just an everlasting re-presentation of Jesus’ final hours, bringing Jesus’ sacrifice forever into the present moment at Mass. The Love Meal is Jesus’ end plan for which everything else preceded  it—Jesus becoming the ultimate and eternal source of consecration, holiness and anointing of the Eucharistic Community to become the Beloved Community.

To appreciate the Eucharistic Meal fully, we must see it as a part of the Paschal Mysteries which include Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. We will substitute the term “Jesus Process” for Paschal Mysteries because the Risen Christ transformed these individual historical events into a process. The term, the “Jesus Process,” captures that understanding.

What is the significance of the Jesus Process for us? 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. The Jesus Process is at the heart of the spiritual life.

Through the Jesus Process, the Risen Christ pours out the Spirit’s gifts for both our individual quest for spiritual growth and for the creation of Christian Community. In past articles on the Jesus Process, we have focused on its role in our individual quest. Of course, it is also the power source for the creation of Christian community. For wherever there are two or three gathered in Jesus’ name, he is present among them. Jesus’ presence in community means empowerment to grow our souls through one another with the help of the Spirit. How much more so is this true of Jesus at the Love Meal at Mass!

Plan Adrift. The history of the Eucharistic celebration reveals how we have drifted away from Jesus’ goal for creating the Beloved Community through the Eucharist. Right from the onset of Christianity, opposing views of the Eucharist took shape. One, emphasizing Jesus’ presence in the sacred elements; and the other, Jesus’ presence in community. By the Middle Ages, “the focus moved to perceiving Christ’s presence solely in the consecrated elements, and away from Christ’s presence ‘among us,’” according to Dr. Richard W. Scaine’s article entitled “The Eucharist in an Evolutionary Perspective.”

Michael Whelan in a Cross Currents article expressed it this way: “The Eucharistic host became an object of reverence, rather than the center of a communal performance. The emphasis was increasingly placed upon the miracle of transubstantiation in the priest’s blessing of the bread and wine, rather than the transformation of the community itself in its participation in the Eucharist.” Clearly, we have drifted from Jesus’ plan.

Plan Ahead. How do we restore the Eucharistic Celebration at Mass to Jesus’ intentions? Reform begins with each one of us. The Beloved Community cannot be mandated. We need a grassroots effort. We must transform our vision of the Eucharistic Meal, the Love Meal. We must refocus our minds and hearts, not on the sacred elements in themselves, but on what Jesus wants to accomplish through the Eucharistic Meal—the creation of the Beloved Community.

We must bring to bear our deepest spirituality to transform the ritual of the Mass into a deep encounter with Jesus who consecrates our offerings of bread and wine with his presence and who makes Eucharist of us all with him in this Love Meal. Jesus in the Eucharist consecrates us for union and anoints us, gives us his Spirit of Love, to unite us for life in the Beloved Community.

Finally, Jesus’ end plan will bring about God’s ultimate glory—all people (no exceptions) fully alive through Jesus and united in Jesus. This means that we must gain a global awareness of all our sisters and brothers, especially those suffering poverty, hunger and tyranny. The energy for this kind of global love will come from celebrating the Love Meal at Mass.

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

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.)