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Horror/Love Image

 

Jesus_on_CrossParaphrasing Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heaven, I fled the image of the Crucified Jesus “down the nights and down the days…I fled him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind…” Always knowing that one day I would have to embrace the Crucified Jesus. Now very late in life, I find myself dwelling on this image of horror, this image of God’s love for us.

The image of the Crucified Jesus should have been an image of love and hope. Instead it became an image of horror because of its association with the price of redemption. I fled that image. I promised myself that I would embrace it some day, but not now. And the years have come and gone. My assumption is that many people have suffered this terrible ambivalence. How do we heal this spiritual ambivalence? Let me suggest three ways.

Contemplate the Crucified. What is there to analyze? An Infinite Lover, infinitely mysterious, expressed infinite love to humanity on Calvary. God did it his way, and his ways are not our ways, and certainly not within our capacity to understand. In Sr. Ilia Delio’s book, Christ in Evolution, we read: “St. Bonaventure maintained that God, who is a Trinity of incomprehensible love, reveals that love in the mystery of the cross….only one filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, the fire of love, can enter into this mystery; here the mind gives way to the heart and we are drawn to the one whom we can never fully understand but whom we desire from the depths of our being.”

Contemplation of the Crucified is required, not rationalization by our computer-like minds. Our rational minds divorced from our hearts cannot deal with mystery. They produce all the wrong answers—penal substitution, ransom, Father’s vindictive justice. Rather, we must embrace this mystery—being fully present to it with loving hearts and attentive minds. We must surrender ourselves, gift ourselves to the image of the Crucified. And let the image speak to our hearts and our hearts to it.

Change Image of Crucified. What has always disturbed me about images of the Crucified Jesus is that they show Jesus as a single isolated, abandoned individual being crucified. Just too horrible to gaze at! St. Bonaventure’s comment that the Trinity of love was present on Calvary manifesting love for mankind raised my comfort level. Inspiration! Find an image that reveals this Trinitarian relationship and participation. Friends pointed out Salvador Dali’s painting “Christ of John of the Cross.”

This painting communicates that idea. It was based on a drawing by the 16th Century Spanish friar Saint John of the Cross. Dali says that he was inspired in a dream. Dali employed a triangle and a circle for Jesus’ figure: the triangle is formed by Jesus’ arms suggesting the Trinity; the circle for Jesus’ head suggesting Jesus as the center of the universe. Jesus, the medium of our union with the Trinity of Love! It is an image that I cherish and pray with.

Identify with Crucified. Jules Massanet’s opera Thais surprised me with a whole new approach to deepening my relationship with the Crucified Jesus. The opera is the story of a monk who attempts to convert Thais, an Egyptian priestess, to Christianity. The monk presses the crucifix in her face and pleads with her to abandon her sinful living.

In the next scene she is lying on a lounge pondering his words. Her meditation is expressed through an apparently erotic dance by a topless dancer. She had me entranced. We hear the composer’s beautiful interlude, Meditation. The stage prop is a hollow frame of the cross. Its structure allows the dancer to move in and out of the cross’ frame. Finally the dancer lifts herself onto the cross taking the pose of the Crucified Jesus, her body writhing in agony.

An “erotic” dance became a sacred dance—expressing Thais’ self-emptying, spiritual nakedness, self-transformation. She had surrendered, totally identifying with Jesus. Her surrender was the Spirit’s invitation to me to identify with Jesus’ passion and death. Before the Consecration at Mass, I try to identify with the Crucified Jesus through this image. It is an appropriate time. The Risen Jesus brings the fire of Calvary to our altars to create his crucible of love, in which he melts down our alienation from God, from others, from ourselves—if we are open.

Conclusion. For almost 2,000 years the Church has preached, and continues to preach, a theology of redemption with its message of penal substitution. Fr. Joseph Komonchak defines that message as: “Christ stepped into our place and endured the full wrath of God’s vindictive justice…to pay off the immense debt incurred by the sins of humanity.” He calls this theological viewpoint oversimplistic. Oversimplistic because the Church sought a rational explanation. We need loving contemplation to enter into this mystery.

“Those who gaze upon the crucified long enough—with contemplative eyes—are always healed at deep levels of pain, unforgiveness, aggressivity and victimhood,” states Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM. “It demands no theological education at all, just an inner exchange by receiving the image within and offering one’s soul back in safe return.”

 

Encountering Infinite Lover

We have said elsewhere that through deep contemplative prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit, Jesus discovered God the Father as Compassion Who loved all beings and all creation with unconditional love. In other words, Jesus discovered God as the Infinite Lover at the very core of his being and all beings. This discovery transformed Jesus into a radical lover of God and all humanity.

What are the implications of Jesus’ experience for our spiritual life? Should not our spiritual life reflect Jesus’ experience? Should we not be attempting to encounter God as Infinite Lover as Jesus did? Should not Jesus’ vision of God as Infinite Lover be the overriding thrust of our spiritual practices? Here are three practices to deepen our encounter with God as Infinite Lover.

See Possibilities. See the possibilities of love for an Infinite Lover. Where? In the articles of our faith. We must view them, not just as articles of faith, but as the outpourings of love of an Infinite Lover. God assuming humanity in Jesus’ Incarnation. Jesus living our human life and dying our human death, and that a horrendous one. God gifting us with his Holy Spirit as our Higher Power and intimate guide. We being incorporated into the Body of Christ and empowered with Jesus’ powers. All are incarnate realizations of the infinite love of the Infinite Lover!

Not only must we see these articles of faith as actualized possibilities of Infinite Love, but we must also attempt to grow in our response to these love possibilities of the Infinite Lover. We cannot allow ourselves to acknowledge them only in our minds as infinite possibilities. We must seek to enter into their depth with our entire personhood.

These actualized possibilities of Infinite Love are the facts of our salvation history, but for our spiritual life the degree of our wonder at them must deepen, for it is wonder that will open us up to our encounter with the Infinite Lover.

Appreciate Abundance. Appreciate the abundance that God has lavished upon us. God as Infinite Lover possesses infinite abundance, and he shares that abundance with us. We see that abundance manifested in our salvation history, and everywhere we look—in the countless flowers and trees, in the mountains and the oceans. God creating and sustaining the universe and everything in it, and all manifesting his presence, beauty, wisdom, love and attention.

Had God created just one flower or one tree, pilgrims would flock to admire them. Instead, he has lavished his abundance upon us, and we tend to ignore it. Creation must be an intrinsic part of our spirituality. The degree of our appreciation for creation must deepen, for it is appreciation that will open us up to our encounter with the Infinite Lover.

Dance the Divine Dance. Dance the dance of the Infinite Lover. Divine Love dances us in three movements—Love Radiating Out, Love Inviting, and Love Taking Charge—over and over again. I will describe each of these movements separately, but there is a dynamic flow here. In fact, we must learn to move with the movements of the dance. It is like a ballerina dancing with three partners, each handing her off to the next. The degree of our engagement in this dance must deepen, for it is engagement that will open us up to our encounter with the Infinite Lover:

  • Love Radiating Out is the Infinite Lover at the center of our being radiating out love beams through our minds, hearts and wills so that we see all—people, ourselves, creation, events—through the eyes of love. However, it takes two to tango. For the first movement of the dance to begin, we must prepare ourselves through centering: the practice of firing up our hearts, focusing our attention and entering fully into the present moment to connect with the center of our being. And we must pray that our hearts be opened to the Infinite Lover’s outpouring of Divine Love.
  • Love Inviting, the second movement of the dance, is the Infinite Lover taking action in our spiritual lives, inviting us to break out of our comfort zones and take risks at greater love of the Infinite Lover and others. The first movement, Love Radiating Out, can be so heart-warming and joyous that we are tempted to rest in that experience. But divine consolation is divine invitation. Love Inviting wants more for us. To prepare ourselves we must grow in awareness of the Infinite Lover’s invitations and live in expectancy of them.
  • Love Taking Charge, the third movement of the dance, is the Infinite Lover taking over our lives. Here the Infinite Lover drives us to act beyond ourselves, beyond our normal responses to people and events. We feel Divine Love taking charge of us and moving us beyond our capabilities. And with such ease that we don’t mind the push. Then we understand what St. Paul meant when he said: “Now not I, but Christ lives in me.” With Love Taking Charge, the dance has been completed. However, it is up to us to initiate the dance over and over again through our practice of centering.

No one can ever fathom the love of the Infinite Lover. We can only reach out to the Infinite Lover. But our hearts have been created to pursue the Infinite Lover. And there is great joy in the reaching out–experiencing ever greater wonder at the possibilities of love as demonstrated by God’s actions in our salvation history, experiencing ever greater thankfulness for God’s abundance shared with us, experiencing ever greater engagement in the dance of the Infinite Lover, attempting to dance us into a deeper, more intimate relationship.

 

 

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!

 

Fully Integrated Spiritual Life

Jules Toner, SJ tells us: “Human life is Christian life in the measure that it is lived under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of Christ.” In previous articles we have focused primarily on a Spirit-centered spirituality. However, for a fully integrated spiritual life, we need the inspiration of the Spirit, the intentionality of Jesus, and our personal awareness of the ongoing Incarnation in ourselves, in others, in community and in the real-time encounters of everyday life.

Spirit-centered. Our spirituality must be Spirit-centered to focus us on the Spirit’s inspiration. This focus sees God as dwelling within us, revealing us to ourselves, calling us to growth in our decision-making and handling of desolation, and giving of Himself in His consolations. Our goal is to develop a deep interior life with the Spirit, growing in awareness of the Spirit’s presence and inspirations in our life.

Incarnation-centered. Our spirituality must be Incarnation-centered (Resurrection-centered) to focus us on the on-going Incarnation in the human that results from Jesus’ Resurrection. This focus sees Jesus’ Spirit as present in us as His bodily instruments of compassion and communion to others. I am the hem of Jesus’ garment. He who touches me touches Jesus. You are the hem of Jesus’ garment. If I touch you, I touch Jesus, and His power will go out to me. It sees Jesus’ Spirit as present in our everyday lives and in community. Our goals are to become Jesus, a God with skin to others, and to experience the sacred in the secular.

Christ-centered. Our spirituality must be centered on the Historical Jesus to focus us on Jesus’ intentionality. What did Jesus think, feel, want? Encountering the mind, heart and will of Jesus in Scripture, we discover His intentionality—a lifetime process.  This focus sees God as entering into human history and taking on the form of a human being. It is as if God thought: “They will never understand how to become fully human beings unless I show them.” And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Our goal is to live according to the mind, heart and will of Jesus.

At the heart of this integrated spirituality is Jesus. It was Jesus who was made flesh and dwelt among us, and gave us the Good News. It was Jesus who gave us His Spirit as His last gift to us. It is Jesus who DWELLS among us, gifting us with His Spirit.

So why do we need a spirituality with a triple focus? Because each focus has a specific goal and a method for achieving that goal. For example, with a Spirit-centered  spirituality, we learned the rules for discerning the Spirit’s operation in our lives and the Awareness Examen to deepen our interior life with the Spirit.

This integrated spirituality can be depicted as a dynamic model with each focus interacting with the others. Through our Spirit-centered spirituality, the Spirit reveals the meaning and significance of Jesus’ life, which we are studying in our Christ-centered (Historical Jesus-centered) spirituality. We test our reactions to Jesus by reviewing them with the Spirit for deeper understanding and for greater willingness to do what Jesus asks of us. These two impact our Incarnation-centered spirituality which drives us to BEING the Christ that we are ALREADY. Our Incarnation-centered spirituality deepens the other two.

The danger of living only a Spirit-centered spirituality is that we might be content with our personal relationship with Jesus’ Spirit and forget Jesus’ mission that we are called to complete. The danger of living only a Historical Jesus-centered spirituality is that we may use the Gospels as a text book and feel confident that we can come to terms with Jesus by ourselves. And the danger of living the above two without living an Incarnation-centered spirituality is that we might ignore the presence of Jesus’ Spirit in real time, with real people, in the real circumstances of our lives.

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!