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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

Love Encounter

 

Jesus’ Love Meal—our Eucharistic Celebrations—is a Love Encounter. A Love Encounter with the Father, who is the Source of All Love. A Love Encounter with Jesus, who is Love in Action. A Love Encounter with the Spirit of Love, who anoints us to live a life of love. In short, Jesus’ Love Meal is a Love Encounter with the Trinity of Love.

And profoundly, a Love Encounter with ourselves and the Beloved Community, our sisters and brothers!

Unfortunately, the Church has transformed Jesus’ Love Meal into a Church service—a ritual of words and practices centered on the celebrant, who is only the presider.  So, we have to make Jesus’ Love Meal come alive for ourselves. How? By embracing the three stages of the Love Encounter during our Eucharistic Celebrations. The three stages form a dynamic process that moves us to authentic self-love, to surrender of self into union with God and our sisters and brothers, and to spiritual empowerment to empower ourselves and others.

Encountering Love’s Source. To all appearances, at his baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus  had a God-experience: Jesus encountered the Father, the Source of All Love. And so must we, or at least desire to do so—to enter fully into Jesus’ Love Meal. But let us first look at Jesus’ experience to draw out some clues for our own encounter.

In Mt 3: v. 16-17, we read: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. Then heaven was opened to him, and he (John the Baptist) saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and lighting on him. Then a voice said from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Of course, Jesus was sinless and did not require baptism. But after his God-experience, Jesus was transformed into a person of great power and authority.

Scripture scholars have suggested that Jesus needed the Father’s expression of love to confirm his identity and mission. In light of that interpretation, I can identify with Jesus’ God-experience. This Gospel passage has helped me appreciate my own God-experience of many years ago.

My “baptism in the Jordan” took place on a weekend retreat. I came to it with much negative baggage—pockets of self-hate buried deep in my subconscious. In the first meditation of the day on the masks we wear, I saw them march across the stage of my imagination. Unbeknownst to me, the Spirit had already come down on me. This revelation stirred my anger toward myself. I vowed never to live my life that way again.

When I came up out of the water of my reflection, I felt the Source of All Love radiating out of my gut. It was as if God, the Father, was saying to me: “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” My Creator loved me. I was lovable. I could love others. I could love! Great joy burst within me.

Discovering that we are created by the Source of All Love for a life of love is the most fundamental struggle of our spiritual life. This discovery must be experiential, not a head trip. It establishes our true self-love based on our relationship with the Source of All Love, not on the narcissistic love of self. Without authentic self-love, we can neither love ourselves nor God nor our spouses nor others.

This experience of authentic self-love is a divine gift, a gift that we must constantly seek. Before we enter Jesus’ Love Meal, let us pray in an attitude of powerlessness and surrender for this gift in such words as: “Father, Source of All Love, let me encounter you. Make me aware of my union with you. Only you can gift me with true self-love. I can’t do it for myself. Let me surrender to your Spirit’s invitation to true self-love. Let me totally enter into Jesus’ Love Meal.”

Encountering Love’s Action. The historical Jesus was both Love in Action and a man of great wisdom. When he planned to leave us, he must have seriously pondered what would be his final legacy to us. Consider the problem he faced and his creative solution. The myth of the Garden of Eden reveals the threefold problem of humanity that we have all inherited. By their disobedience of God’s command, our first parents had alienated themselves from God. Problem No. 1: They had lost their natural union with God.

Problem No. 2: They had alienated themselves from one another: “…they realized that they were naked.” Their loving union had become an alienating subject-object relationship. Thus, all human relationships would be impacted.

And Problem No. 3:  Union of heart and mind that had been the glory of their personhood had become a lifetime of self-alienation with computer-like minds isolated from hearts. Jesus’ creative solution was to solve the problem of alienation in all its forms by bringing us into union through love. For this purpose, he established his Love Meal, our Eucharistic Celebrations.

Lived fully, Jesus’ Love Meal can heal us of our alienation toward God, self and others. How? By encountering the Risen Jesus who is Love in Action. To do so, we must identify with him as the loving Celebrant at the altar. The priest is just a stand-in for Jesus. We must be fully present with a caring heart and an attentive mind to the core actions of the liturgy. They are Jesus’ invitations to the Love Encounter:

  • Jesus invites us to offer up ourselves in union with him. When we offer what sustains our life—our food and drink symbolized by bread and wine—we are offering up our lives. Let us also enter deeply into Jesus’ self-offering by encountering briefly his passion and death—visualizing his crown of thorns, his flesh torn by whips,  nails hammered into his hands and feet, the lance piercing his side. Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary has made eternal the fire of Calvary that creates the crucible of his love to transform us.
  • Jesus invites us to be consecrated with him for sacrifice. As the priest consecrates our gifts of bread and wine, we all become the bread and wine. A double transubstantiation takes place—for Jesus and ourselves. Jesus has immersed us in a life of union with our sisters and brothers.
  • Lastly, Jesus invites us to be consumed with him by our sisters and brothers. Lovers experience being consumed in the act of love.  Surrender is key. We lovingly pray: “Make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.” Jesus’ Love Meal has brought us into union as all love meals do. The Beloved Community with our sisters and brothers is being built up. Jesus anoints us for greater love and union with one another by gifting us with the Spirit of Love.

Encountering Spirit of Love.  Each time we receive Eucharist at our Love Meal, let us imagine that Sunday night in Jerusalem when the disciples were gathered behind locked doors for fear of persecution. Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is what the Risen Jesus is telling us each time we receive Eucharist! Let us respond with prayer and surrendered hearts to the Spirit of Love’s invitations to union when we receive Eucharist:

  • Union with God. Let us pray for greater union with the Father, the Source of All Love. We need to call upon the Spirit of Love, God’s own life of Love, to dispel our alienation toward the Father and awaken our hearts to greater union. For it is the Spirit who is the life-giving agent of all our creativity, all our inspiration, all our love’s aspirations. Who invites us constantly to greater love, hope and faith. Let us daily strive to hear and feel our Father’s words to us: “You are my beloved son (daughter) in whom I am well pleased.”
  • Union with Others. Let us pray for greater union with our sisters and brothers. Let us ask the Spirit to weaken our deep-seated alienation toward others, the effect of Original Sin. Let us pray that the Spirit will anoint us to live a life of compassion to our sisters and brothers—being fully present to them, with a caring heart and an attentive mind. To be sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness to them. To be channels of love, hope and faith to them to awaken their love, hope and faith.
  • Union with Self. Let us pray for greater union within ourselves, without which we cannot love God or others. That the Spirit free us of heartless minds so that we might truly see and understand, that we may see others as subjects, not objects. the divine in all creation. That the Spirit restore union of heart and mind within us that had been the glory of our personhood before self-alienation resulted from Original Sin.

Conclusion. The historical Jesus’ creative solution for the problem of alienation and the resulting loss of our union with God, others and ourselves was his Love Meal. It is at our Eucharistic Celebrations that the Risen Jesus anoints us with the Spirit of Love to bring us back to the Garden of Eden where our first parents experienced the Original Blessings of union with God, others, themselves and creation.

What an incredible, wonderful solution to Paradise Lost! A Love Meal that is a Love Encounter with the Source of All Love, with Love in Action and with the Spirit of Love—to bring us into union with the Trinity of Love, with ourselves and our sisters and brothers!

Jesus knew that only transformed people could transform others. That only transformed people could build the Beloved Community. That only transformed communities could transform the world—the ultimate witness of Jesus’ authenticity and power. An incredible End Plan!

Radical Surrender

In my imagination, I heard the Eucharistic Minister offering me Eucharist say: “Consume and be consumed. Be anointed and anoint others.” How beautifully those words express the dynamics of our Eucharistic experience. For our Eucharistic Celebration is Jesus’ Love Meal, and like all love meals it is an invitation to radical surrender into union. That is what the Mass is all about.

The term, “Consume and be consumed,” signifies—radical surrender. But to whom? Our Eucharistic Celebrations are a twofold invitation to radical surrender—first to the Crucified Jesus and finally to the Mystical Christ who incorporates all our sisters and brothers.

Consuming the Crucified. Before we consume, we must consume. Before we consume Eucharist, we must surrender to the Crucified Jesus. The Crucified Jesus is the most dramatic expression of Divine Love. In a moment of time, the Eternal and Infinite Being emptied Himself and took on the form of a vulnerable human being who experienced suffering and death—for us. It is the fire of Calvary that fires up the power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Yet, the Crucified Jesus gets little more than an honorable mention at Mass.

We must experience radical surrender to the Crucified Lover. It is not Jesus’ wounds that we love. It is his love that we love. It is his desire to bring us into communion with the Trinity of Love that we love—to unite us with our Father who is the fountainhead of infinite love, to unite us with the Spirit of Love who is agent of all human creativity, all human inspiration, all human love’s aspirations. It is Jesus’ eros to unite us with him in one Mystical Body that we love.

Before we consume Eucharist, we must consume the Crucified Jesus. We must radically surrender to the Crucified Jesus. It is our love responding to Jesus’ love that creates the crucible of love that transforms us and prepares us for union with the Mystical Christ.

Consuming the Mystical. We no longer have the historical Jesus with us. But we have the Risen Jesus, who is now the Mystical Christ, in whom we are all incorporated. When the priest raises the host and wine at the Consecration, he is lifting up the Mystical Christ who includes all of us to be sacrificed. Sisters and brothers are co-mingled in the bread of the hosts and in the wine of the chalice. We are made Eucharist for sisters and brothers to consume the Mystical Christ and one another as bread and wine.

But how do we enter into this deeply mystical experience? It is not easy. It is like stirring the ocean. By contrast, the Crucified Jesus is tangible. We can witness Jesus’ passion and death in our imagination. It is more difficult with the Mystical Christ. Yet, union with the Mystical Christ is essential for achieving Jesus’ End Plan of creating the Beloved Community

What can we do? We can use what is tangible at our Eucharistic reception, and we can use our imagination and, most important, our desire for union. What is impossible for our rational minds does not hold back our hearts from leaping beyond the finite. We want to feel the flow of unitive energy with the Mystical Christ and our sisters and brothers. Of course, it is the Spirit’s gift to give us this consolation, but we should make the effort.

What is tangible at our Eucharistic reception is the priest or Eucharistic Minister. Think of this person as the presider for Jesus, the role of the priest throughout the Eucharistic Celebration and now extended to Eucharistic Ministers. Whoever offers us Eucharist, he or she is inviting us to consume the Mystical Christ and to be consumed by him. We need to approach this person in a relational way. At this moment we begin our surrender into union with the Mystical Christ.

Desire is our most creative force and we should use our desire to prepare our hearts for Eucharistic reception. My prayer of desire is: “Jesus, anoint us for greater love and unity. Make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.” Receiving from the cup, I embrace the cup with two hands—an act of desire.

Another way of awakening our hearts to surrender to the Mystical Christ is to use our imagination. Simply imagine the Eucharistic Minister saying as the Eucharist is offered: “Consume and be consumed. Be anointed and anoint others.” Repeat the words to yourself. With the Spirit’s inspiration, these words can stir our desire for surrender into union with the Mystical Christ and our sisters and brothers.

Paradox of Surrender. We should not be surprised by the paradox that exists at the heart of our Eucharistic Celebrations. By radically surrendering to the Crucified Jesus and to the Mystical Christ at our Eucharistic Celebrations we are brought into Mystical Union. It is in Mystical Union that we are transformed and empowered.

Surrender is empowerment! The article, All Are Anointed, emphasized that at our Eucharistic Celebrations we are anointed in two ways. First, for our personal transformation that is necessary if we are to bring about the Beloved Community. Second, for empowering us to empower others to greater love, hope and faith.

Radical surrender to the Crucified Jesus unleashes the power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Radical surrender at our Eucharistic reception to the Mystical Christ, who includes all our sisters and brothers, brings us to the summit and fulfillment of our Eucharistic experience!

Finally, appreciation for Eucharist evolves, as our spiritual lives evolve. Jesus did not give us a manual to teach us the significance of his Love Meal. He did give us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, who guides us as individuals to embrace this Love Encounter in our personal way. The Spirit inspires us through our hearts that have experienced surrender into union in our daily lives. We need awareness, desire and discernment to respond. Jesus is counting on the Spirit and our hearts to bring about the Beloved Community through celebrating his Love Meal.

Fueling Cursillo’s Engines

In the article, “Recapturing the Vision of the Cursillo Founders” which appears under the Founder’s Endorsement on this blog’s opening page, three spiritual engines were identified as driving the Cursillo Movement—the Holiness Engine, the Community Engine and the Evangelization Engine. The question remains: What fuels these three spiritual engines?

The short answer? The fuel of spirituality. The spiritual formation process described in this program invites us to fuel up our spiritual engines. A Resurrection-based spirituality is presented that focuses on helping us to develop deep relationships with all the dimensions of Jesus—the Historical Jesus, the Risen Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus–for an integrated and dynamic spirituality. It is this threefold spirituality that provides the high octane fuel to drive Cursillo’s three powerful spiritual engines of growth.

1. Holiness Engine.The Spirit powers our Holiness Engine through invitations to us to grow in faith in God, in the Historical/Risen Jesus and in the Spirit himself. What happens when we accept the Spirit’s invitations? We grow in the seven Cursillo virtues that we have identified as Cursillistas’ path to holiness:

  • We grow in faith in God which leads us increasingly to God-centeredness, our breakthrough conversion from self-centeredness and our lifetime pursuit.
  • We grow in faith in the Spirit which leads us to greater dependency on the Spirit for empowerment, to greater courage to complete Jesus’ mission, and to greater power to live the discipline of love.
  • We grow in faith in the Historical/Risen Jesus which leads us to greater compassion for others and to greater faith in the presence of the Risen Jesus in community as the source of Spirit-empowerment, strengthening our faith in community prayer and action.

Holiness is simply the Holy Spirit inviting us to deepen our relationship with Jesus in all his dimensions, and our gradual, increasing acceptance of those invitations. Further, the practice of Spirit-centered spirituality awakens us to the Divine Dialogue between God and ourselves. Imagine: God dialogues with us! The greatest story NEVER told!

As the star salesman in Music Man said, “You gotta know the territory.” The territory is our deepest, positive feelings. Here God calls us to make changes in our lives for greater growth and to live more creatively and fully. But you gotta know the discernment process! A deep relationship with the Spirit is absolutely essential: “Human life is Christian life in the measure that it is lived under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of Christ,” writes Fr. Jules Toner, SJ.

2. Community Engine.The Risen Jesus powers our Community Engine. He sacramentalized Christian community, and so we can grow our spirituality with one another (Group Reunion, Ultreya, Leaders School) through Spirit-empowerment. Our Community Engine requires the high power energy of both Spirit-centered and Incarnational (Resurrection) spiritualities.

  • The practice of Incarnational spirituality enables us to grow in faith in the promise of the Risen Jesus to be present with us whenever we gather in community in his name. We need the faith that the Risen Jesus here and now penetrates our communities. We must believe that the Risen Jesus still penetrates closed doors and rooms, closed minds and hearts to gift us with his peace and the Spirit’s powers.
  • The practice of Spirit-centered spirituality can power our communities to become Spirit-driven, growth-oriented and evangelizing communities—the signs of truly dynamic Christian communities Cursillistas must come to believe that Cursillo possesses a special charism—Spirit-empowerment through Christian community.

Cursillistas must come to their meetings with the expectancy that that the Spirit will empower them to grow individually and as members of a community. Cursillistas must come to their meetings with a hunger for spiritual growth, knowing that we are all in the development process powered by the Spirit. And Cursillistas must leave their meetings with the desire to spread the Good News to others.

Otherwise, Cursillo communities can degenerate into Club Cursillos (social organizations) if they are not driven by people who are sensitive to the presence and guidance of the Spirit, the gift of the Risen Jesus. And when events call for change requiring communal decision-making and discernment, its success will depend on the daily practice of personal discernment of the Spirit’s directions by the individuals involved. Cursillo is a spiritual enterprise: we need the Spirit as guide and mentor.

3.  Evangelization Engine. This is our dynamic growth process engine of holiness, formation and evangelization. It takes all three spiritualities to drive the Evangelization Engine. Here we will focus on evangelization:

Become evangelizers. We don’t wake up one morning and decide that we are evangelizers. Becoming an evangelizer is a process that begins with our first efforts at evangelization. Our Christ-centered spirituality focusing on the Historical Jesus helps us to put on the mind and heart of Jesus.

Jesus was a fully integrated person. He could be an idealist, but he could also be a Good Samaritan. He      could be an achiever but also an optimist. He could be a  searcher for wisdom but also a feeling person. He could be serene, and loyal to institutions, but also a bold leader who could confront the establishment. As such, Jesus is an ideal model of an evangelist for us. To be successful at evangelization,we must become the fully integrated person that Jesus was.

Most importantly, to become evangelizers, we must become fired up by the love and compassion for others that drove Jesus. Jesus demonstrated the ultimate possibilities of love by showing how far love can drive a person. Jesus revealed God as radical love and manifested God’s radical love in a radical way, becoming our Crucified Lover. In so doing, Jesus gave us a life vision based on radical love, on the primacy of love.

Proclaim the Good News. When Jesus came out of the river Jordan anointed by the Spirit, he became a man passionate about his mission. The Spirit, who was a continuous presence in Jesus’ life, had called forth Jesus’ radical faith, hope and love which transformed him into a kerygmatic evangelizer (an absolutely confident proclaimer of the Good News). Jesus’ holy partnership with the Spirit is another case of the greatest story NEVER told. Jesus lived a Spirit-centered spirituality. To proclaim the Good News, we need the fire of the Spirit. We need the Spirit as our inner guide and mentor. It is the Spirit who will put the right words into our mouths and it is the Spirit who will open up the hearts of those we are striving to evangelize.

Be Jesus to Others. Evangelizing is more than what we do or say to others: it is being the Risen Jesus to others, manifesting the Risen Jesus to others, carrying on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation. It is in the Program’s Incarnation-centered Spirituality that we discover that Jesus did not live on earth for just 33 years and then disappeared into heaven. Jesus lives on in us. It is in Incarnation-centered spirituality that we discover that as members of Christ’s Body, we are empowered to carry on the work of Jesus. What Jesus did, we can do. Through the presence of Jesus in us, we are empowered to be sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness to others, as Jesus was in his times. Another case of the greatest story NEVER told!

What we have said is that this threefold spirituality described in this program provides the high octane fuel to drive Cursillo’s three powerful spiritual engines of growth. Christian spirituality is all about Jesus. Spiritual formation is all about discovering Jesus in all his dimensions. But we cannot stop at our new knowledge.

We must practice union with the Historical Jesus in our prayer, study and actions because Jesus’ whole life on earth was sacramentalized by the Risen Jesus and is a source of empowerment for us. We must practice Resurrection with the Risen Jesus by looking upon all of life with a Resurrection mindset. And we must practice Pentecost with the Spirit of Jesus by calling upon the Spirit for wisdom and courage in our daily lives.

Without this threefold spirituality, Cursillo’s spiritual engines run on empty. With this threefold spirituality, Cursillo’s engines roar and Jesus’ mission gets accomplished.

If our pursuit of holiness deepens our faith in God, in the Historical/Risen Jesus and the Spirit, and if evangelization fires up our love of others, then our striving for spiritual formation produces hope in us. And hope energizes our faith and love. As we penetrate more and more the mystery of Jesus through spiritual formation, leading us to increasingly practice the fruits of our search, we become more immersed in hope. Spiritual formation is the dynamic catalyst of the spiritual life, and consequently of the Cursillo Movement itself.

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 Jesus’ Ongoing Incarnation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice Resurrection

Jesus’ resurrection is the pivotal point in God’s plan for us. The Risen Jesus looks back at the life events of the historical Jesus and transforms them into a power source for our holiness here and now. The Risen Jesus looks to the future and pours forth his Spirit to guide and empower us.

Yet, the cloud of a thousand-year-old, distorted theology that ignored Jesus’ resurrection hangs over us, as described in the article, Glorious Resurrection. We can’t hope to change long-standing attitudes easily. How do we become the resurrection people God intended us to be? We must practice resurrection. Our practice will enliven our Christian Vision. Think of Vision, Values, Action (Practice), the psychological model of the human person; and remember that our practices can grow our life vision into the Christian Vision.

Practice Resurrection of a Lifetime. We have said earlier that Jesus’ resurrection transformed the historical Jesus’ lived experience into a sacramental power source for us. But this abstract notion is difficult to grasp and to make real in our minds and hearts. Let us use our imagination to practice resurrection of Jesus’ lived experiences. Let us not only imagine Jesus rising from the dead, but also his life experiences and words. Imagine the many thousands points in Jesus’ life events also rising up from the dead with him into the living present. Perhaps envisioning his life experiences and words as so many tablets dancing up from the dead along with Jesus. In fact, his words and lived experiences have a new life of their own and have become sources of power for new encounters with Jesus and sources of power for our transformation into the ongoing incarnation of the Risen Christ within us. Imagine whatever works for you and helps you enter into the reality of resurrection. It will help you practice union with the historical Jesus.

Practice Resurrection within Community. Jesus has promised us that he would be with us wherever we gather in community in his name. Again, we are faced with an abstract concept and must use our imaginations to experience this reality. 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 Cursillo founders realized that it takes more than a gathering of Cursillistas to form community. It takes the dynamic process of people sharing their faith and growing together—empowered by the Spirit.

Practice Resurrection of Life Events. Jesus both preached and lived the paschal mysteries of death, resurrection and transformation into new life.  By his death and resurrection, he was penetrated with the Spirit and exalted as Lord of the whole of creation. In life, Jesus had told us that we had to give up or surrender something, or undergo a death experience to receive new life. In our lifetime, we suffer many death experiences—the death of our youth, our wholeness, our dreams, our honeymoons. It is precisely in these life events that we are called to practice resurrection.

In each of these life events, we truly experience the pain of these life deaths. But in the separation we feel from our former lives, we are already being offered resurrection. We are being offered a new way of life. Of course, we will require time for readjustment to the new life and even time for grieving the old. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we will let go and let the Spirit empower us for our new way of life.

The poet Wendell Berry gave this advice: “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts….Practice resurrection. Practice coming alive again. Practice being a fiercely loving agent of Spirit, beauty and new life.”