Thursday, May 26, 2016

I Call You My Friends

I Call You My Friends (John 15:12-16)

         These four verses, like a strand of Christ’s DNA, contain all that is needed to become a Disciple of Christ.  He is preparing The Twelve for his leaving, and in each sentence his Word is like a seed: waiting to explode with Truth; to replicate the Father’s Love; to Reproduce his Son, Jesus.
         First, Jesus clarifies his Mission: ‘…love one another, as I have loved you.’  He calls to mind how he walked what he talked: ‘A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.’  His Mission and his Life were One Reflection of his Father’s Love.
         ‘…I shall not call you servants anymore, because a servant does not know his master's business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.’  Though we cannot escape the position, Servant of God, Jesus reveals how his Heart perceives us –as Friends.  A friend, to Jesus, is someone who brings Delight; whose presence is enjoyed as an equal among the Triune of Equals; who shares his Mission, who has been Co-Missioned into the same Yoke; who bears the same Burdens; who longs with the same Desire –to bring his Needy Ones into the Love of his Father.
‘You did not choose me, no, I chose you’   Jesus reveals the urgency, the exigency, the existential imperative, of our existence to the Kingdom of God.  While we were yet Nothing, God, in his Omnipotence, conceived a desirous need –one, that only our insufficient nature could fulfill.  God’s Perfect Love needed our imperfection.  In choosing to Love, God Almighty took on a state of deprivation; he became a Beggar of Love.  He “needed” us to receive and give his Love.  He needed our yes for his Plan to be complete.
‘…and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last…’ our Call To Love -our Universal Vocation intrinsic to our purpose- is of Eternal Consequence.  In administering the Gift of God’s Love, we participate in the salvation of Souls –in the Eternal Destiny of his Creation.
‘…and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name.’  If our Divine Calling, is as such, of Eternal Consequence, then our All Just God must equip us with whatever is required to fulfill our God Given Mission.  If we are to love in the Name of God, to love with Jesus’ Love, then it is with the Certainty of Faith, that we must expect to receive the Gift of his Spirit -the Power to Love.  
As Friends, Jesus does not expect us to grovel for a portion of his Holy Spirit.  Rather, he gives it without ration.  He delights in Lavishing his Spirit upon us, for, we are Co-Missioned with him.  If we have given our “Yes” to his plan for our life, then, as his Ambassador, we can walk in the confidence of his Power and his Authority, as we are doing so in the Name of God.   St. Paul echoes this in Gal 5:6 when he writes, “since in Christ Jesus …what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.”
          Lord Jesus, I want what you want for me.  I am too small to grasp the Goodness of your Plan for my life.  My sins and fears taunt me to take back my “Yes”.  But my weakness only impels the impartation of your Holy Spirit.  I joyfully accept your friendship, Jesus.  Immerse me in your Power and Love, as in a new Pentecost, that I might be a Faithful son, that I might be a brother in your likeness, that I might accomplish your purpose for my life. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

No One Can Say

No One Can Say

It was a Wednesday college morning.  I was twenty-two, brand new to the Charismatic Renewal, and thrust into its leadership.  I was reading Scripture and praying –preparing for the prayer meeting which I was to lead that evening in the parish student center.  I was stymied by the third verse in the twelfth chapter of  Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, where he "wrote “…no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.”
In my naiveté, I understood that verse on a literal level, that it was saying, a Godless person could not utter the words ‘Jesus is Lord’.   Perplexed, I wondered, “But what if that Godless person were a liar?  Could he not then say ‘Jesus is Lord’?   My first class was starting soon, so I had to leave that verse to be explored later.
After my last class, I stopped my bike to watch a crowd gathered around this guy who called himself Jesus.  I had seen him on campus before.  He dressed like Jesus as did his band of disciples.  He had a grandiose persona.  His words sounded profound, but they were so ethereal as to escape meaning.  Some in the crowd were clearly impressed, most taunted him.  He fed on it all.
That evening, the prayer meeting was filling up most of the student center, with a only a few seats open in front.  I nervously prayed for the Spirit’s help to lead.  We had a time of joyful praise and song, and just entered into a time for quiet listening, when “Jesus” and his motley band burst through the doors.  They came up front and took the empty seats.  All eyes were on him.  He promptly began a meandering tirade.
I was stunned.  I had no experience in leading prayer meetings, and was at a total loss on what to do.  I could only plead God’s intervention.  Then a most extraordinary thing happened –that verse from Corinthians just popped into my mind, and without thinking, I blurted out to the imposter, “Can you say that Jesus is Lord?”  He stopped short; his eyes became as big as saucers.  He stood up, whirled around, and marched out the door with his troop in tow.
I cannot remember the rest of that meeting, forty some years ago, but I can never forget the power that was released in God’s Word that night.  My childish interpretation of Scripture was not a problem to God.  Nor could my inexperience hinder the Holy Spirit’s shock-and-awe response to that imposter.  God was not deterred by my lack of qualifications.  He uses whoever is available and willing.  The true Son of God was exalted that night.
My understanding of Scripture has grown since those early days –not in a linear manner according to the passing years, but relative to my willingness to obey it.  Only in submitting my mind to it, does God’s Word open its doors for my heart to enter.    Wisdom finds no home in the proud, and a broken and humbled heart is irresistible to the Spirit of God.
This, I believe, is the essence of 1Cor 12:3.  No one can proclaim that Jesus is Lord, whether it be of their own life or of all that is, unless they have personally known the touch of his Holy Spirit and have given their lives over to it.  This is what it means to have Jesus as the Lord of our life.  And to live with Jesus as our Lord, requires of us to be “under the influence of the Holy Spirit.”
This is why Jesus said he must leave; so that he can send the Paraclete; so that he could release his Holy Spirit; so that we can understand all that he has said; so that we can receive the Power From On High to overcome every obstacle to his plan for us.  Everything Jesus did and lived for was toward this one goal –that every Believer would experience Pentecost; that all who call upon the Name of Jesus would be baptized in his the Holy Spirit; would be immersed in his Power and Love- that, having experienced it, we may be witnesses to it.  
          “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lord, I Do Not Understand

Lord, I Do Not Understand

           The Gospel, in John 16:17-18, betrays the disciples' foreboding: “We do not know what he means.” they grumbled.  The disciples were bewildered by Christ’s portrayal of things to come.  His words lead them into Mystery.  When they complain, his response leads them into still deeper Mystery.  Jesus clearly was not compelled to quiet their questions.
         It is not our right to demand that life makes sense.  It seems even, that inner turmoil is what drives us toward transcendence.  What Jesus gives us is sufficient: our Faith in him; and his Spirit in us.  This is all that is required to finish both, today’s journey, and our life’s work.
         The senseless unfolding of world events need not steal our Gift of Peace.  “If only things were different, then I would be happy.”  This is illusion.  If I am discouraged or distraught, it is because I have misplaced my focus: I have given my eyes to what is out of my control; I have become distracted from the task of my Lord; I have become a Bleating Sheep –frightened by the shadows of wolves on the horizon, unable to hear the Consoling Song of my Good Shepherd.
         The Darkness which surrounds me is stripped of its Fear –if, I but keep my eyes upon he who leads me –if, I but obediently place my foot upon today’s step stone, so lovingly lighted.  All that is necessary, to remain in his Peace, is to be a faithful Steward of his Love, to give away the Love of Jesus, according to, and in the Power of, his Holy Spirit.  This is our Purpose.  In embracing it, his Peace embraces us.
         His Word is alive…  The Shepherd’s Voice is ever speaking:  I am God and you are not.  I am the Good Shepherd, and you are my Flock.  Be still, and know that I am God.  It is for me to be strong.  Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.  Your Faith has saved you, go in Peace.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Reduced To Love

Reduced To Love (John 13:34)

I recently read a reflection on the “New Commandment” which Jesus bequeathed upon us –those final Words which gives focus to everything he stood for: ‘I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.’
The unnamed author concluded his refection with a simple five word prayer which is still stirring my heart: “Jesus, reduce me to love!”  An entire book begs to be written to release the power –the profundity- of this little prayer.
2COR 6:6 reads: We prove we are God's servants by our purity, knowledge, patience and kindness; by a spirit of holiness, by a love free from affectation.  Affectation is a behavior which is assumed, or put on, as opposed to unpretentious.  Love wrapped in affectation is an act, by design, to impress others.  If we love as Jesus loves, then we are reduced of our need for appearances; we are stripped of Self’s hidden motives, its desire for reciprocation, its need for appreciation.
This is all impossible -to love as Jesus loves- unless we first have received his Love, the very Love his is commanding us to give away.  To love as Jesus loves is to love with the Love we receive from Jesus.  It is as if our love is stripped of our face and cloaked with the touch of Jesus -devoid of an earthly source, free of Self’s stain.  By the Grace of his Spirit, our Love, truly given, becomes Pure-Gift.
How else is it possible to love the Loathsome, to love when no love is felt, indeed, to love when we desire to hurt?  It is possible only because Jesus is Ever Present –ever giving us His Love that we may give it away.   This is the Will of God –to be so surrendered to his Spirit, that we are Reduced to Love.
In surrendering her Self to God, to his Holy Spirit, Blessed Mary became the Mother of God.  Her yes put Flesh onto her God.  She gave us Jesus, the Greatest Love the world has ever known.  Her selflessness became Love, it became Jesus, who is Love –the Glory of Humanity Revealed.  Her Love, Jesus, allowed us to see for the very first time, to find the meaning of Life, to find the Way to Love Eternal.
“Behold your Mother.” Christ spoke from the Cross.  In giving birth to The One, she has given Life to all.  From my sinfulness I cry, oh Lord: Make me like her.  Remove from me everything that blocks the flow of your Love into my heart.  I too want to be a Vessel Of Love.  Jesus, reduce me to Love!