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Return to Galilee

April 22, 2014

Pope Francis is such a gift to our times. His simplicity and humility pierce through so much of today’s complexities. He possesses a fresh and welcome perspective.

His homily from Easter is pasted below. I highlighted the phrases that stood out the most:

“The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begins with the journey of the women to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath. They go to the tomb to honour the body of the Lord, but they find it open and empty. A mighty angel says to them: “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5) and orders them to go and tell the disciples: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee” (v. 7). The women quickly depart and on the way Jesus himself meets them and says: “Do not fear; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10).

After the death of the Master, the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died. But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness. The news spread: Jesus is risen as he said. And then there was his command to go to Galilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me”.

Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).

To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory. To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.

For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus. “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience. To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.

In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.

Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.

The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.

“Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15; Is 8:23)! Horizon of the Risen Lord, horizon of the Church; intense desire of encounter… Let us be on our way!”

Wowzers.

I think this is a beautiful homily to sit and pray with. To think back to that first encounter with Jesus…and to think about how his grace has woven itself into our lives from that point. To recall the zeal of the early days in our conversion. Maybe even to consider what has robbed that zeal from our hearts – anxiety? fear? burdens of life? lack of prayer? cut off from the Sacraments? Identifying obstacles to God’s grace in our lives can open up opportunities to “return to Galilee” and re-encounter Christ.

I urge anyone reading this to “go to Galilee.”

Encounter the Risen Christ for the first time or once again and experience the joy which “sorrow and distress cannot dismay.”

Infertility, Marriage

Waiting At The Tomb

April 19, 2014

A few months ago, someone suggested a few places to “visit” in prayer. One of those was the Tomb of Jesus on Holy Saturday.

I began imagining the scene. I recalled the previous 48 hours of events . The Last Supper and institution of the Eucharist. The indifference of Pilot. Jesus’ crucifixion and death. How they brought him off the cross and Joseph of Arimethea offered a tomb to lay Jesus’ body in. The darkness over the land. The broken heart of Our Blessed Mother. The confusion of the disciples. The despair of Judas. The denial of Peter.

So very much to think about.

But now, everything is still. It’s quiet here at the tomb of Jesus. The disciples are nowhere to be found. Just a guard or two lurking nearby. Not much is happening but I know what’s coming.

Holy Saturday is a weird place to be caught. It’s not Good Friday nor is it yet Easter. It’s like an intermission.

As I meditated, everything was relating back to our journey with infertility.

In carrying this cross, in many ways, we have died with Christ. Dreams shattered. Plans crushed. Control surrendered. Selfishness stripped away. Entitlement shred. Part of us is “in the tomb” with him yet we wait on the outside. Our desires have been put to death but are awaiting resurrection. That’s where we live from day to day. I hope that doesn’t sound morbid or weird but it’s just our reality.

Our life, in so many ways, is an ongoing Holy Saturday. 

The tomb on Holy Saturday is the perfect place for me to “go to” in prayer. It depicts my reality so well. Heck, anyone in the midst of suffering and waiting for a resurrection should meditate at the tomb. It doesn’t have to be infertility.

I know Easter Sunday will come in due time. The resurrection will manifest itself. We will not wait in limbo forever. Knowing that brings my heart peace to keep waiting and offering my pain up…watching for that tomb stone to roll back. To see Jesus in all his glory and to allow him to resurrect the pain we’ve united to him.

Death will not get the last word.

Mission

FOCUS Greek Getaway Highlights

February 14, 2014

This past month has been pretty intense. The FOCUS Greek Getaways were two amazing events I had the privilege of planning and directing alongside other incredible FOCUS staff members. You may be asking, what are the Greek Getaways?

PROMO

Guess who the graphic designer was? The one and only, Jonathan Teixeira.

The Getaways were a new concept for FOCUS Greek…think of the blending of a full-out conference and a weekend retreat. We had speakers, adventure, beauty in nature, games, small group discussions, mass, adoration, confession, time to play and relax. It was all centered on Jesus. In the Rockies, we had over 80 in attendance and in the Smokies we had over 50 in attendance. Below are some highlights!

Epic speed rock, paper, scissors tournament!

Epic speed rock, paper, scissors tournament!

Throw what you know! Taken at the Rattlesnake Summit in Ridgecrest, NC.

Throw what you know! Taken at the Rattlesnake Summit in Ridgecrest, NC.

The Rockies crew in Winter Park, CO

The Rockies crew in Winter Park, CO

smokies group

The Smokies crew in Ridgecrest, NC

Small group discussions

Small group discussions

In the Rockies, our group had the option to go skiing at Winter Park. It was a blast! I went down a run that had moguls…and it was evident that I need more practice by the giant wipeout that ensued! I didn’t mind since I like to push and challenge myself to take it one level further every time I ski, so I guess it was just my learning activity that day! In the Smokies, we went hiking and it was a gorgeous day. Great conversations and beautiful views at the Summit! Having the adventure opportunities on these weekends was a hit with students and staff.

Jesus has been so good to me throughout these Getaways. Sometimes, in battling infertility, I resent my work since two and half years into marriage I was supposed to be at home with a kid(s). I hate when I get trapped in that place. Jesus has totally brought grace into my life and allowed me to see that my life is still fruitful. I am not sterile. I am bearing good fruit…not the fruit I thought I would bear but fruit nonetheless. In some weird way, the college students I work tirelessly for are like “my kids” even though they are all adults. No, I don’t try to mother them in a creepy way but spiritually I do get to mother them and lead them to encounter Christ more deeply. I’ve seen Jesus work in their lives, bring them to know him, allow them to surrender unto his will. Infertility allows me the freedom to serve in that way, so no, it’s not all bad despite how I think so negatively at times. I am grateful to have this new perspective and hoping God will keep it fresh in my heart daily.

Thank you to all the staff who made these events possible. Thank you to the students who went out on a limb and attended. Lastly, thank you to Jonathan for bearing with me and supporting me with patience during this busy season.

Uncategorized

People Will Come

June 5, 2012

“People will come, Ray.”

 Terrance Mann’s “People Will Come” monologue. One of, if not the, best part of the movie. Although Mann is right–baseball is awesome–the monologue is so good, and stirs up a lot of emotion in a  lot of people, because the way he describes baseball addresses our internal longing for the good, the true, and the beautiful. You may think he’s speaking about baseball, but if you have “ears to hear,” he is actually speaking about the Kingdom of God.

If you haven’t seen the movie in a while (or God forbid, ever) here’s the clip. You can find a complete transcription here.

 Now, let’s talk about it, bit by bit, looking for Jesus:

Ray, people will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it.

When searching for the text of this speech, I typed “people will come” into Google. One of the results was Luke 13:29. The RSV reads: “And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.” Some translations even start with “People will come…” The point is simple, and the point is this: for nearly 2,000 years, people have come to Jesus. Sometimes they don’t quite know why when they start their journey home. Sometimes Jesus woos them slowly and even the most hardened atheist ends up loving Him. I know a guy who on his way to a party, walked past the Catholic Center on his campus, something deep inside of him told him to ditch his friends that night and go inside. We were hanging out when he walked in. We met, he joined my Bible study, and the next year, he joined the Church. And it all started when he “turned up the driveway, not knowing for sure why [he was] doing it.”

They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children,

Luke 18:15-17: “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.'” There you have it, straight from the Savior’s mouth. We must have a child-like faith. We must trust God, be able to hold up our lives to our Heavenly Father like a child a broken toy to his earthly one saying, “It’s broke,” knowing that he has the power to fix it and the love to want to fix it if we ask.

longing for the past.

I think of a scene in Matthew 19 in which Jesus is asked about divorce. The people say “You say we can’t get divorced? Moses let us divorce our wives!” And Jesus replies that “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” That’s the key. From the beginning it was not so. Okay. Then what was it like in the beginning? Before the Fall, man was in right relationship with God, creation, others, and himself. It doesn’t take too long to figure out it’s not like that anymore. We disobey God, wreck the earth, cheat others, and make choices that end up biting us in the end. But it wasn’t always like this. Jesus’ sacrifice, if we accept it and Him, can repair things between us and God, and that can radiate to the other three areas. Whether we know it explicitly or not, we know we are not made to live the way we are. Things are meant to be better. And they can be. They will be. However, things won’t be back the way they were until Jesus comes again and we’re in Heaven: the New Heavens and the New Earth.

“Of course, we won’t mind if you have a look around,” you’ll say. “It’s only twenty dollars per person.” They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.

The most important part here: for it is money they have and peace they lack. Despite studies that show they money really can’t buy happiness, we keep falling prey to wanting more stuff. And we can’t get they stuff unless we get more money. We never hear something saying “You know, once I got that million dollars, life got a lot sunnier. I had so much more meaning in my life.” We don’t hear it because it doesn’t happen. Too often we hear of people who have every thing they could want, all the money they could want, and they are desperately lonely. Terribly peaceless. Some of the most peaceful, joyful people I know are monks, brothers, and nuns who have given up everything, who personally own nothing. If we put our worth in something as insignificant as money, it only makes sense that we’ll eventually end up feeling worthless. We must ask ourselves: is it money I have and peace I lack?

And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes.

When we enter into the Kingdom of God, it will be on a perfect afternoon. The image of sitting where they say when they were children and cheered their heroes does something for me. Perhaps because I can remember however sentimentally, being a child, cheering for Ryne Sandberg, my hero. I guess I just love the image. Grown men and women taken back decades to when the world was–in their eyes–a better, nicer, simpler place. Whenever I hang out with kids I’m impressed by their energy, their ability to put their whole selves into something, to lose themselves in obstacle course races or pretending someone’s a zombie. Perhaps that’s the part of childlike faith we need to recapture: the ability, the willingness to give ourselves totally to something, except it won’t be something, it will be someone, God, and instead of playing around with imagination, we will worship in total holy reality.

And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters.

“Dipped themselves in magic waters,” like Baptism, except Baptism isn’t magic. It’s a sacrament. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to “plunge” or “immerse”; the “plunge” into the water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as “a new creature.” Apart from grace, how other than magic could such a thing be claimed possible? We enter into the life of grace, we give ourselves to Jesus, we get baptised, and we dip ourselves in grace-filled waters.

The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.

Two of the last three excerpts of the speech are reiterations of two important ideas: child-like faith and the past. The memories, the realization of how it was “in the beginning,” will be so thick, we’ll have to brush it away from our faces. That’s how much love God has for us. The very air will be saturated with divine love. This is not wishful thinking, this is the reality of God. This love can be ours if we but accept it.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.

Mann is right. He might as well say, “The things of this world pass away, again and again. Faith is strong. God is constant.” But he didn’t. But, he didn’t have to, John already did. 1 John 2:17 says: “And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.” We can chase the things of this world, but they will never satisfy our deepest longings. Only Jesus can. Everything in this life changes, our relationships change: son, brother, husband, father, friend; our bodies change and eventually give out; jobs are lost; cars crash; loved ones die. The whole time, Jesus is with us, his love never-changing, only our receptiveness of it wavers, hopefully it grows.

This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

I hear him say: “This faith, this Church, is a part of our lives, Jonathan. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.” I think of Eden and my heart aches for what we have lost. I think of Jesus’ love and the promise of Heaven, and my hope is restored. We hear so often in our culture today that we modern men and women have learned so much, that we can move beyond the so-called restraints of religious thinking, the shackles of faith. Some may be tempted to think that God is dead and the Church is dying. Please. Jesus lives, and the Church is full of young Catholics who love Jesus and give their lives to him.

 

I also want to address the comments made by Mark, Ray’s Brother in Law, interruptions peppered throughout the “People Will Come” monologue.

Mark’s comments:

Ray, just sign the papers.

Ray, when the bank opens in the morning, they’ll foreclose.

You’re broke, Ray. You sell now or you lose everything.

Ray, you will lose everything. You will be evicted…C’mon, Ray.

And once Ray decides not to sell:

Ahhh, you’re crazy! Absolutely nuts!!

Mark is like the devil. He’s chirping in our ear that the Truth we experience is not real, that God will not keep his promises, that his way is the only viable option, that God does not, cannot, and will not work miracles. Sometimes that voice comes straight from the enemy. I think most times it comes from our culture or from ourselves. We must do all we can to not listen to him. God loves. God wins. God takes care of his children. Every time.