Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Last Mass Reflection at Ciszek

Today, I gave my last Mass reflection at Ciszek Hall, so I thought I would share it for anyone interested. As always, what I write for Mass is always intended for my immediate Jesuit audience, but perhaps it can be some fruit to others.

Anyway, a quick note that during my April 1st fun post, I totally didn't intend for the part where I wrote how I wanted to write an update to be part of the joke. I actually had meant to write an update, but then the craziness of this past month went into overdrive, and I'm just getting a quick breather from it all. From the various papers/exams due, to my time at the Jesuit Conference in DC to discuss the role of Jesuits and Communications in the 21st century, and to organizing a great deal of the Easter Triduum music at the local parish here (bilingual, no less), it's been difficult to find time or energy to write. This upcoming week, I have two more papers and what is called the De U-- the capstone oral exam that I will have to take to finish up my Master's, so I'm sure I won't be writing anytime soon, especially since afterwards I have to worry about moving back to the West Coast. Hopefully in due time, though.

FYI: the Gospel reading today is taken from Luke 24:13-35

In today’s Gospel reading, we hear how the Risen Christ appeared to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus. We hear at the beginning of the passage how the village is about seven miles from Jerusalem, and that it was nearly evening by the time they reached Emmaus. We can assume, then, that Jesus had spent practically the whole day with them, yet it was only near the very end when they came to recognize Him through the breaking of the bread, at which point Jesus disappears from their midst. And, as they reflected and did their examen, so to speak—they noted how their hearts burned, and how this intense feeling within was confirmation that Christ truly was in their presence.

When I think about times when I have felt my heart burning within me, that intense feeling in which I could not help but believe that I was in the presence of God, I typically think about my Kairos retreat during my senior year of high school at the beloved CA retreat center in Applegate. Kairos, as it was described to us, was defined as God’s time. This was God’s time—a time in which we were invited to intimately place ourselves in the presence of God and to be receptive and vulnerable to God’s grace at work. The student leaders and faculty shared personal and often vivid stories of their lives—stories of great vulnerability—and how they strived to see God at work in the midst of their great struggles and joys. I’m sure those of you who will be moving on to regency will be invited into such situations.

I remember a moment in particular after I had the opportunity to confess what was going on within me during the retreat. I was sitting in the chapel and gazing upon the cross of Christ. As I looked at the cross, I remember being overwhelmed with the intense feeling that Jesus was really with me. That Jesus was there, his arms outstretched, his gaze inviting me to draw ever closer to Him.

As I looked at the cross, I found myself in tears, because I had never before felt the presence of God so strongly. I could not help but believe that this truly was the work of the Holy Spirit, that God really was present to me at that time. There, I believe my heart began to truly burn for the first time, and I tend to think about that time as the seed of my vocation into the Society.

When I think about our Father Ignatius, I cannot help but contemplate the fire that burned in his heart throughout his lifetime. As he read about the Saints and about their love and desire to follow Christ, I can imagine the transformation taking place within his heart. At his bed, in the reading of Holy men and women, Ignatius was having a Kairos moment. God deemed that to be the appropriate time to seize his heart and mind and set it aflame, and from that point Ignatius would never be able to look back.

Ignatius at the river Cardoner was also a Kairos moment for him. As he sat and contemplated the mysteries of Christ amidst the beauty of nature, I imagine the fire in his heart as he began to understand more and more the ways that God was working in his life and the way God was working in the world. Ignatius was often so moved that he would tear up just thinking about how beautiful, for example, the Trinity was, as it seemed to him to be like three harmonious musical keys.

And, on his way to present himself to the Pope, Ignatius had a Kairos moment in the Chapel of La Storta, where the Father came to him in an intimate way and placed Ignatius with his son Jesus. I imagine the intense feeling that Ignatius was having during this vision, and how this vision sought to confirm the deep desires he believed Christ was placing within him.

Ignatius’ heart was set on fire by our Lord, and he could not help but want to share and enkindle that fire with others.

I think this is why GC 35 truly wanted to remind us about how our charism is founded upon this inner flame given to us in God’s time. For all of us, I would venture to guess that all of us have had Kairos moments in our lives prior to entering the Society in which we felt ourselves to be on fire with the love of God—a flame so strong and intense that we sought to enter into such a radical life. And why? Because God had lit a fire within us, and we had a burning desire to respond to his Call. Like Ignatius, we received something from God that was so profound and so intimate that we could not help but want to share the life of God given to us with those around us. As first year novices, we then all entered into the Spiritual Exercises, in which we devoted a full month of silence where we truly dedicated our lives to Christ—a Kairos month meant to ground our lives as Jesuits even to this day. In those days, we encountered the living God in a real and intimate way, and we might have found ourselves like the disciples, in which our hearts burned because of Christ’s real work within us.

As Jesus was his disciples on the road to Emmaus, and as Jesus was with Ignatius, so too is Jesus with us, even when we are blind to his intimate presence. All time is Kairos—all time is God’s time, for He is always with us, never leaving our side.

In my humble opinion, the people of God deserve nothing less that Jesuits who are on fire with the love of God. And we should expect nothing less of our Jesuit brothers than to know that each of us have this flame within. Of course, I’ll be the first one to admit that I have not always tended well to my flame or to that of others, nor do I expect to feel on fire everyday for the rest of my life. Just the same, in spite of my own weaknesses and faults and blindness, You should expect me to have a burning heart for Christ that grounds my life and vocation as a Jesuit, and I would expect nothing less of all of you. And I personally don’t think that is too much to ask. Only with hearts truly aflame can we set the world on fire and make present to all the already present presence of our living God.

As we approach the table, let us come before the Lord, as the psalm says, with hearts that rejoice in his presence. Here, in the proclamation of his Word, and especially in the breaking of the bread, we believe that God is here with us in an intimate and special way. Every liturgy for us is a Kairos moment for God’s grace to enter ever intimately within and to renew our flames. This is God’s time. Jesus is here, alive, and with us. Alleluia!

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