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Let's live and transmit the Gospel!

Of course I want to!

By 8 February, 2018January 3rd, 2023No Comments
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By F. Luis Casasus, General Superior of idente missionaries
Commentary on the Sunday Gospel of 11-2-2018, VI Sunday in Ordinary Time (Book of Leviticus 13:1-2.44-46; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33.11:1; Saint Mark 1:40-45)

1. Believe and Hope. The plane you are travelling aboard is going to crash shortly. But you can save yourself from dying by using your parachute. You always believed that a parachute can save your life in this situation. Maybe even you are able to explain it using Stoke’s law for viscous drag. You know and believe that a parachute can minimize the impact of your fall…but you are afraid of jumping. We cannot yet talk about an authentic trust

If nevertheless you go ahead and jump and open the parachute…then you are trusting, even if you are trembling with fear. This is how our unitive faculty synthetizes and integrates our knowledge and our desire, our belief and our trust, by incorporating into our life ideas, attitudes or values.

And this is what happened to the poor leper in today’s gospel reading. But in his case, the most relevant aspect is that his whole life was at stake. When belief and expectancy are open to grace, they are transformed in faith and hope and this is the opportunity the leper seized by keeling down before Christ to win over Jesus’ mercy and finding direction and meaning to his life.

Leprosy is a portrait of each of us. We have within us the disease of sin, the disease of the rebellion and rejection of God’s authority. The sacrament of Baptism washes this away, but there is a residue that remains that if not tended to, it will certainly infect us and rob us of eternal life.

When a leper cried out Unclean, unclean! or an alcoholic acknowledges their problem, or when you and I sincerely say in the Holy Mass that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do, and we really mean it and we do NOT dissociate our statements from our everyday actions, then we are opening our doors to Christ.

Otherwise, we send out an ambiguous and confusing message and worst of all, we lose contact with reality.

This happened to a man who was on all fours under a street lamp, searching for something. A policeman passing by asked what he was doing. Looking for my car keys, replied the man, who appeared slightly drunk. Did you drop them here? inquired the officer. No, answered the man, I dropped them in the alley. Seeing the policeman’s baffled expression, the man hastened to explain, But the light is much better here.

This might all sound like a joke, but the stark reality is that this is what happens to many religious (priests, professionals or students) or parents who get lost in some activities or some predetermined and well-controlled relationships as a choice to ‘dissociate’ away from deeper commitments, namely communion and conviviality.

This explains why the motto given by our Founder to our religious family is Believe and Hope; it is a call to never miss an opportunity to be faithful to the Gospel. Believe in the little things you have to do, many of them out of your comfort zone; have hope in the response of the Holy Spirit. If our intention is the glory of our Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit will also say with Christ: Of course I want to! We will be able to cooperate with the grace even if our contribution looks like a very small one: Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God, says Saint Paul today. Remember that the leper in today’s reading unexpectedly became an instrument of evangelization…even though a little inopportunely. He was obedient to the light and the strength he received just to stand and ask for the help of Jesus even if by law a leper was not allowed to come too close to people.

Believe and wait. Nothing else: Believe, wait, love … and march …We are the feet of Christ. Walk without stopping, never stop, walk seeking the re-Christianization of the world (Our Founder, 1960).

  1. Most of all, we should remember that faith and hope are fruits of the Spirit. Even more, the Holy Spirit is the true source of our prayer: I will pour on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication (Zech 12:10). The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of prayer. He was promised as a Spirit of grace and supplication, the grace for supplication.

Ultimately, prayer is the breathing of the Spirit in us; power in prayer comes from the power of the Spirit in us, waited on and trusted in. He is called the Spirit of supplication because He teaches us how to pray and for what to pray. In fact, this is the message of the second reading, where Saint Paul encourages us not to seek our own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. He is talking about the apostolic prayer, as our Founder calls it, which is a truly unitive prayer because its essential intention is our Father’s affairs, the salvation of each and every human being:

It is of great importance for you to acquire the state of beatific supplication, which, as the supreme expression of mystical unitive prayer, will shape your filial consciousness, betrothed to the Father, concelebrated by the Son and the Holy Spirit, to such a degree that, having already been marked in this life with eternal glory, you may contemplate earth from heaven rather than heaven from earth (Codex Orationis, 1996).

This is the right perspective to understand Jesus’ miracles and to be able to perceive and feel the miracles of conversion continuously performed today. It is clear that Jesus did not heal everyone who was sick. He healed many, but not all. In fact, realizing that many were simply coming to Him for physical healing and treating Him as a healer, He withdrew to the mountain to hide and pray. There is direction in the miracles and healing is not an end in itself: Jesus does not come to make us comfortable in this world. He comes to lead us to the glory of God, and He does it through healing.

Similarly, Paul tried to please everyone in every way but he does not try to please because pleasing people is an end in itself. Our works of healing and mercy, of whatever kind, do have significance and purpose: to show the supreme importance of Christ in our lives, the supreme healing that Jesus offers us.

One evening, after a brilliant performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, conductor Arturo Toscanini found himself facing a crowd gone wild. They applauded, whistled, and nearly deafened him with shouts of Bravo! Bravo! Toscanini bowed repeatedly and then turned to acknowledge the artistry of the orchestra. With a breathlessness in his hushed voice, he leaned in close and said, Gentlemen! Gentlemen! I am nothing! This was an extraordinary admission, given his enormous ego. Then the great conductor added: Gentlemen, you are nothing. But Beethoven, said Toscanini with a tone of adoration in his voice, Beethoven is everything, everything, everything! Centuries before, Paul had come to the same realization as regards Jesus. Christ was everything, everything, everything for the great apostle and for all of us.

Like Saint Paul, we must be imitators of Christ in the truest sense, subverting the dominate forces of fear in our lives through movements of compassion and mercy. We cannot make progress in our spiritual life unless we keep looking at our neighbor’s needs and carefully reflect on them in our prayer.

  1. One final remark about prayer. We said that, in the end, prayer is the measure of our acceptance of the Spirit’s work in us. So, believe that the Spirit dwells in you (Eph 1:13) and similarly believe that He is at work in your neighbor, in your enemy, in the person who is extremely selfish, who seems spiritually dead, like today’s leper.

Deep in our being, perhaps unrecognized, the Holy Spirit is dwelling within us as a Spirit of beatific supplication, for the very purpose of enabling us to pray.

The Latin term Beatific means blessed, marked by utter benignity, and here it is used to describe the state of a disciple who acknowledges the need for a permanent state of supplication and paradoxically finds his joy by living in this continuous attitude of petition. But remember that this Supplication is a gift, not just a decision we make.

Supplicating is not usually something joyful. When we ask for a salary increase, or when we apologize for some mistake or error, we are not supposed to be enjoying the experience. But in our relationship with the divine persons it is what perhaps best defines our filial condition, our nature of being a son or a daughter of God: we are in constant need of graces, we have the experience of having received always an (usually unexpected) response and therefore we are prompted to joyfully continue our act of supplication.

Our deepest (ontological) experience in prayer is a feeling both of healing and union with God and represents my more or less incipient or intense identification with one of the divine persons. Sometimes I feel the filiation, my filial nature, the confidence and mercy of our Heavenly Father; other times my brotherhood with Christ, my desire of imitating Him presides over my spiritual life. Finally, in some moments I experience the friendship of the Holy Spirit, his permanent assistance and the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus when He announced that the Holy Spirit will remind you of all that I have said to you (Jn 14:26).

It is to the Father we pray, and from whom we expect the answer. It is in the merit and spirit of the Son as He abides in us, that we trust to be heard. And it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us how to pray at any particular time. The sick, outcast who approached Jesus learned this lesson well.

Healed by Jesus, we, like the leper are each compelled to tell our story, making public the good news that God saves sinners and welcomes us home.