This is Where I Always Was

If we think about Mary, we know that she has a place in God's saving plan, a home, where she was "chosen before the foundation of the world" to be the Savior's Mother, "to be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:4). Surely she never left that place as she became a person in time and lived out her entire existence on earth. When she comes to God on the day of her Assumption, she simply returns home to the place that was hers from the start, a place so familiar to her (for it is the revelation of her real being) that she instantly knows "this is where I have always been." And this takes place not merely as an idea or divine intention is finally realized; rather, it is because the deepest being of the Virgin Mother was always identical with this idea, and she thus experiences in her Assumption: this is where I always was....

We are not Mary. We do not yet correspond in this "foreign land" to God's conception of us as his child. Yet at the same time something of the completed mystery of Mary is already present in us. We do not know how deep a truth lies in the statement that Christ "gave those who received him the power to become children of God" (Jn 1:12), not in a vague and figurative sense but in the fact that we are born by grace with him from God the Father....

Already here the chosen ones are carried over into the realm of God through the Word God inserts into their hearts.... Because we are already children of the Father and members of Christ and have the Holy Spirit in our hearts calling, "Abba, Father" (Rom 8:15), just as the Son called to the Father (Mk 14:36), our homecoming to the conception God has of us eternally is an arrival at the place from which we originated, at the place in which we have been eternally in our own most intimate truth and reality. Only from that place can we measure how far away we were while we wandered sinful and imperfect like the lost son of the parable, who finally set his sights on his father's house and was received therein by his father.

- Taken from Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar, You Have Words of Eternal Life, Scripture Meditations, Dennis Martin, Tr. (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1991).


He Adds Death

What did Jesus mean to give us at the Last Supper when he said, "This is my body?" In the Bible the word "body" doesn't indicate a component or part of a human being which, united to the other components, the soul and the spirit, forms the complete person. Our way of reasoning is influenced by Greek culture which, in fact, divided man in three parts: body, soul and spirit. In biblical terminology, and therefore in that used by Jesus and Paul, "body" indicates the whole human being in so far as it lives its life in a body, in a corporeal and mortal condition. In his Gospel, John uses the word "flesh" instead of "body" ("if you don't eat the flesh of the Son of man....") and it is obvious that this word in the sixth chapter of the Gospel means the same as in the first chapter where John says "the Word became flesh," and that is, human. The word "body" indicates, therefore, the whole of life. In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus left us the gift of his whole life, from the first moment of the incarnation to the very end, including all that had made up his life: silence, sweat, hardship, prayer, struggle, joy, humiliation....

Then Jesus also said: "This is my blood." What else does he give us with his blood if he has already given us all his life by giving us his body? He adds death! Having given us his life, he now gives us its most precious part - his death. In the Bible the term "blood" doesn't indicate a part of the body, and therefore a part of a part of a person; it indicates a happening, death. If blood is the seat of life as was thought at that time (cf. Gen 9:4), the shedding of it is the plastic sign of death. "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (John 13:1). The Eucharist is the mystery of the Body and Blood of the Lord, that is of the life and death of the Lord!

And what do we ourselves offer when we offer our bodies and blood with Jesus at Mass? We offer what Jesus offered: life and death. By "body" we offer all that actually constitutes our physical life: time, health, energy, ability, sentiments, perhaps just a smile, that only a spirit living in a body can give and which is so precious at times. By "blood," we express the offering of our death; not necessarily our final death, or martyrdom for Christ or our brethren. Death means also all that right now prepares and anticipates our death: humiliations, failures, sickness that cripples us, limits due to age or health, everything that "mortifies" us. When St. Paul exhorts us by the mercy of God to present "our bodies," he didn't mean just our senses and carnal appetites, but all of ourselves, body and soul; especially our minds and our wills. In fact he goes on to say: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom 12:2).

However, to conform to all this we must start practicing what we have said as soon as we come out from Mass. We must really make the effort, each one within his or her own limits, to offer our "bodies" to our brethren, and that is to say, our time, energy and attention - in a word, our lives. When Jesus had pronounced the words: "Take... this is my body; take... this is my blood," he didn't allow much time to pass before doing what he had promised: a few hours later he gave his life and blood on the Cross. Otherwise, it's all just empty words, lies. Therefore, after saying to our brothers and sisters: "Take, eat," we must really allow ourselves to be "eaten" and especially by those who do not act with the gentleness and kindness we expect. Jesus said: "What merit have you got if you love only those that love you, greet only those that greet you, invite only those that invite you? Everyone does this" (cf. Matt 5:46-47). On his way to Rome where he was to die a martyr, St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote: "I am the grain of Christ; that I may be ground by the teeth of wild beasts to become pure bread for the Lord." If we think about it, each one of us will realize that there are sharp teeth grinding us: criticisms, contrasts, hidden or open oppositions, different ideas in those surrounding us, differences in character. We should even be grateful to those who help us like this. They are of infinitely more benefit to us than those who approve or flatter us. In another letter, the same holy martyr wrote: "Those that praise me, scourge me."

... But we mustn't forget that we have also offered our "blood," and that is to say our passiveness, and mortification. It is when we can no longer do what we want that we can be closer to Christ. After Easter Jesus said to Peter: "When you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go. This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God" (John 21:18ff). Shortly before this Jesus had said to Peter three times: "Feed my sheep," but now he makes him understand that it is in dying that he will give the greatest glory to God.

Because of the Eucharist there is no such thing as a "useless life" in the world. No one should say: "What use is my life? What am I doing in this world?" You are in the world for the most sublime of reasons, to be a living sacrifice, to be Eucharist with Jesus.

- Taken from The Eucharist: Our Sanctification, Frances Lonergan Villa, Trans. (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1993), p. 22-24.


Can You Suffer for Him?

Happy are deceptions if they require us not to give up the struggle without going farther on in our efforts, to be discontented with prejudices and hasty suspicions, and to understand better the grandeur of the message that is transmitted to us.

To believe in the Church is to adhere to the mystery of Christ, which is found therein:

Christ comes to look for man in the midst of sin, and slowly draws him away from it. This is the mystery of the fundamental plan of God, which is to give himself to the world by taking on a human flesh. God went to the limits of this plan. One can adhere to the Church, the mystery of faith, only living it here on this earth.

How could such a life not bring suffering? The only sign of authentic achievement is the cross. The truth of all our responses can be summarized as follows: "Does a person truly love someone when he cannot suffer for him?"

- Taken from Fr. Bernard Bro, O.P., Happy Those Who Believe, John Morriss, Tr. (Staten Island, NY: The Society of St. Paul, St. Pauls/Alba House, 1970).


All Depends Upon God

I cannot resist saying that the longer I live the more clearly I both perceive and understand that all depends upon God, and that we have but to make surrender of everything to him to be successful in everything. I have no sooner made the sacrifice to him than I find everything fall out as I would wish.

You do well to reflect that there are many others who bear a heavier cross than yourself. But remember that consciousness of its heaviness does not hinder us from being submissive to God. We can easily be deprived of a submission that is at once sensible and comforting, but we shall never be without that of pure faith and pure spirit. The latter is the more meritorious in that no vain complacency can spoil it. This is why to many, who allow their souls to cry out in humiliation beneath the weight of their afflictions, God grants only the second kind of submission.

God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb; we are always given special graces with which to endure extraordinary misfortunes. Patience makes the unpreventable tolerable, to quote a pagan philosopher who had only human reason to enlighten him. Faith and religion, the sight of the cross and the prospect of eternal happiness, should surely make us think and say as much.

- Taken from Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J., Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, Algar Thorold, Tr., Fr. John Joyce, S.J., Ed. (Sprinfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, 1959).


Love Jesus in the Passion

May your way of life be totally heavenly, we are bound to this as Christians.... Let us love Jesus in the Passion more than anything else. Let us often meditate on the suffering of the God-man and then it will not be long before the great desire to suffer more for love of Jesus is awakened in us. Love for the cross has always been the distinctive sign of chosen souls. Being burdened with the cross has always been a sign of predilection on the part of the heavenly Father for those souls....

Let us show ourselves to be worthy children of such a great Father. Jesus also invites us to climb to Calvary with him, so let us not refuse. Ascending the painful mount with Jesus will be a joy for us.

In the course of life, mortifications will not be lacking for us, either. Let us love them; let us embrace them with a cheerful soul, and let us always bless the good God in everything.

- Taken from St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Letters: Correspondence with His Spiritual Daughters (1915-1923), Vol. III, Fr. Gerardo Di Flumeri, O.F.M. Cap., Ed. (San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy: Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, 1994).

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