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The Journey of The Gift of Ourselves to God

Question: how can I completely give/surrender myself to Him; I insist on “completely”, that is, to accept His will with pleasure & with a heart at peace.

Answer: Maybe you didn’t expect how important this question is and how it needs a long explanation! It is the basic question for us Christians, and we need to understand clearly a very basic element of our life, which is at the heart of the Gospel. I have divided my explanation into 7 parts. They are all linked together, and they are all equal in their importance and need to be understood carefully, in order to see the whole picture!

 

1- Introduction

As a starting point I would like to recall the deep meaning of Marriage according to the western theological Tradition: “it is the mutual gift of a man and a woman!” He gives himself to her, and she gives herself to him. This is the very essence of marriage for the western Church! So, as you see, it is a mutual gift of themselves.

Let us now understand in a deep and truthful way what Jesus is for us! The Son of God, came from heaven, became a man, and gave himself to each of us on the Cross! He gave Himself totally on the Cross, to you, to me, to every human being! This is very important! This is why He is called the Groom, the Spouse! Because He gave everything to you! He would like you to be his Bride, so He invites you… He calls you, deep deep in your heart! So, your reply to Him, your response to His amazing Love, is to give yourself to Him, totally!

Do you understand the context of your question?! You are asking me to explain how you can answer fully to His Divine Love, in order to give yourself totally to Him! So the context is His Love to you, His call to you, deep in your heart! He is seducing you, He has lit a spark of his love in your heart! So your immediate reaction, once you became aware of His love and his call, is to reply to Him, to give Him the maximum: everything totally, in order to follow Him, to love Him, totally, and equally!

When you were young, your Godparents presented you in the Church to Jesus, and they immersed your being, totally, in Him. They did it for you, because they thought this is a good thing to give you: God himself. This very moment of Baptism, is in fact the Seed of the realisation of this Divine Marriage between you and Jesus! In fact, Baptism is an immersion in Jesus, in his Being. It is the gift of yourself to Him. So in fact your real Divine Marriage actually happened a few years ago!

But it is in a form of a Divine seed in you. The spark of this Seed has been revived in you recently, and in fact you want to realise this Seed in its fullness: you want to deepen what happened during your baptism: receiving Jesus fully, and giving yourself totally to Him! A Divine exchange!

 

2- Renewal of Baptism

Once we meet Jesus as adults, once we hear his call in our heart, once we understand that He wants us totally for himself, we feel the urge to give Him everything! We do not succeed in that immediately! We might start first to be “intellectually” convinced that this is the right thing to do, but we find that we are unable, by our will, to do it! The mind knows this is the right thing but the will is still too weak, the slave of many things, and dependant on them!

So, now, we begin more determinedly to keep contact with Jesus, by reading his words in the Gospel and putting them into practice! We feel then that our will is altogether strengthened and freed from the slavery of the world and of the flesh. Then after weeks/months we reach a point where we feel that we can freely leave everything and follow Him. This doesn’t mean at all that we really have to leave physically our actual state to enter another state (become a nun or something like that) not at all! It is just through the will, that interiorly we feel freer to follow Jesus, to do what He wants from us! We can very well remain in the world, without changing a great deal in what we do, but, interiorly, we feel already different, and willing to follow Him. This step is very important in our life, and in way, it is the renewal of our Baptism, but as adults!

You can consider this step as a gift of yourself, and truly it is! But, it is just the beginning of a long journey that will lead us to much greater things: the mutual gift where all our being is transformed in Jesus! The spiritual marriage, or union with God, on earth! Ok?

 

3- To give yourself totally 

 

In order to understand the dynamism of the gift of yourself to Him and its realisation I would like to use an image/symbol: the log and the fire! The log as you know is a piece of wood we put in the fireplace! We are the log and Jesus is the Fire! Ok?


a) To give myself


To give myself in fact is to put the log into contact with the Fire, to repeat this operation, and to try to remain in contact as long as possible with the Fire. So here, as you see, it is an act, and it depends on us. This will allow the Fire to burn the log more and more and transform it into fire! Ok?


b) To give myself totally

To give myself totally now means to reach the state or the step/stage where the log is totally transformed into the fire. So, as you see, this is the result of a). It is the result of the repeated (daily) gift of myself. It is the result of a repeated act (a). Ok? In a), everyday I give myself to God, I renew the gift of myself, using my freedom. This daily gift doesn’t transform me immediately, but it helps me take one step! This step is important! You remember the ball of wool. If Jesus holds one end of the wool, He will pull all of it totally towards himself. I just need to put into His hands, daily, the end of the string! Renewing, everyday the gift of myself (an act I can perform) helps me to keep the log in contact with the Fire. So, one day, the whole log will be transformed into the Fire: the gift of myself will be total in this case!! Even if the daily gift of myself to Him is also total, “total” here is different from total there! What I can give today, is all myself, but what He can transform is a small part (one step). It is total on my part, but my growth is step by step!

So I don’t have to be disappointed if I give today or one day, everything, but I don’t find myself completely transformed! The new creature in me grows, day after day! Not in one shot!

As I also said, we need to remember that while climbing the Divine Mountain (Jesus) we don’t have to be disappointed if we have to climb only one step each day (“being faithful to the little” as the Gospel says)! We need to remember that by giving ourselves totally today, we climb one step, but in a way, the whole mountain is contained in this small step! We never have to underestimate the total importance of today’s step!

Keeping the contact between the Fire and the log, keeps the contact between Jesus and us, so He renews us, everyday, and transforms us into Him. Step by step.

 

4- How can we start this journey, how can we reach the goal: total gift of ourselves?

The main way to realise the daily gift of myself to Jesus (a gift that lets me grow and be transformed in Him) is to renew daily the desire to put Him in the first place. In fact I need to use my freedom every day in order to choose Him. Remember that all the Creation belongs to Him, heaven and earth, but only one thing doesn’t belong to Him: your freedom of choice, your will, your desire! He will never step into them, they are yours! In fact nobody can touch them! You are the only owner of them, and God never touches them! But if you love Him, if you want to give yourself to Him, you need to use this treasure that belongs to you. He gave you the freedom, and will never take it back. This is your treasure, it is yours! You need to use it, and use it abundantly, in order to grow! But every time you use it, you still own it for the following time! So remember that everyday you are a free person in the eyes of God, and that in order to love Him really, you need to make use of this freedom. You are the paradise of God, as the Bride is the Paradise of the Divine Spouse! But in this Paradise, there is a tree God swore to himself not to touch: your freedom! So remember the power of seduction God put into you: the use of your freedom, to choose Him, to put Him in first place!

In order to put him in first place by an act (this is the good use of your freedom), you are invited to a) listen to Him, and to b) immerse yourself in Him, everyday! To listen is an act, and to immerse yourself in Him is also another type of act! They depend on you! God gives you always his grace in order to perform them!

a) To listen to Him is a act that I described when I explained the Lectio Divina. In fact in order to listen to Him one needs to offer all his being, and be ready to listen to whatever He wants to say. We need to put all our being under His light, so He can shed his light on a place in our soul that He wants to change! As you see, the Lectio Divina is the first and highest way to choose God, to give ourselves daily to Him! An efficient Lectio Divina is where his word received today, is put into practice with His grace today!

b) To immerse ourselves! This is the second highest act of gift of ourselves we can realise! In fact, as I taught you, in order to immerse ourselves in Jesus, our Divine Ocean of Love, the Divine Oven of Fire, we need to give ourselves to Mary, to put all of ourselves, all of our life into her hands, like a little child (“in order to enter the kingdom of God we need to become like children,” if not, we can’t enter! Mary is the mother of these children because She is the mother of each one of us, the mould of the Divine Jesus, and of our Divine new being!). Being immersed in God, helps our roots to be transformed into the Fire of God. Because the log I was speaking about earlier, is in fact a whole tree. The visible part of the tree is transformed by the Fire of the Word of God in Lectio Divina! While the deep roots of the tree (the heart) can only be transformed in God, by this type of prayer, where all our being is immersed in God (especially our roots).

In the Mass we have two types of “goods”/foods, and Lectio and the Prayer of the Heart are just an extension of these 2 types of food, so that we become transformed in God!

Remember that a) opens the gate to b).

Remember too the beautiful definition of love by Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus: to love is to give everything [to God] and to give ourselves [to Him]. So if I say to God: I love you (First commandment: “you shall love God with all your heart, all your energy, all your intelligence…”) this implies that I am invited to give flesh to this love, to realise it!

 

5- Difficulties

Of course, in this journey, we can feel the difficulty of repeating the gift of ourselves to God, we can find also that it is not easy to do listen to Jesus and do his will. Why? Because the old creature in us (the “old man”) is still alive! The log is not yet totally transformed into the Fire! And the old creature in us doesn’t like the Light of God! The “muscles” of our new being too are not well used to do the will of God, so we can feel that it seems difficult to walk with Jesus! In order to help this situation, it is important to remember that we don’t have to look at the whole log, and despair! We need to concentrate only on the act to do today, and be very happy that we did it! This is the biggest grace God gives us every day! It is sometimes tiring to look at the top of the mountain, and see how far we might be! But this is not good! We need to concentrate on each step to do it correctly, and when we look to the mountain we need to feel the energy of God invading our being and encouraging us to continue to climb!

We need to remember always that it is a progressive journey and that God is very happy to see us do today’s act! One act a day, makes Him happy (one new act each day, and we don’t loose the other acts we have already done). We need to accept humbly not to arrive at the top of the mountain in one day. We need to accept humbly to bear this “burden”. We need to bear the “old creature” in us. In fact they are both, the new and the old creature in us, like in a battle! We are like a pregnant woman with twins in her womb. We need to be patient and accept to grow step by step! Jesus said that our new being grows like a tree! And a tree needs weeks, months and years to grow properly, and to be deeply rooted! We need to remember that we please God immensely if we concentrate on today’s step, by doing it!

The presence of the “old man” in us, still alive, his heaviness, his laziness, inconsistency don’t have to push us into despair, but to patience! Our old heart is an old heavy stone, and God is removing it, slowly! Patience! Courage, perseverance!

We need to see that Jesus is growing in us!

We need to look at what we have achieved by his grace, and thank God for it.

We don’t have to look back…

We don’t have to look at the old man in us! He will die by himself! We don’t have to bother to look at him of fight against him!

Humility: the Gospel reminds us that we need to come down (in fact “climbing” is in fact a “digging”, a “coming down”), to make ourselves small, like a little child.

Mary, as I said, is the Mould of the new man in us. We need to give her every burden every worry, to put ourselves in her Arms. Even our desire to love Jesus, to give ourselves totally to Him, we need to put them into her hands, so She can keep our desire in a safe place, and help it grow and persevere! We can lose the graces we receive! Our heart leaks! But if we give Her everything, if we give Her our spiritual life, the graces we receive, She can keep them safe! Her Heart keeps everything, and never loses any grace received! She does that also for us! In fact we can become very easily the “owners” of our spiritual life, of our growth. So, it is good to remember real divine humility, and give everything to the real mother of the Humble, the Humble Mary! God looked to her humility, like a divine valley; She is able to keep all the water the grace in her Heart and let it fructify.

It is good to renew our purpose to give ourselves to Jesus in the hands of Mary. She keeps our promises safe! She immerses us in Him.

 

6- The stages of the realisation of the gift of ourselves

Before continuing on to the new step of the explanation I would like to remind you of the first point I mentioned! The framework of all that we are saying is that: the love of Jesus for you is total, unique, exclusive, jealous (divine jealousy). This is always the starting point! He is looking for you! He gave himself to you, totally, on the Cross! This is the essence of Baptism, the essence of our being as Christians! This is the deepest meaning of the Cross. The Cross is the place where the Divine Spouse gave himself totally to the Bride! So giving yourself to Him totally will be a spiritual marriage with Him – on earth!

Spiritual marriage is the realisation of the Divine Seed of the Baptism! The full mutual gift of you and Jesus!

Now, let us look at this new point: the stages of the gift of ourselves to Jesus! In fact, as I said, it is a journey. There are many steps that mark our growth in Jesus! The more the log is taken/transformed by the Fire, the more it goes through different stages/steps. We can mention 7 steps at least:

1- In the beginning we have a divine attraction to Jesus. We are seduced by him!

Log 1

But we are very weak and not constant. We need to strengthen our inner being, our will in God, we need to be regular and to persevere. We choose Jesus every time , and put Him in the first place. It is like a battle/war… and persevering will give us a first Victory.

 

2- After having persevered in listening to God every day, and being constant, and practising this immersion in Jesus, we reach what we call the union of wills! Our will is united to the will of God (not all our being, but a central part of it). We take the first big step towards Peace! We experience it like a first big victory, like coming out of Egypt (the Exodus)! We are more attached to Jesus, in a stronger way, and our will is better rooted in Him.

Log 2

3- Then after this step we seem to make a new start, in order to reach a total purification of the soul (emotions, feelings etc..) and of the spirit (the ego). The Love of Jesus, takes now very seriously the gift of ourselves and performs a thorough purification /transformation of our being into His!

 

Log 3

 

4- After this radical step, we reach finally a much greater peace, that reaches the bottom of our heart. From now starts what we call the spiritual “engagement” between Jesus and us! We have been able to say a first “yes” with all our being purified! It may seem strange to say that, because until we reach this step we have already given ourselves to Him hundreds of times and said “yes” to Him hundreds of times! But here, in fact it is different, the whole being, (including the roots) can say “yes”, in a pure/total way! The Fiancée now is prepared by the Holy Spirit for the Marriage! Her dress (spiritual dress) is decorated/adorned by the Holy Spirit with many graces and precious stones, so to speak, so she can be ready for the wedding! It is a joyful preparation time.

Log 4

5- Now comes the delicate, most beautiful moment where the Son of God receives His Bride in His Room where they exchange their “yes” with each other!!!!!! Secret of the king! Here the real total gift of herself is realised in fullness! The log is totally transformed into Fire, and participates fully in the operations of the Fire. She is his and He is hers! Full possession of each other! She belongs to Him and He belongs to her, totally and truly! She can give God to God! Secret of the king!

 

6- A new step starts where the Bride starts to bring children to the Divine Spouse! Because it is not enough to be united to Him, in one, she needs to have children! The log, totally on Fire, starts to Sparkle Divine sparkles, she starts to give God to many children!!! Another Secret of the king!! A long period of service starts and is full of gifts from her to Him!! In fact, each child is a gift from her (transformed into the Fire and moved by it) to HIM. She gives Him supreme joy! This 6th step in fact can be divided into many different steps, but it is not our purpose today to discuss them!

7- The moment of Death, is in fact one more act of love from her, where the Holy Spirit pulls the Precious Stone of her soul and spirit and plunges her into the immense ocean of the Divinity. This is the Christian death: a full immersion in God, fuller even than that of the spiritual marriage, even if there are no, basically, other stages! This is a fuller possession of God.

You can very easily imagine a drawing where you have a log and a fire. You can easily imagine 5 steps at least of the evolution (growth) of the fire, transforming more and more the log into its very nature!

 

7- Conclusion

 

To conclude my answer we need to remember that the main way to give yourself to Jesus totally is to look to meeting Him everyday, to Listen to Him daily, and to be immersed in Him also everyday! This is the food that nourishes the growth of the gift!

Renewing daily the gift of ourselves, putting all our life in his hands, makes us take a step per day, and a greater part of our being is given to Him in fact (is transformed into Him).

May Our Lady keep your generosity in her safe hands and help you persevere everyday.

 

Jean Khoury

 

Question: How can I know that God wants this priest to be my Spiritual Guide starting from now? Are there any signs He can give? If yes, like what?

Answer: The real Spiritual guide and Father, and Spiritual Master, is the Holy Spirit. He speaks to you and want always to guide you and to speak to you. He likes to speak to you through human beings! I like to say always: God became flesh in order to talk to us through the flesh. Even if Jesus is on the right hand of the Father, He still likes to speak to us through the flesh! His flesh is Nature, His flesh is the Bible, his flesh can be any human being! He guides you, in order for you to grow. Don’t put yourself in the hands of a human being! Put yourself in the Hands of the Holy Spirit and He will guide you. When you listen to a man/woman don’t listen to the human part of him/her, listen to God, to your real Master, and pray to Him!

We don’t find the best Spiritual Director, but we find the right one for now! “For now” because we may need another priest after a while! Because very rarely can one priest lead you to achieve the whole journey! What I described above it not really known by the priests! They don’t learn it (it is not their fault) when they do theology! So be careful into whose hands you put yourself, and you need to put the priest under trial! God warns us saying: that you will become the image of your Spiritual Father! Because you receive from his spirit! And God says, you can hardly find one in one thousand! It is the Bible that says this!

This is why it is a bit difficult to answer to you!

You need to distinguish between confession (the sacrament of the forgiveness) and spiritual direction! It is not the same thing at all! Any priest can confess you and give you the forgiveness of your sins, but not any priest or monk can lead you to Union with God!

Pray, pray and pray!! This is the only way, and be attached only to God, even if you seek confirmation “through the flesh” as I say! Both are necessary: being attached totally to God (not to the man), and seeking confirmation “through the flesh”! iI your intention is right, you will always find the right person, the right advice along your way! And pray a lot for the priests!

_____________

Spiritual Demography of a Parish

Spiritual Demography (from prefix demo- from Ancient Greek δῆμος dēmos meaning “the people”, and -graphy from γράφω graphō, implies “writing, description or measurement”) is the statistical study and analysis of populations according to the criterium of Spiritual Life. Spiritual Demographics are quantifiable spiritual characteristics of a given population. “Spiritual Demography of a Parish” is the statistical analysis and study of the Spiritual Life of the Faithful in a given Parish.

How do we “measure” and discern the Stages of Spiritual Life?

First and foremost we need to be aware of the existence of a Journey of Growth that starts with Jesus’ Call to follow Him and that leads to Holiness. The Doctors of the Church like St Bernard, St Bonaventura, St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross,… studied and presented the different levels of growth in spiritual life and the criteria to establish them. We cannot afford to neglect that effort. It is by having a clear understanding of the stages of growth that we can understand what “Spiritual Demographics” mean.

The Church is Mother and Mistress, and what interests her is to help us reach the fullness of our vocation, in following Jesus to union with him and to the fullness of Love.

The following video explains how we could implement “Spiritual Demography” using the masterpiece of St Teresa of Avila: “The Interior Castle”.

The Six-Minute Video

The goal of the following video is to trigger a different way of thinking and planning Pastoral work:

1- It opens the horizon to the existence of an entire journey that leads to Holiness (avoiding the reduction of the individual Christian’s spiritual life to two general elements: general random prayers, Sunday Mass, some charitable works).

2- It indicates that each stage in spiritual growth has its own needs, spiritual food and discernment.

3- It takes into consideration, within Pastoral work, the spiritual needs of each person.

4- It offers a greater impulse for motivating people to use the proper means in order to trigger growth.

Objections

Some might object that the different stages of growth of spiritual life are too artificial (excessive compartmenting) or that they should not be used in the discernment of what type of Pastoral to offer (type of teaching etc.).

To these objections one has to clarify some essential points about Spiritual Life:

1- The Church cannot on one hand claim to call everybody to Holiness and not be able to offer any explanation of how to go about reaching this goal: a- description of Holiness, b- an explanation of the stages to reach it c- presenting the practical means to reach it, d- offering the needed discernment to guide the persons in this journey of growth.

2- Claiming that these different stages of growth do not exist as St Teresa or other Doctors of the Church put them to us is a profound mistake as follows:

  1. What is then mortal sin and the need for Christian conversion?
  2. What is the need for an ordered and moral life?
  3. What are the duties of a Christian?
  4. What is Jesus’ personal Call to follow Him? (the Call for holiness becomes clearer at a certain point in one’s life! What then is the “Second Conversion”?)
  5. What is a committed Prayer Life?
  6. What is Purification, Sanctification?

These few questions show that talking about stages of growth is not lacking in deep sense. It is just that we are not used to think this way. Hence the vital need for that renewed vision of Pastoral Life.

Pope John Paul II in his Pastoral Letter, “Novo Millenium Enuente” underlined (as mentioned in the video) the need to put holiness as the fundamental plan for Parishes. Very audacious, but coherent and in tune with the Universal Call to Holiness that Vatican II reminded us of.

Articles

In order to understand the different core aspects that are part of the Journey of Spiritual Growth, please find here a series of different articles, each one explaining a needed aspect that complements the explanation given in the Video. They help us make further steps in the study of pastoral analysis and planning.

The use of Spiritual Theology as a science that helps implement this Demography:

– Defining Spiritual Theology (1)

– Defining Spiritual Theology (2)

– Defining Spiritual Theology (3)

Different topics:

Mapping Spiritual Life (with St Teresa of Avila)

The Spiritual Journey (last of 11 very important Diagrams to understand the different stages of Spiritual Life in the Gospel).

What is Holiness (1)?

What is Holiness (2)?

What is Holiness (3)?

Can Holiness be Planned?

The Call for Holiness for Married People.

Getting Ready to Receive Jesus’ Call.

A Call is a Call.

Hearing Jesus’ Call.

St Teresa’s (second) Conversion.

A Day with St Elisabeth of the Trinity on the occasion of her Canonisation

On Saturday 15th October, we are happy to present a one day course on Elisabeth of the Trinity. She was a French Carmelite nun whose messages on the Interior Life would be of great value to us all. She will be canonised on Sunday 16th October and we invite you to attend the course to learn about the life and message of this courageous nun.
A day with Elisabeth of the Trinity
 
Saturday 15th October 2016
 

What content is covered?
The lectures during this day with her will focus on four key areas:
 
1. Knowing her life
2. An introduction to her writings
3. An introduction to her doctrine
4. Discovering and praying her “Prayer to the Trinity”
Dates and times of the Course are:
 15th October 2016, from 10 am to 4:30 pm.
 Refreshments are provided. Please bring a packed lunch.
 

Where does the course take place? 

The course will take place at St Mary of the Angels, Moorhouse Road, Bayswater, London, W2 5DJ. (‘Notting Hill Gate’ or ‘Bayswater’ Tube Stations and Buses 7, 23, 27, 28, 31, 70, 328)
 
Who will teach the course? 
 
The course will be taught by Jean Khoury, a full-time theologian who has studied and taught Spiritual Life in the Church for over twenty years. As well as lecturing world-wide on spiritual life and meditation, Jean is the author of several books, articles and studies on spiritual life and the founder of the School of Mary, a three-level formation in spiritual life (www.amorvincit.com).
 
Jean obtained a degree in Philosophy from the Institut Catholique de Toulouse (France), a Licence in Theology from the Teresianum (Rome) and a Masters in Spiritual Theology from the Institute Catholique de Toulouse (France). He is currently completing his PhD in Spiritual Theology at the Angelicum (Rome) with Monsignor François-Marie Léthel. Courses at the School of Mary constitute his sole source of income.
 
How much will the course cost?
 
The cost for the course is £25 for the day.
* Email schoolofmarylondon@gmail.com with your name and contact details and we will be in touch with details of how to pay the fee by bank transfer.
 
* If you have any questions, please do phone Rufaro at: 07940904834
 
Who is Elisabeth of the Trinity? 
 
Elisabeth of the Trinity is a French Carmelite nun. She was born is 1880 at Bourges, France, entered at the age of 21 at the Carmelite Monastery of Dijon, and lived only 5 years and died at the age of 26 on the 9th of November 1906. 
 
She is much less known than her other French sister, St Therese of the Child Jesus, but deserves to be known as well for her life and message to the world. She is more discreet and her message is mainly on interiority. Her doctrine is so rich and deserves to be discovered. 
 
She said: “I think that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls by helping them to go out of themselves in order to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within which will allow God to communicate Himself to them and to transform them into Himself”.

St James explains Lectio Divina 1

In his beautiful letter, St James explains to us Lectio Divina and its conditions. “Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:19-27)

Let us see how this presentation of Lectio Divina goes and let us discover a deeper understanding of this outstanding analysis of Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina is about listening to Jesus’ Word for us every day. Can we really listen to him? Should we prepare our heart in order to become able to listen?

Original deafness

First and foremost it is important to remember that with the Fall (the Original Sin) we lose the capacity to listen and speak directly to God.

Moses is one of the first human beings to speak directly to God, face to face. People were scared of God.

Sin, separates us from God, and radical grave sin, stops us from hearing, and hardens our heart. We need a deep operation that will change our heart of stone to the heart of flesh.

This is why Jesus will perform a very important act on the Cross: he will open our “hearing” and our “speech” (capacity to talk), so we become, fort the first time capable to hearing the Word of God directly and talk to God directly and personally.

Even if this event happens during Jesus’ ministry, it centrally happens on the Cross where Jesus accomplishes our Redemption, this is why we have this long sigh:

“31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. 33 And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; 34 and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”” (Mark 7:31-37)

On the Cross Jesus brings us back from our darkness, our deafness to the fluency of communication with God (listening-speaking). It is on the Cross that Jesus opens us to God, changes us, gives us a new heart, a heart of flesh (Ez 36:26), (like Mary’s one), capable of listening. “Give thy servant therefore a heart that listens” (1 Kings 3:9).

The old man, by definition isn’t capable of listening. This is why among many other rites, during Baptism, the Minister performs that same act that Jesus did and touches the ears of the person who is baptised and his or her mouth, saying after Jesus: “Ephphatha” that is: be opened.

When we sit down, in order to listen to Jesus, we need to remember that listening to Him is a Grace, not something obvious and automatic. This is why Jesus gives a very special Grace of the Holy Spirit to us, in order for us to listen to Him, hear his voice, See him in the Scripture: he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Without this supernatural intervention of Jesus in our mind/heart, we can’t really hear him, see him, be touched by his words deeply, be moved by them.

It is important to acknowledge that we can’t take Lectio Divina (listening to Jesus) for granted, and that it is a huge Grace, that we need to ask for humbly and insistently.

Note: For these reasons Mary is considered by Luke to be the only one who was capable of Listening to the Word of God and obey it, put it into practice. This is why we need her, New Eve, our Mother, to generate our new heart, at the image of her heart, capable of listening and putting into practice Jesus’ Words.

Impurity makes us deaf

St James will explain to us some of the dispositions in order to become capable of listening to Jesus-God:

“19 Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, 20 for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19)

The goal is to become “quick to hear”. In order to do so, there are plenty of other operations of our soul (mind and will) that should stop: speaking and being angry. “chatter” could be the expression of anger. We can’t in the same time hate somebody and want to listen to Jesus. Because “hating” is an act of inner silent speech, where with our thoughts we direct the arrows of our anger against this person. The word of Jesus doesn’t have a space in us.

We can’t expect two things that are opposite to dwell in us: anger and God’s action in us. “Anger” has many forms in us. Frustration for instance can makes us angry.

The Word of God needs and awaits for a clean heart. There is a cleanness that we can perform, which is refusing to surrender to anger and ask from God to give us a new heart, a heart of flesh, a heart “quick to hear”.

“21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.”

St James will clarify his thought: “anger” is for him any “filthiness and rank growth of wickedness”. If we want to receive the “implanted Word” of Jesus, we need to put away all what goes against it. Remember the thorns in the third soil in the Parable of the Sower. It has thorns that suffocate the Word of Jesus implanted in us. These thorns are all what is against the Word of God, all the desires that are not “the desire of God” (richness, worries,…).

God wants to save us. He has two means for that: His Word (his preaching), and His Body and Blood (the Cross). Jesus’ word is capable of Saving our soul, changing it, purifying it, helping it to walk the path from the land of the darkness to God who is Light and Love. God’s Word is powerful and we need it everyday so we can be saved: each day bears its effort, and each day has its own Bread. For man doesn’t live alone from Bread but from the Real Bread: Jesus’ Words.

“A heart quick to hear give me O Lord! A meek heart.”

Putting into practice

One of the characteristics of the heart that can receive the word of God is the heart that from the beginning is ready to put it into practice, unconditionally ready for that. We know that God can fulfil any Word he would say to us. So why are we doubting God? We need to trust him, trust that he knows what is best for us today, we are his children, his dearest children and he wants to “save our souls” with his Word.

Do we really believe that we need to be saved, i.e. changed by him, by his words? Do we really entrust our being into the Hands of Jesus who then will give us each day a Word of Salvation, of change, of transformation, purification? Do we really see Jesus as our doctor, healer? Do we acknowledge the existence of this Grace every day? Are we following Jesus everyday?

So, from start, the process of “listening” bears in it the deep determination to put into practice what we will hear from Jesus, we are totally opened to him: “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Being in front of Jesus is being in front of THE Truth, the truth on us. We expose ourselves to His Light. Wanting to listen to Jesus means that we want to see ourselves in Him: he sheds a light a day on us, reflects it to us, shows it to us. “For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror” (James 1:23)

Jesus is our Divine Mirror

But we really need to accomplish all the operation of listening: i.e. listening and putting into practice.

Otherwise: “he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:24)

Really we need to be persons who listen and put into practice the daily word of Jesus. This is what characterises us. We believe in the Incarnation, and part of the Incarnation is the incarnation of Jesus’ words in us. This incarnation really changes our life, modifies it radically. This is a fundamental criterion of discernment. One can claim that he or she has a life of prayer, but it can be deeply fake. We can’t fool God by just praying and doing various sacred acts of worship. If the Word of Jesus doesn’t become incarnate in us, our worship is superficial, not made “in Spirit and in Truth”, we just worship Jesus with our words, and body, but our heart doesn’t listen to Him, is not guided by Him and is not transformed by His Word. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:8-9)

Jesus is our living Law, Jesus is our living example and guide, he is our Way. Jesus came to free us from the darkness, bringing us to the Light and transforming our inner being into His Light.

“But he who looks into the perfect Law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25)

Again and again: otherwise our worship is false, superficial, pharisaic. How can we continue to have a heart that doesn’t listen to Jesus, and is not moved by his words if from our heart come all sorts of thoughts and silent acts?

“If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.” (James 1:26)

One can say: but what will Jesus ask me to do? Loving Jesus’ Body:

“He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:9-11) “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20)

Who are the most vulnerable persons on earth according to the biblical tradition? The persons that have nobody on earth to take care of them? The orphans and the widows. These are the most “poor” persons. Before reaching them, we need to open to the closest persons, then after, we will go deeper and deeper in Jesus’ Body until we reach the poorest of the poorest: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27) “Religion” is worship, is to love God, is all the acts of worship. Giving what we have, who we are, letting the love of God flow from him, through our heart to the poor, Jesus’ body, is really one of the deepest and most powerful ways of “putting into Practise” Jesus’ Word: Lectio Divina.

Conclusion

We really need to meditate these few verses of St James’ letter, in order to deepen our understanding of Lectio Divina.

02: Therese and Teresa

You probably heard about this new book that came out on the 4th of September 2007.. letters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (“Come be my light”). In these letters we find that she lived the last 50 years of her life with feelings of the absence of God etc.

 

 

Immediately, many people, and amongst them even big names in the Catholic Church said: this is a “dark night“, referring to the book of saint John of the Cross holding the same name (“The dark night”), alluding to its contents.

Some others, amongst them the Postulator of her cause in the Vatican Rev Brian K., say: this is a different issue, it is not a purification (night=purification) it is a participation to the Passion of the Lord. Of course, this position is much better than the first one.

But no one seems to understand all together the nonsense and the catastrophic aspect of the first opinion! In fact we can’t state that M. Teresa is a saint and say: she spent all her life being purified! It is complete nonsense! Lack of serious knowledge and amateurism!

The funny thing is that we had the same problem with saint Thérèse of Lisieux (saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus). She had 18 months of such a mysterious trial, and we had theologians who commented and wrote about it saying: this is a purification, this is the “Dark night of the spirit” as saint John of the Cross describes it. The history repeats itself for a second time, in few years!

This demonstrates, that such an elementary thing in “Spiritual Theology”, is not known by even theologians. If is shows something, it shows how urgent it is to help this Science (spiritual theology) to grow and develop, in order to let not only the people of God grow in knowledge and wisdom in order to have a stronger spiritual life, but also to help the basic theologians to know basic theology!

What is the point of knowing Bible, Dogma etc… and not knowing Spiritual life?!! In the end of the day, what is useful it’s the Science that leads you to know better God, to receive him in fullness, and grow.

I am not saying Dogma, Bible etc… are not of importance, not at all! I am just saying: when one studies such a wide topic as Theology, one has to see how the different sub-topics are organised, what are the links, what leads to what!

It has been courageous from the part of the Rev. Brian K. to publish these letters of Mother Teresa to her spiritual directors, but are we ready to read them? Are we ready to receive them as one of the most precious gifts we ever had from 100 years or so? This is the real issue. Let us work, study, and help this Science (“Spiritual Theology”) to grow amongst us. It is the most thrilling Science that can exist, and the most useful one! And now, the most neglected one! Why? No real reason!

01: Let me explain the vision

“Mysticism”, “spirituality”, “spiritual theology” are the same Science. This latter is at the service of our spiritual life and its growth.

This science is fundamental for every human being. Many sciences in life are optional, we don’t need to learn everything. This one is of a very practical use, it helps us know what God wants to achieve, the different stages of the growth and how to respond to God, in order to collaborate with the Holy Spirit, not to loose time and energy.

There are 2 goals to reach:

1- the first one is the Union with God (the middle age of our spiritual journey) which can be named also: “spiritual marriage”, or “acquisition of the Holy Spirit”; and

2- the second is the fullness of Charity.

“Spiritual theology” shows us the means to reach these goals.

“Spiritual theology” is also the name of the Faculty that develops, explains, presents, and make research in the relationship between God and the human being that let him reach the maximum of his spiritual development.

We have a small idea of this Science in the fourth part of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” that is dedicated to spiritual life, “prayer”, and the explanation of the Prayer of the Lord.

The three other parts of the Catechism are: 1- the Creed (what do we believe in), 2- the Celebration of that Faith (the Mass, the Sacraments etc..), 3- the Commandments.

This fourth part of the Catechism (“how to pray”) is the living source of the 3 others because it allows us to connect directly with God. In fact it is the most vital and decisive teaching for our lives here on earth. Therefore we need to become experts and well formed in this matter, in this science.

In a way, we can say that this is the only mandatory science we need to learn on earth: “how to love God with all our heart and all our energy”. The rest comes after and often is “optional”.

Unfortunately, this topic/science is today still very poorly known, exposed and taught.

Therefore we need to act, to react, and do something to revive it. This is my vision. We can’t just sit down and wait until things get done. We need to do them.

We have 2000 years of Treasures very often buried under the sand, and we need to act together in order to retrieve from the sand that Wisdom, and use it.

We need to study these texts, and make them alive. They teach us how to read the Bible in a fruitful way.

Today, our generation can be considered as the foundation of the future generations. After many cultural changes in society, mainly after the second world war, the threat for us is not to be able anymore to understand the Wisdom left in our hands, the books that we have. The mentalities now are very different, the language, the philosophy etc… The books become like sealed and we can’t understand them.

Our duty is to study them, digest them, and transmit them in a “readable” way to the next generation.

This work requires a lot of work and skill. We need to constitute what can be called a “body of doctrine”, a substantial contents of teaching in “spiritual theology”.

This work is urgent. It is the actual task and it can’t be dismissed. It has to be realised before any other work, because it is the foundations on which other generations can built their life, activities, and pastoral life (spiritual life).

We need to dedicate all our energy in building this “corpus doctrinae” (“body of doctrine” in latin) of spiritual life.We need of course to do it according to the common Living Tradition of the Eastern and Western church. The Pope John Paul II said: “we need to breath with both lungs” (Western and Eastern Living Tradition of the Church).

Peter and Andrew, West and East