Archive | May, 2014

Obedience, the Love Language of Jesus

19 May

discipleshipIn today’s Gospel, we hear these words of Jesus: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). Our Lord emphasizes in this passage the close connection between love and obedience.

I think there is some parallel here to faith and works. Faith without works is dead (James 3:17), while works without faith are futile. We need both. More specifically, an authentic, living faith should lead to actions that reflect our upward calling in Christ (cf. Philippians 3:14). If the faith isn’t affecting how we live, then it is for all intents and purposes lifeless.

Love without works is also dead. Ask any married person if he or she would feel loved if their spouse on occasion said “I love you” but never backed it up with meaningful action. Learning to love one’s spouse well  involves discerning what actions make each feel loved (i.e., their “love language”) and making a habit of those loving actions.

Our Lord wants those who love Him to follow Him every day. He wants us to be close to Him. We certainly do this by setting aside time for public and liturgical prayer. But following Him as His disciple goes beyond these moments of prayer to how we live 24/7. We can’t sit at Jesus’ feet during Mass or a Holy Hour and then disregard His Word to us the rest of the time!  He expects our obedience–our not only hearing His Word but also putting it into action out of love for Him.

Obeying the commandments without love is not possible and, even if it were, it wouldn’t be what saves us. At the other extreme, saying we love the Lord but not doing what He teaches us through His Church doesn’t work, either. As Jesus says, not everyone who calls out “I love you, Jesus” will be saved, “but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

It’s clear, then, that a significant way we manifest our love for God is by obeying Him. In this regard, the Blessed Virgin Mary is a model for us. Our Lord says that she is blessed not so much because she gave birth to Him, but because she heard the Word of God and kept it (Luke 8:21; 11:27-28). Not surprisingly, one of her simplest yet most profound messages for all of us is that we ‘do whatever Jesus tells us’ (cf. John 2:5).

Christ has told us and Mary has shown us that obedience is Jesus’s love language. If we truly love Jesus as Our Lord and Savior, we can’t help but strive to keep His commandments.

Son of Encouragement

13 May

A significant figure in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is St. Barnabas.

This saint is of particular significance to my family, as we named a child whom we miscarried 15 years ago Barnabas, and every year on his feast day (June 11) we especially remember the gift of this precious child, even though we never got to hold him in this life.

It’s intriguing that St. Barnabas, the companion of St. Paul, is honored by the Church as an “apostle,” even though he was not one of the Twelve (nor an official “substitute” like Matthias, whose feast we celebrate tomorrow). Surely as a first-generation Christian leader who was sent on missionary journeys to Cyprus, Perga, Iconium, and Lystria, and possibly even to Rome and Alexandria, among other places, his title is well-deserved (cf. Acts 14:14).

In Acts 4:36 we learn that he was given his name by the apostles, and that it means “son of encouragement.” Later, in the portion of Acts chosen for today’s Mass, we read that when St. Barnabas arrived in Antioch and found the faith alive among the people, he rejoiced and then, true to his name, he “encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:23-24).

We who are catechists, who strive to be good men and women, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith, do well to imitate St. Barnabas as we encourage our students and families to “remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart.”

We then hear that St. Barnabas went and tracked down Saul (St. Paul) and the two of them “for a whole year” devoted themselves to teaching “a large number of people”–presumably those who had already been “added to the Lord.” In other words, they devoted themselves to the noble work of catechesis. And their work bore great fruit: In Antioch the disciples were called “Christians” for the first time!

St. Barnabas, pray for us!

Mysteries of Light

5 May

Even though I was raised in a large, Catholic family and received 12 years of Catholic schooling, I left the Church as an undergraduate at the University of California and didn’t come back until I was in my 20s. My newly rediscovered love for Christ not only led me to study His teaching, but also to take a fresh look at traditional prayers and devotions used by Christian disciples for countless generations as aids to growth in the spiritual life.

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Pope’s Intentions for May 2014

1 May

BVM iconFollowing are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Francis for the month of May, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:

  • Media. That the media may be instruments in the service of truth and peace.
  • Mary’s Guidance. That Mary, Star of Evangelization, may guide the Church in proclaiming Christ to all nations.

Regarding the second intention, the Apostleship of Prayer offers us this reflection:

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus’ turning water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana was the first sign of His divinity. The miracle “revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him” (2:11). Mary played a key role in this miracle. She told the servers, “Do whatever he tells you” (2:5). Today she says to us: “Do whatever he tells you.” What Jesus is asking of us now is to carry on His work of spreading the good news of God’s love wherever we go.

Pope Francis often refers to Mary as the one who guides the Church in the work of evangelization. He called her “the star and compass that leads to Christ” and the “bright star of our Christian walk.”

Speaking to the Pontifical Mission Societies, he quoted Pope Paul VI’s words: “May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient, or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the Kingdom of God may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world.”

In the conclusion of “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis writes: “Mary let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit on a journey of faith toward a destiny of service and fruitfulness. Today we look to her and ask her to help us proclaim the message of salvation to all and to enable new disciples to become evangelizers in turn.”

During this month dedicated to Mary, we ask her help in the work of evangelization. Following her direction, let us offer ourselves to Jesus every day, praying that we may do everything he tells us. In that way, the water—the ordinary events of our lives—will be transformed into the wine of the Kingdom of God.

How has Mary been a guiding star in my life? How may she help me do what Jesus asks of me?