Friday, November 23, 2012

A Good Advent Prayer

The 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council is an important opportunity to return to God, to deepen our faith and live it more courageously, and to strengthen our belonging to the Church, “teacher of humanity”. It is through the proclamation of the Word, the celebration of the sacraments and works of charity that she guides us to meeting and knowing Christ, true God and true man. This is not an encounter with an idea or with a project of life, but with a living Person who transforms our innermost selves, revealing to us our true identity as children of God.

The encounter with Christ renews our human relationships, directing them from day to day to greater solidarity and brotherhood in the logic of love. Having faith in the Lord is not something that solely involves our intelligence, the area of intellectual knowledge; rather, it is a change that involves our life, our whole self: feelings, heart, intelligence, will, corporeity, emotions and human relationships. With faith everything truly changes, in us and for us, and our future destiny is clearly revealed, the truth of our vocation in history, the meaning of life, the pleasure of being pilgrims bound for the heavenly Homeland.
General Audience, 17 October 2012

Reflection – OK, time for another little series on the blog. The Pope has begun a new series of Wednesday general audiences offering a catechesis on faith for the Year of Faith. I’ve read all of them so far, and they’re quite wonderful, so periodically I will take a few days here to present one of the audiences – my little contribution on this blog to the holy year.

He begins here with a clear ringing statement of the essence of faith. Not an idea, not an ethical project, but fundamentally and centrally a transforming encounter with a Person—this is what faith is.

I do love this. As a priest who spends a fair amount of his time doing spiritual direction and listening to people, I can tell after awhile whether or not this encounter has happened in a person’s life. Oh, this one may have all sorts of moral struggles and emotional problems and general mess; that one may have a high degree of moral order and discipline. But the first one seems to know Jesus as a person, as real, and the other simply does not. Which one do you think has more peace and joy, and movement forward in their life?

It’s a very strange and mysterious reality, and I sure don’t pretend to understand it. Why and how some people do have this encounter, and others who seem to have good will simply don’t, at least not yet – it’s beyond me. I do know that this is exactly what God wants to give every one of us—all his children. I do know that praying for faith and asking God to come to us and show his face is salutary and vital. It is a good scriptural prayer—show us, Lord, your face.

It’s a good Advent prayer. Hey, Advent’s coming right up, eh! Show us, Lord, your steadfast love. Grant us your salvation. Come, Lord Jesus. It is your face we seek, Lord… all these good resounding prayers of longing and desire.

All of this is because we know, at some level anyhow, that it is seeing God, seeing Christ, knowing Him, being with Him in a real way, that will save us. It is from the contemplation of his face and the encounter with His person that our life slowly is transformed into love and beauty.

And so, this is our faith. If you’ve had this mysterious encounter already, you know what I mean, probably far better than I do. If you haven’t, pray pray pray for it. I know God wants to come to us and make Himself known to us, in His own way and according to His own perfect wisdom. Pray for that grace, and expect it to happen. That’s the beginning of faith right there.


  1. First Post: Thank you ever so much for your time and effort writing these daily reflections. I most certainly enjoy the posts, especially the excerpts from the Pope‘s writings.

    I do hope you don’t mind if I share by making some comments on today‘s post. But first, I must say as someone who has struggled much of my life, resulting in severe addictions until eleven years ago, I can honestly tell you the following links explain exactly how I fully recovered.

    What intrigued and prompted me to comment today was the question you asked, “Why and how some people do have this encounter, and others who seem to have good will simply don’t, at least not yet – it’s beyond me." I do hope you don’t I continue by providing the writtings of others to save time that will answer this question.

    First, to answer the question previously, a full and beautiful answer may be found in summary on the following link that comes from a book called Affirming Our Freedom in God, by Robert Joyce Ph.D.
    In short, the answer to this question of why and how some of us have encounters and others do not, is because of the missing 2nd birth.

    I hope anyone that is reading this comment will read the previous link before moving on, as what I present next is connected. In the following excellent essay by Dr. Joyce's wife, one will find a summary of the vital role emotions play for this 2nd birth that sadly most in society have not had the opportunity to experience. In fact, this vital missing 2nd birth is epidemic - it truly is astronomical the amounts of people suffering that have been born only once (physical birth). When reading the above essay by Mary Joyce, please pay most attention to the heading, Feelings are Spontaneous Responses to understand the role of emotions.

    Since blog comments allow only so many characters I will post again to continue this discussion.

  2. Second Post: This next quote by Ratzinger also provides a summary of the material above:

    The Notion of the “Good”: If only God is “good,” then we can experience and know the “good” only in the experience of ourselves in the act of imaging God as being related to (the Logos) and relating to others by making the gift of ourselves.
    Ratzinger: “The root of man’s joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself. He lives in this affirmation. And only one who can accept himself can also accept the thou, can accept the world. The reason why an individual cannot accept the thou, cannot come to terms with him, is that he does not like his own I and, for that reason, cannot accept a thou.
    Something strange happens here. We have seen that the inability to accept one’s I leads to the inability to accept a thou. But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one’s I? The answer may perhaps be unexpected: We cannot do so by our own efforts alone. Of ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become acceptable to another I. We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life, she gives total life when she takes the child’s tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist. This is the root of the phenomenon known as hospitalism. When the initial harmony of our existence has been rejected, when that psycho-physical oneness ahs been ruptured by which the ‘Yes, it is good that you are alive’ sinks, with life itself, deep into the core of the unconscious – then birth itself is interrupted; existence itself is not completely established…. (T)he charism of revolution has been for a long time not just remonstrance against reparable injustices but protestation against existence itself, which has not experienced its acceptance and hence does not know that it is acceptable. If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: ‘It is good that you exist’ – must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love. For it is the way of love to will the other’s existence and, at the same time, to bring that existence forth again. The key to the I lies with the thou; the way to the thou leads through the I.”

    J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology” Ignatius (1987) 79-80.

  3. Third Post:
    What I know to be true today is that tragically most in society are relying on their intellect alone because of a lack of this 2nd birth; as seen by the abundance of FB pages, websites, blogs and twitter accounts. These modes of interactions that are growing rapidly is evidence people are seeking but these types of exchanges are insufficient. What we as a society need is a face to face encounter with another. Oh sure, don’t get me wrong these tools are efficient of passing on data but the true encounter is one on one - face to face - heart to heart - one individual in the presence of another individual. This real exchange or “being“ with one another is truly life transforming.

    In summary, it is up to us who have had our 2nd birth to be so ever present with others which allows them an emotional experience out of the painful existence of only a physical birth. It is the 2nd birth that opens the doors for the 3rd birth that will ultimately change a society.

    Thank you ever so kindly for allowing me to share. I personally would love to live at Madonna House to be present for others, including the guests so they could have their 2nd birth. What greater joy than that to be so ever present with another and witness the 2nd birth of a poor soul who labors in pain by intellect alone.

    God bless

    Ps. I have also studied Dr Conrad Baars work that is spoken of in the above links. If anyone is interested, he can be found on the Internet by Goggling his name along with the term Affirmation Therapy.


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