My soul thirsts

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
    so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
    the face of God? (Ps 42:1-2)

“I have life, says the Lord, and I do not desire the death of the sinner but, rather, that he should be converted and himself have life.” (Ezekiel 18:32) God desires the sinner to turn away from the darkness of his own nothingness and void and come to himself, to draw life from his life. Sin is grounded in an illusion concerning my own alleged greatness and worth in my own eyes. Repentance is grounded, not in a desire to abase myself, but in a clear understanding and a profound conviction of my great worth in the eyes of God. Penance springs from a knowledge that I am worth so much that I do not have the right to deprive myself of the life God wants to give me, or to deprive God himself, for that matter, of the irreplaceable love he seeks in me. An old French poem, by Francois Villon, begins with the striking line: Je meurs de soif auprès de la fontaine [I die of thirst right by the fountain’s edge]. It happens that the call to Christian conversion intends to correct precisely such an irrational situation: we must turn to the rich, abundant water under our noses that God never denies us. It is not a humiliation but a show of intelligence to admit that my own cisterns are broken, empty, and clogged with accumulated refuse and that I must go to the fontes Salvatoris—the “fountain of the Savior” that is the Heart of Jesus—in order to quench my raging thirst. The Christian’s authentic sense of self-worth consists in this conviction that I have both the right and the possibility to quench a thirst that is the expression of the noblest part of my being; and this conviction, resulting in so much trust, was brought to us by Jesus’ coming among us in the flesh. (Erasmo Leiva)

Broke through my deafness

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

This beautiful passage from Augustine’s Confessions was the key in my embrace of Christ.  I picked up Augustine’s Confessions in my second year at university.  I remember this was a troubling time in my life.  As is often the case at that age, there were many different distractions that occupied my mind.  I didn’t know my faith well then.  I didn’t even own an English bible. I learned my faith as a child in another language.  When I came to Canada my religious education stalled. For most of my teens my faith didn’t grow, doubts sept in, and few times my faith was challenged by non Catholics.  I attended church each week and went through the motions of a Christian life.

One day on a trip to university book store I noticed a copy of this wonderful book.  I don’t know what drew me to it.  I picked it up and bought it.  At this point I didn’t know who Augustine was.  I didn’t read the book right away.  It laid in my room for several months.  I now believe that it was God’s grace that made me buy this book. That it was God preparing me for an encounter that would change my life.

Saint_Augustine_PortraitThat encounter came on a beautiful August Sunday, when my family and I went to an annual pilgrimage at the Martyr’s Shrine in Midland Ontario.  It was there during the Mass that for the first time God’s word has broken through me. Something changed there. I can’t explain it but in an instant my entire world view has shifted.  I started to feel this great internal hunger for God.  After returning home, alone in my room I prayed for the first time in a long time.  I also said my Rosary for the first time in a very long time.  All the sudden everything started to fit in place.  This Jesus that I’ve been meditating on during the Rosary came alive to me.  I felt this profound love coming from Him.  I felt loved by Love itself and peace filled my soul.  My hunger for God just increased, and Augustine’s Confession was on my desk.

In Augustine’s work I recognized my own story.  The beautiful way he expressed his love for the Lord was the way my soul felt.  The next day I went out and bought my first English bible.  It was a NIV translation.  I didn’t know at the time that it was missing books.  I read it every day.  The Gospels were my favourite books right away.  I wanted to know Jesus,  I wanted to know the person who my heart burned with love for.

Over the next few years, I’ve read everything that I could get my hands on that spoke about Jesus.  I’ve read theology books, apologetic books, bible commentaries, conversion stories and the catechisms.  I also read the bible a lot.  By that time I’ve learned the differences between Catholic and Protestant scripture. I abandoned my incomplete NIV translation and settled finally for the RSV CE. My protestant friends tried to convince me of the errors of the Church.  I always found their arguments to be weak and none of them bothered to actually see what the Church teaches.  Protestantism never appealed to me.  Protestantism’s central doctrines are not biblical. They were created by men with no connection to the apostolic faith. The were created to justify their separation from Christ’s church. Their theology sounds like lawyer speak to me. Which makes sense since their doctrines were created by a lawyer.

In Christ’s Church I found what I was hungry for. I found Jesus.  There is no greater gift that God gave us then the Eucharist.  Every time I go to communion, I am united with my Love.  Nothing else satisfies.  Not the books, not the theology, not any creature. Only Jesus satisfies the hunger that burns in the heart of every disciple.

Truth in love

An ‘adult’ faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth. We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith—only faith—that creates unity and is fulfilled in love. On this theme, Saint Paul offers us as a fundamental formula for Christian existence some beautiful words, in contrast to the continual vicissitudes of those who, like children, are tossed about by the waves: make truth in love. Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like ‘a clanging cymbal’ (1 Cor 13:1).” -Cardinal Robert Sarah

Heirs of Fire

icon02I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

There is, in fact, a quantum leap from John’s baptism of water to Jesus’ baptism with fire and the Spirit. The former is a mere image or, at most, a preparation for the latter. John conveys the astounding newness of Jesus’ mission by using the verb baptize in a most unusual manner. While until now to “baptize” had always connoted repeated immersion in water, so as to cleanse or dye an object, Jesus’ baptism with fire and the Spirit suggests a leap to another dimension of being. This baptism will not only cleanse but will also destroy what cannot coexist with the fire of God’s holiness and love. It will not only destroy but will at the same time implant in man the Breath of God so that now fire will pulse in man’s veins instead of water, and the breathing of the Blessed Trinity will become the new vital principle of man’s own life. This is the purifying, regenerative, and deifying baptism that Jesus brings with him. And Jesus is himself ‘this baptism, because he is the fire of God’s love and the bearer of the divine Spirit. John baptized with water; Jesus is the baptism that the Father pours down upon the world from his dwelling in the heavens, and tins burning liquid from the Heart of the Father is so powerful that it penetrates into the very bone-marrow, the brain, and; the heart of man, transforming him from within into the image of the Son. God’s power is not limited to external persuasion. The Creator purifies and transforms from the center of man outward. Only Jesus, being God as well as the greatest of prophets, can baptize us by plunging us into the very life of God, which is the Breath and the Fire that drown us and purify us so as to make us one with himself. As Gregory Nazianzen declared magnificently: “Christians are heirs of fire.”

Leiva, Erasmo (2012-06-04). Fire Of Mercy, Vol. 1 (Kindle Locations 1746-1759). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

The Church is One

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Dear Brothers and Sisters: In the Creed, we confess that the Church is “one”. When we consider the rich diversity of languages, cultures and peoples present in the Church throughout the world, we realize that this unity is a God-given gift, grounded in our common Baptism and our sharing in the Church’s one faith and sacramental life. Like a great family, we are united to all our brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever they may be. We might ask ourselves how much we appreciate and express in our daily lives, and particularly in our prayer, this reality of our unity and solidarity in the communion of the Church. The world needs our witness to God’s plan for the unity, reconciliation and peace of the whole human family. Let us ask the Lord to enable us, and Christians everywhere, to work to overcome our tensions and divisions, to strive, as Saint Paul bids us, to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (cf. Eph 4:3), and to cherish the harmony which the same Spirit creates from the richness of our diversity. – Pope Francis (General Audience of Sep 25, 2013)

One of the marks of Christ’s Church is that it is one. The Catholic Church throughout time and space has maintained that unity. It is of great comfort to me to know that no matter where in the world I am I can go to a local Catholic Church and experience the same Mass, the same faith as anywhere else in the world. It also works in time. If I was to travel back in time 100, 300, 1000, 1500 years or all the way back to apostles. I would find the same church, the same faith the same Mass. It will be the same in the future.

As the Pope said we must always work towards strengthening that unity. Through prayer and knowing our faith. So we can witness to Christ and his Church wherever we are.