Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Take seriously, very seriously, the teaching of Paul to the Corinthians on the demands of charity (1 Cor 13:4-7). And have faith that grace will bring about the ideal of unity. Make an effort never to appear envious, irritable, bitter or selfish; rather, be tactful and obliging. Try not to become impatient, or at least not to show it. A quick or hard word can often be very damaging in its effects. If you find you have little natural liking for one of your brothers, or that he irritates you, take time to reflect and meditate on your close union with him in Christ’s love and grace.

Do not be surprised when you sometimes are called to suffer on account of your brothers or for them. In community of widely differing temperaments, and living side by side we will often get on one another’s nerves. Even in bearing the same burden, we often end up irritating one another. Accept it. Remind yourself that even the frictions are good for you. When you put a number of small stones in a sack and shake the sack, sharp corners are knocked off and the stones become round and smooth. That is the way it is with us – as long as we remain ‘in the bag’ – the only way to profit by the friction generated is to belong totally and unreservedly to the group.

Be careful never to exaggerate the seriousness of the hurts you receive in community living. Don’t make pin-pricks into dagger-wounds. If you are a sensitive person and find these things more difficult than most people do, bear your suffering without bitterness and offer them up to the Lord.

Charity for your brother requires more of you than just peaceful co-existence and a kind of anonymous good will. It should produce genuine brotherly love, real affection, with all it implies. Do not live side by side with your brother while tuned in on yourself; think of others, share their hard times and suffering as well as their joys and successes. Do not allow your prayer, in a common family bond. In this you will become worthy of the promise of Christ to be realized:

“If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”                                                               Mt. 18: 19-20

Take an interest in your brother’s plans and hopes, in their ideas and their work. Offer to let them share in yours. At times, be willing to speak intimately with them about your deepest feelings, and especially about your love for Christ. Open yourself to their needs and be devoted to them, putting yourself at their disposal. Do your part in making the group into a real team in which each member, according to his abilities and duties, tries to concern himself with the life and joy of every other, tries also to bring about the success of every other, giving a hand when it is needed and devoting himself whole-heartedly to the shared work.

Do not hide your love for your brother as though it was a weakness unworthy of your state of life. Christ himself has united you in a common calling. Granted, your union is spiritual rather than physical, and so your affection for one another is displayed in a more reserved or discreet way than in an ordinary family situation. But you should be open enough in showing signs of affection so that your brothers are aware of your love. It is really very easy, and you have lots of small opportunities: a smile, a special and thoughtful attention, a word spoken from the heart, some small service rendered. Having this simple affection for them, try to find ways of pleasing your brother. Of course, when one of them does anything wrong, you cannot condone it; even at the risk of hurting him, you should show your disapproval. But, fortunately, such painful occasions are infrequent.

In things that don’t matter much, be ready to accommodate yourself to the tastes of others and willingly to sacrifice your own. Always be courteous and civil.

Special friendships among certain brothers, as long as they are of a wholesome kind, are always acceptable and are open to all. Friendship is the perfection of charity. To love is not just to seek another, but rather, together, to look at a higher ideal, toward an important apostolic task, and also to help one another to attain one’s goals.

Fraternal love, then, is one of the greatest blessings and attractions of religious life. It should permeate all our relationships with others; our common life, the exercise of authority, obedience and all our activities. It fills them all with joy and gives them their true value, just as it is our love of the Lord that gives value to all we do in his services. It is this spirit of love that continually guards us against an attitude of criticism and denigration, also against the tendency to become disrespectful. By it, too, we are able to strengthen whose among us who are going through some moral or vocational crisis, and maybe even to keep them from being overcome by their difficulties.

It is one of the most important tasks of the Superior, in each place, to work constantly to bring about this loving atmosphere, to maintain it and intensify it. He should constantly work at loving all and he must also be lovable. He is responsible for the welfare of all, and the atmosphere in which the group lives is a very important element in this welfare. But the Superior cannot do it alone; every member must help him in this task; let’s love our brothers deeply. Let us not fall into the pattern of being warm and affectionate in our apostolic work, only to return home to cold indifference.

All men thirst to love and to be loved, and they are attracted to any group in which they sense there is mutual love. It was in this way that the pagans, in the time of the primitive Church, were won over to Christ.

LET US LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS CHRIST LOVES US.

The Mystical Body of Christ

All together we form the Body of Christ. In Christ we are one.

Our spiritual life possesses a dimension of deep verticality, which submerges us all in the mystery of the life of Christ. Us all, as I said. And because we all have our roots in Christ, the vertical dimension creates another one, a new horizontal one, through which we, Christians, find ourselves transformed “in Christ,” as “members one of another” (Rom 12, 5).

–  St. Paul explains profusely to us this deep inhesion of one with another, starting with his universal principle of the union of all with Christ. From his description, we may deduct with great clarity these main conclusions:

1. the Christian must abandon the feeling of independence, of individualism and of auto-sufficiency;

2. on the contrary, he must acquire the conviction that – whatever is personal and specific in his own make-up, has no other ‘raison d’être’ than the common good, the whole, so that we act wrongly not only when we do wrong, but also when we are absent from positive cooperation, with all our forces – in the service of all …

You, then, are the body of Christ; every one of you is a member of it.”     (1 Cor 12, 12-27)

–  The conclusion is obvious: we cease to be members one of another when we create disunion in what constitutes the human-divine circuit.

To be “members one of another” means community of goods, of hopes, of efforts, of illusions. As Christians, it is not possible to live in isolation, but only in a universal, maximum solidarity, which we shall not be able to reach without an acute conscience of the same.

–  This is the foundation of true fraternity; which supposes all the fraternal bonds in this world, in order to elevate them to becoming a new bond, made of divine and eternal force: the universal fraternity of all in Christ.

The Wedding Feast of Cana

THE WEDDING FEAST OF CANA

To understand fully this evangelical episode, we must place it in its proper geographical and historical set up.

We are then at the very beginning of Jesus’ public life.

At the age of 30, Jesus definitively leaves the paternal home of Nazareth, in Galilee. He leaves Mary, his mother, who is a widow. For her, it is truly solitude…

He goes down to Judea, on the banks of the Jordan, where he receives the Baptism from John the Baptist.

Then, he goes and fasts for 40 days in the desert.

The following day, he receives his first three disciples: John, Andrew, and his brother Peter.

The day after, Jesus welcomes two more disciples: Philip, who comes from Bethsaida (as do also Andrew and Peter), and Nathanael, from the small town of Cana. (Jn 21, 2)

Most likely, it is Nathanael who came down to Judea to invite Jesus and his new disciples to attend the wedding feast at Cana, and at the same time to make his acquaintance, as Philip had talked to him about Jesus. Although, this invitation, originally, might have come from Mary herself, and Nathanael would have only passed it on to Jesus, on her behalf. Very likely she was anxious to see him again.

Why do I say this?

Red the text attentively: Jesus was invited to the Wedding Feast in Cana, – but Mary was there. So Mary was not invited: she was there.

How did she find herself there?

To understand her presence at Cana, we must consider the Jewish customs at the time.

First of all, the wedding feast used to last about one week. All the passers-by were able to go and bring their wishes to the newly-wed, because the doors of the houses were open to all…, – which is what explains that, at the end of the week, the wine might come to run out…

It was the custom that all women, spinsters and friends of the married couple, came to give a hand, at least one week ahead, to prepare the wedding banquet.

As the small town of Nazareth – hardly a score of families in Jesus’ days – was at a distance of ten miles or so from Cana, it is highly plausible that Mary had gone to her friends to help with the cooking, prepare the feast and serve at the tables.

One understands better, then, how Mary – who was helping in the kitchen – could have known that the wine had run out.

One understands better as well her very great influence over the servants with whom she had worked to prepare the feast – what wouldn’t one do for her? – when she asked them for a heroic act of faith, telling them: “Do whatever my son tells you…”

In fact, Jesus asks the servants to fill up six great stone jars, each containing about 20 gallons!

Try and put yourself in the servants’ place… There was no running water or aqueducts at the time. The public well, very likely was far from the house. They were nearing the last days of the feast, since there was no more wine. Surely, the servants were tired and they were in no mood for any joke. What is all this about? There is no more wine, and he asks us to fill these heavy jars with water?

Let’s not forget that Jesus had not performed any miracle so far, since this will be his first one.

What would we have done in their place?

Perhaps we would have agreed to fill up one of the jars to half its capacity, waiting to see the results.

In fact, the first miracle has taken place in the hearts of the servants. Very likely in order to please Mary who had asked them to do so…they filled up the six jars to the brim!

What precious treasure they would have lost, had they limited their work.

Of how many favours are we depriving ourselves as well when we put and break on our generosity, on our dedication to the service of God and of our neighbour?

The servants only had water to pour in, but their poverty was precisely going to bring to light God’s infinite riches.

As we were saying in the beginning, Mary had been completely alone since Jesus had started on his own public life…that was about three months ago. How anxious she must have been to see him again, – after having been near him for 30 years! And how happy she must have been to see him again with several disciples, all of them full of enthusiasm and happiness, when they met at the wedding feast! It was the joy of the reunion she had so wished for.

Some people will find surprising that Mary got worried about the wine – not in order to ration the guests, telling them “not to drink so much,” but rather so that the wine might continue to flow abundantly.

And Jesus, for his part, presents the newly-wed, in his own name and in the name of his disciples, six great jars – 20 gallons each of them that are 120 gallons of a delicious wine. What a wedding present! Of course, one does not attend a wedding without bringing along one’s own gift.

Grumpy people, as were the Pharisees of those days like those of today, probably asked themselves:

  • Is this serious on the part of the Messiah?
  • Is this his place?   His role?

And they must have looked scandalized. Others will think: let’s not mix up things: religion belongs to the church and wine to the wedding feast.

Well, it is not so. God is not a spoil-feast, no more than joyous feast is a spoil religion.

There is not, on one side, nature with all good things and the joys it provides – its wine, its wedding feasts, and on the other side, grace with its fasts, prayers and penances, and between the two: man, pulled from both sides…washing his feasts in the confessional, and drowning his confessions in the wine of the feast.

It is the same God who has created the world and its joys, man and his heart, the soul and the body, marriage and its pleasures, the Church and its sacraments.

One pays homage to God through praying and through fasting. One pays him equally homage through eating and drinking with gratefulness and in the joy of thanksgiving.

God has created good things for us to enjoy them, together us in joy, to unite us in sharing, and the entire better if it is among the music, the sunshine and the songs. This gives us a foretaste of heaven.

All the joy in man delights God’s heart. He would like the joy to be contagious, and he would not like anybody to be left outside, lonely and sad while others enjoy themselves.

If Jesus raves about the rich, it is not because they feast splendidly every day, it is because they leave poor Lazarus outside their circle of abundance and of rejoicing.

The first lesson Jesus give his newly-recruited disciples consists in throwing them among a crowd of men, in the joy of the wedding feast, where the good wine is shared between all. If he wants them to be as he is himself, hard at work and courageous to preach the Gospel, – even to the point of shedding their blood – he first wants them open to life and merry companions.

Because he came to save everything: the earth, and not only heaven, youth and beauty, and not only disgrace and decrepitude: married people and not only priests and religious… He came to save everything and would like to already see Paradise everywhere.

It is the Church’s task; it is our task as Christians to bring Paradise all around us to sow joy everywhere.

We must continue to hear these words of Mary’s to the servants:

“Do all my son tells you…”

Then Jesus tells us what, when facing a neighbour’s distress, or an old person’s isolation, or the discouragement of an unemployed, or the hunger of so many poor people.

He tells us: “They have nobody to help them. They have no health left. They have no more work. They have no more bread.”

Let’s listen to the Lord today, and let’s do all he tells us.

This is the miracle of Cana: when a man refuses to be happy on his own.

*          *          *          *          *

To Take Our Baptism Seriously

To take our baptism seriously

 The religious consecration of the Family of the Holy Apostles consists in taking our baptism seriously, and thus following Christ in a manner that implies total commitment. Out of love for God, we have decided to follow the Gospel by putting into practice his precepts and counsels according to our state of life and our duties.

To be frank, to live ones baptism is to live a life that is truly consecrated.

In the tradition of the Gospels, there exists a single perfection :Christ’s. To attain it, all Christians must conform to the radicalism of the Gospel by putting into practice his precepts and his counsels.

We do not see any reason in making a distinction between “precepts that are imposed”, that all the baptized must practice, and those that are observed in “religious life”. Each one must put into practice the evangelical counsels to attain perfection.

The reality is that all the baptized can attain perfection the best way possible, by following the way of Jesus Christ, by practicing the evangelical counsels according to each ones state of life.

God gives each one the graces he needs to realize the ideal of perfection the best way possible, in a continuous effort to achieve the perfection described in the Beatitudes of the Gospel according to Matthew.

Consequently, these precepts and these counsels of the Lord, belonging to the grace of baptism, are given to the whole Mystical Body. Holiness, common to the whole Church, flourishes only through them.

The religious, married laypersons, mothers and fathers, celibates, commercial and industrial managers, workers… all follow the evangelical counsels, but do not put them into practice the same way.

They are implicitly given to the religious so that, in showing them in an impressive way, they may provoke enthusiasm among the laity. And the laity show the religious the precious fruits of these same counsels by living them through their own vocation : devotion, generosity, fidelity, authentic self-sacrifice, openness of heart. It is a greater happiness for everyone to recognize one another as brothers, sons of the same Father.

We are living, perhaps, at a time where realities are perceived in a more tangible way. Let us allow ourselves to be possessed by Christ. May our journey towards Him never stop, even if our human strength declines.

The important thing is: to know Christ, the power of His Resurrection and the communion with His sufferings, becoming like unto Him in His death…; to be his witnesses : “But all these advantages…” (Phil 3, 7-14).

Together, being possessed by Christ, let us run towards the same goal! Together, let us take hold of Christ, by living an authentic charity, enlightened by the true practice of the Gospel.

Closely united in the service of God’s people, in Jesus, Mary, the Holy Apostles, and Francis of Assisi.

Rev. Eusebe-H. Menard ~ Rule of Life 1987

 

To Believe in Christ Jesus

TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST JESUS

 

I Jn 1:1-4            “It was there from the beginning; we have heard it; we have seen it with our own eyes; we looked upon it and felt it with our own hands; and it is of this we tell. Our theme is the word of life. This life was made visible; we have seen it and bear our testimony; we have declared to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard, we declare to you, so that you and we together may share in a common life, that life which we share with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

Faith is not only a matter of accepting a doctrinal teaching, but mostly consists in accepting a person in our life, person who takes the whole place. It is the true acceptance of Christ. It is a close attachment to his person as our Lord and Master. It is constantly seeking his inexhaustible mercy. It is submission to the Word of God, and to the experience of God’s life in us. It is the knowledge of Christ, participation in his outlook and in his convictions as if we have the Christ’s eyes.

For one who believes, Christ is all. He is the beginning and the end of everything, of all history; all that goes before him prepares his way, and all that follows, proceeds from him. “But Christ is all things and in all”. (Col. 3)

It is in Christ Jesus, God and man, that all creation finds its meaning and its fulfillment. Everything else is created only in order to come to completion in him, the masterpiece without and beyond compare. He is the very center of unity, harmony and cohesion, giving the world its value and its stability.

The Church continues Christ; its role is exactly what his was. By the Sacraments, the Church unites men to Christ and brings all into unity in Christ.

While the Christian is profoundly aware that he belongs to Christ, he is no less conscious of the fact that he is a part of the Church, Christ’s body. He shows his awareness of belonging to the Church by the testimony of his life and progress, its struggles and sufferings. He shows a continual concern for the purity and integrity of the Church as well, expressing all these concerns by his active cooperation in its developments, – especially by his openness and spirit of cooperation with hose in authority in the Church, by his attitude of respect and willing obedience, and at the same time by his constant concern to help in bringing the Church into a deeper relationship of dialogue with the contemporary world. Finally – and especially – he expresses deep concerns by his earnest and sincere participation in the Church’s prayer, in her sacramental life, her praise and adoration of the Lord, and above all by the key act of her existence, the celebration of the Eucharist.

The Sacrifice of Christ, present in power in the Mass, is the turning point of world history, the pivotal act of all creation, source and high point of our life in Christ. When a group of Christians assembles to celebrate the Eucharist, the entire universe is implicated in the act.

On account of his faith in the Incarnate Word, the Christian has a great respect for all created things, all forms of human labor, and all human values.

At the same time, he is aware of their limitations. He does not make idols of them. And yet, he sees all things as somehow bound to the divinity, having something godly about them, something that leads toward God. His faith teaches him that creation is fundamentally good and that every thing, however humble, reflects the Creator and, by its nature, seems to be united with the Incarnate Word. It is a sign, a voice, and a word from God. The entire created universe is drawn into communion with God by the Christian in his assent to the Creator.

“All of you, works of the Lord, bless the Lord.”

In all of his activities, however completely human they may be, the Christian has the same religious awareness, not only because he sees himself as a co-creator along with God, but also because he understands that, in every one of his activities – whether of his intelligence, his heart or his hands – he is dealing with a world in which God has chosen to become flesh.

There is a divine element in all that the Christian does: no need to introduce this element from outside: whether I work with pen, shovel or paint brush. It is enough to discover this element and then to respect it, living as intensely as I can, in the light of this discovery.

For my work in the world, and the world itself, to lead me surely to God, it is enough for me to be as deeply in harmony with the divine element I find everywhere. Saint Paul gives a magnificent description of Christian existence in the world:

“All is yours,You are Christ’s, And Christ is God’s.”