Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day 6 & 7 - When life becomes so intense it sweeps you off your feet, don't resist; rather listen for the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit within....

The last 3 days have blurred into one.... not just because they were full and we went to bed late, but more importantly because of the transparence, maturity of faith, and incredible depth of the witnesses offered to the Congress delegates and pilgrims....

If you've read my previous post, you can catch a glimpse of the power of God's truth radiating from the young Philippino Bishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle.... Click on the title above and see the powerful Liturgy of Reconciliation and the original drama performed as a theatrical proclamation of the Good News. The whole morning and Cardinal Claudio Hummes' homily brought home to me that much if not all of our human suffering and confusion is related to preferring to try to give ourselves life rather than receive it from God (Adam), letting ourselves be dominated by our jealousy of the love others enjoy and refusing the opportunity to awaken to our own sinful selfishness (Cain), or allowing ourselves to become distant from our loving Father (the prodigal son openly rebelled while the older brother openly remained obedient but secretly rebelled).

The first result of all serious sin is fear, fear of God, of not being loved, of being rejected, hurt, or killed, fear of living fully, fear of God's will for us. The Son of God made himself small and weak in order to allay our fears; yet some of us continually or all of us occasionally continue to be afraid. Though Jesus was an innocent little baby, Herod was still afraid of Him. Because of his preaching the religious authorities were afraid of Jesus.... yet what we all desire is to come to our Father's table and have a place there. When we let ourselves be driven by fear, we end up trying to control the very life we can only receive as gift. We must let go, repent, and accept to receive the gift of his love our Father freely offers us in Jesus.

The wonder, truth, and beauty of our catechesis, testimony, and Penitential Liturgy was felt by all as awesome and profoundly moving.... Our faith was stirred to the very depths, and our need for repentance was awakened.... I had already had the joy of going to confession a few days earlier and also had the privilege of hearing a few confessions and celebrating Reconciliation with those penitents... on this day I had not signed up to hear confessions before coming and now they didn't need my; so I had a few hours "off" and wandered around then went to the adoration Chapelle Don de Dieu to pray.

During the Mass at 4 pm I dozed during the homily, but the Liturgy was beautiful and moving.... Afterwards, some of us got together and had supper in the same manner as lunch, filing through the distribution tent along with thousands of others to receive a box lunch and then finding seats in one of the 12 tents named for the Apostles in which there were dining tables and chairs. We began making our plans for the end of the week....


I realized I didn't want to carry my bag so I did a little extra walking and brought my bag to the van at the other end of the grounds in the free parking area, decided what to bring in view of the wet weather we've been having, and returned to the Colisée Pepsi for the start of the procession. Well, they had already started, but I didn't realize it right away and wondered where the 100's of bishops and 1000+ priests were and only saw them later... they were far enough ahead of the "Host Mobile" as some called it.... I joined a few dozen priests who with seminarians carrying torches and incense made the vanguard. We were followed, accompanied, jostled, and generally crowded by the faithful, who could not contain their desire to be close to Jesus and contemplate Him in the Sacred Host....

We walked for 3 hours along some 5.1 kilometers, and saw the full range of humanity along the way.... It was wonderful to manifest our faith and affection for the Lord and accompany Him in his procession through the streets, as though He were reclaiming his rightful place in the city of man, from which He has too long been banished, at least in the minds, hearts, and eyes of some.

I hadn't brought my camera, though originally I planned to bring it. I forgot when I dropped my bag at the van, but I was glad I didn't have it, because it was an immersion of grace to attend to Jesus, listen to the prayers and reflections on the little portable radio we had for simultaneous translation, and watch the people in the procession and on the sidelines... and reflect on the love God has for all his children, for all of humanity, and for creation....


We've been walking all week, some 2-3 kilometers, and with the procession on Thursday, it was more like 8-9. This is far tamer than a real military boot camp, but in a way, I've been feeling that this week has been just that for me, a boot camp to tone up for WYD 2008 in Sydney. We have been doing things we don't normally do: walk a lot, carry a backpack all day, go out in the rain and wind, eat food that has little or no resemblance to a familiar diet, get immersed all day long day after day in a sea of people, sleep less hours than the body craves, pray a lot more than usual, and so on....

The shocking result is that as much as the body feels unhappy and wants to complain loud and long about what it's going through, by the end of the week it suddenly finds itself feeling better than it has in a long time. That just goes to show that our feelings - both physical and emotional - are so often unreliable in telling us what's really going on. Could it be that discipline is actually good for us? Imagine that!

FRIDAY THEME: The Eucharist and the Mission
On Friday, Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, India, asked "Who is this God who shares with us his own mission?" He is a God of love. Jesus in the Eucharist is the secret of the successful mission and conversion of the poor and oppressed tribals centered in Ranchi since 1845. Then as now, the challenge for the mission to the poor, oppressed, and those whose human rights and dignity are denied is threefold: social and economic disparity, diversity of religion, and cultural diversity.
Today, the bulk of humanity and of the poor are in Asia. 1.9 billion in Asia live on less than US$2 per day, and 900 million live on less than US$1 per day; yet increasingly those who are well off and rich are increasingly restless. Lingering trends are a need for personal meaning, freedom, love, equality and peace; the desire to make a more just, equitable, and better society; and the need for communion with other human beings. In addition, given Jesus' command of mutual love and unity in Him, there is no place for religious rivalry and discrimination. We must dialogue and work together with other Christians.
The first Christians understood that because of Jesus' love for each of them, they were no longer apart but one body together, and their fraternal love and caring engendered a new society based on mutual respect and sharing in the midst of diversity. It is because of our human condition that this new society is not finalized and we struggle against inequality, injustice, and exploitation. Christians learned that it made no sense to honor Christ in the beauty of the Liturgy and church adornments while showing contempt for Christ when He is poor, hungry, naked.... which is why the Eucharistic Liturgy and community must be different from the world.
Because Jesus lay down his life for his Church, now his Church of every generation is able in Him to lay down her life for the world. God made visible in Jesus his desire that all humanity may experience the life nad love of God offered in Jesus at every Holy Eucharist, when Jesus gives birth to and develops a loving, sharing, humanizing faith community as a leaven for a new society anticipating the fullness of the Kingdom of God....
It was good that I heard in simultaneous translation Jose H. Prado Flores' workshop on Tuesday and appreciated all the more his testimony on Friday. He proposed that the sin of good people is getting used to God, prayer, the Eucharist, and all the things of God and then trying to give something to others while in this frozen state, like offering someone a frozen steak uncooked. He was in this state, talking more about Jesus than with Jesus, not being taught by his Word, not more than a reporter relating what others have said, caught in a routine like the disciples on the road to Emmaus who were trying to control God, to control the hurricane of Pentecost into air conditioning that I can control and not allow myself to be disturbed.
This is the sin of good people: "I am the one who decides." Then one day I asked God to drive the car, but I kept the map, wanting to decide where we're going and when to turn. But He had mercy on me because He is God and allows no one to control Him. So Jesus taught me the meaning of his Word and I began to live the Liturgy of the Word and became on fire with his Word burning in my heart like a steak sizzling on the Bar B Q - other people notice, they smell and come to find out what's cooking. Still I needed surgery on my cataracts to see that God is God. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal this or bring us close to the mystery. The Eucharist is beautiful, and it's good to understand but we need to enter into the mystery of God.
I thought I was good, he says, and didn't need any conversion, like the Pharisee who was pleased with himself and was in effect changing the God of Mount Tabor for a god of rewards. The conversion of the sinner to the just is easier than the conversion of the just to a son of God who knows God as "Abba, Father", which only the Holy Spirit can reveal to human hearts.
In addition, I needed conversion from a master of the Word - I was at that point a professor of biblical languages and theology - to a disciple and servant of the Word, letting God be God. Then He transformed me. "You seduced me, O Lord, and I let You seduce me. You overcame me because You are stronger." So this is how the St. Andrew School of Evangelization came to be formed to train and form disciples to train and form other disciples to look for Peter's just as Andrew found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit showed me that the Word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit and constantly expiring the Holy Spirit, as Mary was filled and made pregnant with the Word of God, but I wanted to control the Holy Spirit like a tied balloon, but then the Holy Spirit can't breathe out or blow where He wills. (Prayer) "Father, through your Son Jesus, grant our Pope, Bishops, Priests and all yor people to be filled with your Holy Spirit and serving your Word allow the Spirit to blow where He wills. Amen."
In his homily, Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekinn s.d.b., Archbishop of Hong Kong, made the point that when we hear "Ite, Missa est." we know the Lord sends us into the world. The Eucharist is of the faithful but for the world. God wants to bring all humanity to the eschatological banquet. The Eucharist makes the Church a sacrament to be an instrument of God to bring humanity into communion with God. The New Covenant is universal, for all mankind. "When I am lifted up from the Earth, I will draw all things to myself." John 12:32
We must keep the windows and doors of the Church open to the Holy Spirit and to allow people to come in. God can and wants to save everyone; yet He wants us to share the Bread of Truth with all for the full knowledge and experience of his salvation. "Come to me and I will give you rest." See all the restless people in the world, and all the calamities. Where was God when these calamities strike? Jesus was letting them complete what is lacking in his sufferings, and at the moment of death surprising them with an occasion to know and love Him and fullness of life. We accept to be messengers of God's offer of life and love both by Word and works of justice and love. These varied works are like planting trees which will naturally bear fruit.

SATURDAY THEME: Witnesses of the Eucharist in the midst of the world
What with going to bed late and morning traffic, we only arrived early for morning prayer on Saturday, but each morning the Liturgy of the Hours lead in English, French, and Spanish, with a variety of choirs and music directors made for a most prayerful start to each day....
His Eminence Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, Archbishop of Douala, Cameroun, was a very powerful speaker, generally soft spoken for emphasis, in short an experienced orator and preacher. He is a man of great accomplishment in the area of fundamental human rights and the defense of the defenseless and their human dignity. I want to listen to him again, as I was tired and couldn't help but nod off....
One of the most powerful witnesses this week, though there have been many, was Marguerite Barankitse of Burundi, who wanted to engage the full assembly, wanted her word to be used by the Lord to touch us; so she asked that we all put down our papers and pens and listen to her. She has been laboring for some years with courage to promote peace and reconciliation in Burundi. She has consecrated her life and all her efforts to children victims of the war, running La Maison Shalom since 1994. Listen to her powerful testimony on the Quebec Church website.
Treated like "the fool of Burundi" by European journalists, as a traitor by her Tutsi tribal people for having taken in Hutu children in her Maison Shalom, she is considered to have lost her head by people for whom social categories are all important. She was threatened but clung to the faith she learned from her mother and faced many dangers focused on Jesus as her Lord. She has been stripped of everything and has learned to put her trust only in the Lord. Her testimony questions us who claim and want to follow the Lord; yet insure ourselves "for the next 100 years or more". Our belonging cannot be to this world, but to Jesus Christ....
This beautiful woman in love with God and with people is at the same time seductively attractive for her beautiful soul and transparent heart, and in the same moment very unsettling as Jesus was in his time and St. Francis of Assisi 800 years ago.
There is much more happening at the Congress today, but I have run out of steam and went home in late afternoon, packed all I could for tomorrow morning's trek to the Plains of Abraham for the closing "Statio Orbis" Mass over the whole world. At this writing I'm listening to the live Internet cast of the Youth Vigil at the Congress. Have fun listening to these and other recordings on the Quebec Church website.... God bless you.

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