Reflection-Week 13 & 14

“Refined, Renewed and Radiant - Preparing the movement for a new experience of Pentecost”
 
Refined in His Fire 
 
In his Way of the Cross meditations, Cardinal John Henry Newman beautifully writes, "O how hideous I am in myself, even in my best estate. Even when I am cleansed from my mortal sins, what disease and corruption is seen even in my venial sins. How shall I be fit for the society of Angels, how for Thy presence, until Thou burnest this foul leprosy away in the fire of Purgatory?"
 
The desire to be totally refined in His fire is a holy desire that all the saints possessed throughout their lives and grew in until their death. As we read above, Cardinal Newman ardently longed to be purified of his sinfulness and imperfections, and we are glad that God found him worthy of heaven (he is to be beatified on 19th September). The desire to be continually refined in His fire is the product of a humble but concrete acknowledgement before God of our own sinfulness and of a true faith that believes firmly in the efficacy of His transforming power working through our co-operation. 
 
The biggest danger we face as active members in the Church is to become satisfied with ourselves, comparing ourselves to others around us or to modern standards of life rather than considering whether we in our present state are fit for the ‘society of Angels', fit to stand in His holy presence. And it is here that the communal dimension of our faith becomes especially helpful and important, a dimension that is available to us in a beautiful way through our movement. When we are left to ourselves, there is a tendency to dwell on the minute compartments of our lives in a scrupulous manner and so think ourselves on the whole to be rather holy, while major mountains of sin lie unconquered and untouched. The community of believers - our peers, elders, religious and priests - help us to identify these areas that we have become blind and numb to. As part of our spiritual journey this Jubilee year, let us each examine whether we have allowed such persons to play a definitive role in our lives as brothers and sisters in Christ who can snap us out of our often imagined holiness and bring us to the reality of our sin and imperfection. Let us pray with sincerity, "May the just man reprove me".
 
And yet knowing our vices is only a part, for we must develop a strong distaste for them and then root them out. But how faithful have we been in allowing God to purify us of these? Have we been stuck with these same old vices for many months and years? And worse, have these vices, once the most rejected inhabitants of our hearts, become peaceful citizens there? We know that once our vice becomes familiar and 'normal', it fails to raise appropriate alarm or lead us to sincere contrition; thus we find ourselves in a dangerous position. So let us instead maintain the zeal for the battle, not in spurts of heightened emotion, but ardently and faithfully. With repentant tears and unwavering faith in the Refiner's fire, let us deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him. 
 
In this Jubilee year, why not deny ourselves by rising from the ground of our own complacency? We can take up our crosses by accepting the painful reality of our own weaknesses, before God, ourselves and our spiritual companions. And so, follow the footsteps of Christ by commending all these things with faith, along with everything else that is our own, into the hands of the Father.
 
Renewed by the Spirit
 
The Outpouring
As we enter into the great celebration of Pentecost in the Church, we earnestly pray for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit in our lives, in our movement and in the Church. It is very fitting for us as Jesus Youth to celebrate Pentecost, to wait with open hearts for a great outpouring. For this is not an outpouring primarily of understanding, extraordinary gifts, feeling or anything of the kind. But it is the outpouring of God Himself, and this outpouring of God we know to be the very person of the Holy Spirit. This is what makes Pentecost such a great feast in the Church. As Holy Father John Paul II has taught us, "through the Holy Spirit God exists in the mode of gift".
 
So the Spirit is the outpouring. And the Son is that person on whom the Father pours out all things in the Spirit. In fact, that is how St. John the Baptist was able to identify the Son of God. For he said, "I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God". And this testimony was given to all when “the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove and a voice came from heaven, ‘Thou art my beloved Son’”. This is also why we call Jesus, "the Christ" (from Greek) and "the Messiah" (from Hebrew), both which mean "the Anointed One". The prophet Isaiah too bears witness to the same fact when he says, "And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD".
 
Then Christ is the Anointed. But He was able to open up this anointing to all the members of His Body when He defeated the dominion of sin. This is why Jesus said to His disciples, "If I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you". Thus while Jesus was with us, He walked among us as one anointed with the Spirit to proclaim Good News to the poor, liberty to the captives, sight to the blind and a year acceptable to the Lord. But through His Paschal Sacrifice, Christ opened up this anointing to us by giving all who believe in Him participation in His Body. For as all good things flow from the Father to the Son in the Spirit, so too do all good things flow in the Spirit from the Head to every part of the Body, the Church, that is to us! We can indeed shout with joy that the Father "has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places".
 
It is therefore very fitting for us as Jesus Youth to celebrate Pentecost. For how can we ever be Jesus Youth if we do not share in the anointing of Jesus? As members of His Body, the Church and as a missionary movement at her service, let us open all doors for receiving this terrific outpouring!
 
The Missionary Disposition
We read in the Gospel accounts of a scribe who said to Jesus, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go". Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head". Perhaps this may seem a strange answer to a man who says he is ready to follow the Lord anywhere! But here Jesus teaches us something essential about following Him. And He gives this same teaching on multiple occasions, like when He says, "You seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you". Our Lord could not be anymore clear. Do not follow the Lord for earthly securities, for anyone who follows the Lord for such things will be painfully let down. Mary was the only soul on earth who followed Jesus for no earthly reason during His lifetime. And this is why she was the only soul who remained with Him "from the womb to the tomb" and continued to believe even when He died on the cross. All the other disciples were terribly disappointed. And they were afraid of the Jews.
 
But when the disciples received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, they became like their Master, the Anointed One. Peter who once said to an unknown Jewish woman, "Woman, I do not know him", afterwards announced to the whole Jewish people and to the highest Jewish authorities, "The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree… And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him". The transforming power of the Holy Spirit is evident. Before, Peter was seen clinging on to his earthly security. After, Peter was content with having nowhere to lay his head, but to stretch out his hands and be crucified, just like his Master. He who once lied to preserve his life now testified boldly to the point of death, for he no longer sought the perishable but the imperishable, no longer his own will but the Kingdom (or Reign) of God.
 
Let us examine ourselves today in this light that we may be more receptive to the Holy Spirit. Have we perhaps lost sight of the Kingdom for fear of losing our earthly security, i.e. for fear of becoming just like our Master? There is of course the desire for wealth, social acceptance, influence and so on, but there are also more subtle forms which we must examine, especially in the context of our personal and collaborative apostolates and ministries. 
 
When we think back to our own lives in the movement, we may vividly recall those times when we took some great pains, when we made concrete sacrifices and when the struggles were great enough to bring us even to tears. It was tough, but we embraced all those pains for the sake of some souls who might profit through our efforts. And it is precisely upon sacrifices such as these that this missionary movement was built up by God over the last 25 years. Today as we look back, we may gladly rejoice but on the other hand, we must also be cautious not to become content here. For there is a danger if we find ourselves merely enjoying and resting upon the fruits of past labours. Indeed, to be open to the Holy Spirit, we must be ready to abandon all earthly securities, even the security of our own establishments. Our hearts must continuously recite, "Here I am, send me!" But do we not often say to the Lord, "Here I am, do keep me here"? Are we stuck in a "maintenance mode" in our missionary efforts? Are we unwilling to suffer all over again? If we find within ourselves even a hint of that unwillingness to suffer for the Kingdom, let us steadily surrender it to the Lord. For He rebuked such an unwillingness in Peter with the words, "Get behind me, Satan!" We must gladly surrender this hidden resistance, this subtle but dangerous form of sloth, so that we may welcome the Holy Spirit anew into our lives and into our movement this Pentecost, so that He might bring to us the gift of a new missionary zeal.
 
The Holy Father's missionary intention for this month is especially relevant to us: "That ordained ministers, religious women and men, and lay people involved in apostolic work may understand how to infuse missionary enthusiasm into the communities entrusted to their care". Let us join hands with our Holy Father and the whole Church in offering up this intention, both for our movement and for all of the groups labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. Veni, Sancte Spiritus!
 
Radiant in His Holiness
 
Our Jubilee Prayer concludes with the words, "Refined in thy fire, Renewed by thy Spirit, Radiant in thy holiness, may we become a gift to the Church and the world". But what does it mean to be a gift to the Church and to the world? We can think of our skills in communication, in organizing, in preaching, in dancing, in writing and on so many other fronts. Indeed all of these serve as beautiful contributions to the Church and the world. But let us also recognize that they are still insignificant when compared to that gift which the Lord really expects us to be.
 
To be a gift means to be Christ, since He came to us and offered Himself while we were still sinners (for gifts are unmerited). We must imitate Christ; but how? Do we seek to imitate His speech or His wit? Do we study His strategy or His communication dynamics? "From now on... we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer". Rather, the greatness of Christ and the model that He left for us, is that though He lived in the world, He was in perfect communion with God, loving God above all things and laying down His life for His friends. For all talents and human efforts may be great in the eyes of the world, but they are not the greatest in the eyes of God.
 
To be a gift to the world means to be in communion with God; it means to be holy. And this is no surprise for our generation; for we have seen how powerfully the Lord has worked through His saints. When we consider just one man, Pope John Paul II and because of him, the number of holy young men who have joined priesthood, we see truly that a saint is the real gift to the world. A saint is a gift because he shares in the mystery of the Grain of Wheat.
 
I was recently overjoyed to read of an angelic young girl who died of cancer at the age of 18, just 20 years ago. Her name is Chiara Luce Badano. Chiara was an Italian youth who lived a holy, joyful life of heroic virtue in the very context of our modern world. The Church will be officially confirming her extraordinary holiness and her being in heaven on 25th September, when she will be named Blessed Chiara Luce Badano. This is exciting news for us because she is a young person and even more exciting because she was a dedicated member of the Focolare movement. Her beatification, if I am not mistaken, would make her the first person to be beatified from among the post-Vatican II movements. Concerning Chiara, Bishop Maritano said the following: “Here is the fruit of a Christian family, of a Christian community, of a movement which lives in mutual love and has the presence of Jesus in the midst of its members”. Chiara used to say to the other members of her movement, "You must become a generation of saints". These words from this 18 year-old blessed challenge us today. Chiara was a gift to the world. May we become a gift to the world as well.
 
Thomas Pulickal
Colorado, USA 

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