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A New Season
“A Time to Love”
In The First Letter of John, St. John says it succinctly: “God is love” (1 John 4:8.16). God is both tender and intense love! “Of all human words with their richness and their limitations, it is this word, love, that gives the best idea of the mystery of God the Trinity” (Dictionary of Biblical Theology; “Love”, p. 325). As we enter this new season of love, trust that the Trinity and Mary have gone before us--as love always does--to prepare this season of grace for us: “I am going to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
“A New Heart for Love”
Because “God is love” and He desires me to experience the profundity of His love, there is an essential, sacred work that needs to take place within me. In particular this is true for one called to be a contemplative intercessor. This work is “ a profound spiritual transformation which God works within [me] by means of “ the breath of his Spirit” (Pope John Paul II; General Audience, August 10, 1988).
“The Thirst of Love”
My heart has been created to experience the most exclusive intimacy with God, and my desire for God is “written” in my heart. I have both been created by God and for God, and God never ceases to draw me to himself (see Catechism of the Catholic Church # 27). The depth of my human desire is driven on by great spiritual thirst. I am thirsty for God. If I am to make progress in the interior life as a contemplative I must become thirsty for God (see Catherine of Siena. The Dialogue, chap. 54, p. 107).
“The Fire of Love”
In the previous teaching we began to mention the “ferocious flames” of God's love. The God of love is the God of fire; for, love's “flames are a blazing fire”, and “stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion” (Songs 8:6B). True love is both unyielding and uncompromising. God is an extreme lover. He calls me to “the conflagration of consummation”. I am to become fire as I am drawn more and more into His life and as I am transformed by His divine love.
“The Wound of Love”
In the previous teaching we spoke of the “vehemence” of God's burning love, and how He “conquers” my heart through an over abundance of love. God wants to stretch my desire and thirst for Him, thus bringing forth a greater capacity for receiving His love. More and more as my “soul is converted into the immense fire of love” (Thomas Dubay, S.M. Fire Within, p. 47), God begins to awaken an eternal “ache” within me to see Him face to face in what is called the beautific vision (see Dubay Fire Within, p. 47).
“No Greater Love”
Jesus is the love of God en-fleshed in our human nature. Hence, his life--especially his self-offering on the cross--reveals in the most profound way both what true humanity looks like and what the essence of authentic human love is: “The sacrifice of the cross--the laying down of one's life for others--is the definitive model for all genuine human love” (Pope John Paul II. General Audience, Aug. 31st, 1988).
Jesus was the first to exercise victim love, and he did so for all of humanity when “he gave himself up for us with a wonderful love” (Roman Missal, “Preface for the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus”, p. 358). Now, he invites us to no longer live for ourselves but rather to participate intimately with him in this “wonderful love”--this “fragrance” of victim love that so pleases the Father.
“Victim Love” (part 2)
Contemplative, communal intercessory prayer is a mystical ministry within the Mystical Body of Christ, where we offer spiritual sacrifices made acceptable by our union with Jesus in the presence of our “Father who sees what is hidden” (Mt. 6:18). The Roman Missal of the Catholic Church tells us that Jesus, “is the true and eternal Priest, who instituted the pattern of an everlasting sacrifice” (Roman Missal, p. 440. “Preface I of the Most Holy Eucharist”).
“Relationship” (Relational Love)
There are four foundational realities that must be experienced in the formation of an effective intercessor: 1) love; 2) relationship; 3) identity; and 4) mission. We have been sketching around the theme of love in several teachings already. It is important to understand that love is always the root and foundation for the other three elements. For, love is the beginning, the end, and the “heart” of the charism of contemplative, communal intercession.
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 2)
God's first priority with each of us is a personal relationship-- an intimate relationship of two hearts sharing one love--a relationship that penetrates the deep levels of my soul. In one's formation as a contemplative intercessor relationship is not one thing among others. Rather, it is everything! Everything hinges upon my entering into this deep, loving, transformative, interpersonal encounter with the living God.
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 3)
Jesus is 'God with us'. He has died for us, and now he lives within us through the Holy Spirit and baptismal faith. Through the Incarnation Jesus has brought us into the immediacy of the Father's presence. The Incarnation is the greatest work ever accomplished by God: God among us in a human nature--hence, Jesus living in a human body.
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 4)
Faith is both a gaze of love and a covenant that is lived in the relational intensity of love. Real faith involves the heart. The scripture says, “one believes with the heart” (Rom. 10:10). The heart is where Jesus dwells within us (see Eph. 3:17). “Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2713).
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 5)
Because God desires the deepest intimacy of relationship with each of us in our hearts, Jesus has entered within us to prepare a “place” so that this sacred encounter can occur: “ I am going to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Jesus 'prepares' by building each of us “into a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5). As St. Augustine says, “It is the Lord Jesus who builds his own dwelling...he builds from within”
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 6)
For humanity life began in a garden: “The LORD God planted a garden in Eden...and he placed there the man whom he had formed...settled him in the garden” (Gen. 2:10,15). God had graciously created this sacred place of love, freedom, relationship, pristine beauty and fragrance for humanity and shared it with us. The garden was called “home”!
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 7)
At the dawn of creation when Adam was “exiled” from the garden because of sin he forfeited both the gift of intimate communion with God and the gift of this sacred space called “home”: “The LORD God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden...when he expelled the man, he settled him east of the garden” (Gen. 3:23,24). These two are related--God and the garden.
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 8)
Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved of the Psalms, and it is perhaps also the most well-known of all the Psalms in the bible. It is also a “classroom” of contemplative relationship and formation for the life of an intercessor: “All the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6). In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” This 'life' is received and grows in the context of an intimate, intense relationship with Jesus.
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 9)
I come to know Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as I experience his fresh and green pastures and his restful waters. They are truly his, for they are of his heart. His heart is rich “heart land” containing both “fields of green” and living streams”. Jesus leads me to his “heart meadows” and “soul streams”. He feeds me with his word and quenches my thirst with his Holy Spirit. He is both food and drink for me: This is my Body for you; this is my Blood for you. He is the Lamb.
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 10)
“Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side” (Psalm 23:4). The “dark valley days”and seasons in my life are also within the scope of God's providential plan for my life. Often the greatest relational growth takes place in life when I am most acutely aware of my needing Him, and most acutely aware of my mortality. I come to know Jesus most intimately when I experience his closeness, his promises, and his “victory in the valley”.
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 11)
“I am the true vine” (John 15:1). There is only one way that I can grow, “ripen” and “mature” as an intercessor: I must belong to Jesus completely, at all times. He is the one, “true” vine: The One who brings forth my true self in the context of a fervent, relational love. He promises me, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit” (John 15:5). All that the “vine” is and has he offers me.
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 12)
The gift of relational love is expressed profoundly through the imagery of vine and branches (see John 15:1-8). This passage in John's Gospel not only refers to the relationship between Jesus and the individual believer, but also the relationship between “the vine” and the community of believers, the Mystical Body of Christ: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 13)
All human beings share a common nature which is called human. At the Incarnation God 'took to himself' our nature; in doing so, he 'took to himself' in a new way all human beings: “By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man” (The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes 22:2). Through the Incarnation God has become one of us in our flesh and blood.
“Relationship” (Relational Love: part 14)
At the Annunciation Jesus “espoused” the cross to himself. He embraced fully with his heart this “wood of the Father's will” for him for the life of the world. The cross and the Eucharist are one and the same mystery. Both the cross and the Eucharist are the heart of the world (see JPII, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia”, pp. 73-74). Where the cross and Eucharist are, an intercessor must be found as well.
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 1)
Who am I? This is one of the most basic and essential questions related to my human life. The truth of who I really am is revealed to me by my Heavenly Father in the context of a tender, loving relationship. Yes, it is the Father who makes known to me my true identity: This is “relational truth”. This truth is unveiled for me in the midst of an intimate friendship with the Father: “In your light we see light” (Psalm 36:10).
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 2)
Our true identity is revealed to us by the Father in the context of a 'great and astonishing' love. In 1 John 3:1 we read: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” In this profound verse that opens chapter three of John's first letter, we note first of all the presence of the first three of our four foundational elements in the formation of a contemplative intercessor: “what love” (love); “The Father” (relationship); and “children of God” (identity).
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 3)
The eleventh chapter of The Book of the Prophet Hosea begins with these words: “Thus says the LORD: When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos. 11:1). Again, one notes the presence of the first three foundational elements in the formation of a contemplative intercessor that were mentioned in the previous teaching: “I loved him” (love); “my son” (relationship); and “a child” (identity).
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 4)
One can understand from the scripture text of Gal.4:7--“So you are no longer a slave but a child”--that one's true identity as a child of God is set in contrast to the false identity of a slave. This false identity of a slave is at times associated with fear and death: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom. 8:15). Fear can rob me of a sense of my true identity as a son or daughter of the Father.
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 5)
The LORD God speaks through the Prophet Isaiah, “Rise up in splendor! Your light has come” (Is. 60:1). Each new day I have to choose to rise up in the 'splendor' of my true identity as child of God, as son or daughter of the Father. I have to choose to live in freedom. The root meaning of the word, splendor, is “to shine”. I 'shine' as I hold fast to the word of life, the word of truth which is “a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 6)
In Matthew's Gospel (Mt. 16:13-20) we are told that when Jesus is in the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asks his disciples the question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15). Simon Peter responds, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). Jesus then calls Simon blessed because it is the Heavenly Father who has revealed Jesus' true identity to Simon. Again, we note that it is the Father who reveals the truth of identity.
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 7)
My true identity is always “rooted and grounded” in God's love for me because my true identity comes from the Father who is love (see 1 John 4:8). I am born of God. I belong to God. The love of the Father is in me. I am a child of God. I walk in the world in the truth of the Father's will which is sacrificial love. Though I live in the world, I am not of the world. Devoted to God, I am to live detached from the world's values, voices and vices:
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 8)
St. John exhorts the true child of God to a conquering faith: “And the victory that conquers the world is our faith” (1 John 5:4). This faith is a belief in Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus conquered the world--saved the world--through obedient love. Sin had entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and sin has been in the world ever since. True children of God are in the world too, yet we are not of the world.
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 9)
Being 'joint heirs' (see Rom. 8:17) with Jesus, children of God share a special bond of communion with him and in him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We are to be close associates of Jesus. Like him we are invited to know God as our Father and to place full confidence in Him; for, “The LORD set his heart on you and chose you” (Duet. 7:7). As St. Peter reminds us, We are chosen, royal and holy (see 1Pet. 2:9).
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 10)
We have been “called for freedom” (Gal. 5:13). It is the “glorious freedom of the children of God”(Rom.8:21). This “glorious freedom” reminds us that “life in man is the glory of God” (St. Irenaeus). We can only be brought into this fullness of life if we live according to God's will. Jesus set us free by his loving obedience to the Father unto death on the cross.
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 11)
“We are children of God...heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:16,17). We are joint heirs with the 'faithful, obedient Son'--Jesus, the Lamb of God--who is the “Suffering Servant”. Jesus proclaims, “I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27). Now living within us, Jesus continues to fulfill his word, “ Where I am, there also will my servant be” (John 12:26); and, “Here I am...to do your will is my delight” (Psalm 40:8,9).
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 12)
Children of God are “children of the day” (1 Thes. 5:5): Children of “the third day” (Mt. 20:19) coheirs with, and in union with, the resurrected Lamb—“the one true Lamb whose Blood anoints the “doorposts” of believing hearts” (see “The Exsultet”. Roman Missal, p. 208). “The life of the believer assumes a meaning in relation to Easter day” (Dictionary of Biblical Theology, p. 391), the day of the Resurrection:
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 13)
God sent Jesus, His Son, into the world to save us from our sins. Jesus entered into the world through the work of the Holy Spirit within Mary. The spirit of this same Son now dwells in our hearts through Baptism. Hence, all of the baptized bear a 'Marian' connection. In the spirit of 1 John 3:1 one might say, 'see what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of Mary as well:
“Identity” (Relational Truth: part 14)
As children of Mary we are formed in her Heart which is the center and source of her interior life. Mary desires to extend to her spiritual children a share in her rich, deep interior life. Like her, she wants us to be always 'heart' oriented. Mary's Heart is possessed by God completely. It is the Heart of one who trusts God totally and loves God fully. Mary's Heart is Immaculate: It is totally pure, holy, free of sin and fully consecrated to--set apart and belonging completely to--God.
“Mission” (Relational Purpose: Part 1)
In this formation series we have seen how God's Love is the root and foundation of relationship, identity and, now, mission. In the bible the word, mission, “is expressed by a vocabulary which centers about the verb, 'to send'” (Dictionary of Biblical Theology, p. 365). In John 3:16 we read, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” The Father sent His Son into the world in order to die for our sins.
“Mission” (Relational Purpose: Part 2)
The Father gave Jesus a mission to accomplish in a human nature. In flesh and blood humanity the Lamb of God took on our nature in order to take away the sins of the world. Now, Jesus chooses to continue to exercise his ministry of reconciliation in, with and through our humanity. The Lamb chooses to need our flesh and blood humanity--our bodies--to come into in order to perpetuate his sacrifice on the cross, his tremendous outpouring of agape love.
“Mission” (Relational Purpose: Part 3)
Our charism ('to live Jesus and his cross') is founded on the pierced hearts of Jesus and Mary on Calvary. From the wounded side of the Lamb flows the “lifeblood” of this charism, the wellspring of divine love. Mary obtains for us through her pierced Heart the grace to receive this love. The pierced Heart of Jesus is the “place” of greatest love and greatest forgiveness.
“Mission” (Relational Purpose: Part 4)
In the spiritual theology of our charism (our charism is 'to live Jesus and his cross') we speak of an intercessor as becoming a “sacrament”. We can only use the word, sacrament, in this way because we speak first of the Church as being “sacrament”. One may recall the words of Pope St. Paul VI cited in an earlier teaching. He says that the Church prolongs and continues Jesus Christ.
“Mission” (Relational Purpose: Part 5)
As intercessors we are called to be one with the Lamb of God and his mission to take away sin, and his ministry of reconciliation. This being 'one' with Jesus is called transforming union. Our charism ('to live Jesus and his cross') gives life to others because it gives Jesus to others. Our charism has been given so that out of our union with the Lamb, we may obtain this same union for others
“Mission” (Relational Purpose: Part 6)
Jesus made of himself the offering in his human nature for our sake--the offering for our sins. Our whole mission as intercessors is to be one with the Lamb of God who takes away sin. It is the Lamb alone who takes away the sins of the world:
“Mission” (Relational Purpose: Part 7)
Contemplative, communal intercession is our primary ministry. In this call contemplation comes before intercession because this is a call to “informed” intercession: Listening contemplatively to the voice of God and letting him show us what he wants to do in a situation, and how we should pray. As Mary says in John 2:5, “Do whatever he tells you.” So, in order to be effective intercessors we must be contemplatives first.
“Mission” (Relational Purpose: Part 8)
Contemplative, communal intercession is our primary ministry. In the last teaching we spoke of contemplative prayer. In this teaching the focus will be on the ministry of intercession. Intercessory prayer is prayer to the Father, in union with Jesus, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit for others. In the Roman Missal of the Catholic Church, one of the quiet prayers of the priest before communion time says in part:
“Mission” (Relational Purpose: Part 9)
Our goal, our vision, is to form the hearts of God's people through a deep, personal relationship with God so that they may become within themselves a house of prayer for all peoples. We help people to develop and foster a deep interior life. Because we need the love power of the holy Spirit to be at work for this transformation to take place, the “baptism in the holy Spirit” is essential for our charism and ministry.
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