I would like to share with you a reflection resource in this month’s “Magnificat” book of Mass readings, Daily Office and reflection materials. The text itself was written by Chiara Lubich (an Italian Catholic activist and founder of the Focolare movement). Here it is:
Extreme poverty of soul and the Banquet
When the soul doesn't sing, then something is occupying it and this something should immediately be given to God. The suffering could be brought on by external things (and these are more easily overcome by souls who want to love Love); the sufferings could be within us (scruples, doubts, melancholy, temptations, emptiness, homesickness). They all need to be given to God. The quicker the giving, the sooner love descends into our hearts.
But be careful: a giver cannot go on keeping for herself a gift that's been given away. If you feel something, whatever it may be, which doesn't allow your soul to be at peace then you need to give it over to him with an effort that is equal to the size of the gift. If you keep something for yourself, even just the thought of the gift, then you appropriate a treasure for yourself (a tiny treasure) that no longer belongs to you. Only into the extreme poverty of a soul which loses itself for love does the Lord God enter triumphant with the fullness of joy. That is why this Pascha was a "passing over" for all of us to a life of never-ending joy as we live the Ideal in its fullness.
Now, do you want the Eternal Model? Jesus, Crucified and Forsaken. His soul, which is the soul of the God-Man, filled with the greatest suffering ever known in heaven and on earth, the suffering of a God abandoned by God, never doubted for a moment about offering it to his Father: "In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum (Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit).' Let it always be the same for us. And do you know what Jesus will say in answer to your offer? Omnia mea tua sunt (All that is mine is yours). Everything he'll give you, the entire fullness of his joy. May he give you everything.
This text reminds me of something that has dominated my thoughts in the last couple of weeks. For for as long as I can remember I have made the sign of the cross after receiving communion in the house. I don’t know for sure where I picked up this habit, but but I think that it may have been my mother who used to do the same and I simply copied her. Either way, it is something that sets me apart from most people who receive communion at Mass. There are times when I have questioned this attitude, but have always continued doing it nonetheless.
However, one morning while I was on retreat at Park Place Pastoral Centre couple of weeks ago where my spiritual guide Fr. Andrew McMahon lives as Chaplain, I felt the urge during the daily Mass celebrated by Father Andrew to receive communion and not to make the sign of the cross. It was as if my hand felt impelled downwards rather than upwards towards my forehead. As soon as I did this I felt kind of release inside me and an understanding that God wanted me to handover the crosses I was bearing to him through his Son. And in that moment I felt as if great burden had been taken from my shoulders. It was as if in letting go of the symbolic gesture of the cross at that moment and instead concentrating on welcoming Christ into my body and soul I was allowing He who carried the cross for me to bring me more fully into participation with Him in the dynamic of His passion, death and… RESURRECTION. It did genuinely feel like a moment of rebirth.
My friend and mentor from my time studying in Paris, Fr. Gustave Martelet s.j., has often said to me that we in the Church have often been guilty of playing too much emphasis on the suffering of the Cross, to the detriment of experiencing fully the transforming power of the Resurrection and its associated joyfulness. Without the Cross there can be no Resurrection, but without the Resurrection the Cross has no meaning… death would have had the final word.
I think it is true that we can sometimes be guilty in our lives are clinging on to particular forms of suffering that we are enduring, either out of a sense of personal guilt, or out of a desire to show others that we are in pain and therefore somehow earn their sympathy and a more generous attitude towards us. There are times when I recognise that I might not actually want others to see me happy!
But such an attitude is so wrong in so many ways. It shows that living out the daily response to the call that God gives EACH of us to follow him requires daily re-conversion, a daily re-opening to the graces that God wishes to give us: through the gift of the Eucharist and the sacraments, through his presence in others and the events of our daily lives.
“Open up the doors and let the music play
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring your hope
Songs that bring your joy
Dancers who dance upon injustice.”
( “Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble” - Delirious)
God does not want us to cling to suffering. He wants us to be free to love him because he knows that only when we fully let go of - or are set free from - that which binds us can we, as Lubich says, know the “entire fullness of his joy”, of his happiness, of his peace.
In his book “Seeing And Savoring Jesus Christ”, Amercian Reformed Calvinist preacher and theologian John Piper writes eloquently about the temptation towards self-obsession that can lead us to block out grace and deny ourselves the joy that comes from truly knowing and being known by God:
“There is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is in beholding self. Indeed, what could be more ludicrous in a vast and glorious universe like this than a human being, on the speck called earth, standing in front of a mirror trying to find significance in his own self-image? It is a great sadness that this is the gospel of the modern world.”
When the soul doesn't sing,... This reminds me of the final song on Delirious’ final album, “My Soul Sings”. I wonder whether Martin Smith knew the text by Lubich. He certainly understands its spirit:
“Open my eyes to see
The wonderful mystery of love
Falling into you
I’m drawn to the gravity of love
We’re standing still in a moment of eternity
Where worlds collide and I feel the breath of heaven over me
My soul sings [x3]
How I love you [oh I love you]
Open the page and see
The wonderful history of love
I start and end with you
I’m pulled to the gravity of love
My soul sings [x3]
How I love you [oh I love you]”
… and another favourite of mine “Open The Eyes Of My Heart” (Paul Baloche)
“Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
Open the eyes of my heart,
I want to see you, I want to see you.
To see You high and lifted up
Shinin' in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy”
Let us pray that we may open our eyes and hearts to God and allow him to transform us into the image of his Son, drawing others into communion with him.