Wisdom from a Monk: Fr. Gregory on the Fullness of the Paschal Mystery
state! It is only in admitting the wretchedness of a life lived in sin without God that we are able to espouse the humility required to notice our own profound need for God to fill us with His Grace!
Indeed, such would be the perfect response we could give to Jesus' complete emptying of His Life for us on the Cross as He pours forth His Love: We are to empty our lives of sin to make space in our heart to receive His Love, so that He might reign supreme as the only King of our Heart. May we allow God to make us uncomfortable? Good Friday is a reality check on our current human condition - both personally and societally. All we need to do to discover the reality of our condition is simply to conduct a thorough examination of conscience. If we take this process seriously, we should notice quite soon our need to run to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in an ever deeper search to make amends with the Lord Who loves us and has given totally of Himself, for our salvation.
As the Beatification of Servant of God Pope John Paul II fast approaches, I am reminded of a dramatically beautiful photograph printed back in March 2005 in the Vatican semi-official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, taken on the Good Friday prior to his passing into eternal life. The beloved pope was too sickly to participate in person at the Via Crucis being held that evening at Rome's Coliseum, as he had during every year for his entire Pontificate up until that moment. Instead, we encounter the Holy Father sitting and participating in the Stations of the Cross via live television feed, and the moment is one of the most tender of his entire Pontificate.
We witness John Paul II embracing the crucifix, and the Lord looks to be speaking from the Cross into the ear of the Holy Father. Ever since first viewing that image, the question has nagged in my mind, "What is Jesus saying to John Paul II from the Cross?" Perhaps they are words of comfort in that beloved Pope's time of great personal agony, during the illness that ultimately would take his life only days later. Maybe Jesus speaks words of understanding, comprehending fully the suffering of man and calling the Holy Father to persevere in the hope of the resurrection, and not to give into despair. Jesus' words even could be those of challenging exhortation: Come, abide with Me where I am. Embrace the wood of the Cross with me and participate in My great saving work.
One thing we know John Paul II must have heard in Jesus' voice is what our Lord says to the Father at every moment of His life on earth and voiced in the Garden of Gethsemane: Not my will, but Thine be done. This past Holy Wednesday, Pope Benedict elaborated on the dynamics of such human surrender to God's Will:
"On his own man is tempted to oppose the will of God, to have the intention to follow his own will, to feel free only if he is autonomous . This is the whole drama of humanity. But in truth this autonomy is erroneous, and this entering into God's will is not an opposition to oneself. It is not a slavery that violates my will, but it is to enter into truth and love, into the good. And Jesus attracts our will, which is opposed to the will of God and seeks its autonomy. He attracts this will of ours on high, to the will of God.
"This is the drama of our redemption, that Jesus attracts our will on high, all our aversion to the will of God and our aversion to death and sin, and unites it to the will of the Father: "Not my will but thine be done." In this transformation of the "no" into "yes", in this insertion of the will of the creature into the will of the Father, he transforms humanity and redeems us. And he invites us to enter into this movement of his: To come out of our "no" and enter into the "yes" of the Son. My will exists, but the decisive will is the will of the Father, because the will of the Father is truth and love."
On Good Friday, Jesus looks down from the Cross in total love upon each one of us and speaks His words of Love, the words that call us to deny ourselves, embrace our personal cross, and follow Him as authentic disciples who seek to live perfectly the will of the Father in our lives. Such a love demands genuine sacrifice, being willing to lay down everything we have and all who we are as a complete gift of self in love for God and neighbor. To do so is the least we can do in responding to the tremendous love He shows us in this Paschal Mystery of our salvation.
If we answer our Lord's vocation for us to love, we will be transfigured more deeply into His the true image and likeness wherever He leads. By the strength of the Holy Spirit poured forth from His Sacred Heart on this day, our hearts will be fulfilled in Jesus' Love, and we will be strengthened in our vocation to live fully as Christians who are to bear the Love of Jesus Christ to a world so longing in thirst for Him.
Fr. Gregory Gresko is the Prior of Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his S.T.B. from the Pontificial Athenaeum of Sant'Anselmo in Rome and his S.T.L. magna cum laude in Moral Theology (Marriage and Family Studies) in 2008 from the Pontifical Lateran University, John Paul II Institute (Vatican City). His S.T.L. dissertation was entitled, "Educating to Love: Foundational Pedagogy in Light of Karol Wojtyla's Love and Responsibility". Fr. Gregory is working on his doctoral dissertation for the same Vatican institute, on "The Consecration of the Family to the Heart of Jesus in Light of the Pastoral Ministry of Père Mateo Crawley-Boevey"
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Good Friday, Holy Saturday, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Sacred heart, Holiness, Prayer, Fr Gregory Gresko
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