Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Colossians 1:4 – Agapē

...having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have toward all the holy ones...

Paul has not only heard of the faith of the Colossians but also of their love. This is a special kind of love, the love called agapē in Greek.

Agapē is first and foremost the word for the love of God within the Trinity and then the love of God that radiates out toward us, His creatures and His children. Within the Trinity, the Father and the Son love each other with an intense, infinite, self-giving love that is so strong and vibrant that it manifests as another Person, the Holy Spirit. The Father gives Himself completely to the Son; the Son gives Himself completely to the Father; the Holy Spirit flows out as that self-giving love in Person.

We Christians seek to enter into God's agapē. We open our hearts and minds to it and allow it to pour into us, and not only into us but through us to others. When we do this, we share in and imitate divine love. We show agapē back to God by putting Him first, by submitting to His will, by trusting Him, and by obeying His commands. We humbly recognize our failures, repent of them, and ask for forgiveness, placing our hope in the One Who gives us His love.

But we don't stop there; the agapē we receive from God must pour out to others. This kind of love isn't about emotion, even though we may feel strong affection for our loved ones. Rather, it's about will. When we practice agapē, we will the absolute best for another person and then do everything possible to help that person achieve that goal. In doing so, we give of ourselves, putting the other person's needs ahead of our own desires.

Agapē doesn't always look like the “love” valued by our modern culture, a “love” that is mostly about emotion and that comes and goes on a whim, a “love” that is supposed to completely accept everything about a loved one. Instead, when we practice agapē, we sometimes have to tell a loved one that his/her actions are sinful and harmful and that he/she has taken the wrong road. This may seem harsh or uncaring to some people, but it is, in fact, motivated by the desire to help the loved one achieve his/her absolute best. When we see that is not happening, we must love the person enough to say so, even at the risk of an angry response. This kind of love, real agapē, the love of God, accepts nothing less.

This is the kind of love, then, that Paul sees and commends in the Colossians. May God see and commend the agapē, His own divine love, alive and working in us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Colossians 1:4 – Faith

...having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have toward all the holy ones...

In Colossians 1:3, Paul tells his readers that he and Timothy continually give thanks to God for them. In this verse, he adds a reason for that thanksgiving: he has heard of their faith and love.

Let's focus on faith. The Greek word is pistis, and it denotes belief, confidence, and trust. It derives from the verb peithō, which means to be persuaded. A person who has faith, then, has been persuaded to accept something as true and to place his or her trust in something or someone.

Here Paul places his emphasis on the object of our faith. We believe en Christō Iēsou, in Christ Jesus. The preposition en is important here. It's just a little word that can be easily overlooked, but it can also pack a big punch of meaning because of its wide range of nuances. En can designate a point of respect or reference; we have faith with respect to Christ Jesus. The reference point of our faith is Jesus first and foremost. En can also suggest association, and indeed, faith does mean association, particularly a strong personal relationship with Jesus. Further, en can refer to a sphere, and this works as well when we think about how faith helps us enter into salvation history, into a new creation, into a share in God's divine life. Who would have thought one little preposition could point in so many fruitful directions?

We can gain additional insights into faith by reading the Catechism, which explains that “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (#150). In other words, our faith is first of all in Someone, namely, God. Then, because we trust God, we also fully accept everything He tells us.

The Catechism adds that “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by Him” (#153). But there is a human aspect to faith as well. We have to choose to accept God's gift and to fully submit our “intellect and will to God,” and that makes faith “an authentically human act...contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason” (#154).

To have faith, then, is both to receive and to give. God gives us the opportunity to enter into a relationship with Him, to become sons and daughters in the Son, to enter into His sphere. This is not something we could ever merit or provide for ourselves, but we must respond to God's invitation. We must choose to be persuaded, to have faith with respect to Jesus Christ our Lord, to put our trust in Him. We must give ourselves to Him as we receive His great gift of faith.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Lost Prayers #5

Acts of Homage to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Part 4: Act of Reparation

Eucharistic Heart of my God, living and beating under the veil of the sacred species, I adore Thee.

Moved afresh with love for the immense benefit of the divine Eucharist, penetrated with sorrow for my ingratitude, I humble and annihilate myself in the still greater abyss of Thy mercies.

Thou didst choose me from childhood; Thou didst not despise my infirmity; Thou didst descend into my poor heart, and giving it happiness and peace, didst invite it to mutual love; and I have lost all, by being unfaithful to Thee, O Jesus, my Lord. I have allowed my spirit to become dissipated and my heart to grow cold; I have listened to my own voice and have forgotten Thee.

Thou wouldst have been my guide, my counselor, protector of my life, and I, allowing my passions to destroy the sweet attraction of Thy presence, have lost sight of Thee and forgotten Thee.

In the salutary trials of our probation, in times of joy and consolation, in my difficulties and necessities, instead of having recourse to Thee, I have gone after creatures and have forgotten Thee.

I have forgotten Thee in deserted tabernacles, where Thy love languishes, in the churches of towns where Thou art outraged in the hearts of the indifferent and sacrilegious, and in my own sinful heart, O Jesus, as well when I approached to receive Thee, as after receiving Thee.

Eucharistic Heart of my Saviour, the delight of my first Communion and of the days of my fidelity, I surrender to Thee. Return! Return! Draw me to Thyself afresh. Pardon me yet again this time; and I shall hope everything in the strength of Thy love.

Glorious Archangel St. Michael and thou, O beloved disciple St. John, offer to Jesus this my act of reparation, and be propitious to me. Amen.

(This prayer comes from the 1910 edition of the Raccolta.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Lost Prayers #4

Acts of Homage to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Parts 2 and 3: Act of Consecration and Ejaculation

Act of Consecration
Jesus, adorable Lord, hidden in Thy Sacrament of love, Thou who abidest with us to sweeten our exile, should I not occupy myself in consoling Thee in Thine? To Thee who givest me Thy heart, how should I not offer Thee mine?

Truly, to give myself to Thee is to benefit myself; it is to find an ineffable treasure, a heart, loving, disinterested, and faithful, such as I would wish my own to be. I cannot be for ever receiving, and giving nothing in return. Dear Lord, I could never vie with Thee in generosity, but I love Thee; deign to accept my poor heart, and though it is worthless, yet because Thou lovest it, it may become something by Thy grace; make it good and take it into Thy custody.

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, I consecrate to Thee all the powers of my soul, and all the powers of my body; I desire to apply myself to the work of knowing Thee and loving Thee ever more and more, in order to make Thee better known and loved by others. I would do nothing except what tends to Thy glory, nor act in anything but as Thy divine Father wills. I consecrate to Thee all the moments of my life in a spirit of adoration before Thy real presence, in a spirit of thanksgiving for this incomparable gift, of reparation for our cruel indifference, and of incessant supplication, so that our prayers offered to Thee, with Thee, and in Thee may rise to the throne of divine mercy pure and efficacious, and for God's eternal glory. Amen.

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, on fire with love of us, inflame our hearts with love of Thee.

(These prayers come from the 1910 edition of the Raccolta.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Lost Prayers #3

Acts of Homage to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Part 1: Prayer

Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist, sweet companion in our exile, I adore Thee.
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, I adore Thee.
Heart solitary, Heart humiliated, I adore Thee.
Heart abandoned, Heart forgotten, I adore Thee.
Heart despised, Heart outraged, I adore Thee.
Heart ignored by men, I adore Thee.
Heart, lover of our hearts, I adore Thee.
Heart desirous of being loved, I adore Thee.
Heart patient in waiting for us, I adore Thee.
Heart eager to hear us, I adore Thee.
Heart longing to be prayed to, I adore Thee.
Heart source of new graces, I adore Thee.
Heart, wrapped in silence, desiring to speak to souls, I adore Thee.
Heart, the sweet refuge of the hidden life, I adore Thee.
Heart, the teacher of the secrets of union with God, I adore Thee.
Heart of Him who sleeps, yet ever watches, I adore Thee.
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, have pity on us.
Jesus victim, I desire to console Thee.
I unite myself to Thee, and sacrifice myself with Thee.
I annihilate myself in Thy presence.
I would forget myself to be mindful of Thee.
I would be forgotten and despised for love of Thee.
And be neither understood nor loved, unless by Thee.
I will silence myself to listen to Thee; I will abandon myself to lose myself in Thee.
Grant that I may thus appease Thy thirst, the thirst for my sanctification and salvation, and that being purified I may bestow on Thee a pure and true love.
I would no longer weary Thy patience; take possession of me; I give myself to Thee.
I offer Thee all my actions, my intellect to be illuminated by Thee, my heart to be guided by Thee, my will to be made strong, my soul and body to be nourished, my misery to be lightened.
Eucharistic Heart of my Jesus, whose blood is the life of my soul, may it be no longer I that live, but do Thou alone live in me. Amen.

(This prayer comes from the 1910 edition of the Raccolta.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Colossians 1:3 – Praying

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ continually for you praying...

Praying... Paul and Timothy combine their thanksgiving with praying. We all know that prayer is central to Scripture and to our Christian life, but how often do we stop to think about the meaning of prayer? For most of us, probably not often at all.

The Greek word for “praying” here is proseuchomenoi, which is a present tense participle that modifies the subject “we,” indicating Paul and Timothy are the ones praying. The participle comes from the verb proseuchomai, which contains two parts: pros meaning towards or exchange and euchomai meaning wish or pray.

Based on this definition, praying involves two movements, wishing/praying towards and exchanging wishes/prayers. The first of these is fairly obvious. When we pray, we direct our wishes toward God. We tell Him about our needs and desires (and about everything else, too, for God wants us to talk to Him in this intimate way), and this is very good when we behave like trusting children, placing ourselves and our lives in God's hands.

But there's also a second element. When we pray, we exchange wishes with God, and this is perhaps even more important than merely asking God for something. When we pray in this “exchanging wishes” sort of way, we learn to let go of our own views, our own desires, our own needs and accept God's will instead. We realize that God sometimes says “no” to our prayers and that He does it for our own good because He sees infinitely further than we do and knows what is truly in our best interests. We begin to discover that prayer is more about relationship than anything else, that it's more about getting Someone than something. In prayer, we open our hearts to God that we may know Him better and love Him more.

Prayer, then, should change us. As we encounter God more and more deeply, our ideas, our attitudes, our desires, and our actions should all change. We should become more and more like God the more we pray, the more we exchange wishes with Him, the more we learn that prayer is not so much about what we want as about what our loving Father wants for us.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Colossians 1:3 – Giving Thanks

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ continually for you...

Paul assures the Colossians that he and Timothy give thanks to God for them always, but there is more here than the apostle simply saying, “Hey, God, thanks so much for these great people!”

The Greek verb for “give thanks” is eucharisteō. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? The verb is comprised of the prefix eu, meaning “good,” and a variant of the noun charis, “grace.” When we give thanks, we are gratefully acknowledging the good grace that God has showered down upon us.

And the Eucharist is as good a grace as we can possibly receive, for in the Eucharist Jesus gives Himself to us Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. He enters into our very bodies and allows us to share in His divine life.

Paul's choice of this verb, eucharisteō, hints that he doesn't merely thank God for the Colossians in a general way. Instead, it suggests that Paul and Timothy offer the Eucharist for their fellow Christians, much like we do today. When we offer Mass for someone, living or dead, we hold that person before God in a special way and ask for an abundant outpouring of His grace, the great grace of the Mass, to envelope him or her and to heal him or her spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally, whatever is needed.

Like Paul, then, we should frequently offer Mass for our loved ones. We can do this by stopping in at our parish office and requesting Masses (there will usually be a small donation requested). We can also request Masses from organizations like the Seraphic Mass Association, the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, the Society of the Little Flower, or the Salesian Missions. At the very least, we can lift up our loved ones to God when we participate in the Mass, holding them closely in our hearts and asking our Lord for graces for them.

Then we will be like Paul and Timothy, who continually gave thanks, eucharisteō, for those they loved and served.

(Greek definitions come from, especially HELPS Word Studies.)