Monday, November 30, 2015

Feast of St. Andrew: Drawn to Greater Life

“’Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” – Mt 4:19-20

The call of Andrew and the first disciples is at once inspiring and daunting to me. How can he and the first disciples follow someone they hardly knew, in such a decisive and definitive way? Like others, I have been captivated and have followed. But my fears, sins, and limitations have often kept me back. It seems as if the more I follow Christ, the more I am challenged to be countercultural, the more I am confronted with my failures and unfaithfulness. There is a spirit within me that resists.

Yet, something greater is also at work. Perhaps this greater power lies in Jesus’ invitation.

We are drawn to greater life. My older brother and I were drawn to our first Silent Retreat when we saw how life-giving it was to our aunt and cousin. They left for the retreat as faith-filled women; they came back as people who have fallen in love with Christ. We were drawn to a greater life emerging in them. Like, Andrew in the John’s Gospel, they accepted the invitation to “come and see,” to a personal encounter with Jesus. He is the draw to greater life, the spirit that overcomes our fear and attachment to our old ways of seeing and thinking.

The word for “fish” in today’s Gospel can also be translated as “catch”. Unlike catching fish, which ultimately kills, Jesus’ invitation to “catch people” gives life. It involves being drawn more into the life of God. Consequently, like Andrew, we are drawn to invite others to be “caught” up into greater life. 

Pope Francis says it well: “The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane, but with no less intensity: ‘Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others’” (Evangelli Gaudium, 10).

Whether you and I have never encountered Jesus in a life-giving way or are currently sapped by a humdrum, non-transformative living, perhaps there is an invitation for us today:

Will we let the gaze of Jesus to draw us into greater life with God? Will we ask God for the grace to face our present fears and failures yet focus on Jesus’ merciful love and gaze? Perhaps this will help:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent 2015: Uncovering, Revealing Mercy …

"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves … But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand." – Lk 21:25-28

We usually think of “apocalypse” as involving sudden catastrophes and calamities causing much fear, loss, or destruction. Yet, the word “apocalypse” in Greek means a stripping away, an uncovering, a revelation of something hidden. It is less a prediction of the future as much as a preparation to encounter a deeper, greater reality.

Recently, I have come to a painful realization. I prided myself as an open-minded and hospitable person. Yet, my thoughts and actions in the past few months have revealed a major prejudice that I hold towards a colleague. The painful recognition strips away my encrusted heart and reveals an invitation to receive and to offer mercy.

Something remarkable is happening to my sister, KimThy. She has been mourning the sudden death of her kind, compassionate, deeply loving husband of 19 years. His loss has been heartbreaking for her and for our family. Yet, KimThy shared something remarkable with me last week. She said that his passing has surprisingly allowed her to grow closer to him and to learn from him more in the past two months than in the past few years. His death uncovered and revealed a deeper connection and greater love between them.

Apocalyptic processes involve something greater being revealed as something lesser is being stripped away. Light shining beneath the darkness and through the shadows. A new order peeking through our disordered lives. This Advent of Mercy invites us to wait in hope as we wade through the present struggles and birth pains of life. Rumi’s playful wisdom hints at this apocalypse: “Love's secret is always lifting its head out from under the covers – ‘Here I am!’”

Is there an uncovering process occurring in your life? Is there an invitation to make greater space in your life for love or mercy to unfold? What is your attitude towards it?