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Carmelite Retreat Online - Lent 2018
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Lent 2018 - Online retreat with
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection


5th week: To Desire to See Jesus




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1. “We would like to see Jesus”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 12:20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show by what death he was to die.

"We would like to see Jesus," ask some sympathizers of Israel to Philip. What is this surprising desire that dwells in these men? Have they witnessed a loving exhortation of Christ to the crowds and become intrigued at his freedom? Have they been challenged by the story of this or that miracle? Or is it simply that the correlation between the word and the acts of Jesus impels these men to ask if they can approach him, to speak to him and to know him a little better? In fact, we have few clues that would help to understand the meaning of their request. But no matter, their desire is present and very far from being a kind of negative voyeurism.

To desire to see Jesus, to follow Jesus, to be there with Jesus: Isn’t this our wish on this last Sunday of Lent, before the entry into Passiontide? One question we can let sink in: are we creatures of desire, and of the desire for God? Indeed, this request: “We would like to see Jesus,” can be like a lever for us to open a true path of renewal of our faith. Let’s allow ourselves to address our desire to approach Jesus in a different way -- other than with the Catechism’s definition, if necessary -- to dare to return to the roots of our faith: wouldn’t that be the aspiration at the heart of our Lent? We must take an unknown path that will consist of asking the primordial question: are we the Lord’s sentinels? Beings who wonder about God and his Messenger, Jesus? The risk is always there that we limit ourselves to what we know, even if we’re experiencing dissatisfaction, rather than to make room in our hearts for inquiry, which could awaken in us the essential question of our faith: what do we say about Jesus? Who do we say he is?

We can see that any encounter with Jesus, as witnessed in the Gospels, provokes, in one way or another, a liberation in the one who receives Jesus. A new power of life has flowed into them, uncovering a long-hidden audacity that the years had rendered sterile. To desire to see Jesus then becomes the key to an interior transformation, radical and energizing, even going so far as to propose to others to take the same path, a path of liberation. We cannot lock God or his Son Jesus in a definition, as beautiful as it might be! To meet Jesus is to expose ourselves to liberating words and gestures that will have the Gospel as their only source, and not a random code of good conduct, this or that morality. Thus, it is to dare to name every fear and to open a space of rebirth, as Jesus proposed to Nicodemus: "You must be born again" (Jn 3:3).

To desire to see Jesus is also to take another risk: to be dispossessed of all self-will to enter the path of the Gospel. We will then go from beginning to beginning, in a particular dynamic of life which will develop constantly. It is to open up a breach in our certitudes and discern if we are on the wrong track in idolizing our desires, our ways of doing things, or if we are aligned to the will of God. It is to admit that we are called to make choices that will have no other roots than those of the love of God and others. It is to refuse everything a priori to let the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love of the Father and the Son, irrigate our life. It is to abandon that multitude of certainties which have become reinforced over the years and to choose the narrow way of life in God, listening to the Holy Spirit. It is to finally recognize that we are only at the dawn of life and that the time when we believed we possessed God is gone. It is to make room for a life in God. Will we agree to welcome this new Covenant that so many biblical witnesses have proposed?

     God wants to write on our hearts his law of love and mercy. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” affirms the prophet Jeremiah (first reading). Are we ready to receive it -- this Law of love? Yet God knows us, so he comes to meet us with his hands full of mercy: a balm that recreates and renews life. For God is impatient to meet us just as we are, without a mask, our faces unveiled. He wants to reveal himself to us. He asks for a true, joyous, unrestricted encounter. He can no longer stand to see us take dead-end roads. So, he lets his Son meet us in truth.

“We would like to see Jesus.” Will this desire be ours this week? I leave you with the joy of daring to make this request, however imperfect. God always comes to us in His Son Jesus. Let's receive him! Do not wait to do well, let's go to Him. He knows us. Even better, He loves us.

2. Conversing interiorly with God

          “We would like to see Jesus,” ask some Greeks. It may be our request as well. But deep in our heart a voice is heard, that of Jesus. He then murmurs: “I am here, at the door of your heart, and I knock, will you open?” Let Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection help us to ask for this grace to desire to see God too. He tells us, in a letter to a nun, how to seek to see the Lord by faith and the practice of the interior conversation with him:

“I will send you one of these books that treat of practice of the presence of God. This is, in my opinion, the essence of the spiritual life, and it seems to me that by practicing it properly you become spiritual in no time. 

“I know that to do this your heart must be empty of all other things because God desires to possess it exclusively, and he can not possess it exclusively without first emptying it of everything other than himself; neither can he act within it nor do there what he pleases. 

There is no way of life in the world more agreeable or delightful than continual conversation with God; only those who practice and experience it can understand this. I do not suggest, however, that you do it for this reason. We must not seek consolations from this exercise, but must do it from a motive of love, and because God wants it.

“If I were a preacher, I would preach nothing but the practice of the presence of God; and if I were a spiritual director, I would recommend it to everyone, for I believe there is nothing so necessary or so easy. 

“Ah! If we only knew how much we needed God’s graces and help, we would never lose sight of him, not even for a moment. Believe me and make a holy and firm resolution at once never to deliberately turn away from him, and to live the rest of your life in this holy presence, deprived for his love of all the consolations of heaven and earth, should he so judge. Put your hand to the plough; if you carry this out properly you can rest assured you will soon see benefits. I will help you with my prayers, poor as they are. I commend myself fervently to yours and to those of your holy community. My regards to all and to you especially.” (Letter 3)

 

fr. Didier-Joseph Caullery, ocd (Convent of Avon, France)

3. Pray each day of the week with Brother Lawrence

Monday, March 19: Saint Joseph

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 1:20)

“...yet when God finds a soul penetrated by an intense faith he pours out his graces in abundance.” (Letter 1)

Lord, by the intercession of Saint Joseph, man of silence and faith, master of prayer, I beg you, increase in me my faith.

Tuesday, March 20

‘So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”’ (Num. 21:7-8)

“We know we can do anything with God’s grace, and he never refuses it to those who earnestly ask him for it.” (Letter 15)

I intercede for an intention that is close to my heart.

Wednesday, March 21

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jn. 8:36)

“We must serve God in holy freedom.” (Letter 4)

Christian freedom is above all liberation. With confidence, I pray: Lord, deliver me from the bonds that hold me in slavery.

Thursday, March 22

“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.” (Ps. 105)

“How happy we would be if we could only find the treasure of which the Gospel speaks; nothing else would matter. Since it is inexhaustible, the more we search, the more riches we find. Let us devote ourselves ceaselessly to looking for it; let us not grow weary until we have found it.” (Letter 5)

Lord, how happy is the one who knows that you desire nothing more than to open to us all your treasures, and that we need nothing more than a great desire to discover them in the depths of ourselves!

Friday, March 23

“I love you, Lord, my strength!” (Ps. 18)

“Neither finesse nor learning is required to approach God, only a heart resolved to devote itself exclusively to him, and to live him alone.” (Conversations 41)

Today I can read again St. Paul's hymn to charity, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, ...if I have prophetic powers, ... if I give away all my possessions, ...but do not have love, I gain nothing.”  (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

Saturday, March 24

“I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them…” (Ezekiel 37:26-27)

“Remember, I beg you, what I recommended to you, that is, to think of God often, night and day, in all your activities, and even when you relax. He is always near you and with you, do not leave him alone.” (Letter 10)

I will try to start all my activities with a short prayer.

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