Monday, September 19, 2016

We are an Apostolic Church

1. The Apostles discovered they were loved

Jesus showed himself to be a brother to all, even the weakest, the hated ones of society, the marginalized. Jesus was brother to them. Each person was unique for Jesus. Each was truly valued by Jesus.
The Apostles discovered this freedom of Jesus to love. They saw in Jesus this freedom to move to others, even the persons rejected by society. What does this say to us? We accept in confidence the love and concern of Jesus, no matter who we are and no matter what our personal histories are. Each person is always loved by Jesus. Jesus was so concerned with telling others about the love of God, symbolized by the Kingdom. He wanted to show people how much they were really loved by God. So to each person Jesus would say, “As much as God loves you, I love you”. Accept that Jesus is really brother to us. 
With Jesus we see ourselves called to be brothers and sisters to each other, including the sinners, the poor, the marginalized. We see ourselves all loved by God, including those from other religious traditions. 

2. The Apostles discovered prayer

Jesus showed his intimacy with the Father. This was such an impressive revelation of Jesus. To the Father Jesus never stopped praying. Jesus was so concerned with the concrete lives of person, but he always prayed and prayed a lot. He called God his Abba, his Father, and it was in his prayer.
The Apostles were so impressed by the prayer life of Jesus that they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. What does this tell us? We may have difficulties in prayer, sometimes we may not even want to pray. The Apostles were fervent Jews and they did the Jewish practices like join the synagogue and go to the Temple. Those were external moves. They wanted to pray, which was more internal and intimate. We may be going to mass, attend processions, be active in many activities. Where is prayer in all that? Do we spend quality time, like Jesus, in prayer? 
Jesus surprised the Apostles. Jesus prayed a lot…a lot. Jesus liked to go in silent places to pray. He went into direct contact with his Father. He discerned his path in prayer. He consulted the Father.
Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and he taught them the “Our Father”. The prayer is a surprise because it does not ask God to do things for us. In that prayer we also “consult” God; we ask God what he expects of us. Is this the core of our prayers? Do we pray like Jesus, “Your will be done”? The Apostles discovered that in prayer we seek for what God wants. Father what is your will? Jesus had this prayer often, and before his death he prayed in the garden again saying, “Your will be done”. Like Jesus we see ourselves seeking for God’s will in prayer. We pray.

3. The Apostles discovered that failure was a possibility

As time went on in the life of Jesus he was provoking the anger of authorities. Jesus was taking risks. Jesus became famous, he had many following him and listening to him and watching. In the eyes of the Apostles Jesus may have become a “star”, a “success” in their society. Really Jesus was so famous he was pressed from all sides by crowds. The Apostles felt that the success of Jesus was also their own success. They were his disciples. Jesus called them to follow him and they did…and they were not mistaken. They were on the road to success. 
But all of a sudden the Apostles noticed that Jesus was also accumulating enemies. He got into trouble with those in charge of the Temple. He got into trouble with the authorities who imposed Sabbath. He got into trouble with those who refused to mix with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus took risks. He loved so much the “little ones”, the hated and marginalized. He pained in his heart for them. He was also disturbed by the hypocrisy of the authorities.
Well, Jesus took the risk up to the point that he was crucified. He was humiliated and tortured. Jesus did not run away from that all. He faced them squarely. His love for people, especially the “little ones”, was so strong he did not run away from the threats to his life. Jesus was so serious with the mission of his Father he did not run away from the threats to his life. 
It was horrible for the Apostles. They saw their dreams of success crumble. The Gospel account of Mark tells us that Jesus was left all alone. Even the Apostles abandoned him. 
What does this tell us? We have the experience of the resurrection. We know Jesus won. But let us pause for a while and notice that there are moments when we abandon Jesus. Our faith is lukewarm; we would rather join the success of the world. Following Jesus can also face risks; Jesus called his disciples and told them they too will make risks. Are we people of risks for Jesus?
With Jesus we take risks too. We may be failures in the world. We may be rejected in the world. But we take risks. We take seriously our being Christians, disciples of Jesus.

4. The Apostles discovered “rising in time”

The Resurrection came. The Apostles saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion. But their faith did not arise immediately. They hesitated. They did not know what to do, how to react. Some of them doubted. During the day of the Pentecost the Apostles were hiding in fear for the crowds. It took time to know Jesus again; the Apostles had to re-recognize him.
But Jesus showed himself and always assured them of peace. Jesus stayed with them and slowly made them feel at ease with the fact of his resurrection. Jesus had to “re-form” them again. 
We are assured of the Resurrection. But we also take it gradually, we need time. We may need to “rise in time” from our dark sides and we take all the help of grace for this to happen. Jesus understood the struggle of the Apostles. He had patience. This also means that, for us, we welcome the patience of the Lord. Jesus is risen, he has won. We need time to fully appropriate this. We need time to let the Resurrection be true for us. Just like the Apostles, we continue in faith, slowly, gradually, and with full respect for ourselves. Today this means deepening our faith, making efforts to learn and understand all the more. This means asking for graces to help us appropriate the Resurrection in our lives. This is what “conversion” means: to gradually accept that there is the Resurrection. We gradually accept that indeed, sin and darkness do not rule over our lives. We may not be so convinced at times. But we are on the move to fully understanding and accepting it. 
With the Apostles and disciples of Jesus we believe in the Resurrection of Christ, we make the leap of faith even if we feel we need time to digest the meaning of the Resurrection. Remember that we too prepare our own resurrection. We work for justice and peace, signs that tell our societies that the resurrection is real. In our fidelity to the faith we know God will raise us. 

5. The Apostles discovered the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is present among us. We may not have a face-to-face encounter with the Holy Spirit, but we recognize how he inspires us and prompts us. The Holy Spirit is the force that makes us move on in faith. The Holy Spirit makes us mobilize our gifts and talents for the service of the Church. The Holy Spirit guides us to understanding our faith deeper each day. The Holy Spirit makes us courageous to live out our faith.
During the Pentecost the Apostles discovered this force—the force of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Thus they took the courage to move out into the world—into the “ends of the earth” and “to all creation”. The Apostles discovered the force and inspiration to tell the world about the Good News. 
For us this means to be available to the prompting of the Spirit. We may not be very courageous, but in faith we receive the strength of the Spirit.  
With the Apostles, and with Mary, we have confidence in the Holy Spirit. We want to share the Good News to the world and we have the Holy Spirit to support us and prompt us to move on. With the Holy Spirit we serve the Kingdom. 

6. We are such because we are a community, an “Apostolic community”

We can say that the Church is a community of persons touched by Christ. We live together as brothers and sisters to each other with God as Our Father and Jesus as our brother. 
We are a community of prayer. We talk to God and we consult God.
We are a community of risk taking. In service to the Kingdom, with our works of justice, peace, love, hospitality we take risks. We may be faced with hostilities but we do not shrink away. We take risks even if it means the cross.
We are a community of believers in the Resurrection. We show our confidence that we will rise…that the Resurrection is promised to all. We keep this faith even if, often, we do not fully understand. Each day we “rise in time”, making the Resurrection more true to our lives.
We are a community inspired by the Holy Spirit. We take guidance from the Holy Spirit, we take courage with the Holy Spirit.
We are just like the Apostles.

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