The vision of Emmaus Journey is to help Catholics grow in their understanding and commitment to sacred Scripture and Church teachings, and to fan into flame people’s commitment to prayer and evangelization. Emmaus Journey contributes to these goals by providing ministry and formation resources, and leadership training for parishes, small-groups, and individuals.
Rich Cleveland's picture

Mercy's Intended Consequence

The tension we feel between justice and grace is something we struggle with throughout our lives. On the one hand we believe that people ought to get what they deserve. People who do evil should receive their just recompense. On the other hand we want those we love to receive mercy and not what their wrong behavior warrants. For instance, my dad spent a life-time struggling with alcoholism. It wrecked his marriage, damaged his family, and made shambles of his life. There is little evidence that he ever took responsibility for what he did, or for the harm he caused by the abuse which stemmed from his alcoholism. But every one of us in the family, though victims of his bad choices, hopes that somehow in the final days of his hospitalisation that he called out to Christ for salvation. We don't want him to receive what he deserves.

The mercy of salvation in Jesus doesn't make sense to the unconverted mind. Sacred Scripture reports that the world will see the simplicity of the Gospel as foolishness. Even for the converted the mystery of salvation can only be understood in part, and so we praise and thank God for the wonders of mercy and grace. It is with this sense of wonder and mystery that we understand Mark 20:1-16. Initially to us, like to those complaining in this parable, it seems unfair that the workers hired in the last hour of the day, should be paid the same wage as those who began at daybreak and worked all day. But a closer reading and reflection enables us to see that it really isn't a matter of fairness but of mercy's generosity. This is especially true when we realize that the parable is an illustration of the way things are different in the Kingdom of Heaven, than they are in the kingdoms of the earth. When we realize what this parable teaches indirectly about our eternal salvation, we can then only respond,  "Hallelujah!".

We learn from Scripture that God's ways are not our ways, and that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We can be thankful for that, for when it comes to eternity who of us wants to receive only that which we deserve? Who of us does not desire to be treated with a more merciful form of justice than that which we see displayed here on earth? Only those persons who are blind observers of their own spiritual shortcomings would want it otherwise. Rather, we long for mercy(God not giving us what we deserve - eternal death) and grace (God giving us what we do not deserve - eternal life). This parable points out that merciful and gracious treatment is exactly what we can count on from our loving Father.

The Scriptures also teach that knowledge of God's love and mercy will have a profound affect on our entire life -- an affect which St. Paul teaches is the intended affect of receiving God's love and mercy; "For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come  to the conviction that one died for all; He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." Understanding God's gracious love will motivate us to live for him, and not for ourselves. When we respond by living only for ourselves it is apparent that we have not yet fully grasped God's love for us.

Essential Discipleship

    What are the essentials of a basic Chrisitian discipleship?

i)  Private Prayer and Private Integrity
ii) Charity and Justice
iii) Involvement Within an Ecclesial Community
iv) Forgiveness and Mellowness of Heart

"Essential Christian discipleship asks that we have a private relationship to Jesus, that our private lives reflect that relationship, that we practice both charity and justice, that we be involved in some ecclesial community, and also that we do all of these things with a mellow forgiving heart ... But we are not as perceptive in seeing the rationalizing suicide bomber inside ourselves when, for the sake of God and truth, our own religious and political discourse is laced with bitterness, anger, jealousy, demonization, lack of respect, lack of graciousness, and lack of elementary Christian and human charity. .... A mellow and gracious heart is not a negotiable Christian virtue. It is an essential demand of Christian discipleship.  
From "Sacred Fire" -- Ronald Rolheiser
Rich Cleveland's picture

A Gift Unquenched?

Jesus' gift of the Holy Spirit, was the greatest gift he could have sent the Church. Mary and the other disciples waited and prayed patiently for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Through they did not fully understand the significance of the Holy Spirit prior to his indwelling, they knew that it was a gift from the Father and the Son, and powerfully important. So they waited and prayed.

This Pentecost it is important to evaluate our own hunger and longing to be filled by the Holy Spirit. Do we want him to fill our life? Do we want his influence in us enough to regularly pray and ask him to fill our lives? Do we want the effects which his filling will bring; the positive changes in our life? Or are we satisfied to simply have the assurance that we have been made children of God, and beyond that would prefer not to be bothered? These are difficult questions, our responses to them is almost as important as was our initial decision to respond in faith to Jesus. How we welcome the Holy Spirit in our life will make all the difference in how we experience and enjoy the Christian life.

Fr. Frank P. DeSiano, C.S.P., in the book Presenting the Catholic Faith explains why the Holy Spirit is so important to our lives as believers. "The Holy Spirit did not get revealed in the same way as Jesus. God is revealed in Jesus in a human life itself. The Spirit, taking the form of fire or dove used these only as symbolic images to dramatize his presence and power (Acts 2:3; Matthew 3:16). For that is how the Spirit was revealed, ultimately as presence and power in the Christian life. . .

"The Spirit was the force by which they lived, by which they continued to do the deeds of Jesus, by which they were able to bring to birth the ideal that Jesus embodied. The Spirit helped them speak, helped them pray, helped them heal, helped them forgive, helped them serve, helped them be faithful. For on their own, they could do nothing but live as they always had."

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Holy Spirit is the "vital force" that makes the Christian life "Christian," and not simply another nice life. He not only provides the power to overcome that which holds us back from living a holy life, he provides the gifts and power to far surpass that which we could accomplish on our own.

As we contemplate the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives it is important that we recognize that his presence is a unifying presence and not simply an individualistic presence. By that I mean, that though he gives gifts to us individually and does for each of us all of those things Fr. DeSiano wrote about, he does those things for us because we are part of a whole, the Church, his visible body on earth. In the Scripture passages we hear at mass on Pentecost Sunday, the focus is on the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit. They show how he took the diversity of people and melded them into one body. How the Holy Spirit enables the many members to function for the common good of the one body. When we amplify our individual experience of the Holy Spirit to the exclusion of the Body we do him a disservice.

Truly the Holy Spirit is the all surpassing Gift proceeding from the Father and Son, to us. The question is how well will we allow him to live unquenched in our lives?

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