By Members of Our Lady's Warriors
Commentary Copyright 1999 by Our Lady's Warriors. All Rights Reserved.
Note: Watch words and phrases are underlined; commentary is presented following Renew 2000 text.
The leader prepares the prayer space for the meeting by providing a candle and some various sizes and shapes of rocks, at least one for each person in the small community.
Begin your gathering with introductions if any of you is new to one another. Then allow time to share about your life since the last Season of RENEW 2000, or, if you are new, what attracted you to become part of this small community.
Take a few minutes to review, either quietly or aloud, the Introduction to this booklet as well as the Faith Sharing Principles and Guidelines and The Gathering Time. Discuss any questions that you may have.
Begin with a few moments of quiet prayer.
O Lord God, we come together as we continue our journey in faith. We thank you for your gift of these brothers and sisters, companions on the journey, and the insights of this Christian community. We model ourselves after you, O God, the perfect community of Father, Son and Spirit.
Father, you have called us to be Christ's disciples and to be guided by his Spirit so that we will have the wisdom and the courage to evangelize our world in his name. You have shared with us the amazing Good News of your love for us and for all of your creation. How can we keep something so wonderful to ourselves? We ask your guidance and strength as we gather in Jesus' name.
If you wish to do so, sing together "How Can I Keep from Singing?" by Ed Gutfreund (found in the Music Issue published by Oregon Catholic Press) or choose another appropriate song.
Jesus calls us through his Church to the mission of evangelization, a mission in which we share the Good News of Christ's gift of salvation. This is done most effectively through witness, proclamation and service. We need to be whole and integrated: unless we build our house on solid rock rather than sand, we will not stand firm. We live our faith in our families, in our work world, in our parishes and in all our relationships. As Christians who live in a secular society, we are challenged to discern values and guidelines for living rightly.
Take a few minutes to read the following reflection silently or aloud. During this, our first week in the Season of evangelization, we reflect on the meaning of that large word. Very simply put, evangelization means to share with others the joy that we have found in the Good News of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, evangelization will take the form of words spoken directly to others about the life or teachings of Jesus. More often than not, however, our evangelization will occur quietly in the very way in which we live our lives. The life and teachings of Jesus become so internalized by us, his disciples, that our actions, attitudes and responses to both the frustrations and the successes of life speak volumes about the Good News.
More than anything, it seems, it is the joy of the Christian life, authentically lived, that most attracts others. We have been reminded that our lives may be the only Gospel some people will ever hear. Our smile, our hopefulness, our spirit of service and love-rooted in our belief in Jesus Christ and in the dignity instilled in each person by God-are some characteristics that distinguish the believer in what has been described as a cynical and self-serving time. A child of three was playing on the floor of a library with some toys his mother had brought for him. She was nearby looking at books on the shelves.
When the child looked up, he could not see her. He cried loudly and fearfully, suddenly aware of the strangeness of this public place. She responded immediately, coming out from behind a bookshelf. Bending down and touching him, she earnestly comforted him, "Here I am, Patrick; I would never leave you." The boy smiled, turned and resumed his play. His rock had returned; he was secure and joy was once again possible. How like this little child are we in our need to feel God's presence within us.
We are invited by God to experience that zest in life. In the second century, St. Irenaeus captured this reality beautifully when he wrote, "The glory of God is the living human being and the life of the human person is the vision of God." We are not meant for a dull routine, but for Good News: joy, hope, love and faith. In the Psalmist's words, "Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Ps 30:5). Trusting in God, we can be people filled with joy who live and witness to Christ's redemption in all areas of our lives.
Take a few moments of silence to reflect on the following. Then share your reflections.
Recall a person who by his or her life has brought to you the message of the Gospel. Who was the person and what was he or she like? When am I most joyful? What truly fills me with contentment? How do I share that sense of contentment and fulfillment with others whom I know?
Read Matthew 7:24-29 Pause for a few minutes of quiet reflection, allowing the Word of God to enter deeply into you.
Take a few minutes to read the following reflection silently or aloud. In this reading from Matthew, we hear reference to the rock. Jesus tells us that the house built on rock is able to withstand any destructive force that tries to undermine it. Anyone would desire such security. Imagine the freedom it would give! The person dwelling in a house built on sand would be constantly worried, wondering when it would give way to the wildness of the elements.
That person knows instinctively that it is only a matter of time before everything collapses.
Jesus gives us guidance on how to build our house on rock. He clearly, but very simply, says the wise builder is the man or woman who hears Christ's words and puts them into practice. This Scripture passage concludes the very powerful section of Matthew's Gospel that contains what can be termed the proclamation of the reign of God. From chapters 3 through 7, we read of God's special plan for Jesus: his Baptism, his temptations and his challenging words.
These chapters do not take long to read, but they contain teachings whose meaning we could not exhaust in a lifetime, teachings that have had a profound and lasting effect on the world. From the proclamation of the Beatitudes to the teaching of the Lord's Prayer to the startling command, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (5:44) and so much more, Jesus teaches us with authority about a new way, about the joy possible for us as we live more fully in the presence of God.
We are challenged to live lives built on that firm rock of God's love made visible in Jesus Christ in each and every moment of our day. For most of us, the witness we give to others happens in our everyday lives with family and friends, co-workers and acquaintances, strangers and those we meet by chance. Do we carry the Good News to those with whom we live, to those with whom we work, to those whom we meet in the everyday events of our lives?
Take a few moments of silence to reflect on the following questions. Then share your reflections.
What is a story about Jesus or some words of Jesus that have particular meaning to me?
How have I tried to put these words into action?
For whom could I be a rock? Who needs to hear the Gospel from me? In what ways could I personally share the Good News with others? What might inhibit me? How will I give witness?
No sharing would be complete without a commitment to putting our faith into practice. As you reflected on God's Word and shared insights with others in your small community, you were open to the grace of God. What is the specific action God is inviting you to take to change your own life or to respond to someone else's need? Choose a specific, concrete action that flows from your sharing. The examples below are given only as ideas to generate a creative response .
If you wish to do so, share your commitment with others in your small community.
Be prepared to share with others the ways in which you may have found greater joy and how you shared it with others.
Each person is invited to come and take a rock as a sign of his or her joy in receiving the gift of faith. The leader then invites each person to reflect quietly on the meaning of his or her faith. Pause for a few moments of silence.
|Leader:||Jesus sets us firmly within his Church, built upon the rock of Peter's faith. May he bless each of us and our Christian community with an unfaltering faith.|
Please read and reflect on the upcoming session, Sharing and Inviting, before the next meeting so that you can come prepared to listen and share.
Excerpts from Renew 2000 text are presented in italics.
The leader prepares the prayer space for the meeting by providing a candle and some various sizes and shapes of rocks, at least one for each person in the small community.
Each person is invited to come and take a rock as a sign of his or her joy in receiving the gift of faith.
Jesus sets us firmly within his Church, built upon the rock of Peter's faith. May he bless each of us and our Christian community with an unfaltering faith.
This literalism has gone a bit too far. The rock, a figurative term of the Gospel indicating solidness, sturdiness and immovability, is just that - a symbol. Focusing Faith on physical rocks does subtly imply worship of a "sacred creation." True Faith is placed in Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. St. Peter had such Faith and so must we. If anything were handed out, why not use a sacramental such as a holy card of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or similar? The CCC tells us:
CCC #424 "Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." [Mt 16:16] On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church. [Cf. Mt 16:18; St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4, 3: PL 54, 150-152; 51, 1: PL 54, 308-309; 62,2: PL 54, 350-351; 83, 3: PL 54, 431-432]"
We model ourselves after you, O God, the perfect community of Father, Son and Spirit.
Renew season 3 repeats the same errors as in season 1. For an analysis of God "as community" see the review of Season 1 week 1.
As Christians who live in a secular society, we are challenged to discern values and guidelines for living rightly.
Discerning values is easy in the Catholic Church - all the moral values are well defined and published in the Catechism, Papal Encyclicals or documents from the Magisterium. Ask any holy priest - not a modernist or liberal - about any moral issue and he can tell you the answer or where to look it up in the Church's teachings. This is one absolutely unmatched benefit of the Catholic Faith, which comes directly from God, compared to any other human faith, since each person can know with absolute certainty what values are right and wrong. The same applies to spiritual values as well (i.e. the Beatitudes or Spiritual Works of Mercy).
The more sinister implication of "guidelines for living rightly" hints that the Churches teachings are merely guidelines or suggestions, that meaning one need only obey as one feels like. In other words, pluralism. The important distinction is that the Church's moral teachings are not just guidelines, but objective Truth from the very Word of God which must be followed in order for a soul to inherit the Kingdom of God. Ignoring or rejecting the Truth, which is sinful, places a soul on a path to hell.
Very simply put, evangelization means to share with others the joy that we have found in the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Notice the subtle focus on what is evangelized - our experience - the "joy we have found" - which is consistent with the faith sharing process as discussed in the Season 3 Introduction analysis. We must instead focus on sharing the Good News itself and Jesus Christ, not our personal experience. In Evangelization In The Modern World, Pope Paul VI tells us exactly what is to be evangelized, essentially it is the Truth of the Kingdom of God as taught by the Church. Relating personal experience is only useful insofar as to reinforce the Truth of the Gospel, and not to proclaim a small faith community opinion as Truth.
8. As an evangelizer, Christ first of all proclaims a kingdom, the kingdom of God; and this is so important that, by comparison, everything else becomes "the rest," which is "given in addition." Only the kingdom therefore is absolute and it makes everything else relative. The Lord will delight in describing in many ways the happiness of belonging to this kingdom (a paradoxical happiness which is made up of things that the world rejects), the demands of the kingdom and its Magna Charta, the heralds of the kingdom, its mysteries, its children, the vigilance and fidelity demanded of whoever awaits its definitive coming.
11. Christ accomplished this proclamation of the kingdom of God through the untiring preaching of a word which, it will be said, has no equal elsewhere: "Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it." "And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. There has never been anybody who has spoken like him." His words reveal the secret of God, His plan and His promise, and thereby change the heart of man and his destiny.
15. The Church is the depositary of the Good News to be proclaimed. The promises of the New Alliance in Jesus Christ, the teaching of the Lord and the apostles, the Word of life, the sources of grace and of God's loving kindness, the path of salvationall these things have been entrusted to her. It is the content of the Gospel, and therefore of evangelization, that she preserves as a precious living heritage, not in order to keep it hidden but to communicate it.
CCC #425 The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." [Acts 4:20] And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us - that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete. [1 Jn 1:1-4]
How like this little child are we in our need to feel God's presence within us.
Here the subtle focus is on feelings - emotions - rather than on Faith. We cannot be certain with emotions, which are easily swayed due our wounded nature from original sin, since they can be perverted with vices (CCC #417-418, 1768, 1811). All the great saints, like St. Therese the Little Flower and St. John of the Cross, experienced terrible dryness, meaning they had no "feeling" of God's presence, but yet were very, very close to God. In fact, the whole book Dark Night of the Soul is all about this situation. The CCC tells us that faith is the answer to such a test from God - not focusing on a way to satisfy our emotions (feelings).
CCC #2731 Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness. Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith clinging faithfully to Jesus in his agony and in his tomb. "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." [John 12:24] If dryness is due to the lack of roots, because the word has fallen on rocky soil, the battle requires conversion. [Luke 8:6,13]
CCC #2754 The principle difficulties in the practice of prayer are distraction and dryness. The remedy lies in faith, vigilance and conversion of heart.
The example of the little child looking for his mother is a good example of having to "see to believe" and a very poor one for strong Faith. The child only calmed down after seeing his mother. This is childish - not childlike - Faith. Jesus tells us simply, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." (John 20:29). That's true childlike Faith, believing God is there when you don't see Him because He told you that He would always be there for you, emotions notwithstanding.
3. Reflect on what brings you joy and arrange your days so that joy has a chance to flourish.
The focus of action is on pleasing the self rather than God. There are many things which are difficult and unpleasant for people but that make God happy, such as forgiving injury and insult (see the Corporal Works and Spiritual Works of Mercy). We must die to self, which as we know is a difficult life-long journey. "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). For a masterpiece on this journey, see St. John of the Cross' (a Doctor of the Church) book Ascent of Mt. Carmel.
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