Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sunday before Ascension - Carmelite reflection

In today's Gospel Jesus announces His Ascension, saying: "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world, again I leave the world, and I go to the Father." He presents the time spent on earth as a long journey, a pilgrimage. Every Christian should consider his own life, as St Teresa put it, "a night spent in a bad inn" (Way of Perfection, 40) during which his heart should be focused on eternal life. Jesus continues: "the hour cometh when I will no more speak to you in proverbs, but will show you plainly of the Father." Here He refers to the coming Pentecost, to the intervention of the Holy Spirit by whom He will enlighten the Apostles, giving them a clear understanding of the divine mysteries, so that the Father will no longer be unknown to them. If the Holy Spirit does not enlighten us, all that we can study and learn about the things of God is a dead letter, nothing. Yet, another important subject is brought today to our attention. Many times before, Jesus had spoken to the Apostles about prayer and the way they should pray; today he reveals the secret of efficacious prayer, saying: "If you ask the Father anything in My Name, He will give it you." With these words, Jesus gives the Apostles an unfailing means of approaching the Father, to present themselves in His own Name, the Name of the God Man who, because He sacrificed Himself for the glory of His Father and for our salvation, deserves to be "heard for His reverence" (Heb 5:7). Therefore, it is clear, that our prayer, as well as all our good works, have no value unless they are founded on the infinite merits of Jesus. We have no sufficiency in ourselves for we are "unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10), but all our sufficiency comes from the Crucified Lord. Therefore, looking at Him, the first condition of prayer made in His Name is humility, the realistic sense of our nothingness. The second condition, is the boundless confidence in the merits of Our Lord, which surpass all our poverty, misery, necessities, needs. In view of Jesus' infinite merits, we can never ask too much in His Name; we can never be too bold in imploring the plenitude of divine grace for our souls, in aspiring to the sanctity. There is no fault, no want of fidelity, no evil tendency, no sin, which, if sincerely detested, cannot be cleansed, purified, and pardoned by the Blood of Jesus; there is no weakness which He cannot cure, strengthen, and transform. Moreover, there is no creature of good will, no matter how weak and insignificant, who, in the Name of Jesus, cannot aspire to sanctity. However, there is the third condition to make the prayer efficacious. Our life MUST correspond to our prayer, our faith MUST be translated into good works: "Be you doer of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was." (James 1:22-27). These words of St James reminds us strongly of the practical character of Christian life. Vain is our prayer, vain our confidence in God, if we do not add our generous efforts to perform all our duties, to live up to our high vocation. We can, and we should hope for everything in the Name of Jesus, but we need to make an effort on our part to be entirely faithful to Him, and He expect this from us.

Let us pray with St Augustine: "Grant, O God, that [Your Son's] goodness may overcome my wickedness, that His meekness may atone for my perversity, that His mildness may dominate my irascibility. May His humility make amends for my pride; His patience, for my impatience; His benignity, for my harshness; his obedience for my disobedience; His tranquility, for my anxiety, His sweetness, for my bitterness; may His charity blot out my cruelty!"