TODAY: LIVING JESUS THE CRUCIFIED SAVIOR IN SUPERNATURAL JOY

I originally published what follows in May 2016 and believe it has something to say to us today. It was written by Enzo Teodori, who died five months afterwards. He refers to the reflection of Fr Jetté that I used in Friday’s entry of “St Eugene Speaks.” (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=4255)

This is what I wrote then.

I received this reflection today from one of the Oblate lay associates who is very very seriously ill in Italy. In this powerful and moving reflection, he shares his lived understanding of the Good Friday vision of St Eugene, that is our inheritance as members of the Mazenodian Family – this is the meaning of oblation:

“A little echo to the masterful reflections of Fr.  Jetté you reported in ‘Eugene speaks to us’ today on May 6.

Unity with the Crucified Jesus and Savior gives one a supernatural joy that inspires in one a strong desire to make others happy and to put oneself in their service.

Because of my illness, I am compelled to remain in the house for many hours. So I thought of sending to my closer acquaintances, via whatsapp,  the Word of the day with a little comment, to give busy people a little time of daily “recreation.” Well, I started with the “group” of siblings and in-laws, and now, about 80 people receive it, with very edifying reactions. Another simple experience: although I am incapable of eating, I try to cook nice things for my wife and my children.

These are two simple experiences, two expressions of the supernatural joy that I experience in unity with Jesus the Crucified Savior. Paradoxically, it is a joy that is nourished by the pain: the stronger the physical pain, but above all the moral, the more intense is the joy and stronger the desire to make others happy.

What is the key to unity with the Crucified Savior? The illness has brought down my world, my desires, my plans; everything is lost and the vision of Providence that followed them has given way to the image of abandonment. Contemplating and meditating on Jesus Crucified, I realized that his act led him to the resurrection: he unconditionally entrusted his spirit to the Father. With this act, even humanly, He took on the Father’s will. His great desire to be recognized as the Savior, which was the reason for his incarnation, desire agreed to with the Father, collapsed on the cross. In the human perspective it collapsed, in the human understanding of the will of God. Trusting in the collapse, in the perception of abandonment (but as to my mission … had we not agreed, I and You, my Father ?!), Jesus humanly has embraced fully the outlook of God, and that’s the resurrection, and here is the full joy, and here is the overcoming of the limits of human desires, even the most holy, like taking care of one’s family effectively.

Illness is to live the abandonment, the collapse, on an ongoing basis, unraveled over time. The reliance must be renewed every day and several times a day. The grace that comes from relying unconditionally makes sense, even if you do not understand, as Providence in action. It makes you understand, even if you do not see how, that the Father is implementing a plan of love in your soul, in your body and in your story.

The more intense the pain is, the more the Spirit convinces you that God is building, drawing a masterpiece. If the pain is relatively little, it makes you think that God is working on a sketch, a draft; when the pain is very strong it makes you think that God is drawing the Sistine Chapel in your life. And masterpieces, you know, take years and years of hard work ….

So, I think Fr. Jetté has expressed very skillfully that unity with Jesus the Crucified Savior that gives one supernatural joy that inspires a strong desire to make others happy, to put oneself at their service.”

What a gift to read this and be able to share it again! May every reader of this reflection join in prayerful gratitude for this son of St Eugene and his young family. May he rest in peace and intercede for us in our time of need.

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LEARN ABOUT ST. EUGENE DE MAZENOD FROM YOUR HOME!

Class 3 of the online course “Eugene de Mazenod 101” is available from today.

 

All uploaded classes will remain available until the end of the year: https://moodle.ost.edu/course/index.php?categoryid=28

(Please note that the first part of this page refers to the course in Spanish – and that you have to scroll below the Spanish to reach the English section)

 

Conditions permitting, we hope to launch this online course in French in June.

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THE TRANSFORMATION THAT OUR OUTLOOK UNDERGOES WHEN IT IS IN CONTACT WITH THE MYSTERY OF THE CROSS

Reflecting on this pivotal constitution of our Mazenodian spirituality, former Oblate Superior General, Fernand Jetté wrote that it : “expresses the purification and transformation that our outlook undergoes when it is in contact with the mystery of the cross:

Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3: 10).

CC&RR, Constitution 4


“Our outlook on the world becomes that of Jesus the Savior crucified. It was the Founder’s outlook after his ‘conversion’, how he saw himself and the world in terms of Christ’s blood. The expressions: ‘souls at the price of Christ’s blood’, ‘who have cost him his blood’, recur again and again in his writings. 

Farther on, in Rule 12, we will find the complementary expression: ‘to love others as Jesus loves them’. Indeed, the Oblate’s apostolic spirit consists in contemplating the world with the eyes of Christ, loving it with the heart of Christ, and working wholeheartedly with Christ in the work of its redemption.” (F. Jetté, The Apostolic Man, p.58-59)

When this was written in 1992, the concept and profile of the Mazenodian family had not emerged clearly. Today we would say “Indeed, the Mazenodian Family’s apostolic spirit consists in contemplating the world with the eyes of Christ, loving it with the heart of Christ, and working wholeheartedly with Christ in the work of its redemption”

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TODAY LET US HELP  ONE ANOTHER TO SEE EVENTS THROUGH THE EYES OF THE CRUCIFIED AND RISEN SAVIOR

The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission. Like the apostle Paul, we “preach Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2: 2). If we bear in our body the death of Jesus, it is with the hope that the life of Jesus, too, may be seen in our body (cf. 2 Cor 4:10). Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3: 10).        OMI Constitutions and Rules, Constitution 4

Eugene’s conversion happened when he became aware that his past attitude and behavior was leading him to death, to mortal sin. He changed when his eyes were opened to recognize that he was bearing the death of Jesus in his life. He changed radically and in embracing new life, it was “with the hope that the life of Jesus, too” would be seen in his body. It requires consistent effort to maintain the effects of this new life, or else we are in danger of the “cheap grace” made famous by Bonhoeffer.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”   Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We have the Cross – but it is the door that opens to resurrection!

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I WENT TO PLACE ALL UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN

While assisting those who were suffering so greatly from the cholera epidemic, Eugene and his uncle, Bishop Fortuné, arranged to focus the attention of the people of Marseilles on concentrated prayer. The population had a special devotion to the small sanctuary of Notre Dame de la Garde on the hill dominating the city. The statue of the “Good Mother” which represented Mary’s “keeping guard” over the city and over the sea, was particularly loved by the people. Eugene wrote:

We are going to offer solemn prayers. Tomorrow we are bringing down the statue of Our Lady de la Garde for exposition in the cathedral for three days. Afterwards we will have a procession of the Blessed Sacrament for all who wish to take part…

Letter to Casimir Aubert, 10 March 1835, EO VIII n 508

Writing to his mother some days later he describes this event:

We are now confronted by a quite ravishing spectacle. It is a holy explosion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, which was displayed not only in the course of the journey down from the Mount to the cathedral, but is still going on with a sustained trust. …

Letter to his mother, March 1835, EO XV  n. 176

Two years later there was another outbreak of the epidemic:

On the feast of the Assumption, I officiated pontifically at the cathedral both in the morning and in the evening. I took part in the general procession and gave Benediction in the evening. On Sunday in the octave, I went to say Holy Mass at Notre-Dame de la Garde to place myself, all of our men, and the whole diocese, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, undated entry August 1837, EO XVIII

The same devotion was repeated in the epidemic of 1854 in Marseilles.

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TODAY LET US HELP ONE ANOTHER TO FOCUS ON THE CROSS AND RESURRECTION

The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission. Like the apostle Paul, we “preach Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2: 2). If we bear in our body the death of Jesus, it is with the hope that the life of Jesus, too, may be seen in our body (cf. 2 Cor 4:10). Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3: 10).

OMI Constitutions and Rules, Constitution 4

Detail of an icon written by Lauretta Agolli

For the young Eugene de Mazenod, his encounter with the Cross was a stepping stone to new life – to resurrection. Some of us were brought up to keep our gaze at the foot of the Cross, reflecting on our misery and on how much Jesus suffered because of us.

It is true that we can never meditate sufficiently on the price paid by Jesus to rescue us from our misery. He did, however, die to remove us from our misery and bring us to the fullness of life in the resurrection. “If we bear in our body the death of Jesus, it is with the hope that the life of Jesus, too, may be seen in our body.”

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IN THE UNCERTAINTY AND PAIN OF THESE DAYS, SAINT EUGENE DE MAZENOD HELPS US TO FOCUS.

In the darkness and insecurity we are living through, we recall a 25 year-old in Aix en Provence whose life was insecure because he had no clear sense of direction.

I looked for happiness outside of God and for too long with resulting unhappiness.

As he struggled to find meaning in what was going on he understood the presence of God in a new way one Good Friday, looking at the Cross, and realized the only focus that could made enduring sense for the rest of his life. As he looked at the Cross he learnt to focus from darkness to light

Detail of an icon written by Lauretta Agolli

Never was my soul more satisfied, never did it feel such happiness; for in the midst of this flood of tears, despite my grief, or rather because of my grief, my soul took wings towards its final end, towards God its only good whose loss it felt so keenly.

 Just the memory of it fills my heart with a sweet consolation. Thus I had looked for happiness outside of God, and outside of God I found only disorder and anxiety.

Let me at least make up for lost time by redoubling my love for God. May all my actions, thoughts, etc., be directed towards that end. What more glorious occupation than to act in everything and for everything only for God, to love God above all else, to love God all the more as one who has loved God too late.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Retreat Journal, December 1814, EO XV n.130

“Just the memory of it fills my heart with a sweet consolation” – an invitation to recall the “God-moments” in our lives and to allow them to help us to refocus on what counts.

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WHEN WE CANNOT GO INTO A CHURCH BUILT OF STONES …

The current pandemic has not made it possible to attend Mass in our churches. I share this  text from Ciara Lubich which reminds us of the promise of Jesus:

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am present among them”

Matthew  18:20

Even though we may not be physically present to one another, we can make this presence real among us by declaring that we desire that this be a reality with others who declare the same desire. Jesus assures us that he IS present!

Chiara Lubich writes:

What struck me most, perhaps, in looking more into the reality of his presence, was that for him just a few things are enough. All that is needed is two or three people, and wherever he is, he creates what he came on earth to bring us: the Church. And so he aroused within me an immense passion to build thousands and thousands of churches, hundreds of thousands, millions, really millions of churches, made not of stone, but of two or three people united in his name scattered throughout the world. . . .
The idea of being able to build, with Jesus in person in our midst, an infinite number of churches, is the idea that I find so exhilarating in these days. I would like to communicate it to all of you, to tell you that we have a treasure in our hands…

Let s make this presence of Jesus a reality wherever we are.

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I FOCUSED ON THE IMMENSE GOODNESS OF GOD AND OUR LORD TOWARDS US

Reflecting on the children in the rural parishes to whom Bishop Eugene was administering the sacrament of confirmation, he exclaimed:

However, how does it happen that, when I speak to them in the style in which I think we should always speak to them, those children pay extraordinary attention? How does it happen as today again, I saw some of them weeping just like some adults who attended the ceremony?
I did not, however, use frightening language, but on the contrary I focused on the immense goodness of God and our Lord towards us, and I explained that it was especially expressed in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

A clear example of “being” in order to “do,” Eugene shared with them the love for God that he experienced in his own life.

Those children understood me perfectly, you could see that they shared in the sentiments of which I was speaking, with the fervor that God communicated tangibly to my soul. Besides that, I admit that I myself savor that kind of instruction, which I always give with indescribable consolation, which do me as much good as those who are listening to me

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 13 September 1837, EO XVIII

The essence of being a missionary is to communicate that which we are living in our relationship with God.

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THEY DRYLY TEACH THEM THE LETTER OF THE CATECHISM… BUT DO NOT TRY TO BRING OUT GOD’S GOODNESS, THE INFINITE LOVE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

On a pastoral visit to some rural parishes for confirmation, Bishop Eugene commented on the knowledge of the children.

A visit to Caillols where the parishes of Saint Julien, Camoins and Chateau-Gombert had come together… I was very pleased with the childrens’ attention to my instruction which was drawn precisely from the indifference or rather the carelessness that they, as all other children, give to supernatural matters. Oh! how poorly do they instruct them! It is only too true that no one makes an effort to stimulate in their souls the sentiments to which they are nevertheless susceptible. They dryly teach them the letter of the catechism, more or less well explained, but do not try to bring out God’s goodness, the infinite love of Our Lord Jesus Christ for people, and do not form their hearts.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 13 September 1837, EO XVIII

While never watering down religious teaching and moral demands, Eugene always tried to communicate his passionate love for God in response to the love which he personally experienced from Jesus the Savior.

An important reminder to us who are teachers of the faith as parents, catechists, teachers or preachers: it is all about God’s goodness and the infinite love of Jesus Christ, with all the commitments and responsibilities entailed in that relationship and its expression.

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