TAKE HIM INTO YOUR HEART AND BE NOT TROUBLED ABOUT ANYTHING

So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. (John 16:22)

A commentator on today’s Gospel (John 16:20-23) reflects on several possible meanings of this anguish, and writes: “is Jesus speaking of his seeming absence in the prayer of his faithful ones, the ‘dark night of the soul’ when all satisfaction is denied, and God seems simply absent and hidden? Or are they all metaphors and for the difficulties of life?”(Universalis)

In the Mazenodian world, the nine days between the feasts of St Eugene and Blessed Joseph Gerard (21-29 May) are dedicated to praying for vocations to the family of St Eugene: Missionary Oblates, Associates, Cooperators, Partners, youth etc. It is an opportunity to recall all those in the Mazenodian Family who have accompanied us in our moments of darkness, who have helped us to find light and meaning and hope and strength.

St Eugene regarded himself as the father of a missionary family, and he cared for and accompanied people to discover light in the darkness of their lives. Writing to an Oblate suffering from severe depression in 1823:

Courage, my dear friend. Very great saints have been tried like you, but they became saints in spite of these circumstances because they did not cease to obey; courage, once more, my dear friend, we are all down on the floor praying for you so that you will bear this hard trial like a valiant soldier of Jesus Christ. This so amiable Master, our model, did not yield to despair in the garden of Olives; into what an agony he was plunged nevertheless! Hold on to him and fear nothing, drink the cup of his bitterness since he allows to let you share in his passion, but do not doubt that he will soon fill you with his sweetest joys. Until then you must keep your peace and obey…

At the moment of communion, tell him lovingly about all your sorrows: “O Lord I am oppressed be my security!” [Is. 38, 14]. Embrace his feet in spirit, protest that you will never separate yourself from him, that you wish to love him for ever, then take him into your heart and be not troubled about anything.

Today, whatever anguish we experience, let us hear Jesus and St Eugene say:  your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”

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GOD HAS SENT ME TO BRING THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR – CELEBRATING THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENE DE MAZENOD

Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)

The Gospel proper to this feast of St Eugene de Mazenod (Luke 4:16-21) narrates the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus: “God has sent me to bring the Good News to the poor.” This is the Gospel text that stood out for Eugene, and which he made part of himself and incarnated and lived for the rest of his life. Today it continues to be the guiding motto of the Mazenodian Family, especially given as a testament among his dying words:

Among yourselves, charity, charity, charity … and outside, zeal for the salvation of souls.

Icon by Oblate Partner, Lauretta Agolli

Today we recall the example of how he lived this text, in 1814, when brought the comfort of the Gospel and the Sacraments to the Austrian prisoners who were dying of the typhus epidemic. He not only ministered and assisted them in their suffering, but he also caught the illness himself and was on the point of death. Countless examples can be remembered during the many years that he was a bishop in Marseilles, his inspired leadership and pastoral care gave help and hope to those who were suffering from the repeated cholera epidemics.

Throughout his life he showed compassion and care for the poor, the sick and all who were regarded as the most abandoned. Today, he continues to inspire and to intercede for us in our time of need.

May we be open to hear the Good News of salvation again today, and to give flesh to it in our dealings with those most in need around us. Let us become the “Good News” of salvation!

Happy feastday to all the members of the Mazenodian Family!

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THE TEACHING OF JESUS CONTINUED THROUGH SAINT EUGENE DE MAZENOD

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now” (John 16:12)

Today’s Gospel (John 16:12-15) continues the Last Supper narrative where Jesus is preparing his followers for life after his death and resurrection. He had taught them much, but they could not absorb it all. This is why the Holy Spirit would guide them to remember and understand all that he had been and done and said.

The Holy Spirit has continued fulfilling this role until the present day. Often through calling people and giving them a special ability (charism) to serve God’s people. Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of one of these charismatic figures: Saint Eugene de Mazenod. He was one of the instruments through him the Holy Spirit guided the devastated Church in France back to Jesus as Savior. The Holy Spirit has continued to use the instrumentality of Eugene’s charism for two centuries, through his Mazenodian Family, to continue to teach to people in 67 countries the “I have much more to tell you” of Jesus.

Eugene’s words, written in 1818, continue to be a spurring call for us today:

Thus, it is supremely important, it is urgently imperative, that we lead the multitude of lost sheep back to the fold, that we teach these degenerate Christians who Jesus Christ is…  We must lead people to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians, and, finally, we must help them to become saints. (The Preface to the CC&RR)

At the Shrine of Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseilles, built by Bishop Eugene de Mazenod, there is this statue of Veronica wiping the face of the suffering Jesus. It is dedicated to all the missionaries who left from this city to cross the sea to bring the consolation of the Gospel. Today let us give thanks for all those who have brought us to a deeper knowledge of God and continue to do so.

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EACH ACT IN LIFE IS AN OCCASION FOR PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH THE LORD

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. (John 16:7)

At the Last Supper the disciples were sad at the announcement of the impending departure of Jesus. In today’s Gospel (John 16:5-11) Jesus tells them that it is important that he leaves them physically, because now the Holy Spirit will dwell in them. He stretches their minds to understand that they cannot cling to a fixed idea of him, but must be open to understanding that God can be present in many ways.

The ever-changing world in which Eugene lived (he lived through 7 radical changes of political rule in 79 years) forced him to adapt, while keeping his vision anchored on the Savior. His spirit is beautifully captured in the Oblate Rule of Life:

We achieve unity in our life only in and through Jesus Christ. Our ministry involves us in a variety of tasks, yet each act in life is an occasion for personal encounter with the Lord, who through us gives himself to others and through others gives himself to us. (C 31)

 

 

The events of these months are challenging us to stop clinging to unchanging ideas but to allow the Holy Spirit to open our minds to discover the presence of God in different ways as a different world unfolds around us.

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FILLING EVERYTHING WITHIN ME WITH THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST MY SAVIOR

But I have told you all this, so that when the time for it comes you may remember that I told you. (John 16:4)

Let us remember that the words of today’s Gospel (John 15:26 – 16:4) were spoken at the Last Supper, where Jesus was preparing his disciples for his death and resurrection. From now on they will to have to learn to recognize his presence in a different way. The Holy Spirit will continue the work of Jesus.

His disciples will be criticized for their values, judged for their behavior and badly-treated for their beliefs (as we continue to experience today), but the Holy Spirit will keep them strong by reminding them of all that Jesus means and teaches.

St Eugene lived this reality in many situations as a Christian, a priest, a missionary religious and as a bishop. Never once did he despair or give up – he always relied on the strength of the Holy Spirit. Through prayer and his daily Gospel study and meditation, he “remembered” all that Jesus was, and was guided and loved by him.

On retreat in 1811 he prayed:

that the Holy Spirit… may come to rest on me in all its fullness, filling everything within me with the love of Jesus Christ my Saviour, in such a way that I live and breathe no longer but in him, consume myself in his love, serving him and spreading the news of how lovable he is. 

We have been baptized and are in relationship with Jesus and his Father, and we have received the Holy Spirit. Let us remember all this throughout the day, and may it be our strength to face and cope with what is happening in the world and around us today.

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ORAISON: PRAY WITH THE MAZENODIAN FAMILY ON MAY 17

“In the prolonged silent prayer we make each day, we let ourselves be molded by the Lord, and find in him the inspiration of our conduct”  (OMI Rule of Life, 33).

Icon by Oblate Partner, Lauretta Agolli

The practice of Oraison was an important part of St. Eugene’s daily prayer during which he entered into communion with the members of his missionary family. While they were all in France it was easy for them to gather in prayer at approximately the same time. When Oblate missionaries started to be sent to different continents it was no longer possible to pray at the same time, yet each day there was a time when they stopped and prayed in union with one another – even though not at the same time.

This is a practice that Eugene wanted the members of his religious family to maintain. This is why you are invited to take part in this practice of Oraison on Sunday, May 17, 2020, as we commemorate the anniversary of St. Eugene de Mazenod’s death on May 21, 1861.

Some suggested texts to pray with:

Hebrews 13: 7-8

Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Excerpt from: Marcello Zago, O.M.I., Renewing Ourselves in the Charism of Eugene de Mazenod (January 25th, 1995).

Eugene de Mazenod still remains a living person with whom we have a personal relationship. Since he lived between 1782 and 1861 a life rich in events and responsibilities, he owes his importance not simply to his achievements and intuitions, to the Institute he founded and the movement he created in the Church. To this day he continues to relate to us and we to him through the communion of saints. So, remembering him is not enough. We must develop a personal rapport, always more intimate, with him. That is the reason why I invite you together to focus your attention on the Founder, considering him as

-a saint to imitate,

-a founder to follow,

-a teacher to heed

-a father to love,

-an intercessor to invoke.

Let us pause to reflect on how we recognize these qualities in St. Eugene today. The complete article by Father Marcello Zago (OMI Superior General 1986-1998) is worth reading: https://www.omiworld.org/wp-content/uploads/RENEWING-OURSELVES-IN-THE-CHARISM-OF-EUGENE-DE-MAZENOD.pdf

These are the words that St Eugene addressed to his family on his deathbed. They apply to the whole Mazenodian Family today.

Bishop, one of us asked him, give us some words to pass on to all our brothers. It will make them very happy!

Be sure to tell them that I die happy… that I die happy that God was so good as to choose me to found the Congregation of the Oblates in the Church.

Bishop, would you reveal to us the last wish in your heart.

Practice among yourselves charity … charity…. charity… and outside, zeal for the salvation of souls.

-Circular letter of Father Fabre, 1861 after the death of the Founder.

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MAY THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST BE EVER IN OUR HEARTS!

I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father. (John 15: 15)

“How does God love me, and how do I reflect this love to others?” is the question that Jesus explains in today’s Gospel (John 15:12-17). It is a love expressed, not in abstract concepts, but in everyday relationships. Through our baptism, Jesus makes us ongoing participants in his relationship with his Father – not as unworthy fearful servants but as friends called to an intimacy expressed in love.

St Eugene’s daily sentiment:

“May the love of Jesus Christ be ever in our hearts!” (1814)

This led him to his vocation

that called me to devote myself to the service and to the happiness of my neighbor whom I loved with the love of Jesus Christ for all people.” (1839)

We are living these days in hope and in fearful confusion: we strive to begin to restore normality to our activities and interactions, and yet we still face the unknown menace of the virus.

In this hope and uncertainty let us remember that what really counts is the conviction that we are truly “called friends” and it is from this vision that we are invited to live each of these days.

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A MOVING SEA BETWEEN THE SHORES OF OUR SOULS

“A person can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends” (John 15:13-14)

Every sentence of today’s Gospel (John 15: 9-17) is an invitation to deep reflection and transformation.

It is about the love between Jesus and his Father, shared between Jesus and his disciples and shared among each of us. It is not a bond of love, but better expressed as “a moving sea between the shores of our souls” (Kahlil Gibran).

St. Eugene understood the power of this “moving sea” when, in 1830, he insisted that

“Charity is the pivot on which our whole existence turns.”

Repeated again on his deathbed:

“Among yourselves, charity, charity, charity.”

Today let us focus on this moving sea of God’s love overwhelming us. The pandemic bombards us with so many powerful forces – but nothing can take away the power of the overwhelming love of the one who gave his life for us, his friends.

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REMAIN WITH ME, WITH ME IN YOU

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty.” (John 15: 5)

In the context of the last Supper, Jesus is preparing his disciples to live in the world without him being physically present. In today’s Gospel (John 15:1-8), the key word is “remain” and it is repeated 10 times. The image for “remaining” is that Jesus is the Vine and you and I are the branches kept alive by mutual indwelling in love. The sap of our daily life comes from the Vine, and it produces fruit in and through us.

St Eugene de Mazenod meditated on himself using the image of a tree:

I was a tree damaged by original sin. The head of the household could have had it cut down and thrown it in the fire. He preferred to transplant it into good soil for it to bear good fruit. Such was the effect of baptism.

…Transplanted into the blessed soil irrigated by the blood of Jesus Christ, enriched with his very substance, etc., what fruit did I produce? Great God! (1814)

We have been living and continue to live challenging days, necessitating the importance of an awareness of us being the branches and of an Indwelling that challenges us to produce fruit in an unusual context. Let us remember that Jesus said “remain” ten times in today’s Gospel – and he constantly keeps repeating it to us throughout the day.

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LET US PLACE ALL THESE CONTRADICTIONS AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS OF OUR GOOD JESUS

“Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”  (John 14: 27)

Peace in today’s Gospel (John 14:27-31), does not essentially mean “feel good” or “lack of violence” – it is about the covenant relationship with God that no one or nothing can take away (see Romans chapter 8, especially verse 38-39: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”)

It is peace with God because Jesus as Savior reconciled us on the Cross and sealed it with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Saint Eugene writing to his mother in 1811 (XIV n 93):

But would we want to win heaven at no cost to ourselves? No; so let us place all these contradictions at the foot of the cross of our good Jesus; let us offer him throughout the day all that we are doing to please him, and after that let us be at peace.

He urges her to unite herself more often with Jesus in prayer, especially in his Eucharistic presence:

Dear mother, are you not going a little more often to the source of all consolation? Cannot you hear this Saviour, who calls to you from his tabernacle: Dear soul, why am I humbled here like this? Is it in vain that I keep on re-echoing these selfsame words that I said to my disciples: come to me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden: come and I will give you rest, and restore you; unite with me in this intimate union for which I remained with you, and balm will flow in your veins, and your soul will be filled, strengthened, renewed.

 

This is the same assurance that Jesus gives to his disciples at the Last Supper as he prepares them for a different way of living in a world that is rapidly changing for them. We, too, are his disciples adjusting to new realities and to us he says: Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

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