Monday, February 13, 2017

Do You Love Me?

Friends of Faith:
I don't often send something I haven't written but this post by Andy's seminarian group who are studying in the Holy Land for 10 weeks seemed too appropriate not to share. I left the pictures in for those of you who want to spy Andy (Clue: it looks like he shared his Cubs hat with a friend.) Please say an extra prayer for them as they head to their Canonical retreat this week in preparation of their Diaconate ordinations when they return.
The greatest gift of love is God's love for us -- May you share it this Valentine's Day!

2017 Holy Land Pilgrimage

Posted: 11 Feb 2017 12:16 PM PST
Yesterday, after having spent a few days by the Basilica of the Annunciation, we left Nazareth, and spent the night in Tabgha, located at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Welcoming us was a spectacular and peaceful sunset reflecting over the water of the sea. It was like an invitation to enter into a more contemplative stage of our pilgrimage.
In the morning, we departed to the Mensa Domini Church, also known as the Church of the Primacy of St Peter. There we meditated about the Gospel of John 21, 14-17. In this gospel passage, Jesus asked Peter the same question three times: Do you love me? To which Peter replied: “Yes, Lord, You know I love You.” Then Jesus said to him: “Feed My lambs.” “Shepherd My sheep.” “Feed My sheep.”

Those same questions are asked to us by Jesus in our daily lives as Christians. These questions demand an active and affirmative response. “Do you love me?” is not a romantic question that looks for a sentimental answer, but the longing for a deep and authentic answer manifested through a way of living. It is a “Yes Lord, I love you” by extending our hands to our neighbor in need, and feed him, not only with bread, but with Christ Himself present in the Eucharist, in the Holy Scripture, and within ourselves. Our love for Christ should be reflected in our love for our neighbor.

Later, we moved from Mensa Domini Church to Tabgha Monastery, where the Church of the Multiplication is located. Here is where Jesus miraculously multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5 thousand men (John 6:1-14). Here, continuing with the lesson started on the previous place, Jesus gave us a concrete example of what to do; He is the one feeding his people. But there is something very interesting in this passage of the Gospel that resounded in my heart: “There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two small fish. But what are these among so many people?” (John 6: 9). Yes, it was Jesus who performed the miracle, but it was possible because a “little boy” shared all that he had and put them in Jesus’ hands. 
For some of the Apostles, what that “little boy” had was nothing in comparison with the present need, but for Jesus that “littleness” was sufficient to perform a great miracle. Just like that “little boy,” we are invited to bring to Jesus all that we have. It doesn’t matter if it is “too little” that it makes our name not to be found “worthy” to be remembered, just like the one of this “little boy”. The important thing is what Jesus can do with whatever we bring to him, and what others can receive through our “littleness.” Once again, here is Jesus asking: Do you love me? Then if you do, give me your “littleness” and let me perform great miracles.

After visiting the Church of the Multiplication, we had a very quiet and peaceful boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. There I understood why Jesus needed those moments of silence, contemplation, and prayer during His missions. That brief, but very refreshing ride through the Sea was like a fresh breeze on a sunny summer afternoon. Once our ride was over, we returned to the hotel. 
In the afternoon, walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I found a school of fish jumping very close to the shore. I slowly walked through the water to the place where all those fish were. I noticed that water was coming out from between a pile of rocks, and mixed with the water was something that the fish were eating. It was dirt. I looked at the immensity of the sea, and I thought of the many other sources of food that these fish could have, but they rather chose the spot that provided easy “food”, even if it was not good for them. They were hungry and in need of food. This was the last part of today’s lesson. Those fish were the representation of the people who experience hunger for God, and who in that need are able to eat whatever spiritual consolation they receive from the world, even if it poisons their soul. Once again, it was a call to feed God’s people.
My classmates and I are about to be ordained as deacons. We are about to become fishers of men as Jesus called us, and it is our responsibility to feed God’s people with the Bread that gives life (John 10:10). It is our responsibility to bring God’s people to “streams of living water” (John 7:38). And what a blessed way we have to prepare ourselves for our future ministry by living this pilgrimage, where we are following in the steps of the One who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. (John 14:6).

Today’s spiritual nourishment is not only for me, or only for my classmates. It is for all of us who have heard these words: Do you love me? Then, be “salt and light” for the world (Matthew 5:13-16).

May God bless you all.

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