Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

12/29/2013 (8 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us. Prayer is the most concrete way to make our home in God.

The God who is Love hungers for the communion of sons and daughters - and we hunger for communion with Him - because He made us this way. Nothing else will ever satisfy us. The early Church Father Origen once wrote: Every spiritual being is, by nature, a temple of God, created to receive into itself the glory of God.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/29/2013 (8 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: John the Disciple, St John, John the Beloved disciple, Feast of St John, Octave of Christmas, Prayer, communion, contemplation, meditation, holiness, Deacon Keith Fournier


RICHMOND, VA (Catholic Online) - I write from Richmond, VA where my wife and I have spent Christmas with our oldest daughter. Several of our other grown children were able to be with us as well. It was a warm, funny, family time - filled with shared memories of the past and hopes for the future. It was fueled by love.

On this Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, the readings at Holy Mass speak to us about our relationship with Jesus, who is Love Incarnate. Every human love is a participation in God's love fully manifested in Him. Every human love is perfected when joined to the fullness of Love which is given in Love Incarnate.

St. John is rightly called the beloved disciple. Our first reading at Holy Mass is a portion of his beautiful first letter to the early Church. (1 Jn. 1:1-4) These letters flowed from the deep theological content so evident in his Gospel account. The Gospel passage (Jn. 20:1a and 2-A) introduces us to the source of  John's deep theology.

He was a witness to the Resurrection. Not only did he walk with the Lord, rest his head on the chest of Christ during the last meal, stand at the second tree, the Cross on Golgotha's Hill - right next to the Mother of the Lord - but he rushed to the tomb and witnessed the implications of the triumph of Love over death.

John is the disciple of a love which is stronger than death, the love of the Risen and glorified Jesus Christ, Love Incarnate. His Gospel was the last to be written. It reflects the deepening theological reflection of the early Church on the meaning of the conception, nativity, life, death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus, the Christ.

That is why my very favorite Gospel of the numerous Christmas liturgies is the Gospel of the Mass of Christmas day taken from St. John. (John 1: 1-18)

The best definition of a theologian I have discovered is taken from the writings of a first century monk named Evagrius of Pontus. He wrote that a theologian is someone who "rests his head on the chest of Christ." The image calls to mind the beloved disciple, John, depicted as doing just that in early Christian art. Evagrius also wrote that "a theologian is one who prays and one who prays is a theologian". 

St. John, the beloved disciple, whose Feast we are commemorating, was such a great theologian because he was in an ongoing intimate communion with Jesus. He really prayed.

As someone who has pursued years of graduate theology, I am certainly not opposed to academic theological study. However, the heart of good theology, the fire that fuels living faith, is an ongoing encounter with the Risen Jesus, cultivated as an ongoing experience through prayer. Without such an encounter I do not know how anyone can do theology at all. 

For John the Beloved, that communion continued after the Resurrection because Jesus is still truly present, in His glorified life, to all those who live in the encounter which lies at the heart of being a Christian. The Risen Jesus comes to be with us in every Eucharist, in His Word, and in the intimate life of living prayer. John knew Jesus personally and lived in an intimate communion with the Lord; the kind that only comes through prayer.

We can do so as well. The choice is ours.  St John, the beloved disciple, shows us the way. He prayed. Do we pray? I mean really, really pray? Are we living in a communion of love with Love Incarnate. We can. That is the call of every Christian.
 
Christian Prayer is about living in such an ongoing dialogue and intimate communion with the God who is Love. God fashioned men and women for such a relationship. He created us for communion, a relational conversation of life with Him. However, at the heart of understanding what it means to be created in His Image is coming to understand the immense gift of human freedom - and realizing what happened to our capacity to choose, as a result of sin. 

Our relationship with God was broken, separated and wounded through the first sin, what is called the "original sin". That sin, like all sin since, is at root a misuse of human freedom infected by pride and self sufficiency. Our ability to exercise our freedom rightly by directing our capacity for free choice always toward the good was impeded, diminished, wounded and broken through the fall. Our freedom was fractured. Only the splint of the Cross of Calvary can heal

The Good News is that through Jesus Christ, the way has been opened for an even fuller communion with God than our first parents had before the fall. Through the Incarnation, Saving life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ we are being re-created, re-fashioned and redeemed.

He comes to live in those who make a place for Him within the center of their lives. This "making a place" is the essence of Christian prayer and living in communion. John made such a place for Jesus. He calls us to do the same.

The Lord wants us to freely choose to respond to His continual invitations to love. John shows us the way to do just that. We need a Savior.  We will only find our fulfillment as human persons by entering into the relationship that he had with Jesus.

This relationship is the meaning and purpose of our life. As we grow in faith through our participation in the life of grace, lived out in the Church, our capacity to respond to the Lord's loving invitation grows as well, through growing in the prayer of communion.

This kind of prayer is not about doing, but about being - in a loving communion with God. This kind of prayer is about falling in love with God. St. John was in love with God. He was, as the early Church fathers all were, a mystic.

Isaac of Ninevah was an early eighth century monk, Bishop and theologian. For centuries he was mostly revered in the Eastern Christian Church for his writings on prayer. In the last century the beauty of his insights on prayer are being embraced once again by both lungs, East and West, of the Church. He wrote these words in one of his many treatises on Prayer:

When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in hid heart. Prayer never again deserts him.

At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously, one of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, says that prayer is the silence of the pure. For their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified are the voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God.

The Christian revelation answers the existential questions that fill every human heart and hound every generation. Our hearts are indeed, as Augustine wrote so eloquently, restless, until they rest in God.Through His Incarnation - Saving Life, Death, and Resurrection - Jesus Christ opens up such a full communion with God the Father for all men and women. He leads us out of the emptiness and despair that is the rotted fruit of narcissism, nihilism and materialism. He leads us into a new way, the way of communion, of love, of life that never dies.

When we enter into the dialogue that is prayer, we can experience a progressive, dynamic and intimate relationship with God the Father as He transforms us from within by grace. We can actually "become prayer" as we empty ourselves in order to be filled with Him. Through prayer, daily life takes on new meaning. It becomes a classroom of communion, life of love. In that classroom we learn the truth about who we are - and who we are becoming - in Jesus. Through prayer we receive new glasses through which we see the true landscape of life. Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of progress is illuminated.

Through prayer we begin to understand why this communion seems so elusive at times; as we struggle with our own disordered appetites, and live in a manner at odds with the beauty and order of the creation within which we dwell only to find a new beginning whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us up to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change.

Through prayer we are drawn by Love into a deepening relationship with Jesus  whose loving embrace on the hill of Golgotha bridged heaven with earth; His relationship with His Father is opened now to us; the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead begins to give us new life as we are converted, transfigured and made new.

Through prayer, heavenly wisdom is planted in the field of our hearts and we experience a deepening communion with the Trinitarian God. We become, in the words of the Apostle Peter "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) That participation will only be fully complete when we are with Him in the fullness of His embrace, in Resurrected Bodies in a New Heaven and a New Earth, but it begins now, in the grace of this present moment, in prayer and communion. 

The beloved disciple John became prayer. He wrote in the letter he penned in his later years: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness" 1John 3:1-4

Today's Feast invites each one of us to become prayer. It calls us to meet the same Risen Jesus who John knew - and knows - so well. This is not only a possibility, it is meant to become a reality as we learn to become prayer. The Feast of the Beloved Disciple John Invites Us to Live a Life of Communion with God through Prayer

Our daily life is a field of choice. We are capacitated now by grace to choose the more excellent way of love of which the great Apostle Paul wrote. (1 Cor. 13) Pondering the implications of the exercise of our human freedom should become a regular part of our life, as we learn to "examine our conscience", repent of our sin and become joyful penitents.

Prayer provides the environment for such recollection as it exposes the darkness and helps us surrender it to the light of Love, the life of the Living God dwelling within us. Yes, living within us. (Jn. 14:23)

Becoming prayer is possible for all Christians, no matter their state in life or vocation, because God holds nothing back from those whom He loves. This relationship of communion is initiated by Him. Our part is to respond. That response should flow from a heart that beats in surrendered love, in the process of being freed from the entanglements that weigh us down.

The God who is Love hungers for the communion of sons and daughters - and we hunger for communion with Him - because He made us this way. Nothing else will ever satisfy us. The early Church Father Origen once wrote: Every spiritual being is, by nature, a temple of God, created to receive into itself the glory of God.

We were made in the "image" of God and are now being recreated into His Image in Jesus Christ, as we cooperate with grace. As we "become prayer', that likeness begins to emerge. We give ourselves fully to the One who gave Himself to us and cry out with Jesus Christ "Abba Father." No longer alienated, we participate in the inner life of God who now dwells within us. We also dwell in Him through His Spirit. This dwelling is prayer. It is not about doing or getting but about being, becoming, receiving, giving, and loving.

A wonderful spiritual writer of our own time, Henri Nouwen, understood the call to live in God. He wrote these words in his work entitled Lifesigns:  Jesus, in whom the fullness of God dwells, has become our home by making his home in us he allows us to make our home in him.  By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self he offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God.  By choosing us as his preferred dwelling place, he invites us to choose him as our preferred dwelling place. 

This is the mystery of the incarnation.  Here we come to see what discipline in the spiritual life means.  It means a gradual process of coming home to where we belong and listening there to the voice which desires our attention.  Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us.  Prayer is the most concrete way to make our home in God
.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for August 2014
Refugees:
That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.
Oceania: That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.



Comments


More U.S.

Catholics Come Home Launches Beautiful New Television Series for E.W.T.N. Watch

Image of Tom Peterson, the founder and CEO of Catholics Come Home

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I am happy to report to my readers that Catholics Come Home has produced a stunning and inspiring television series for the Eternal Word Television Network (E.W.T.N.). It began airing on Labor Day weekend. The series was filmed on location in various cities ... continue reading


Why I Said No to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Embryonic Stem Cell Research Is Deadly Watch

Image of I was approached to take the Ice Bucket Challenge to help bring an end to ALS. I said No. I have tried to explain why I said No in this article. I hope it is a helpful contribution in our public discussion. As a Christian, it is never easy to be seen as seemingly unwilling to support a noble cause such as the eradication of a debilitating disease. However, it is vital that we stand for for the fundamental and foundational moral truth which underlies every effort to end disease, the dignity of every human person, including embryonic human persons.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I was approached to take the Ice Bucket Challenge to help bring an end to ALS. I said No. I have tried to explain why I said No in this article. I hope it is a helpful contribution in our public discussion. As a Christian, it is never easy to be seen as seemingly ... continue reading


Toward a Christian Vision of Human Work On Labor Day Watch

Image of Christians need to bear witness in the real world to the true value, purpose, meaning and dignity of all human work - just as we bear witness to the inherent value and dignity of every human worker. This is a vital part of our witness to an age which has lost its way.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Adam and Eve worked in the garden and it brought them great joy. For the Christian, work is meant to become a participation in the continuing redemptive mission of Jesus, and His ongoing work. Jesus viewed his entire life and mission as work. He was always doing ... continue reading


American Islamic terrorist Fort Hood shooter requests to join Islamic State as a 'citizen' Watch

Image of Nadal Hasan, the man who killed 13 people during a rampage at Fort Hood in 2009, has written a letter to the Islamic State asking to join the terrorist organization as a citizen.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

U.S. Army psychiatrist, Nadal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood back in November 2009 has written a letter to the leader of the Islamic State, asking to become a citizen of the Islamic State's caliphate, an attorney of Husan reported on August 28. LOS ... continue reading


St Augustine on a Personal Relationship with Jesus Watch

Image of St Augustine

By Deacon Keith Fournier

But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's Heart and feel him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we ... continue reading


SHAKEN WINE: Strong earthquake jolts California's wine region Watch

Image of The weekend's temblor was felt widely throughout the region, from more than 200 miles south of Napa and as far east as the Nevada border.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rumbled through the early Sunday morning hours in the heart of California's wine country. The epicenter was near the city of Napa in the Golden State's north. Fires erupted in a mobile home park where four homes were destroyed and two ... continue reading


Money is NOT the Root of Evil: Living Simplicity Watch

Image of Simplicity is not about the quantity of the goods of the earth we possess. It is about our relationship to them. Jesus said - Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:21).

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Learning to live in evangelical Simplicity strips away what impedes love. In finding our proper relationship to the goods of the earth- not rejecting them, craving them, or turning them into an idol- we can learn true freedom. Our eyes are opened and everything begins ... continue reading


Is Transgenderism a Mental Disorder or a Right? Watch

Image of Pope Emeritus Benedict was absolutely correct when he said, - the profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. - Gender is a gift. It is also a given. The dangers of the Gender Identity Movement are becoming increasingly clear.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In a culture where freedom has been redefined as a right to choose anything and liberty has degenerated into license, the newspeak of the age has declared the instrumental use of the body of another to be sexual freedom. It is not freedom. It turns people into ... continue reading


WORST YET TO COME? Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen,' Pentagon says Watch

Image of IS is

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online has been keeping very close watch on the atrocities being committed by Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, and according to a top government official - the worst is yet to come. According to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the sophistication, ... continue reading


Lawsuit dropped against devil worshiper in Oklahoma Watch

Image of Lawyers representing Archbishop Paul Coakley had earlier demanded the return of a communion wafer obtained by the group.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The leader of a satanic group in Oklahoma City had threatened that he and his followers would defile a consecrated communion wafer as an offering to Satan as a carnal sacrifice at a "Black Mass" ceremony inside Oklahoma City's Civic Center Music Hall. The ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 2:10-16
10 to us, though, God has given revelation through ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13, 13-14
8 Yahweh is tenderness and pity, slow to anger, full ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 4:31-37
31 He went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 2nd, 2014 Image

St. Ingrid of Sweden
September 2: Born in Skänninge, Sweden, in the 13th century, St. Ingrid lived ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter