Monday, May 26, 2014

From "Jesus of Nazareth" by Gerhard Lohfink (Liturgical Press, p. 353)

Jesus does not portray a utopian "realm of freedom," but he leads those who follow him into freedom. He does not describe the condition in which all alienation will be miraculously overcome, but he says, "Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:24). This is how Jesus projects society under the rule of God. He sets no preconditions: the reign of God is already beginning; its powers are already at work; it gives a new way of being together, even a new society, but not one that needs to be dreamed up. It takes place in the daily companionship of the one table, in common discipleship, in daily reconciliation. It happens out of joy in what God is doing. And it is by no means the case that this coming of the reign of God happens purely within. No, sick people are being healed, demonic forces are being overcome, the hungry are being filled, and enemies are being reconciled.

What do I love? St. Catherine of Siena wrote that love transforms us into what we love. How I choose to direct my time and energy - at work or at home - will inevitably inform what I begin to desire, for good or ill. Even for Jesuits, it can be easy to get caught up looking for distractions in secondary things - new books, clothing or shoes; another vacation; the latest piece of technology. With free evenings, it can become easy to glut ourselves on food and drink, constant socializing or Netflix. In moderation, these things may help us to unwind and forget about work for a while. But as with all created things, they risk becoming idols that diffuse our good desires and weaken communal life and apostolic witness. Pope Francis, in a July 2013 address to seminarians, brothers and sisters in formation, cautioned about the danger of seeking joy in things:

"There is joy. But where is joy born? ... Some will say: joy is born from the things one has, and so, the search for the latest model of the smartphone, the fastest scooter, the car that attracts attention ... But I tell you, true joy doesn't come from things, from having, no! ... Joy is born from the gratuitousness of an encounter! And from hearing it said: 'You are important to me,' - not necessarily in words...

In calling us God says to us: 'You are important to me, I love you, I count on you.' Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from here, the joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me. To understand and to feel this is the secret of our joy. To feel loved by God, to feel that for Him we are not numbers, but persons; and to feel that it is He who calls us."