Msgr. Michael Heintz
The Human Condition
September 19, 2017 // The Human Condition

Beloved sons and daughters

Msgr. Michael Heintz
The Human Condition

The evangelist St. Luke, in his account of the Gospel that bears his name, makes a point of noting that, in the midst of his intensely active ministry, Jesus frequently withdrew to deserted places to pray (Lk 5:16). In these moments, Jesus was never less alone than when alone.

We must imagine that in such moments he enjoyed a profound, rich and fruitful intimacy and communion with his father, a communion that sustained him in his activity. What we must not imagine is that this intimacy and communion are remote from us or inaccessible to us. For in our baptism, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has imparted to us a share in his filial relation to the Father; we become sons and daughters in the beloved Son. What Jesus is by nature, we become by grace. This is what St. Paul means by telling us that we are “in Christ” — we share his “sonship” because he has extended it to us by his Spirit.

By this grace, we are invited and drawn into the eternal conversation of love between the Father and the Son. Our relationship to God, like the very life of the three divine persons, is not static but dynamic. Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist eternally in a mutual exchange of knowing and loving (some theologians have called this “perichoresis”); we are created to share in that dynamic life. Theologians have called this our supernatural destiny, because it lies beyond (“super”) our capacities (what is natural to us) to attain; it is a pure gift (which is what grace means). By baptism we receive the Holy Spirit, who enables us to recognize Jesus as Lord (like St. Peter at Caesarea Philippi). It is Christ himself who, in his human nature, is the way to the Father (as he teaches in John 14).

In the midst of all our intense activity — some of it imposed on us, much of it self-generated — we are invited to withdraw into solitude and enter into that intimacy of the divine Father and Son: to receive the Father’s love and to return it. We can do this in small snippets during our day or perhaps occasionally in a more structured way. The old-fashioned Holy Hour, preached frequently by the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, is a practice of devoting an hour of prayer and meditation in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (whether in the tabernacle or exposed). Not everyone, however, given their obligations in life, can do so. We should nevertheless from time to time call something of a “time out” from the zaniness of our day and perhaps try to give 10 or 15 minutes to God in silence (in an empty room in the house; on the front porch); snatching a few moments of solitude and recognize that we can, at any given moment, still ourselves and enter into that eternal conversation of love between the Father and Son. And as such moments of intimacy and communion with the Father sustained Jesus in his intense activities, we too draw our strength from communion with God in Christ.

The fullest expression of that return of the Father’s love was witnessed on Calvary and is made present every time the holy sacrifice of the Mass is offered: The Son returns that love by making a gift of himself to the Father. Yet we are not mere bystanders. We are capacitated to offer ourselves as well. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, by whose action we were configured to Christ in baptism and whose epiclesis draws us into the one perfect sacrifice of Christ, we can offer ourselves too, through Jesus and with him and in him. Every Sunday, indeed every single day. In the sacrament of the altar we witness that love; we taste that love; we are conformed to that love.

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