The muddy mystery of our humanness: The Man Born Blind

4th Sunday of Lent (A)

A guest post by Fr. Joel Fortier.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” —The Little Prince

The man born blind received his sight as he allowed himself to be touched by Jesus who is the light; not just his physical sight, but a new and radiant vision as he came to recognize and believe in the incarnate Presence of the divine in the one who had touched him in the flesh. He came to “see” rightly with his heart, through the eyes of Faith and Love.

It is through and in our humanness that God keeps us alive to love. Always stay alive to your humanness, it is where we are present to and experience love. If we lose touch with our humanness we (more…)

Lambs Among Wolves

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

We often pray for God’s protection as if it was a temporary condition in need of regular renewal.

We are frightened, fully aware of our fragility and the evil of the world. We get hurt, physically and emotionally. Our scars are deep. We don’t trust. We are jittery, and for good reason. Naturally, in fearful times such as these many of us double up on our prayers for protection.

The seventy-two disciples in today’s gospel went out like “lambs among wolves” to proclaim the Kingdom of God in hostile territories. Yet they returned from their mission to Jesus rejoicing in their success, saying  “even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” [Luke 10:1-12, 17-20].

I wonder if we realize that we also have been given the power to do the same? Every day we are called to continue the Christian mission that the disciples handed down to us, to join ourselves to something bigger than ourselves, to work for the good of all of God’s creation, and to “tread upon the full force of the enemy.”

Just like the seventy-two disciples, and the communion of saints before us, we are protected. The power to oppose violence and proclaim the Kingdom of God is within us. Let’s not succumb to fear.  We aren’t wolf bait.

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Visit www.agnusday.org, the Lectionary comic strip, where each week Rick and Ted discuss one of the assigned readings from the Common Lectionary. http://www.agnusday.org/comics/185/luke-101-11-16-20-2007

Cartoon courtesy of © James Wetzstein, 2007

Entrust your life to Love

A guest post by Fr. Joel Fortier

“Fear is useless…what is needed is trust.” —Mark 5:36

Trust Love. It never fails. When we are powerless, let go and trust love, trust your heart, and trust God—our higher power who saves, gives and restores life, who heals, liberates, and makes all things new and right. Love casts out fear.

“Do not be afraid little ones, I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33

Give all your cares and concerns, all things and people to Love. Trust Love. “I entrust you to love.” Love saves, connects, and leads us safely on the path of God, in the ways of Christ, who is the Way, Truth, and Life. Trust love. Entrust people and your life to love and you will be free and in Peace, a Peace that surpasses understanding and which the world can never give. You will then have entrusted your life into God’s hands.

Let Love, let God lead you.

Life is a Trust Walk.

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Born in 1942 to French Canadian parents, Fr. Joel Fortier, along with his three siblings grew up in an environment steeped in Catholic spirituality and practice. He entered the University of Illinois before seminary to study Psychology, Education, and Philosophy. In 1969, Joel was ordained with a Master of Divinity from St. Meinrad Seminary for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois with extensive work and training in inner city parishes, and peace and justice movements. Joel received his Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He has worked with Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and Charismatic movements integrating with parish pastoral ministry. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. Fr. Joel was the Pastor and founder of The Lisieux Pastoral Center of St. Theresa Parish in Kankakee, IL, the Pastor of St Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale IL, and most recently the Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. Now retired from full-time parish ministry since 2013, Fr. Joel continues to live out his core statement: “To help make love happen, wherever and whenever possible.”

Love one another, as I have loved you

A guest post by Fr. Joel Fortier for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (C)

The Joy of Love…to see the face of God!

A singular joy in life is to love somebody who loves you back! That is God’s idea of Love. Love is its own reward, whether it is returned or not. But to find someone who loves you back is a special blessing and gift from God. Cherish them in that way and let them know that. 

Indeed, such an experience of having someone you love who loves you back is the whole notion and image of God, “relatio“…the Trinity. It is the image in which we are created. It is in that kind of experience, of loving someone who loves you back, that we come to know and discover who we truly are…who we were created and meant to be. It is ultimately to “know even as we are known!” (1 Cor 13:12) We call it the Beatific Vision.

It is to experience the joy of love: divine joy! It is the ecstasy that only the intimacy of “knowing even as you are known” can give. It is what lovers do, they breathe together, and so experience the very life, breath, and Spirit of God. They reveal themselves to each other in verbal and nonverbal ways. True intimacy is not possible without self-revelation.

To find somebody who knows you and loves you back as you are is really a gift and the joy of mutual love! It is what God wants of us, and for us. It is why we were created…what we created for: to know, love and serve God in and through Love.

It seems love is the only way to know and discover God…to know God as love, who is unequivocally “for” us. Creation is the first revelation of that great giftedness. Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life, is “for us”. “If God is for us, who can be against us! He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with Him freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:31-32).

The incarnation and resurrection of Christ is the full revelation of God’s love…such is Christ Jesus whose life and Spirit we share, through whom all things both in heaven and on earth were made and are sustained, in whom we live, move, and have our being, this gift is ours, the incarnate risen gift of God’s love for us! (Col 1:15-17, John 1:3, Rom 11:36, Acts 17:28) What cause for joy! 

The gift of People who love us back mirrors for us our own goodness, giftedness, and lovableness. It is what Christ has done for us, and asks—commands—us to do for one another. We do need each other for that, so we can see the face of God in ourselves even as we see it in the other!

To love another person is to see the face of God.

—Victor Hugo, Les Misérables. 

That is the way God works. Because of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection, in which we share, the only face of God we will ever see is a human face. God looks out through our eyes, and smiles at us with our faces, and kisses us with our lips, speaks tenderly with our tongues and loves us with all our hearts. We need only to see as Jesus sees, to speak as Jesus speaks, and love as Jesus loves.

We bear a Presence… the Presence of Christ!

And so we look at each other through the eyes of Christ, we see and love each other as Christ sees and loves us! To be Christ in the world, that is our call and challenge! For that is indeed who we are, the Body of Christ! Christ has come, and is coming again…in us! The fullness of which we long to see and experience when Christ will be all in all! 

Thank God for the people who mirror for us our own goodness, who can see in us, sometimes what we cannot see in ourselves, who are Christ to us. They help us to see God and discover our true selves, our true identity and dignity, that we are Christ. Help us Lord to be good mirrors for each other. That we might see and recognize You in the gaze of the Other! That we might see your face! The face of Christ! 

The joy of love floods my soul!

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Born in 1942 to French Canadian parents, Fr. Joel Fortier, along with his three siblings grew up in an environment steeped in Catholic spirituality and practice. He entered the University of Illinois before seminary to study Psychology, Education, and Philosophy. In 1969, Joel was ordained with a Master of Divinity from St. Meinrad Seminary for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois with extensive work and training in inner city parishes, and peace and justice movements. Joel received his Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He has worked with Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and Charismatic movements integrating with parish pastoral ministry. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. Fr. Joel was the Pastor and founder of The Lisieux Pastoral Center of St. Theresa Parish in Kankakee, IL, the Pastor of St Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale IL, and most recently the Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. Now retired from full-time parish ministry since 2013, Fr. Joel continues to live out his core statement: “To help make love happen, wherever and whenever possible.”

It is Only in our Emptiness that we find our Fullness

The Triduum

A guest post by Fr. Joel Fortier

“Have in you the attitude of Christ. Christ Jesus, though in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness…humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this God greatly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name…” [Phil 2:5-9]

“Now, full authority both in heaven and on earth has been given to me, go and share my life and power with all people.” [Matt 28:18 ff]

We are called as a new creation to share in that same authority, power, and life: to discover the power of the cross, to find in our emptiness our fullness, just as Christ did. It is the power of love. It is in only our poverty that we find our true wealth. “It is in possessing nothing that I possess all things.” —St. Francis of Assisi

We want to know from our lovers; in the hearts of those we love, “Do you have a place for me in your heart?” Why is that important to you and me? Because that is what love means…having a place for each other in our hearts, to carry each other in our hearts, to have a heart for people.

When I truly love and care for someone I make a place for them in my heart. They abide there, whether they are physically present to me or not, and I can always go to that place in my heart and find them…be with them and present to them across space and time.

It is a wonderful thing to have a heart for others. It gives me a joyful grateful heart…full of love, full of people and all creation. It gives me a heart of mercy, understanding and compassion, a heart vulnerable and willing enough to be pierced and emptied even as Christ’s heart was. So that even in and through our emptiness we find the heart and fullness of God. “Have in you the attitude of Christ.” [Phil 2:5]

Because…the great secret is that God’s heart has been placed in us, we have been given the fullness of the Spirit. [Jn 1:16] It is hidden in our own hearts, and we can only discover and release it through our own emptiness. Love only exists if you give it away. The only way we can have what each of us wants, is if we give it to each other. It is then that we discover and meet God who dwells in us and in our hearts, and who wants us to be the heart, hands, eyes and ears of God in our world, full of compassion, mercy, and love for us and for all.

I think that is what it means to have the heart of God, a heart for people, a place where people can dwell in love, where harmony and peace lead to true joy and authentic happiness. As the hymn says, “Where charity and love prevail there God is ever found.” Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them, because God is love. [1 Jn 4:16] What a wonderful thing it is to live in love, to live in God!

Yet we can only do that if our hearts are empty. We have a place in God’s heart, so the question becomes, do we have a place in our heart for God? Or are our hearts are full of other things and people in self-serving ways of self-gratification. Does greed, lust, fear, envy, fill our hearts and minds, or does the love and light of Christ impel us in selfless service and love, for the good of others not just our own.

God can only fill our heart as we empty our hearts. When we empty ourselves we find ourselves, Jesus tells us. [Matt 10:39  and 16:25]. In our emptiness we find our fullness, and in our hearts we discover God; the heart of God which is vast and infinite and has a place for me and you…room for everyone, a heart for people, a heart full of people and all creation! “In my Father’s house there are many mansions…I am going to prepare a place for you, so that where I Am you also may be!” [Jn 14:1-3]

God has given us a new heart and a new Spirit. “I will give you a new heart and a new Spirit…I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you…” [Ezekiel 36:25-27]

Six days before the Passover and the Last Supper, Jesus was with his friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Mary took and emptied a jar of costly perfumed oil, washed and anointed Jesus’ feet, and dried them with her hair. Such a profoundly tender and intimate gesture must have touched Jesus very deeply. It was a symbol of Mary emptying her soul out in love for Jesus. Jesus was so touched that he used the same gesture of washing the feet of his disciples as the symbol of the emptying out of his own life in love of us, and as the symbol of service and love he was calling his disciples to live if they were to follow and learn from him. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” [Mk 10:45 and  Jn 13:1-17]

It is only in our emptiness that we find our fullness. Through death comes life! It is the Passion of the Lord; let us enter into it with all our hearts…to discover the joy of Easter!

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Born in 1942 to French Canadian parents, Fr. Joel Fortier, along with his three siblings grew up in an environment steeped in Catholic spirituality and practice. He entered the University of Illinois before seminary to study Psychology, Education, and Philosophy. In 1969, Joel was ordained with a Master of Divinity from St. Meinrad Seminary for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois with extensive work and training in inner city parishes, and peace and justice movements. Joel received his Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He has worked with Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and Charismatic movements integrating with parish pastoral ministry. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. Fr. Joel was the Pastor and founder of The Lisieux Pastoral Center of St. Theresa Parish in Kankakee, IL,the Pastor of St. Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale IL, and most recently the Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. Now retired from full-time parish ministry since 2013, Fr. Joel continues to live out his core statement: “To help make love happen, anywhere and any way possible.”

What Love Looks Like

One evening last week I had the great pleasure  of co-leading a retreat at my parish. As a group, using examples from our lives, we reflected that a powerful way to draw closer to God is through our relationships with one another.

It has been said that to know God we only need to look at Jesus. And of course, Jesus’ message of Love focused on bringing others into a true relationship with God and with one another.

The early church strove to live in the light of Love which they learned from Jesus; St. Paul modeled his life on Jesus’ way, and encouraged his communities to do the same. Since then countless others—what we call the communion of Saints and which includes us—have lived their lives in that same light.  Human beings, created in God’s own image—the image of Love—work hard every day to emulate those inherited divine characteristics: life-giving, patient, merciful, consoling, renewing, forgiving, encouraging, and so on.

That’s what I believe. But in many ways it seems we have forgotten what love looks like.

And then, this morning a friend of mine shared this  5-1/2 minute video, entitled What is That? on her Facebook timeline. I don’t know the director’s intention in creating this film, but for me, it crystallized not only what God’s Love looks like, but how easy it is to forget it when we lose sight of one another. Have a look.

©2007. Constantin Pilavios

A river runs through it!

A Guest Post by Fr. Joel Fortier

A  river runs through my life, like a thread, connecting everything, weaving a beautiful tapestry of life in an unending flow. That river, that thread, is the Spirit. The Spirit of God not only abides in us, it flows through us. The Spirit is a river of energy, an underground current of love, a force field which flows through all creation like a water-table beneath all of life, an elan vital! [Ps 1:3Jer 17:8Ezk 31:5 and Ezk 47:12Is 44:4]. We are not only “in Christ”, Christ is “in us.” We share and live in the Spirit of Jesus; we share Christ’s life in love. [Gal 2:20 and Col 1:27].

What we can do and help each other do, is to tap the Spirit, the river of divine love and grace which flows through us and everything, by our encounters with each other in love, especially through our compassionate prayer, love, patience, and mercy. Then the Holy Spirit will well up within us as a fountain of living water. [Jn 4:14 and Jn 7:38]. As we tap the Spirit of God which is within us, we stay grounded and live in the flow of intentional Love. It is to stay grounded in the Presence which is within, surrounds, sustains, and connects us. We are like trees planted near running water when we live in conscious intentional love. It is what Jesus calls…invites…and “commands” us to do. [Jn 13:34-35].

It is The Way Jesus showed us in himself to eternal life. It is The Way into the divine energy and love which flows through all of us at all times. It yearns, groans, and desires to be released in us and in our world. It can bring life and healing into the parched earth of our broken lives and hardened hearts. It can keep us safe, centered, and grounded when we find ourselves in the midst of negative destructive energy. That is why Jesus tells and shows us how to love and forgive even our enemies.

The Power of Love

Love is stronger than hate, life is stronger than death, and grace is stronger than sin. It is the power and victory of the cross we are called to celebrate and proclaim. Mercy trumps all other forces of sin, destruction, and death. It creates cosmos and harmony in the midst of chaos and discord. Love is the only force that can change our world.

Love creates Peace when there is no peace. Presence breeds Presence. It quells life and people who are not Present, when people seem out of their minds. We need that Presence now more than ever in the midst of an insane and violent world. We need the Peace and Presence of Christ in our lives; in our hearts and in our minds. “Have in you the mind of Christ”. [Phil 2:5].

If we live in conscious intentional love we will have the peace, heart, and mind of Christ. It is a choice, a decision we can make even when we do not “feel” loving. The decision to love can be made even if we don’t feel like it. It is what Christ did. I’m sure it didn’t feel good hanging from the cross, but that is where Jesus poured out the last drop of his precious blood upon us…where we were loved, cleansed, healed, and brought into wholeness [1Peter 2:24]. That is why Jesus said, “Love one another AS I have loved you.” [Jn 15:12]. It is that experience into which we were Baptized. If we die with Christ we shall surely also live with Christ. [Rom 6:3-5, and Rom 8].

The Practice of the Presence of God

To be able to make such a choice, such a decision, we need the strength of practiced virtue. We need to proactively Practice the Presence of God in all times and circumstances, so that when it is hard to be Present in Love we will have some conditioning that enables us to do what we do not feel like doing. We can practice it in the simplest of ways and mundane circumstances of life, such as when we are stuck in traffic or a long line at the super market, in any frustrating situation, or when we are with people who are toxic and negative.

The Practice of the Presence of God is closely linked to the virtue of divine Patience. It has been said that Patience is the mother of all virtue. If we can learn to be in that place of knowing Presence when we are distracted, anxious, or in a hurry, we can grow in the divine virtue of Patience. We will grow in our ability to stay grounded in Love; centered and grounded in the Spirit of divine grace and love which is flowing in every circumstance and moment of life. To Be in the Presence is to be in the flow of the divine love, mercy, and compassion which flows from the Sacred Heart of Christ.

The Practice of the Presence of God will enable us to act rather than just react. It will help us to put an end to the cycle of hate, violence, and negative energy. It will enable us to be present with love rather than allowing ourselves to be infected by the toxic energy of non-love, sin, and negative energy, reacting with hate or violence. It will enable us to be nonviolent and Peaceful, to bear the Presence Christ in our world.

Jesus knew how to be Present and make appropriate responses to people and situations.  He could be and eat with sinners and tax collectors, as well as with rich people. He could speak and act in truth when he needed to, as in the temple cleansing, and the calling out of Pharisees, lawyers, and hypocrites. And he could be silent, mute as a lamb before the shearer, with Pilot [Isaiah 53:7], and in the non-verbal love shown from the cross. Jesus taught us how to practice the Presence of God in all circumstances and in the ultimate way of love; how to grow in age, wisdom, and grace, to do God’s will and come to the fullness of glory. Jesus teaches us how to be and bear the Presence Christ in the world today.

The Practice of the Presence of God opens us to and is an entry point for us into the Kingdom of God. It is about the “Omnipresence” of God, bidden or unbidden, God is always present to us, with us, and in us. The Kingdom is here…now…in us and in our midst. [Lk 17:20-21].

Let us take time now to be mindful, in this moment, take some deep breaths, and be present to the God who is always Present to us.

God is indeed the ground of our being, always flowing through us and in our lives. We need to say yes to the action of God’s grace and presence in our lives as Mary did; to stay centered and grounded in Love, in the divine Presence. It is what saves and connects us!

A River runs through it!

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Born in 1942 to French Canadian parents, Fr. Joel Fortier, along with his three siblings grew up in an environment steeped in Catholic spirituality and practice. He entered the University of Illinois before seminary to study Psychology, Education, and Philosophy. In 1969, Joel was ordained with a Master of Divinity from St. Meinrad Seminary for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois with extensive work and training in inner city parishes, and peace and justice movements. Joel received his Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He has worked with Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and Charismatic movements integrating with parish pastoral ministry. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. Fr. Joel was the Pastor and founder of The Lisieux Pastoral Center of St. Theresa Parish in Kankakee, IL,the Pastor of St. Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale IL, and most recently the Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. Now retired from full-time parish ministry since 2013, Fr. Joel continues to live out his core statement: “To help make love happen, anywhere and any way possible.”