Life and love are stronger than hate and death

© Yongsung Kim

© Yongsung Kim

A reflection on the Feast of Christ the King, by Fr. Joel Fortier.

The Second Coming…the coming of the Kingdom of Christ the King, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, King of Kings…a Kingdom of priests, a Kingdom of truth, justice, peace and love.

The second coming is a process, not an event. The Kingdom of God is already here, indeed has always been here. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is in your midst, within you…at hand!  [Lk 17:21] The coming of the FULLNESS of the Kingdom begun with the Incarnation and was inexorably established in the victory of the Cross and Resurrection. Christ is drawing all things into a unity of love and understanding, of justice and peace. That is the process we are caught up in now: the process of dying and rising with Christ.

The battle has indeed been won and we are called to share in the victory and power of the cross, not by our own power or military might, but by our utter vulnerability in love. Such is the way and victory of the cross. Life and love are stronger than hate and death. The battle is won and we share its victory.

As we experience this process of the Kingdom coming to be in fullness, we discover that we are not separate; individuated yes, but not separate. We are all connected and sustained by God’s love, the ground of our being, the common ground we share with all creation and all peoples; the ground from which we have all emerged…star dust…all energy…the Christ, thru whom all things came to be, in whom we live, and move, and have our being; the ALPHA and the OMEGA, the point from which we have come, to which we are all headed, drawn by God’s love, thru Christ, in the Spirit, to share in the very nature and Being of God: Love.

On that great day when all things are drawn into the fullness of unity and love, Christ will be “all in all”, it will be the FULL revelation of Christ; the second coming, the fullness of the Incarnation and the glorification of all creation, indeed what the Resurrection and glory of the Risen Christ is all about; and of what is meant by “the resurrection of the body on the last day”, when all things are drawn up into Christ, through whom they have come, and presented as embodied consciousness, embodied love, back to God as gift, the source of all goodness and life.

We are created to share the very life of the Trinity. That is what creation is all about, the wondrous mystery of the Universe coming to be in Christ, created by love for love! Come Lord Jesus come! O Christ of the Cosmos!

We yearn, long, and look forward to the second coming of Christ; for the full revelation of God’s glory in all creation. Because of this, the fundamental attitude of a Christian is HOPE, indeed as it is for all people. All creation groans with the expectation of full consciousness, it is an impulse to love, and desire for full communion in love with God. It is what the reality of the Eucharist is about, holds, and reflects, O Sacrament Divine! Food for the journey home! Come pilgrim let us walk together on this great adventure of life, a journey of love.

Come Lord Jesus come! Show us the path to Peace, lead us in your ways! Let your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

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Born in1942 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.”

The unspeakable nearness of God

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (B)

Poor Moses never gets to enter the Promised Land. But the wishy-washy, always famished, fickle, forgetful Israelites and foreigners traveling with him do. After all that Moses did to bring these people out of Egypt—including saving their butts from divine fury on multiple occasions—he is now too old and too close to death to continue.

Moses, devoted leader that he was, took the job God called him to do with some reluctance and made no bones about letting God know it. For forty years, he endured the peoples’ appalling lack of gratitude and awareness of the magnitude of what had been done for them, expressed by their hurtful claims of being better off in Egypt.

In one memorable rant, Moses seems close to submitting his resignation. He complains to God for saddling him with this burdensome bunch. He lashes out over his feelings of inadequacy and resentment over being made “a foster father” for the stubborn brood. “Was it I who conceived all this people?” he says. “Or was it I who gave them birth, that you tell me to carry them at my bosom, like a foster father carrying an infant, to the land you have promised under oath to their fathers?” [Numbers 11:11-15]. In the same breath, Moses acknowledges God as Creator, Father, and Promise Keeper. Moses’ relationship with God was like this, he could speak his mind plainly because his awareness of God included trust in God’s Infinite love and fidelity. He knew God would not reject or abandon him.

Much later, on the eve of the Israelites’ crossing of the Jordan, Moses gives a lengthy commencement speech in which he reminds the people that God’s love and faithfulness were present in all that they had experienced together—the exodus, the Sinai covenant, and the wilderness wanderings.

He presents a series of rhetorical questions to which there is only one answer. No, never before has anything this great happened, never have a people experienced the action of God on their behalf in such a way. Moses entreats the people to fix God in their hearts and to keep God’s statutes and commandments [Deut 4:32-34, 39-40]. Moses posed the rhetorical questions to the Israelites as if to say “Do you finally realize what this means?

Sometimes out of the blue, a rush of gratitude wells up in me for the simple gift of being, for life’s infinite possibilities, for beauty, for the sweetness of human tenderness, for variety and abundance, and for the self-awareness that permits me to recognize God’s exquisite nearness in all of these things. This is not unusual. I am putting into words the experience of countless others throughout time, inadequate as those words might be.

The writers of Sacred Scripture did their best, but the sense of the divine evades containment. Further, our minds rarely allow us to linger in that space long enough to try. And so, like the Israelites we cross the Jordan knowing there never will be a frame great enough to encompass this experience of God.

What is God’s nearness like? How does it feel, what colors, shapes, textures and images arise? To what relationships can it be compared?

Clear your mind of traditional artistic interpretation, distance yourself from Renaissance portraiture. Our God is not an old man in the sky. No image is adequate. The practice is like a parable in which we identify something that is “like” what we seek to understand, but at the same time that something is also not like it at all.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul names God Abba, a term of endearment meaning Daddy. As children of God we enjoy a closeness that surpasses anything previously imagined [Romans 8:14-17]. Jesus’ instruction to his disciples, found in the final verse of Matthew’s gospel, come with the comforting promise of life-long companionship: “And, behold, I am with you, always, until the end of the age” [Matthew 28:16-20].

Images of Divine Source, Creator, Promise Keeper, Abba, Friend are incomplete, but each nudges us closer to the truth. Our God is a God of incomprehensible proximity. When we take this awareness into the world, we can begin to see it expressed in various ways all around us. Suddenly we “see.”

Our awareness of God cannot be limited to sunny days and good times. Sometimes, when tragedy strikes, we feel abandoned. We cry out, “Where are you?” Others say, “How does your all-powerful, all-loving God permit this unbearable suffering?” Where the Hell is God?

The question of God and suffering is, to my mind, one of the primary causes of disbelief, and a topic for future discussion. But for now, I’d like to take a tentative step into this complicated and dangerous territory of faith to say: Our God is not a remote God. I don’t buy into the finite theology that says God “allows” bad things to happen because we are fragile beings and have free will to choose good over evil. It is true, we are fragile and we do have free will. But what kind of god would step back and actively allow the unspeakably profound human-driven evils and injustices currently happening in our world?

Assertions of God’s victorious nature and the promise of eternal rewards dismiss the ongoing reality that suffering and evil deeds, many fueled by a warped definition of God’s will, continues.

We cannot simply move from the end of one disaster or atrocity to the next. Victims cannot be expected to forget their history, or bear them alone. I recently overheard someone say of black Americans, “They should move on. Get over the slavery thing!” I have heard others say they avoid Holocaust museums because they don’t want to get depressed. Crimes against humanity must never be dis-remembered. To forget the suffering of the past is to forget the Cross. Shall we say “Oh, Jesus is resurrected, Alleluia”, and forget the crucifixion?

Where is God in all this? God is intimately, incomprehensibly present in our suffering and is the motivator of those who take up the cross to work for justice with a creative, abundant and life-giving response.

God is here, in the midst of it, unfathomably close. Do we realize what this means?

Today’s readings can be found here.

Three in One?

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (A)

How does 1 + 1 + 1 equal one? With God, all things are possible, but that doesn’t make it any easier for us to grasp. St. Patrick presented the shamrock as an example of how three can be one. Other symbols such as the pretzel, the Celtic triquetra, and overlapping rings for example, have been used with limited success to analogize how three entities can be understood as one while each maintains its differences.

Another method used by early church leaders bypasses the geometry altogether and likens the Trinity to a Greek dance called the “Perichoresis.” Maybe you’ve seen it at a Greek wedding, or even have participated in it: dancers hold hands and rotate in a circle, and as they whirl, people on the outside are invited to enter, causing the circle to increase. It is a playful, yet meaningful dance of belonging and union. Perichoresis as a metaphor for the Trinity envisions the three persons: The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit engaged in a dance of joy-filled giving and receiving. Trinity understood as perichoresis is a dance of creation that extends a continuous invitation to each one of us to participate in God’s life.

And the reason for the dance? Love. Love is why we exist. John’s Gospel tells us God’s act of love in the incarnation is not to condemn sinners but to save their lives [John 12:47].Jesus is about life, not death. The Holy Spirit empowers us every day to fulfill Jesus’ great commandment to Love one another.

How well do we perform the perichoresis? Have we allowed ourselves to be swept up into the circle of God’s love, extending our arms to gather in those who stand outside it? Do we understand the Source of creation in this holy dance and see how each of us fit into God’s plan? As an evangelizing people our daily activities—particularly those that take place in the world— must revolve around the loving care, encouragement, and support of one another so as to live peacefully, and to recognize one another as God’s own.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Cor 13:13

Today’s readings can be found here.