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Awaken Love

‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing…’ (Heb. 10:25)

Having ascended to heaven, Jesus reunites with Father in joyful communion. The first fruit of their feast? Loosing heavenly energy to earth endowed with power to permeate and make all things new! From the Dynamic Duo flows the Holy Spirit like sweetest rain—sweet yes, but penetrating too, co-mingling with our human essence and awakening us to the One who loves us more and more nearly than any creature ever could.

This gift of love and the many smaller gifts of the Spirit that all members of Christ can impart to each other build up the Body (1 Cor. 12): that is why we must gather. Simply put, the Holy Spirit wells up in Jesus’ people who know they’ve a gift to give and who hunger for the many gifts that await them in the assembly.

Holy Spirit gift-giving has profound psychological implications. God made us unfit to be alone. The Spirit of Love-in-Truth invites us to come together in our ache for this love—the most profound need we share. We become more human in our self-giving, one to another. And we discover the Divine in our brother or sister. We resist the temptation to make our fellows idols; rather, we honor them as icons–beautiful, flawed mediators of the One who heals and saves us.

Yet the human mediation matters—it is how He made us—fiercely, frustratingly human—and we share a common responsibility to receive and give the gift. Gathering to impart, we grow spiritually and psychologically into our Head.

That is Living Waters! That is the life-giving stream that wells up in what could be the desert of shame and fear-based isolationism. We know the latter through sin’s exile—we mastered ‘social distancing’ long before Covid-19!

Jesus will not have it. He created us to connect with our fellows. As we forge creative links, we become conduits of His lifegiving Spirit to one another.

Now a deadly virus lurks. Stay home, open a screen, zoom community. Not bad. Certainly, we all have benefited from tech-Church and may feel it to be our only option. Others may admit that homey confines are addictive and overly convenient. Maybe we want an excuse to not venture out much anymore.

I exhort you; rouse yourselves. Don’t defy conscience—mask and distance—ok! But find constructive and lifegiving ways to commune. You get only a fraction of community on the flat screen. God made you to offer your whole gift through immersion in the current of gathered believers.

My small group from Living Waters carefully gathered a couple weeks ago. A feast of human proportions! None of us realized how starved we were for honest, merciful disclosure, one to another—facial, vocal, and bodily nuances that mediated many gifts. ‘He ascended on high…He gave gifts to men…that He might fill all things’ (Eph. 4:8-10).

In the Spirit of Ascension, we are boldly, and with care, proceeding on with our Living Waters Training in Kansas City, June 20th-26th. We can do this safely and dynamically to fulfill our mission in this 40th year. After much prayerful refinement, the DSM staff believes this will be the best training ever for the few, the brave, the pioneers who will venture out ‘to know what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones,’ ‘the surpassing greatness of His power for those who believe…’ (Eph. 1:18, 19)

Join us. Let’s awaken love together.

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Jesus Our Peace

‘Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled or afraid’ (Jn 14:27).

Not as easy as it sounds. Sure, I’m praying-nothing but time to pray, lingering longer before Him. Hungry yes, still no Eucharist, but the Real Presence of Jesus in His Spirit meets me. At times, my whole being resounds with something like peace.

Until. I surprise myself. Just when I thought I could ‘walk in the Spirit and not fulfill my lusts’ (Gal. 5:16) … Bam. My doctor’s appointment was supposed to be quick and easy. But the line outside for temp-taking and masking was long; when the receptionist reprimanded me in a shrill voice-with a grotesque passport smile-‘Get back sir, you are way too close!’-I saw myself lunge at her and successfully rip the façade off her ‘pleasant’ face.

‘The peace He left’ left. As I paced the waiting area (no room at that inn–most seats were blocked for distancing purposes), I felt good shame and mused on what lurks beneath most of our prayerful efforts. His peace still surpasses understanding but so does the unrest that seeps into our core and rattles us.

I asked for mercy. I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet. It reminds me that Jesus’ mercy suffices and extends way beyond me to meet those most in need of it. ‘O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, empty Yourself out upon us and envelope the whole world…’

I aim His mercy at the world’s front-liners, persons isolated and without familiar consolation in their distress. Like you, I’ve a dozen friends and relatives who suffer alone. And I pray for courageous medics who are the last ones to hold a fearful hand, losing its grip.

That’s the real deal-the crux of this pandemic-good people losing breath and the hospital heroes who accompany them as we look on helplessly through various screens.

We cannot pass through the walls of this pandemic. But Divine Mercy and Peace can. I chuckle at my mixtures then pray for that River to flow to the most courageous, and vulnerable, in this fight.

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Grounded 9

‘The dignity of every woman is the responsibility of every man.’
St. John Paul 11, Theology of the Body

The test of my love lies in marriage; it is revealed in the eyes and heart of a person, a woman, my bride.

I will not be judged on my ministry gifts; these I exercise freely and receive some reward from others who value a snapshot, a post card, an edited glimpse of me.

Annette witnesses the whole broken image, or rather a series of images—the unrated miniseries without end. God keep her.

Marriage casts a searchlight that reveals the delightful, dirty dance—how we bless and bedevil each other with our love, or lack thereof—the hopes and fears of all these years, 39 and counting for this marriage. Sure, there are gaps, every marriage has them, but also treasures hidden from others that confirm two persons’ best selves and establish home on earth.

I love what for me is the apex of Theology of the Body: John Paul exhorts marrieds to not reduce sexuality to orgasm but rather to recognize and savor the extraordinary sexual essence of her womanhood, his manhood—the person behind the passion. A whole-enough marriage summons that essence and gifts each party with the other.

The other day, after two virus-inspired travel-free months, enjoying very much the rhythm of Annette and my uninterrupted life together, I noticed something: Annette’s peace. She looked lovely, at ease, a little playful. She was grounded because her husband was. I fell in love again.

Truth is, we married, committed to a long stint in grad school and baby-making, then I took off on a runway and never looked back. (I’ve accrued nearly 3 million miles with one airline.) Racing around the world may be good for the Kingdom but hell on a marriage. Annette learned how to partner with me from a distance. Costly. Our syncopated rhythm has not served her well. Her reward is heavenly, mine purgatorial. Who said life was fair? Mercy trumps justice!

Normal anxieties aside, she is more beautiful when her man is around. You could say the pandemic invited Annette to breathe. I savor the gift.

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Resounding Authority

‘I pray that you would know…His incomparably great power toward those who believe’ (Eph. 1: 18, 19).

Not a big surprise that sexual temptation has increased in the pandemic. But this Easter, with Pentecost right around the bend, I am fighting for a ‘yes’ to chastity that surpasses concession to moral sloppiness. Might our God-breathed resolve rise! Like a prayer, may our authority for purity resound and empower fellow strugglers around the world.

Doesn’t matter the season; we choose today who we will serve. This is what Catholics call self-mastery, taking charge over our own temples. God makes the way and invites us to walk in it. St. Paul couldn’t be clearer—Jesus bought our bodies with His blood and filled them with the Spirit that raised His dead body. Now we can act decisively and ‘honor God’ in our passions (1 Cor. 6).

Harder than it sounds. One cannot underestimate the depth of disordered desires, the divides that define and deride us. We invest more in porn than chastity; we think like Christians but worship at pagan altars. Our common enemy mocks our ‘yes’ to Jesus when we bow the knee to sexy idols. No wonder we’ve little appetite for real people. Shame and self-reproach are closest companions.

No good waiting for magic—the experience that changes everything. We admit powerlessness and we cry out for mercy; we activate the authority He has already given us. In the sexual realm, we act like our own exorcist, or master house cleaner. In the Spirit of Jesus, we cast counterfeits out of the temple. We let them in. Expel them, in the Name of Jesus. Use your authority: ‘GET OUT!’

Countless times, under the sway of temptation, I have simply chosen Him. I cling, His right hand upholds me. With one hand I embrace Him; with the other I wield the sword and decapitate snakes. Simple. Intimate authority that resounds throughout the universe.

All this is impossible without help, without Church. We MUST be known to a handful of persons who share our struggle and our commitment to chastity. Jesus in our friends is stronger than Jesus in our weakness. No other way than through the broken body of Christ—real members who fall, get back up, help us stand.

We are winning because He won already. That win is deeper in us today than it was yesterday. Our ‘yes’ to Him is far more powerful than the grip of sin. Every time we forego lust through our ‘yes’ to Jesus, holiness resounds and strengthens a host of struggling hearts.

Instead of lamenting the influence of charming idolaters, let us exercise our authority. We have power to unite the divided with robust chastity.

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Grounded 8

One strange (if inconsequential) impact of Covid-19 are ‘virtual’ running races. We who have preregistered for, say, half-marathons, are now instructed that the race will be 5000 (or so) solo ones—take to the hills of your choice, pound 13.1 miles yourself, send in your time, and receive a gaudy medallion in a private ceremony of your own design.

Pretty lame for an $80 investment—solos runs are what socially disinclined runners do all the time. After winter’s gloom, Midwest racers want to inhale Spring with others: first, the corporate anxiety of sizing up your competition then boom, out of the blocks, alternately goaded and annoyed by the guy or girl next to us who seem to have the edge, mile after mile. Finally, the last half-mile or so when you draw from untapped sources and lunge to a strong finish.

I love it! It keeps me sharp and in shape, a little defiant of age, still ‘enlarging the place of my tent, not holding back!’ (Is. 54:2) or in St. Paul’s words, ‘I press on to take hold of that for which Jesus took hold of me’ (Phil. 1:12). Running races compels me to reach for more. For the last decade of so, I have slowed only a little, and on occasion have surprised myself with better times.

But this 62-year-old mortal is feeling his limits. Last year I suffered a couple injuries while training with my junior partner in chaste crime-capers, Marco Casanova. New to competing, he ran through his limits and aced his first half-marathon in October. Since then, we’ve trained on long runs together, and, I say with feigned humility, he began to surpass me. Ouch. Experiencing him pace then disgrace me by jutting out til he ascended the hill and disappeared… well, I felt 62.

Why then did I ask Marco to do that blasted virtual run, my first? Cause I wanted the goad and I wanted to see God bless the guy as his gift accelerated and he celebrated the grace of running. As expected, we ran shoulder-to-shoulder for the first half, then Marco broke away. I strove to hold my own, and he found the groove right for him. In a flash I reckoned that others stronger and younger than me must share in this race and surpass me. How else will a generation be rescued from the stink of sexual sin? How else will She be made chaste, ready for Her soon-coming-King?

‘Forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…’ (Phil. 3:14)

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