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EPISODE #288
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: BEING “ALL IN”

What does it mean to be “all in” as a follower of Jesus?

We’re going to explore that powerful question on today’s episode of Empowered by the Spirit, with your host, Deacon Steve Greco.

Listen in – and be sure to SHARE this podcast!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 10/24/21

FINDING GOD IN ALL THINGS

There is, to be sure, a stress within the Biblical tradition that God is radically other: “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” (Isaiah 45:15) and “No one shall see [God] and live” (Exodus 33:20). This speaks to the fact that the one who creates the entire universe from nothing cannot be, himself, an item within the universe, one being alongside of others. But at the same time, the Scriptures also attest to God’s omnipresence: “Your Wisdom reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well” (Wisdom 8:1) and “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; . . . If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-12). This speaks to the fact that God sustains the universe in existence from moment to moment, the way a singer sustains a song.  

What is perhaps the defining feature of the spirituality associated with St. Ignatius of Loyola—“finding God in all things” —flows from this second great biblical emphasis. Despite his transcendence, God should not be thought of as distant in any conventional sense of the term, certainly not in the Deist manner. Rather, as Thomas Aquinas taught, God is in all things, “by essence, presence, and power.” And mind you, since God is endowed with intellect, will, and freedom, he is never dumbly present, but always personally and intentionally present,
offering something of himself to us. Therefore, the search for God can commence right here, right now, with whatever is at hand. 

One of the questions in the old Baltimore Catechism was “where is God?” The correct answer was “everywhere.” Once that truth sinks in, our lives irrevocably change, for now every person, every event, every sorrow, every encounter becomes an opportunity for communion with God. The seventeenth century Jesuit spiritual master, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, expressed the same idea when he said that everything that happens to us is, directly or indirectly, the will of God. Once again, it is impossible to accept the truth of that statement and remain the same person you were before. This always already graced quality of “all things” functions as the starting-point for Ignatius’s spirituality. 

Ignatius has been very much on my mind, for I am in Europe filming a documentary on his life and teachings for my Pivotal Players series. On the long flight from Los Angeles to Rome, I had occasion to enact the principle I have just been describing. Ever since I was kid, I have loved maps and so when I find myself on a lengthy plane voyage, I spend a good deal of time with the flight map, which tracks the location of the plane, vis-à-vis landmarks on the ground. I had read and watched some videos for the first part of the flight and then I had slept most of the time we were over the Atlantic, but when I woke, I began studying the map with great interest. We were passing just north of Ireland, and I could clearly see the indications for Dublin, where my mother’s father was born, and for Waterford, where my father’s grandfather was born. I commenced to think about these men, neither of whom I ever met, who bore the Catholic faith that eventually came to my mother and father and finally to me, as a sheer grace. 

As the plane continued its journey across the English Channel, northern France came into view on the map, and I saw the great name “Paris.” Suddenly, a slew of memories flooded my mind: my simple room at the Redemptorist House on the Boulevard Montparnasse, Notre Dame, where I used to give tours to English-speaking visitors; the Institut Catholique where I did my doctoral studies; all of my Parisian friends, teachers, and colleagues who accompanied me across those three years; the beauty of Paris on a rainy day. And all of it, I knew, was a grace, sheer gift. 

Next, I saw that we were approaching the Alps and so I opened the window screen and looked down on the snow-capped mountains that were gleaming in the sun. How could I not appreciate this view, which untold generations of human beings wouldn’t have even imagined possible, as a splendid gift? 

In a word, the simple study of a flight map toward the end of a tedious journey became a rather marvelous occasion of grace. I wonder whether we would find this sort of experience less anomalous if we mused on the fact that God positively wants to share his life with us, wants to communicate with us. Perhaps the problem is that we stubbornly think of God in the Deist manner and relegate him to a place of irrelevant transcendence. Then the spiritual burden is on us, to find some way to climb the holy mountain or sufficiently to impress a demanding moral overlord. What if we accepted the deeply Biblical notion that God is always already busily and passionately searching for us, always already endeavoring to find ways to grace us with his love? What if we blithely accepted the truth that God can be found, as Ignatius taught, in all things? 

 

Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.

RISE UP, OH CHRISTIANS

It’s easy to capture the spirit of Easter on Resurrection Sunday. With Jesus risen, our spirits soar, we sing the “Alleluia” and enjoy a joyous meal at the altar in His name.  

The celebration keeps going when we return home to find that chocolate bunnies await. 

Brand-new feelings of renewal and new growth that begin on Easter Sunday are perfectly matched with spring – the leaves are sprouting, the birds are singing, and flowers are beginning to bloom. 

Still, it can be tricky to keep the spirit alive, so to speak. We need not think that lightheartedness must elude us, however, just because the calendar marches on. Indeed, keeping the Easter spirit alive in our hearts and prayers is critical for Catholics: Christ’s rising on the third day is the lynchpin of our faith. 

Daily prayers acknowledging the season seem to ‘spring forth’ easier when we can look out the window to gaze at our blooming garden. We sing “Alleluia” knowing that Jesus recognizes our happiness and gratitude for His Easter resurrection.  

The resurrection of Jesus makes all things new, notes Loyola Press in a recent story. “The Easter spirit is a spirit of renewal that enables us to show up at work with a positive attitude, to renew relationships that have been taken for granted, and to express appreciation and affection to those closest to us,” the article notes. “It means to see the world through new eyes – God’s eyes.” 

While the passion and resurrection of Jesus teach that suffering is transformed through faith in the Risen Christ, Loyola Press says, our faith means we can retain our sense of joy even when life gets in the way. The loss of a loved one, failure to achieve an important goal, or a setback during recovery from an illness are bearable. We recognize Jesus’s suffering. His rising is freshly imprinted in our minds. 

“The resurrection teaches us that God can overcome anything, even death,” Loyola Press declares. “When the Risen Christ appears to the women at the tomb and later to His disciples, His first words are ‘Do not be afraid!’ Our faith allows us to trust that God can overcome our most serious problems.” 

Beyond permeating our spiritual lives, the risen Christ inspires us to make small changes in our lives.  

Right away we can regain the born-again emotions sparked by Easter Mass by exploring the outdoors in glorious spring weather. Take a picnic to the park. Feel the breeze and smell the flowers. 

Prune hedges and flower beds and consider planting fresh vegetables and fruits to welcome summertime. Enjoy the new buds as flowers begin blooming. 

Beyond producing hot cross buns as an Easter tradition, why not continue baking into the spring months? A colorful frosted cupcake is a way we show someone special that we’re thinking sweet thoughts of them. 

Change your menu from heavy winter dishes to lighter fare. Think pasta primavera instead of meatballs and spaghetti. Use springtime to try new recipes featuring seasonal fruits and vegetables. 

Chocolate bunnies won’t last long. Yet our long Lenten sacrifices yield a spectacular new coming for our Savior – and a new day for us all.  

IN THE SPIRIT

When it comes to the sacrament of confirmation, Katie Dawson wants to clear up a widely held misunderstanding.

“I have often heard that confirmation is when a child becomes an adult, and that’s exactly wrong,” says Dawson, director of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange. “That’s not what confirmation is.”

Indeed, while many Catholics view the sacrament as the time when a young person comes of age, confirmation actually is about the individual’s journey of faith.

Confirmation is rooted in the holy day of Pentecost when God as the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles. It is the sacrament that solidifies a person’s relationship with Christ that began with baptism and “further strengthens them in their capacity to defend and spread the faith,” as the apostles set out to do, says Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“I told those I confirmed that they are, in a certain sense, successors of those first men upon whom the Holy Spirit descended and that they have the same fundamental task,” Barron wrote in a recent blog post about performing the sacrament for the first time.

“Their confirmation, I further explained, is therefore not really for them; it is for the church and the wider world,” he writes.

Confirmation is one of the three sacraments of initiation, with baptism, first Holy Communion and confirmation inextricably linked, Dawson says.

“These three sacraments are the gateway to full membership in the body of Christ,” she says. “There is a deep transformation when we are baptized, receive the Holy Eucharist and are confirmed, and confirmation puts the seal on our initiation.”

In the early church it was not uncommon to deliver all three sacraments at the same time. They were delivered by a bishop when he was in town to confirm eligible followers. Today confirmation is administered to high school students, usually at the age of 14 or 15.

“Some bishops saw that it would be practical to push it into high school so kids would be better able to understand it since they were older,” Dawson says.

There was also a desire to separate the sacrament from elementary school and graduation. “We didn’t want the sacrament linked to a school schedule,” she says.

A candidate for confirmation selects a sponsor who can guide them through the process. Responsibilities include attending mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and participating in church service projects with the confirmation candidate.

“This person is to be an active and engaged Catholic who, with word and action, lives out their faith,” according to the Diocese of Orange, which also recommends selecting a godparent involved in the candidate’s baptism as a way of linking the two sacraments.

A confirmee also chooses a saint name, a decision that must be carefully considered, Dawson says.

“What we want young people to do is to identify someone that they can look to as a model of faith, someone that they find appealing,” she says. “Maybe that person has ideals and circumstances in connection with the child. Maybe it is someone who is exciting and interesting, a saint of heroic virtue, someone who did great things.”

Whomever the confirmation candidate chooses for their saint name, it should be a saint that the candidate should aspire to emulate, Dawson advises.

“They should be saints who encourage us to be better,” she says.