Circular Letter: Summer 2021
Gaining the Victory with Christ
Peter stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee with John and some others of the disciples. They had seen the Lord in Jerusalem and then had come to Galilee as He had instructed them, but what were they to do now? “I am going fishing,” Peter announces (Jn 21:3). I am going back to what I know, to what I have always done. And the other disciples join him. As of yet, they had not wholly understood the meaning of the Resurrection and of what had gone before. For the disciples, the Cross of Christ had been a scandal! They were so fixed on earthly salvation and an earthly kingdom, that they still could not understand how the Cross could be a victory, the circumstance of Jesus’ “exaltation”. Even the Angels longed to look more deeply into these mysteries of the weakness of God and the Cross in the plan of providence (cf. 1 Pet 1:11-12). Now that they had seen the Risen Lord, they were filled with joy. But they still did not understand the life-changing, world-changing event of His crucifixion and Resurrection. Only gradually, with the aid of the Holy Spirit (which had not yet descended upon them), was the early Church able to grasp the significance of what had happened. The impact of the message was then so great, that by the Gift of the Spirit, weak and cowardly, simple and uneducated men were transformed into fearless proclaimers of the Gospel, powerful missionaries ready to die for Christ and for the salvation of souls.
Similarly, as the cycle of the great feasts of the Easter Season has come to a close and we enter into “Ordinary Time” in the efficacy of Pentecost, we want to consider, what is the significance of the message for us? What has changed, for me, for the Church? Is everything simply “back to normal”? While the world is becoming ever more blind to the message of the Gospel and closed to the word of truth, when even a good number of Bishops have lost their faith in the Person of Christ and the authority of Peter, we want to meditate once again on the heart of the Gospel message, the mystery of the Cross and the Good News of the Resurrection, and its transformative power in daily life. This is the heart of our Faith, to which we want remain faithful to the end.
Newness of life in Christ
Through faith and Baptism, we have been united with Christ and participate in His newness of life: “We were indeed buried with Him through Baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). The newness consists in our incorporation into Christ and His divine love. Jesus revealed to us the Divine Love by giving Himself wholly, even unto death, in obedience to the Father. And thus, He gives meaning to our life, too. He Himself gives us new life, He dwells within us and is our Way: “A new commandment I give you, love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34). Through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, given to us already at Baptism and fortified in Confirmation, we can follow Christ and by His grace strive towards this perfection of charity, of which He is our Divine Exemplar.
The Christian man, conformed to the likeness of that Son Who is the firstborn of many brothers, (cf. Rom 8:29; Col 3:10-14) received “the first-fruits of the Spirit” (Rom 8:23) by which he becomes capable of discharging the new law of love. (cf. Rom 8:1-11) Through this Spirit, who is “the pledge of our inheritance” (Eph 1:14), the whole man is renewed from within, even to the achievement of “the redemption of the body” (Rom 8:23): “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the death dwells in you, then He who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also bring to life your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11; cf. 2 Cor 4:14). (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 22).
In this world, we will always have challenges, always have battles to fight, but God is with us and does not abandon us, so long as we believe and place our hope in Him. “For in Christ Jesus … what matters is faith working through charity” (Gal. 5:6).
Pressing upon the Christian to be sure, are the need and the duty to battle against evil through manifold tribulations and even to suffer death. But, linked with the Paschal Mystery and patterned on the dying Christ, he will hasten forward to resurrection in the strength which comes from hope. (cf. Phil 3:19; Rom 8:17) (GS 22.)
What is new for us now as we enter Ordinary Time? Hopefully our faith has been deepened and strengthened through the commemoration of the Paschal Mystery and we have been inflamed again with the love for Jesus, in gratitude for the Redemption and the gift of the Spirit. With these graces, we want to face our everyday life with new courage and love. The Church and the world are in a state of great need. The Church in Germany, through the disobedience of many Bishops and priests, is on a road to schism. The spiritual blindness of our society in general is increasing, where infanticide, euthanasia and sexual perversion are proudly championed in civil law. What does the Lord want of us in the face of all this? We feel like David before Goliath. And yet, Jesus calls us to save with Him, to overcome evil with Him, through faith and loving expiation and intercession. “Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith” (1 Jn 5:4). We are called to keep our eyes fixed on God, to remain near to Him in prayer and the Sacraments, that we may receive by faith the grace to carry with Him the Cross for the salvation of the world. Exteriorly we may not be called to do great things for the Church or society, but if we follow the example of Mary and Joseph, St. Stephen and the Apostles, we will do great things in the hidden heroism of daily life.
Even Mary did not know beforehand her role in the future and in the whole history of salvation. But she accepted the call of God to go the way of motherhood with simple willingness in her “ECCE ANCILLA DOMINI, FIAT MIHI SECUNDUM VERBUM TUUM”. And she prompts us again and again to speak this Fiat, every time God calls us to love, to sacrifice. God also calls us in every Holy Communion, if we want to receive Him into ourselves with love, that He can transform us into “another Mary,” a mirror of Mary, so that we may carry Him out into life to those who need Him, to those in affliction and doubt, to the straying and those far from God. (Mother Gabriele, Letters to Dominican Sisters)
The Efficacy of Pentecost and the Cross
At the Ascension, Jesus tells the Apostles to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit and entrusts them with a new mission, “You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 1:8). Then at Pentecost, the Apostles were given the gift of languages, could work miracles, and converted thousands of souls by the power of their word. Though not many of us are called to be priests or bishops, nor to be missionaries in foreign lands, all of us are called to be witnesses of the new life in Jesus, and all are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Mary was also present in the Cenacle on Pentecost; she, too, received the Gifts of the Spirit. But her outward mission was much different from that of the Apostles. Mary took all the Apostles, all the disciples of Jesus, into her loving, maternal concern. This was the mission Jesus gave to her beneath the Cross, “Behold, your son” (Jn 19:26). She became the great intercessor before God for the life of the early Church, and for us all. She did not walk always in a fullness of light and consolation. She walked in dark faith, continuing to pronounce her “Fiat” in prayer and expiation for the young Church. What did the Holy Spirit give to her on Pentecost? “He brings her the burning love from the depths, ardent longing in holy renunciation, loving expiation and intercession in silence” (Mother Gabriele, Letters to Dominican Sisters, p. 27). Mary’s way is the way of sacrifice and intercession in the firmness of faith. This way can be imitated by all Christians, in every state of life; it is the way of love.
Yet along every path to God, there lies the Cross. Through it, He leads and forms us, and uses us as His instruments and mediators. Mother Gabriel writes, “The Cross is always for us the key to love. With the Cross, the Lord opens our heart for love, and with this love, we open the heart and the cross of our fellow man for God” (Mother Gabriele, Sayings). The Cross forms and transforms us if we accept it. We need light to understand the meaning of Cross, to be able to pronounce our ‘yes’ and offer it up. And we need to know where to find this light: in prayer, in silent adoration, in the Sacraments, in being conscious of and experiencing God’s presence within us, at every moment. God wants us to employ all the power of our hope and faith, so that through our loving ‘yes’ to His will, He can bring down graces of contrition, of conversion, of insight for so many without God in the world.
St. Joseph is another model for us of unassuming, faithful participation in the work of Redemption. Pope Francis writes, “Each of us can discover in Joseph—the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence—an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation” (Apostolic Letter, Patris corde, December 8, 2020). Though it may seem that our lives, too, are little and insignificant, it does not mean that they are not important in the plans of God. God needs souls ready to accept His call to carry the Cross with Him, through whom He can give light and mercy to the world.
Like us, Joseph also encountered disappointments and difficulty on his way. Indeed, the Cross marked Joseph’s life in a prominent way. His betrothed was found with child, He could provide no better than a stable for the birth of the Lord, He had to flee into exile with a young wife and small Child, and live for years among heathens waiting patiently for the call of the Angel to return. And how many more trials in his life are not recorded in the Gospels? In all these, Joseph is a model for us in the acceptance of difficulties and challenges, and in offering them up for souls.
Just as God told Joseph: “Son of David, do not be afraid!” (Mt 1:20), so He seems to tell us: “Do not be afraid!” We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation, but with hope and courage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. Our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers spring up from stony ground. Even if our heart condemns us, “God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything” (1 Jn 3:20). …Thus, the Apostle Paul can say: “We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God” (Rom 8:28). To which Saint Augustine adds, “even that which is called evil (etiam illud quod malum dicitur)”. In this greater perspective, faith gives meaning to every event, however happy or sad. (Patris corde)
Co-redeeming with and through Christ
It is not only our own good that we seek, but one of the greatest graces we can receive is to become participants in the work of Redemption, working for the good of souls. It is true that Jesus’ merits are enough to redeem many worlds, but God does not want to save us without our cooperation. And in this, He allows us to carry the burdens of others. Precisely through faith and trust in God before disappointing or humanly hopeless situations, St. Joseph became a key instrument in the hands of God toward the economy of salvation. Even to this day, he continues to work for the good of souls through his powerful intercession before the throne of God. Because he was willing to serve, to follow God’s will as communicated by the Angel over his own insights, plans or wishes, God could use him in His saving work.
Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, His history and His plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that He can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture. (Patris corde)
Just as for Mary and Joseph, the Angel goes before us, as guide and teacher on our way of the Cross. He teaches us how to fight for God and the coming of His Kingdom in our difficulties. And he shows us the fundamental attitude for receiving the grace of the Spirit: humility, that is, the courage to serve.
The condition for acquiring the graces of Pentecost is the humble acknowledgment of man’s dependence on God, that he is a servant of God and that the Angel is his fellow servant, serving at his side. “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for all” (Mk 10:45). And precisely for this reason He sent the Angel, this glorious spirit, this mighty and powerful one of God, also into these depths [of the earth] as “fellow servant” at the side of His faithful ones. And until we have revised here our arrogant ideas about serving, we will never be able to receive the true fire of Pentecost nor be bearers of its efficacy.
The Angel helps us to attain the grace of Pentecost, for he lets his light fall upon our understanding, so that we grasp the greatness of God and our own littleness, and at long last become humble. He teaches us how to pray – not to prattle on like a prayer-mill, but to lift our soul up to God, to immerse ourselves in God, to converse with God. And only when we have become humble, little before God, if we are willing to let go of everything and to cling to God alone, to follow His will, then the Holy Spirit will descend upon us. Then we will willingly want to be a servant or handmaid, hand in hand with our good Angel… (Mother Gabriele, Readings I, Pentecost, 1956)
For those who have made their consecration to the Guardian Angel, they have learned to listen to the Angel in the subtle inspirations of daily life and in the voice of conscience. He teaches us to accept our Cross with trust and submission, believing firmly in the goodness and wisdom of God. We must also, however, learn to trust the Angel.
The embers of love must enable us to believe the Angel, like Mary believed, like Joseph believed, like the shepherds and the wisemen believed. The poison of our age is doubt. No faithful Angel doubts… That must be our way: to believe unwaveringly in the goodness and in the help of God, and in the power of the Angels, to hope with faith-filled confidence – even against all hope – and to love invincibly, to love still even this person for whom everything seems to be wasted. (Mother Gabriele)
The Angel leads us on the way of self-denial, of acceptance of the Cross without giving in to self-pity. How many physical and emotional trials do we face daily, large or small? These are all an opportunity to give to God out of love. Or do we not want to carry anything? We must have eyes to see and a heart ready to forget self, to think on the Lord and His distress over the loss of so many souls. Did Our Lord not go before us? Does He not carry the burden in us and for us? If we truly love the Lord, we will strive to overcome ourselves daily, to deny ourselves and to offer up in silence, like Mary, like Joseph.
Do you know what a way of the Cross is? A way of union with the Lord! …You have struggles every day, but do you then think on the Lord in His distress? Ah, you say, I think first on my duty, I think on what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow, I jot down notes so that I do not forget anything, I think about what I still have to do. I get upset over obstacles, I cannot swallow my anger, it has to come out.
Do you see the Lord lying on the ground in front of you? Your anger must come out, His Blood spurts out! You drive into others your bad mood – the hangmen drive the cruel nails into the Lord! Is this your way of the Cross? Do you ever suffer with Him? Or should the Lord place you before the Angels and say, “I had to go alone; she had no time, she is not little enough, not poor enough, not compassionate enough –”? (Mother Gabriele, Way of the Cross: The Great Way)
Becoming victors with Christ
“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with Me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with Me on My throne, just as I Myself conquered and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev 3:201-21). We think that in denying ourselves, in dying to self we will be miserable, that we will somehow “lose out” on something. But really, the opposite is true. Our Lord teaches us, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25). Only by dying to self will we find great peace, for in dying, we are entrusting ourselves to God, giving Him place in our hearts and in our lives. God is love, Self-gift, and having been made in His likeness, we will only find fulfillment and true joy in life when we, too, become self-gift to God, and for His sake, to our fellow man. As Pope St. John Paul II loved to quote, “This likeness [to God] reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Vatican II, GS 24).
When we die to self and give ourselves to God in sacrifice, we enter into His love and His Spirit dwells within us, He who is love, peace, joy! He does not will unhappiness for us, but that we find true happiness and joy in Him. This is the victory of the Cross. We will not always be filled with sensible joy and consolation—we must really make the offering of self, especially in the difficult and dark moments. But then, God is so good, so merciful! He knows our weakness and our efforts, and He comes to us, especially in Holy Communion, and fills us again with His love, that we have the courage to continue, to take up the Cross once again and follow Him, to become victors with Him.
He also accepts the Cross of our frailty, of our weakness, as if it were His own. He allows us to kneel very close to His Cross, while He offers Himself to the Heavenly Father for us [in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass]. He says, “Child, behold your Mother!” He pushes open the gates of heaven so that we can be very close to the holy Angels. He says with a voice that penetrates our soul and our hearts like a ray of the sun penetrates glass: “Come, eat and drink—ME, that you may remain in Me and that I may remain in you!” Not the tormented Lord, but the Victor speaks in this way—“See, I have overcome the world.” And this last word we shall write into our hearts as a program for the whole of the coming year: this is our co-redeeming—overcoming the world! The world in us and the world around us! Radically overthrow the ego-throne and level it! Close all hatches against comfort, against rebelling and refusing, against uncharitableness and oversensitivity! And then like a tractor freshly oiled every day, go out into the mission of daily work in order to save souls, as many souls as one can catch, all, all for God! In so doing, we overcome the world, death and the devil. The Risen One is the Victor; we must become victors! (Mother Gabriele, Letters, April 1, 1955)
We will become victors with Christ when we give ourselves to God and His will, when we accept the Cross He has destined for us, when we desire nothing but to serve Him and to work with Him toward the salvation of the world in the way and in the place He wills for us. This is our true dignity as sons of God, this is the newness of life won for us by Christ, our incorporation into His Body, which He renews in us at every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in every Holy Communion.
Do you know what a way of the Cross is? A royal way! …Jesus Christ remains always the Lord, always the Son of God, even in the deepest misery and in the greatest annihilation on the Cross. You will remain in His Heart, if you love Him and suffer everything for love of Him. In you, the Lord makes His way towards His victory, never forget this! But also never forget that you are only a servant, only a handmaid, only an instrument. Only then, when you have been crucified with Him and for Him, can He extend to you the victor’s robe!” (Mother Gabriele, The Great Way)
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