Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary-
of Authentic Wisdom and Faith are Built Upon an Encounter with
the 'Great Love'"
the Ascension of the Lord
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
5 June 2011
The movie “Of Gods and Men” portrays the dilemma of French
Trappist Monks in Algeria during the country’s civil conflict of
the mid-90’s. The monks are forced to rediscover their vocation
and are faced with the ultimate challenge: leave Algeria and
abandon their people or stay and face martyrdom. At one point in
the film, a Muslim girl asks one of the monks what it is like to
fall in love. The monk, Brother Luc, responds with these words:
“there is something inside you that comes alive, the presence of
someone. It’s irrepressible and makes your heart beat faster.
It’s an attraction, a desire.” The girl then asks Brother Luc if
he has ever been in love. He answers: “yes, several times. And
then I encountered another love, even greater. And I answered
that love.” This greater love became an attraction for Brother
Luc, a desire so deep in his heart that he had to follow it,
find out what it is and get to know it. In so doing, Brother
Luc, along with the other monks in Algeria were able to
rediscover – in mind and heart – that Great Love in the midst of
the danger around them.
Chapter 17 of St. John’s Gospel is called the Priestly Prayer of
Jesus. In this moving dialogue, Jesus, as Priest, offers Himself
to the Father and provides for us a teaching, a model for
prayer. The Priestly Prayer can be broken down into three parts.
In part one Jesus prays to the Father for the glorification of
His human nature and the acceptance of the cross. In the second
part He prays for the disciples for their courage to bear
witness to Him in the world. In the third part He prays for
unity among all those who believe. Overall, this is a prayer, an
expression of love from the Heart of Christ. He shows the depths
of His love for His disciples as He prays for them to the
Father. In essence, His prayer is that the disciples know the
Father as He knows them because in knowing the Father they will
find the true meaning of love for this knowledge is eternal
life. The disciples enjoy the privilege of hearing this teaching
first hand. From it, they learn the true nature of Jesus’
divinity – that He came from the Father.
The Christian, who is also a disciple of Jesus – acquires this
same knowledge of God and of divine things through living a life
of faith and maintaining a personal relationship with Christ.
This knowledge, however, is not so much a knowledge that comes
from books – though that should not be cast aside – but rather
it is given by God who illumines and fills our mind and heart,
our will and understanding with love. By the light of this love,
a Christian has a more intimate and joyful knowledge of God and
the mysteries of the divine. It prepares us, St. Thomas Aquinas
teaches, for “a certain experience of the sweetness of God.”
This knowledge is directly connected to the Holy Spirit’s Gift
of Wisdom. Of this gift, Dominican Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
“The gift of wisdom, the principle of a living contemplation
that directs action, enables the soul to taste the goodness of
God, to see it manifested in all events, even in the most
painful, since God permits evil only for a higher good…”
Living our faith in this way, like the saints, we will be
illumined by God’s grace to understand the real meaning of the
events of life, whether small or great. We will see more
opportunities to be merciful, peaceful, and try to live in
greater harmony with each other. We will not consider illness a
burden nor wallow in our sufferings for in them we will see –
with the eyes of faith and a heart aflame with love – the
blessing of the cross.
Wisdom of this sort, a deeply rooted knowledge of God, begins
with the initial attraction, the desire for that greater love.
This is perhaps what Brother Luc and the other monks experienced
as they witnessed the oppression and danger building up around
them. As they struggled with their dilemma, God gave them the
opportunity to rediscover their calling, their vocation; they
rediscovered that Great Love and they came alive.
We too must discover this Great Love.
It must be an attraction, a desire in order for it to come alive
in our lives of faith. But to do so we must make time to express
our affection for God, we must set aside time for our own
personal dialogue with Him. In so doing, then we too will
encounter that Great Love and be able to answer Him. May the
Gift of the Holy Eucharist bestow upon us the grace of having
that initial encounter with this Great Love.