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The Divine Search

By: Rev. Paul Scalia

 

The Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9)

All of salvation history begins not with an answer but with a question: Where are you? The question expresses a desire from the depth of God’s heart. He asks where we are — He seeks us out — because He desires to be with us and that we be with Him. As in Adam we all sinned (1 Cor 15:22), so in Adam, God seeks all of us and asks, Where are  you? He wants to know where we are so that He can find us again and reestablish that relationship with Him.

This simple question sets the trajectory for all salvation history. From this point on, the story is about God seeking us out. It reaches its fulfillment in the Incarnation, the coming of God Himself into the world. Not content simply to ask where we are, in the Person of Jesus Christ, He enters the world to find us. His mercy does not wait for us to look for Him. He makes the first move. God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rm 5:8). In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins (1 Jn 4:10).

Where are you? This question expresses the divine initiative. But it also reveals the sad reality of human flight from God. We see this first in Adam and Eve, who childishly try to hide themselves from God. I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself (Gen 3:10). The fear expressed here comes from shame. Adam knows that by sin he has defaced the likeness of God within himself. He is ashamed of what he has done and, worse, of himself. Here an old word is helpful: Adam is shamefaced. The divine likeness is marred; he cannot face God…so he hides.

As absurd as we might think their hiding, we also flee from God’s presence. Often it is the shame of sin that drives us into hiding. Like Adam, we are shamefaced and hide our faces. Other times it is vanity and love of the world that makes us hide. We avoid Him because we do not want to make the changes that He may ask of us…or accept the challenges that He sets before us.

adam-and-eve-in-the-garden-of-eden-cranachAnd our hiding places are no less absurd than those of our first parents. We hide in our work and busyness (“I’m too busy to pray…”). We hide in our possessions and entertainment, perhaps thinking that the world’s noise will distract Him as it does us. We hide often in the very sins that cause shame in the first place — in the alcohol, in the pornography, in the promiscuity, and so on. We can even hide from Him “in plain sight” — whenever we use devotions and prayers not to know Him better but to appease Him and, in effect, keep Him at a distance.

We need to “save face.” But we cannot. Only He can restore His likeness. Only He can take away the shame so that we can again show Him our faces. Thus the psalmist speaks of God as salutare vultus mei — literally, the savior of my face (cf. Ps 43:5). He enables us to be genuine, real, and authentic again. His forgiveness restores His likeness within us and indeed restores us to ourselves — so that we can look at Him face to face.

All of which means that we need to allow ourselves to be found. Our first parents hid themselves and we repeat that folly. Salvation comes only when we allows ourselves to be found by Him. The heart of prayer, therefore, is not so much searching for God as it is allowing ourselves to be found by Him.

Where are you? The question also prompts self-reflection, an examination of conscience: Where am I in relation to God? This first examination of conscience happened in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8) — in the evening. We also, at the end of the day, should hear His voice prompting us to self-examination, to consider how we stand before Him. The daily examination of conscience thus becomes not so much thinking about the rotten things we have done as responding to this primordial question of salvation. Where are we in our relationship with Him?

Where are you? We are inclined to flee and hide from the divine Seeker. Our Lady shows us how we should respond. The first Eve hid with her husband and avoided God. Mary, the New Eve, steps forward in humble confidence and trust saying, Ecce ancilla Domini — Behold, the handmaid of the Lord! May she take us by the hand and teach us how to respond likewise.

The following article was first printed on Catholic News Agency about the Opening Mass at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family.

By: Natalie Plumb

The debate about the nature of marriage is rapidly unfolding.  On the state level, this debate continues to garner attention from our religious and political leaders, same-sex marriage advocates, parents, professors and students.

JPIIOpeningMass

Bishop Loverde celebrates Opening Mass for the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America. (Photo by Natalie Plumb)

On Sept. 10, in Washington, D.C. – a city that will continue to be the center of a political debate on the issue – a group of students began graduate degree programs that offer a specific concentration on the study of marriage and the family, in a hope to offer informed voices to the debate.  In a countercultural turn, these students will be rigorously engaging in studies that support and promote the Catholic understanding of marriage – a union between one man and one woman for their good and the good of their children.

Nearly 80 students, professors, seminarians, priests, vocalists and laypersons gathered to celebrate the Opening Mass for the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America, presided by Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.  The Institute “provide[s] a comprehensive understanding of marriage and family faithful to Catholic magisterial tradition.”  Students examine marriage in its authentic form by studying theology, biotechnology, psychology, sociology and by engaging contemporary challenges to Christian ethics.

At just 26 years of age, Caitlin Williams is a second-year Ph.D. student at the John Paul II Institute, who says she is driven by the challenge young Catholics face in witnessing to authentic marriage.

JPIIOpeningMass2

The Opening Mass took place in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (Photo by Natalie Plumb)

“The response of the whole world to the heart of the Church laid bare…it motivates me to study, to reach people who wouldn’t otherwise find Her,” Williams said.

Graduate student and priest Fr. Anthony Craig calls our time the time to “enact the great New Evangelization that the Catholic Church’s last three pontiffs have discussed.”

Marriage and the family are integral to this New Evangelization and the renewal of a culture that strengthens marriage and nourishes the family.  Pope Francis himself will attest to this on September 14, when he will publically witness the marriage of 20 couples in Rome.  He is following the example of St. John Paul II, who was the last pontiff to do so in 1994.

With a small student body – last year’s class graduated 28 – the odds would appear against students like Fr. Craig. But he said that the Lord works through small factions, which we know through Church history; the Church itself began with only 12 apostles.

“He can work with a small number of people,” Fr. Craig said. “In a like manner, the Lord will enact something great to witness to the truth that actually holds us.”

Given the challenges these students will face in a culture that desires to redefine marriage and the family, often in order to cater to the desire of adults over children, Bishop Loverde offered a few words of encouragement during his homily at the Institute’s Opening Mass, which was a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit.

“We are to evangelize, and to do that precisely by proclaiming the authentic meaning of marriage,” Bishop Loverde said, adding that we can only do this through the power of the Holy Spirit. “Let us beseech Him, to thirst for God, as did our patron, our beloved, St. John Paul II.”

Click here to read more on Catholic News Agency

Por: Padre JOSÉ E. HOYOS

Cuantas veces has buscado una oportunidad de tener un verdadero encuentro con Cristo y sentirse amado. Ya millones de personas en el mundo se encuentran felices y con los corazones encendidos por haber experimentado el fuego y el gozo de pertenecer a esta bendecida familia de Dios.

Nuestra Diócesis de Arlington nos está dando esta gran oportunidad de recibir y participar en este gran evento llamado: “Riesgo por Jesús” una conferencia de evangelización donde nos abrirán nuevos caminos, nuevas mentes y nos guiaran hacia la verdadera conversión y sanación de nuestras vidas.

Risk Jesus (Poster - Flyer) SpanishEl Papa Francisco en la Encíclica: “Evangelii Gaudium” nos dice: “Al que arriesga al Señor, El Señor no lo defrauda y cuando alguien da un pequeño paso hacia Jesús descubre que él ya esperaba su llegada con los brazos abiertos”.

Y esto es lo que va a suceder el sábado 27 de septiembre en el Hilton memorial chapel, localizado en Woodbridge, Virginia. Cristo te espera a ti y a tu familia en un día donde tu vida cambiará y será bendecida.

Como católicos estamos llamados a reforzar y renovar nuestra fe cada día, primero en oración, en nuestra participación en los sacramentos, especialmente en la santa Eucaristía; pero si nuestra Diócesis nos da la oportunidad de avivar nuestra fe y de tener un encuentro con Jesús vivo, hay que participar y tomar el riesgo de ser protagonistas de esta nueva evangelización.

Nuestra Iglesia Católica quiere invitar personalmente a todos los catequistas, carismáticos, cursillistas, sacerdotes, diáconos, a los grupos de Emaús, Legión de Maria y a todos los seglares a participar haciendo hincapié a prestar atención a la voz de Jesús y a que nos entreguemos sin reserva a tener un encuentro personal con Él.

Continue leyendo en el Arlington Catholic Herald…

By: Erin Healy

This fall, Theology on Tap will present powerful encounters with Jesus Christ. Meet three of our speakers whose lives were forever transformed:

  • Before he entered the seminary, Fr. Wagner was a mechanical engineer working as a contractor in Crystal City. Gripped by the lifestyle of agnosticism and materialism, it wasn’t until he accepted an invitation to attend a Catholic men’s conference that he discovered a void in his life he didn’t even know existed…
  • Gloria was a 12-year-old protestant attending Catholic school. After a lunchtime food fight, her classmates found themselves sitting in the chapel, in front of the monstrance. It was in that moment that Gloria was “consumed by fire that burned, but didn’t hurt.” For the first time, she experienced the knowledge that Jesus was real. Two days later, she informed her parents that she was becoming a Catholic…
  • Trent graduated from college and, not knowing what do to next, joined a commune in Wisconsin. As a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia, Trent was in Dharamsala, India waiting to cross the border into Tibet to further his study of Buddhism. He decided to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. While at Mass, he was overcome by the real presence in the Eucharist. He contacted his advisor and changed his dissertation topic from Buddhism to Catholicism…

TOTSept29To hear the rest of their stories, join us for Theology on Tap at 7:30 p.m. on Monday evenings from September 29 through November 3 at O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Arlington. All adults ages 21-39, single and married are welcome. For a complete list of dates and speakers, click here. Check the event out on Facebook here.

By: Deacon Marques Silva

This past weekend, I was with 35 men and women on retreat. We all had a longing in our heart for something more than what the world can offer us. One of my fellow retreatants, a young woman from Seattle, shared that a week prior, she was looking for a retreat. Unable to find one in her area, she broadened her search across the country. She found our small retreat right here in McLean, Va. She took a risk, bought her plane ticket and, suddenly, she was in Virginia.

She answered a longing in her heart. She responded to a feeling that she needed something more. She took a risk and yesterday shared:

“This weekend was such a blessing and far surpassed my expectations…I am in awe of the way God knew just what I needed and lead me across the country…He is so good!”

On September 27, I will be attending the Risk Jesus conference at Hylton Memorial Chapel. I am going because I know I need something more. Come join me, take a Risk, and let Jesus address the desires of your heart. While you’re there, come find me and tell me that you took a risk and came – I would love to meet you and hear how He is answering the longings of your heart.

To learn more or share with your friends, watch the video below.

From the Office of Vocations

You’ve heard the term, made popular by Bl. Mother Teresa, “Come and See.” It’s used commonly now to refer to an immersion experience of discernment, whether it’s a short visit or an extended period of active discernment. It can be a great help if you’re doing everything you are supposed to, but seem “stuck” in your discernment.

peaceObviously, if you’re committed to a diligent discernment, you are living a moral life, making sure you are applying yourself to prayer and study of the Faith, being  active in some sort of apostolate, and meeting regularly with a competent spiritual director, if possible. For some, God makes His will known through these things alone. But sometimes they do not result in a clear answer, and you may be left with the same (or even more!) uncertainty about where God is calling you to go with your life. In this case, God may be prompting you to take another step and “jump into the water.”

Take Kevin, for example. A couple of years ago, he acknowledged that God seemed to be calling him to discern the priesthood. He became more active in his parish, began reading about the Faith, praying every day, and his life is generally focused on discerning his vocation very strongly. For a year, he’s been in contact with the vocation director. However, God hasn’t given him a clear indication of what to do next. His spiritual director encouraged him to apply for seminary, and then see what direction God gives him.

God doesn’t always give an obvious answer. He may want you to show Him you’re willing to trust by handing over your insecurities and delving into a more radical discernment. A “Come and See” in the form of active formation (e.g. a house of studies program, seminary, or postulancy) shows God that you’re really willing to take the next step, and are ready to openly listen to His prompting. Once you do that, it’s crucial to be prepared to be patient and let God show you what He wants to do with you next. If you’re faithfully living the “Come and See,” He will show you whether it is His will that you continue; and if it is not His will, He will show you the path that He wants you to take next.

It’s easy in this situation to assume that, since God isn’t clearly saying “continue on this path,” He’s indicating a change of direction. But an important principle of the “Come and See” is that God will give some clear direction on the next step to take.

What’s nice about this approach is that you don’t have to worry about discovering or making a decision regarding your vocation. God does the work, either directly in your heart (sometimes it will be painfully obvious that you don’t fit in the formation program), or by external circumstances (maybe your formation director says it’s just not a good fit). There is no need for fretting over “figuring it out.” You just have to be faithful and patient until He speaks clearly.


Thank you for taking the time to consider your vocation. Be open with God and He will bless you greatly!

If you would like to talk about your vocation, give Fr. J.D. Jaffe, Vocations Director of the Diocese of Arlington, a call or send him an email.

This was originally featured in June of 2014 in the Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Vocations’s E-Newsletter Discernment, a monthly subscription-based email of vocations insights. These posts will be a monthly feature on Encourage & Teach to help those interested in learning more about vocations, to shed light on what it’s like living a vocation in everyday life, and as reminder to pray: for our priests and religious and that all people may discern and live their vocations with joy.

By: Rev. Paul Scalia

The now Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once summarized the book of Job with the pithy statement: “The questions of God are more satisfying than the answers of man.” …which is really just a riff on Chesterton’s summary of the same book: “The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.” Reflecting on that perplexing book, Chesterton observes that God does not mind being questioned, as Job questions Him. God just expects the same right to ask questions of us. He wants His turn at cross examination. We frequently look to God for answers, and He sometimes mercifully grants them. But He seems just as likely to pose a question — a source of frustration for those who demand nice, tidy solutions…and an invitation for those who want to ponder the questions with Him. Indeed, it is in the questions themselves that we find great spiritual nourishment.

Utrecht_Moreelse_HeracliteThe questions of God call forth from us, first of all, humility. Our wounded human nature always slouches towards that first sin, that first false promise: you will be like God. The heart of our problem is that we want to be like God…not by His grace, but on our own terms. All sin has this characteristic. It is called pride. In the last chapters of Job, the Lord asks him questions, all designed to humble Job before Him. They all have the same fundamental point: I am God, you are not. He not only knows all and can do all, but He is all. Without humble recognition of this fact, we completely misunderstand Him and our relationship with Him.

Put another way, we have the tendency to put God on trial — to put “God in the dock,” as C. S. Lewis phrases it — to demand that He prove Himself to us. Pope Benedict describes our trial of God: God is the issue: Is he real, reality itself, or isn’t he? Is he good, or do we have to invent the good ourselves? God’s questions — especially in the book of Job — confound and shock us to the realization that He has no need to prove Himself…but that we have every need to humble ourselves before Him.

Second, and closely connected to humility, the questions of God cultivate reverence.  One who is humble recognizes what we are in relation to Him. One who is reverent bows down before Him. Job’s friends thought God could be explained and managed. They thought they had Him all figured out and came with human-sized explanations for their friend’s woes. We likewise seek to decrease the distance between us and God, to make Him manageable — to domesticate Him. So we say foolish things such as, “God is an important part of my life…” (as if He could be merely a part of anything) or “God is my copilot” (as if we keep Him on retainer). His questions preserve His transcendence. They provoke reverence because they confound us and ultimately elicit from us the answer: “I don’t know.”

Our Lord’s parables have the same purpose. Never a theological treatise or a direct answer, they always have something mysterious about them, something beyond our reach no matter how often we hear them. So also the Liturgy: vestments, incense, vessels, chant, veils, bells, and so on — they all serve to provoke reverence for the mystery, to remind us that we do not understand, that we are dealing with something, Someone, beyond us. Although God is near — “more intimate to me than I am to myself,” in Augustine’s words — He is still beyond our grasp and control.

Third, the questions of God remind us of the relationship. Yes, some of His questions are rhetorical. But all admit of some response because He is a personal God… sometimes more personal than we would like Him to be. The anonymous force of eastern religions is not personal. Allah is not personal, at least not in any way that would admit of a relationship or dialogue. But the Triune God — eternally three Persons — is personal, seeks a relationship, desires a dialogue. He asks questions to be answered, to become part of our conversation with Him.

Finally, the questions of God lead to reflection. Here is a fundamental principle: When God asks a question, He already knows the answer. He asks not because He needs the answer, but because we need to think about these things. Our fallen human nature always inclines us to complacency, to presuming things instead of reflecting and deepening our understanding and appreciation of them. His questions call us out of that complacency — they say, in effect: Stop and think…reflect on these things. He seeks to draw us out of ourselves, our self-referential thinking, and to apply our thoughts to Him, to His deeds, and to our relationship with Him.

The next seven posts here will take up some questions of God that satisfy more than the answers of man.

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