By Bro. Ronnie Caballero, BCBP Makati Chapter
“To touch him with our hearts is what it means to believe.” — St. Augustine Reflection on Luke 8:45-46 (The woman suffering from hemorrhages)
The crowd presses on Jesus, but they do not reach him with a personal touch of faith, which apprehends the mystery that he is the Son who reveals the Father. Only when we are configured to Jesus do we receive the eyes needed to see him.–Excerpted from On Faith
Even the disciples could not recognize the resurrected Jesus. Is it possible that having been constantly with Jesus in his ministry day in day out for 3 solid years none of them could ‘see’ or recognize him? The amazing answer to that is YES.
It is said that our thoughts control our mind. In the mind of the disciples Jesus had died with a horrible death. Their minds were prevented by their belief that they would NEVER see Jesus again. It is also said that the SOUL, thinks, chooses and feels. On all three capabilities, the disciples’ souls had died to the truth that Jesus could come back. They were no longer believers.
In fact in John 21, Peter leads the disciples back to fishing. And they willingly followed him. Something was very wrong.
“Children, have you caught anything to eat?” a man calls out from the shore at dawn. These disciples had been out all night without catching a single fish. “Cast your net over the right side of the boat and you will find something. “So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
What was wrong indeed? Last Good Shepherd Sunday, I heard from a homily a plain and simple answer, Peter was dead, that day he went fishing.If you had lost your Savior what would that make of you? If you had lost The Way, The Truth and the Life what would you be?
Jesus needed to bring him back to life with the questions, “Do you love me?”
Jesus set things right by bringing back the powerful call, “Follow me.” The very same words Jesus used when Peter first followed Jesus three years ago.
When we encounter Jesus something special happens to us. As John the Baptist, who was never baptized himself encountered Jesus while they were both in their mother’s wombs in The Visitation. What happened to John? He jumped in the womb in recognition of who Jesus really is.
But after Peter’s encounter, as special as it could be, something greater had to happen. At Jesus’ Ascension, he spoke about the “promise of the Father (Acts 1:4-5), about which you hear me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Acts 1:8
Last May 18, 2019 in San Fernando, Pampanga, I spoke about Pastoral Care for the Onboarding of the Luzon (Central, Northeast and Northwest) leader’s teams. I hope to share with you some important points from that talk.
As we can see from Jesus’ encounter with Peter at the sea of Tiberias, pastoral care was ongoing. In order that Peter’s transformation and new life could resume, Peter had to see Jesus, but with a different level of seeing.
In the first place Peter had to see Jesus in a different light. They lost Jesus to death as what they perceived an earthly Messiah sent to free from oppression the Jewish people. Their dreams and spirits were crushed. They were lost.
But now with a resurrected body never seen before Jesus was introducing a new realm to Peter not of this Earth, a new Jerusalem, Jesus’ real Kingdom. This was the true destination of Jesus’ lambs and sheep to which he was calling Peter to feed. This was a new definition of the Lordship of Jesus Christ!
But could Peter really see? Jesus was insistent that they wait from power on high which was the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4, 8)
To declare “Jesus is Lord!” was a revolutionary statement in the Roman empire. Only the Emperor Ceasar was Lord! To declare anyone as “Lord” other than Ceasar was to invite imprisonment and death from the Roman authorities. St. Paul spoke of the ‘renewing of the mind’. As I had earlier said the MIND, better described as the SOUL; thinks, chooses and feels. When God encounters and heals our SOUL, something revolutionary happens when we accept Jesus as our new LORD and SAVIOR, we are empowered to enter the realm of the HOLY SPIRIT. Jesus lives INSIDE of our SOUL, and the process of transformation begins though the life of the Holy Spirit. As children of God, we bravely move to become like Jesus!
Then it happened on the day of Pentecost as we all know, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and followers assembled in that upper room and burst forth proclaiming the great works of God in different languages. The 153 fish caught by Peter in Tiberias clearly became the nations all over the earth to whom the Word would be proclaimed. Peter and the disciple’s lives were permanently changed. They would proclaim Jesus to all the ends of the earth starting that day in Jerusalem without any fear of death and suffering. In other words, THEY HAD BEGUN TO SEE WITH THE EYES OF THEIR HEARTS NOW OPENED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Now what does this have to do with Pastoral Care? Everything! On our individual experiences of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, we experience SEEING JESUS. When we open the Bible, the words jump out towards us. We understand with such newness. When we read we seek more of spiritual books and videos as we want to learn more about him. We thirst for him more as we attend teachings. When we sing and worship tears well up in our eyes because in our hearts we know He is with us. When we pray, we pray in a personal way, in our own words as if we were speaking to a friend. And when we hear Him reply, we know it is He who answered. The Mass comes alive and we participate with so much understanding we never experienced before. When temptations come, we are able to resist with a new found strength and determination we never had before.
When we share in our action groups we can hardly contain ourselves as we experience many ways the Spirit has come alive in our ordinary lives and we are eager to hear how he has done the same to other believers in our group. When we receive the Eucharist, we experience the indwelling of the Lord shining a light in our souls and calling us forth to a higher maturity, with the Spirit transforming us from day to day to be more like Jesus. When we meet our enemies or people who have wronged us we receive a stronger spirit to forgive, to reconcile and build new relationships.
When we are called to serve, we may hesitate but move forward as the Spirit leads us. Then we able to obey and do all things in Christ. Inwardly, we think less and less of ourselves in order that Christ may live in us. Our dying to self becomes a way of life. More and more, we easily accept to learn to love unconditionally, given wisdom from the Spirit to practice AGAPE love. More and more, we want to spend silent time with the Lord learning from Him and loving him in a personal relationship. Slowly but surely as He grows within us we can proclaim him bravely ourselves to others as his WITNESSES, not only to family and friends but also to our co-workers and partners in the workplace. Then we begin to see the world differently, that this is not our home, but that our true home is the new Jerusalem, a place built by Jesus for us.
We begin to see that we have to live with new found values not of this secular world, but with the values of the New Heavenly Kingdom. We begin to see that we live for life eternal not life on earth. We begin to see each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord, not mere human beings. We begin to see we can fight battles with heavenly hosts alongside us knowing we can fight the good fight and win for Jesus Christ.
To pastorally care for each other in our BCBP community, we need to remember and practice the Life in the Holy Spirit. We need to be constantly aware of the movement of the Spirit in our daily lives. Anything we do not use or practice , we lose, even if they are gifts of the Holy Spirit. So if our BCBP brothers and sisters fall away from the WAY OF LIFE, we need to be brave enough to remind them. This is the essence of Pastoral Care. We cannot give what we do not have. It will be the blind leading the blind. If people who have not seen the Lord try to impart Pastoral Caring it will be very difficult. And if spiritual blindness is widespread in the chapter we could say its days are numbered.
If a chapter’s members are primarily for attending social functions more than spiritual activities and formation, then it is a full blown “PARTY LIST” chapter.
In reality, the power of a few believers to do God’s ministry is stronger than a hundred “party list” member’s efforts. Why? Because it is done in and by the Spirit.
Our Spiritual Director, Fr. Herbert Schneider S.J., told me directly when I asked him about the difficulties of imparting and living Pastoral Caring for our leaders, he simply said it is all right if we are fewer in membership as long as the spiritual quality is there. There can be more achievement and transformation of our Vision and Mission.
In ending, it might be worthwhile noting what is the opposite of being a BELIEVER. It is being a PAGAN. Truly, the difference of choice is Life or Death. Nothingness or JESUS, the Way, the Truth and The Life!