fTHERThe Flame: March/April 2018
Dear Readers of The Flame,

I have witnessed another phenomenon that is very hopeful. The first Life in the Spirit Seminar I attended was on the weekend of April 4-6, 1975 at the St. Joseph Christian Life Center. It was a life changing event for me. I encountered the Lord Jesus and his life giving Spirit that made my soul cry out “It is true! It is real! What we proclaim in faith is really real!” The final talk of the weekend was on growing in the Lord. It was given by Bob Edwards, a Catholic layman and director of the Life Center at that time. It was not a typical “this is how you grow in the Lord” talk. Bob described a disciple of Jesus in simple but memorable words. One word Bob used in describing a follower of Jesus was lover. A disciple must passionately, ardently love the Lord.

This characteristic came to mind at the beginning of Lent this year. February 14 is perennially Valentine’s Day. This year it was also Ash Wednesday. My initial reflection saw the contrasts. Valentine’s Day usually includes chocolate and/or a nice meal. Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence. Valentine’s Day highlights the romantic side of human love. In Ash Wednesday’s first reading the prophet Joel exhorts “the bridegroom [to] quit his room, and the bride her chamber.” (Joel 2:16b). However, on further reflection the words of the prophet Hosea came to mind: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart… I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity and you shall know the Lord. (Hosea 3:16, 21-22)

waterLent is a time of intimacy with the Lord. We are to bare our heart to Christ. In this way we are disposed to the transformative love of His heart.

Bob Edwards also said that a follower of Jesus needed to be a fool. It so happens that this year Easter Sunday is April 1, also known as April Fools’ Day! In some ways, Jesus was the ultimate fool. He recklessly gave us life, ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit, performing signs and wonders, speaking the truth in love and kindling the ire of the religious leaders.

We know the rest of the story. Conspiring with the civil authorities and cooperating with Satan’s desire, Jesus was made to look the part of a fool. Condemned to death, Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. However, we know that that was not the end of the story. In truth, it was the beginning. Jesus rose from the dead!!! And now-who is the fool? I think we all agree: Jesus got the last laugh! Those who reject the Lord and His promises are the ultimate fools.

However, we need to follow in the footsteps of the Master. As disciples of Jesus, living the Spirit, exercising the gifts of the Spirit, speaking the truth in love: we too will look foolish to the world. We need to remember: “No slave is greater than his master.” (John 16:20b) In our faithfulness to the Lord, the world may deem us fools. In the light of Jesus Christ raised from the dead, this is more than OK.

This saying is trustworthy: If we die with the Lord, we shall also live with him. If we persevere we shall also reign with him. (II Timothy 2:11-12a)

When the world calls us foolish because of our faith, we know that we are imitating Jesus. We are promised that we will reign with the Lord. We will share with Jesus Christ the last laugh.

As we journey through this season of Lent to the joy of Eastertide, let us invest ourselves in the Lord. By attentive prayer, selfless sacrifice and cheerful almsgiving let us become the Lord’s faith-filled lover. And if the world calls us foolish for doing that, let this be our glory. The one who laughs last, laughs best.

In Christ,  
Fr. Bob Franco
Bishop’s Delegate to Catholic Renewal Ministries