December 7, 2015

We Suffer . . . And We Smile

My husband and I enjoy traveling around to a variety of parishes for missions which help us progress in our Christian Faith walk. We have been blessed to have been inspired by some wonderful priests and speakers through the years. 

Every so often I encounter a mission that's extraordinarily powerful - one where there is no mistaking the movement of the Holy Spirit. Such is my experience thus far at the Cure of Ars Advent mission with the dynamic Nigerian priest Father Maurice Emelu.

Last night Father Emelu acquainted us with himself and with the direction his mission would be taking. He told of growing up in a devoutly Catholic household in Nigeria where his family began each day by praying the rosary together at 6:00 am! His use of humor in describing this elicited chuckles from the crowd.  His passion for the Lord was evident as he began speaking about what it means to have real Faith which comes from the Heart. Father quoted Pope St. John Paul II on the coexistence of Faith and reason and how they do not contradict each other but flow beautifully together. He emphasized the importance of having Faith "HERE" - placing his hands upon his heart - and then pointing his fingers at each side of his head he declared that Faith is not "HERE," no, no it is not. Father passionately continued: YES, we are intelligent . . . we have knowledge and this is important  . . . but Faith is not cerebral. Knowledge without Faith is empty - that which does not come from the heart - is really not Faith at all - and it is not of God! (I'd also like to mention that I loved the way Father quoted Pope Benedict and many of the saints and used them as examples.) 

Tonight Father Emelu spoke a lot about Abraham. Father passionately enlightened us regarding Abraham's unquestioning Faithfulness and loyalty to God even to the point of giving up everything he had to carry out God's will! Including the willingness to sacrifice his favored son Isaac. Father used humor in describing Abraham and his wife Sarah's unquestioning YES to God to leave their home and everything they had behind - to step out of security and into the unknown no matter how strange that must have looked! Fr Emelu was able to relate it to OUR world and how strange Faith based living and decisions must look to the worldly.

Father Emelu spoke with zeal about falling in love with God and  illustrated how prayer brings us closer to him, strengthening and deepening our relationship with the Father. He emphatically stressed the necessity of prayer without which there can be no relationship! And Father moved me to tears when he spoke about the cross. Every Christian carries one - if you are far from the cross then you are far from God!

Having a cross - suffering - does not however rob us of our joy! We are not grim, bitter or disheartened because we experience pain in life. We have the joy - the peace - that only Christ can give and it is with us, it sustains us through all the trials that we endure. This was so affirming I had to stop myself from shouting 'AMEN!" The truth resonated to my very core. Father tied it all up by sharing something simple yet so very profound - told to him by his own sister: 
"As Christians we suffer and we smile . . . we suffer and we smile." 
I will update after tomorrows mission!

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