Mysticism is the art of experiencing God as real in our lives. It means putting into practice what we hear in the gospels; it means having a firsthand experience of God.
In mysticism, God’s promise of sending the Holy Spirit and dwelling in us is something that we are looking for. We want to have the Holy Spirit helping us while we go through struggles. It is as if, as mystics, we have a person to talk to before we act. It also means having God’s advice readily available for us to hear. We just have to tune our ears to God’s wisdom, and he will guide us at all times.
How do we get that capacity? How can we have a firsthand experience of God’s voice in our hearts, in our ears, in our soul?
Today Jesus is giving us a clue through the Gospel. If you do the things I am asking you to do, then I will give you the Holy Spirit. This is not well understood by people. I have worked with many that believe – they are in possession of the Holy Spirit, yet their actions show a different story. Jesus is very clear here: unless you love your enemies, unless you forgive those who hurt you, unless you overcome your hatred, you cannot say that you love Jesus. If you love me, you will follow my commandments.
That’s the reason a man like St. Francis of Assisi was able to forgive those who hurt him. That’s the reason a woman like Teresa of Avila put up with abuse from the same nuns that lived with her in the monastery. They were not saints when they turned the other cheek. They became saints because they forgave and they pardoned.
Mysticism is a call to become like the saints: people working very hard to do what Jesus is asking to do. As I write these words I think of so many parishioners who, over the years, have replied that they do not want to become saints. That is the main problem, how can you follow Jesus and not want to be with him? That’s what a saint is. For Jesus, to follow him means to be in the path of sainthood.
You cannot say I love Jesus, but I am not going to forgive my sister. This is equivalent to say, I love my husband but I am not going to be faithful to him. Or I am a vegetarian but I am going to eat a big steak. For Jesus, there is no in-between. You are either loving him or not. If you do not show your love for him through the way you treat others, then obviously, you do not love Jesus.
The promise of the Holy Spirit is for those who are keeping Jesus’ commandments. This promise is not for everyone!!! It is only for those who qualify. And what is the qualification? You have to show that you are following his commandments. What are they? Love your enemies; forgive always (seventy times seven). Love God as you love your neighbors and yourself. Those who have never experienced God as REAL in their lives, they have a hard time with this statement. They say, but I pray every day, I go to mass every week. I give my share, but I am not forgiving those who hurt me.
They are obviously trying, but they are not yet ready to have the Holy Spirit dwell in them. They may get glimpses of the Holy Spirit, but they are not ready. This is what Pope Francis said in his first year of being a pope; the church has become a social club. Many of us could graduate magna cum laude as the best members of the church’s club. But are we followers of Christ in the way Christ defined it? This is a sore subject, because many of us love Jesus, but we fail to love our neighbors. Are we followers of Christ? In other words, deep down in your heart, when you see your sister in church, and you avoid shaking her hand, do you think that is the right thing to do? Would Jesus say: Bravo my daughter? What is the right thing to do?
As we focus on having a personal experience of God, let us pray for the wisdom and the courage to follow Jesus’ teachings as he sees them and not in the way I interpret them. Amen
Mass every Sunday at 5:00 pm in Spanish and 6:00 pm English at St. Mary’s in Palms 3647 Watseka Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034-3914