Sunday, August 26, 2007

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

We hear the terrifying parable of the Master of the house who refuses to open for those knocking on his door at the late hours. They tell him that they know him, that they ate and drank with him and followed him in the streets. But the master responds that he does not know them, and where they are from. They are left outside in the dark, rejected as complete strangers.

It is a terrifying thought, isn't it? We can assume that because we know Jesus, that is all that is needed for salvation. But there is no such thing as salvation by association. We are not saved by a simple knowledge of who Jesus Christ is, or even spending time in the company of the disciples. We need to be known by Him, too. Of course, while it is true that God knows all His creatures, this is different. The key comes in Jesus' setup of the parable - He tells the disciples to strive to enter the narrow gate - they are to work for the good, of course cooperating with God's grace in their lives. We not only need to follow Him in the streets, in the public places of our lives, but follow Him into his home, into the private recesses of our hearts where God longs to set up residence. Our reception of the Eucharist is an invitation for Christ to come in, and for us to live in communion with Him more deeply. It is an opportunity for Christ to know us through and through, by our sharing in His Body and Blood.

No, there is no salvation by association. We must be known by Christ, and we must do His will. We must, therefore, pray constantly, but not in a steady barrage of words from us to Him, begging for Him to open up to us, but rather prayer that opens us up to Him, to his gentle probing as we read in Psalm 139, our receiving His words to us. We must then respond to His will, following Him where ever He leads.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Recently, we have been led to believe that Jesus would never have done anything to upset people's 'peace'. It is as if Jesus' only mission was to proclaim a message of peace and love, without anything like sacrifice or struggle. An unfortunate side effect of his message is that warring people put him to death. So often, this 'peace' is defined as a state of getting along, allowing others the 'freedom' to sin. They fail to see that Jesus is the Son of God, the Word made flesh.

What we read in the Gospel passage this weekend should confuse those who mave such a mistaken view of Jesus Christ. We read that Jesus came to bring fire and division. He states that his mission was not to bring peace (perhaps the only minorly upset status quo). We know that Jesus was upset the dove cart and turn a few money tables. Yet, he is called the Prince of Peace.

Perhaps that is not the world's understanding of peace that Jesus brings! After all, in the Hebrew understanding shalom - peace - is not the mere absense of war or a plodding along. It is a state of complete harmony, when all things are in their place and proper proportions. This peace the result of a life lived with God, lived in the fire of the Holy Trinity's love for us, of knowing that we are pilgrims and sojourners in this world. But we know that there are some who choose not to live with Christ. How can they not be separated and divided from those that do. There will be divisions from those who are not 'on-fire' for God. This we can expect. That being the case, this does not give us permission to take up the sword. No, we strive in the same way to bring the Fire of Christ to the lost, including members of our families. While we may not experience the passing peace of the world, we will know the love of God which brings the true and eternal peace. While there will be division of those that follow Christ and those that do not, those that truly follow Christ will know true peace.

Priests can easily fall into the trap of wanting to maintain 'peace', instead of bringing the peace of Christ even if that means division of the sheep and wolves. But this will fail. We must be bearers of fire, lighting the world for Christ. We are called to spread the flames!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Pope Benedict and his Meeting with the clergy

I encouarage anyone discerning a priestly vocation to look at the recent document of the Pope's session with the clergy of the Dioceses of Belluno-Feltre and Treviso. Some of the questions and answers are very poignant and directly applicable to our status in the states.

Pastoral Care as the "Et et"

In a post at Whispers in the Loggia "The Great 'Et Et'", Rocco quotes a session of His Holiness Pope Benedict answering questions of priests held while the Pope was on vacation. In a beautifully answered question, His Holiness synthesises Catholism.
I am Fr Lorenzo, a parish priest. Holy Father, the faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be experts in encouraging the encounter of human beings with God. These are not my own words but something Your Holiness said in an Address to the clergy. My spiritual director at the seminary, in those trying sessions of spiritual direction, said to me: "Lorenzino, humanly we've made it, but...", and when he said "but", what he meant was that I preferred playing football to Eucharistic Adoration. And he meant that this did my vocation no good and that it was not right to dispute lessons of morals and law, because the teachers knew more about them that I did. And with that "but", who knows what else he meant. I now think of him in Heaven, and in any case I say some requiems for him. In spite of everything, I have been a priest for 34 years and I am happy about that, too. I have worked no miracles nor have I known any disasters or perhaps I did not recognize them. I feel that "humanly we've made it" is a great compliment. However, does not bringing man close to God and God to man pass above all through what we call humanity, which is indispensable even for us priests?

Benedict XVI: Thank you. I would simply say "yes" to what you said at the end. Catholicism, somewhat simplistically, has always been considered the religion of the great "et et" ["both-and"]: not of great forms of exclusivism but of synthesis. The exact meaning of "Catholic" is "synthesis". I would therefore be against having to choose between either playing football or studying Sacred Scripture or Canon Law. Let us do both these things. It is great to do sports. I am not a great sportsman, yet I used to like going to the mountains when I was younger; now I only go on some very easy excursions, but I always find it very beautiful to walk here in this wonderful earth that the Lord has given to us. Therefore, we cannot always live in exalted meditation; perhaps a Saint on the last step of his earthly pilgrimage could reach this point, but we normally live with our feet on the ground and our eyes turned to Heaven. Both these things are given to us by the Lord and therefore loving human things, loving the beauties of this earth, is not only very human but also very Christian and truly Catholic. I would say - and it seems to me that I have already mentioned this earlier - that this aspect is also part of a good and truly Catholic pastoral care: living in the "et et"; living the humanity and humanism of the human being, all the gifts which the Lord has lavished upon us and which we have developed; and at the same time, not forgetting God, because ultimately, the great light comes from God and then it is only from him that comes the light which gives joy to all these aspects of the things that exist. Therefore, I would simply like to commit myself to the great Catholic synthesis, to this "et et"; to be truly human. And each person, in accordance with his or her own gifts and charism, should not only love the earth and the beautiful things the Lord has given us, but also be grateful because God's light shines on earth and bathes everything in splendour and beauty. In this regard, let us live catholicity joyfully. This would be my answer.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our readings this weekend each present a message of faith. In the first reading, we hear how the Hebrews held faith that God would keep His oath with the Passover. In the second reading, we hear of Abraham, how he had faith to follow God into the unknown. In the Gospel, we hear Jesus telling the disciples about faith in several 'episodes'. First, he tells them to have faith in God, not in their own wealth (which in fact they are asked to give away). They are asked to be faithful in waiting, like servants for the Master's return. The ones who do what the Master desires will be rewarded.

With our vocations, we are invited to be like the Hebrews - to trust in the promise of the Lord and to take a step of faith. Perhaps the image of servants should provide for us the example. While we wait for Christ's return, we are to keep working and doing what is good and holy. While we may not know with absolute certainty in our first steps, we will receive confirmation like Abraham did.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Source of Parish Renewal

In an article from Catholic News Agency, the recent Homily of Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz is adressed. He said that the first requirement of a parish priest is to be “an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ, because only a priest in love with the Lord can renew a parish.” Based on the life of St. John Vianney, Cure of Ars, he stated that the most important task of priests is to be pastors of parishes.

“In the parish, a priest lives the mission of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, in a full and concrete way,” through which shines forth “the entire ecclesial dimension of the person and ministry of the pastor.”

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus tells the disciples that they should avoid greed. The man has a good harvest, and without a hint of gratitude or awareness of where, ultimately, the harvest has come from, he makes plans for a bigger barn, which then will allow him to rest, eat, drink, and be merry. This man has claimed things as idols, he is prideful, and complete lacking gratitude.

We can be the same way - we can get greedy, and worse, forgetful of the goodness of God who has given us these good things in the first place. The antidote to greed - to remember God and to be grateful. So often, I have heard of people discerning their vocation. In asking them to describe the discernment, they often seem forget who it is that is calling them. While it is 'my' vocation, it is God's gift to 'me' for the world. So it is not mine for simply me. When we discern God's vocation to us, we need to remember that like the harvest of the rich man, it is not hoarded, but rather to be shared.