Sunday, February 24, 2008

Third Sunday of Lent

This weekend, we hear the episode of the Samaritan woman at the well. To say this is a chance encounter between Jesus Christ and the woman is to miss the point. This woman was at the well at noon - this is not the typical time to be at wells, gathering your water for the day. There most have been a reason for her to avoid going in the morning, and certainly the fact that she had five husbands and appears to be in an adulterous relationship would have caused her to be shunned even by the Samaritans. She is there out of thirst - no matter how much we protest we need water. Jesus begins to speak to her, asking for a cup of water - and she is surprised that that he, a Jew would even speak to her. The conversation starts on a natural level - he is thirsty, and she is thirsty. But Jesus moves it into a spiritual level - if she knew who he was, she would ask for the living water, the water that flows out on its own and quenches all thirst. She desires this water - it would make her life easier after all. She no longer would need to go to the well, which was a place of great work, but must have been a place of shame, too. She begins to see Jesus as a man, a prophet, and finally the Messiah, the Christ. She goes through a conversion, and she converses with the townspeople. Jesus is calling her to repentance, certainly, but the fruits of conversion are already being seen.

Though it is an error to see priesthood as a career, it is a natural tendancy to initially begin to discern a vocation to the priesthood from the natural level - how am I to provide for myself. But the question needs to deepen and grow. As our faith in Jesus Christ grows, we begin to change our approach. No longer are we searching for the water that satisfies our natural thirst, but we seek the water of life that will lead us to salvation. May the Lord give us this water always!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

New Seminarians

We are pleased to belatedly announce the acceptance of 2 new seminarians, both of whom are transfers to St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN. They are Paul Blaschko and Butch Hendrickson. They have been invited to become 'authors' for this blog, as well as the other 5 seminarians from our Diocese. Please continue to pray for all of their discernment!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Second Sunday of Lent

The Transfiguration is the preparation needed for the scandal of the Cross. The apostles Peter, James, and John are led up a mountain where Jesus reveals to them the glory that is his Divine right. He is seen conversing to Moses and Elijah, whose successors He is to be. He is giving a new Law, and He is the Word of God made flesh, fulfilling all prophetic messages. Peter, wrapped in the moment, wants to build tents (or tabernacles or booths, depending on the translation) - he wishes to stay. But it cannot be - Jesus must complete His mission. He refers to it only in veiled language when he tells them that they should not tell anyone until after he rises from the dead.

This event can tell us much about how to live the spiritual life. So often, when we are the midst of great consolation, we might be tempted to build walls to stay there. Yet the nature of the consolation is reveal just a portion of the glory and love of God, a 'grace enough for the moment' of sorts. With the encounter of that light, we walk with Christ, sometimes into the darkness. Often, discernment is the same. There are some moments of profound clarity, where we can see the path ahead for seemingly miles, and there are some moments (unfortunately sometimes too many), where there is confusion, lack of direction. But we continue to walk the path revealed to us, step by step, moment by moment, open to the next encounter with eyes ready to receive it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Worldly Priests

Cardinal Rode of the Congregation for religious has recent stated that priests are getting too worldly in a story found on Catholic World News. I believe that he is right on - those communities and diocese where the priests and religious has a strict clerical dress or habits, where there a radical choice to live life as called by Christ, vocations seem to be flourishing.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

First Sunday of Lent

This weekend, we hear two powerful episodes from the Scriptures - the first being the Fall - how our first parents sinned. This story is a theologically rich story. Eve is speaking with the snake, while Adam simply ignores the conversation. Instead of assisting her in resisting, he is silent. The serpent twists the truth, saying that God is wrong in limiting them from eating of the Tree of Knowledge, that they will not die but that they will become like God. The standard lie is to redefine things - while they physically did not die, at least on the spot, they did experience the death of their relationship with God, between them (they accused and blamed each other), Creation, and even in themselves (aware of their nakedness, they were ashamed).

In the temptation in the Wilderness, Jesus becomes perfectly obedient. While he was hungry and weakened, He was strong, and must have been well nourished by the Word of God - He quotes Deuteronomy to Satan. Satan tells Him if he is the Son of God, to take the rocks and turn them into bread. Satan takes Jesus to the Parapet of the Temple, and tells him to throw himself down and that God would send his angels to protect him. Last, Satan shows him all the Kingdoms of the world, and that he would give them to Jesus if he would just worship. Jesus turns him down, and as a result begins to undo the disobedience in the sin of Adam, and begins to bring the sure for original sin that we have because of Adam and Eve. This will be fully given in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, in his self-emptying on the Cross. Note, though, that while the temptation was real, it was the grasping that would have been sinful. After all, Jesus turned water into wine and miraculously turned 5 loaves of bread into enough to feed 5000 thousand. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and in His resurrection and ascension does more than land on his feet! Because of his obedience, he is Lord of all, and his name is exalted beyond everything else in heaven and earth!

Our lenten journey of 40 days is an opportunity for us to seek freedom from the lies of Satan and to be obedient to the will of God.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

The first sermon of Jesus recorded in Matthew's Gospel (of five - calling to mind the five books of the Torah) starts with Jesus proclaiming 8 beatitudes - blessed. To the original hearers, it must have taken them a little off-gaurd. After all, isn't having health and wealth, having enough to eat, laughter, etc, a good thing. In the time of Jesus, those who lacked were seen as falling short of God's blessings, and even today we can often hear of preaching that wealth is a sign of God's favor. But Christ preaches the opposite - blessed are the poor, the sorrowful, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. It is a reminder that true blessedness is not in what we do (or even perhaps what we are), but is a state of being in union with God. While we will experience the good and the bad in life, we must allow God to give us His blessing, and receive those blessings.