Showing posts with label Sacraments. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sacraments. Show all posts

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pre-Advent reflection

After we have gathered around tables for our thanksgiving feasts, we (hopefully) will gather in our Churches this weekend to thank the Lord for His blessings. As we do so, we will enter the season of Advent, signify the end of one Church year and a beginning of the new. Typically, we might be tempted to think that the purpose of the Advent season is to prepare to celebrate its end – the celebration of the incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas as a moment in history. But that is only one small portion of the season of Advent. The main purpose, at least in the Catholic Church, is a call to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ in glory and majesty. The season of Advent is to help us focus our hearts and minds for that great and terrible day of His return. But this message is not the mad ranting of a doom-and-gloom prophet. Rather, it is a sobering call to committing one’s life toward that end, and living in faith instead of in fear or indifference. Yes, we need to remember the end - in Greek telos - and to make all decisions in light of it. Telos also signifies purpose or goal, and we are truly focused on all these meanings. Just as St. Paul invited his readers to continue to run well the race, they are to focus on the goal, not just running aimlessly but with purpose and conviction. We grow weary and too easily forget both the purpose of our life and our end goal that we need to be roused from our slumber. We can too easily get caught up in the things of the world that many of us need to be reminded that this is not our final home. We are invited to ask ourselves if we are ready. If we are not, there is no better time than now, here, today, to respond. So, as we enter the Advent season, perhaps we need to put away our telephones and turn off our TVs. Perhaps, instead, we pull out our telos-phone – praying to the Lord to hear our purpose. Maybe we need to turn on our telos-vision – to see the end goal, and to commit to letting that end direct our choices here and now. When we do, we will take our steps with faith and purpose. Perhaps, to help us too, it will help us become truly thankful of the Lord’s blessings to us, and hopeful for His continued blessings. So, Happy Thanksgiving and blessed Advent.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

Lent is a blessed time in the Church year. The season was first experienced by the Catechumens (those who were to be baptized at the Easter Vigil) as that they entered 40 days of intense spiritual preparation before their sacramental entrance into the Church. The time-frame of forty days was not haphazardly chosen, but because of Jesus’ own 40 days in the desert, the 40 years of the Hebrews being purified in the desert through their wandering, and Elijah’s fast of 40 days on Mount Horeb. It was a means of remembering that they were uniting with the Lord and of being purified for their encounter with Him in the sacraments. Eventually, the preparation of 40 days in the season of Lent was offered to the Church in general as a means of recommitment, association with the catechumens and a preparation of their own hearts to celebrate the joy of the resurrection.

When we truly enter the spirit of the season, we follow the Lord’s command to pray, fast, and give alms and three practical means of Lenten preparation. These are things that go against our fallen nature. We too often remain in broken relationship with our loving Father, and like Adam hid from Him in our shame. Prayer seeks to stand before Him, as venerable and spiritual naked and impoverished as we are. When we fast, we avoid the comforts that the world offers and reminds us of our reliance on the Lord. Our almsgiving is a means of seeking to become generous and to connect with those who have so little, that we can share in their poverty.

This season of Lent is for us who follow Christ to grow in faith, to empty ourselves of all that is not Christ so that we can be ready to receive Him who died and rose again for us, to give us eternal life. This season is not one of self-directed improvement, but of allowing the Lord to grasp us, grace us, and guide us to Himself. May these days of Lent be days of intense preparation for us!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Some Thoughts on Vocations

As I depart, I want to share some things I have learned about vocations these last years. While mostly random thoughts, I hope that these can help us continue to build a culture of vocations.
1. The New Evangelization is absolutely necessary. This New Evangelization is not a program, rather a focus on the proclamation of Jesus Christ, to re-propose to people who may have some familiarity to Him, but do not let that knowledge deepen within them. It is not about a re-invigoration of parishes or promotion of more programs. We live in a culture that is further disconnected from God and the faith. The New Evangelization sees this as a new opportunity to proclaim Christ. It is proclaiming Christ to a world that has a ‘certain forgetfulness of God’, as Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us several times. When we can share the love of Christ, tell of His mercy and forgiveness, and help others begin to live a moral life, discernment inevitably follows. True, though, that the New Evangelization will lead to vibrant parishes, but only because the faith has taken flame in the hearts of parishioners!
2. Vocations are everyone’s business. It is not just the Director of Vocations, or the Bishop, or the priest personnel board, or even only the parish pastors who are responsible for promoting vocations. It belongs to everyone, ordained, vowed, and lay men and women of all ages. The flame of faith in the hearts of the faithful lead to a desire that others be on fire with the love of God. They encourage others to respond to the promptings of the Spirit to answer a vocation, and all can personally invite a young man or woman to consider a vocation.
3. Personal Invitation is vital. We can help others hear the voice of Christ by inviting them to consider a vocation. To highlight the point of personal invitation, over 75% of seminarians state that they were encouraged and invited to discern a vocation by a priest, but only about 33% of priests are inviting young men – imagine if we could get at least another third of priests to invite! Further, imagine a parish or diocese in which a majority of the members are listening to the promptings of the Spirit and invite others to follow the Lord.
4. Fear is an obstacle to the spiritual life and to the growth of vocations. Some are afraid to invite others to consider a vocation because of a fear of rejection. Some are afraid to give their lives to God, fearing it will lead to unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Jesus assures us time and again, though, “Be not afraid!” We must also remember that perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18). We need to grow in more perfect love – something we do when we pray.
5. Prayer, even the most humble, is more powerful than any vocations program. If we are not praying, how can we expect other to pray. Recognition of a vocation is born from the silence of prayer. As one grows in relation with the Holy Trinity, one also is more able to respond to the promptings of the Spirit.
6. When we pray, we must be specific. While it sounds rather bold, it is necessary and theologically sound. Like personal goals, or even a programed GPS, when we are specific in our prayers, we might also see what we need to do to help God grant those prayers or at least be moving in the right direction. Generic prayer and sacrifice for vocations are good, but to offer specific prayers (a rosary a day or an weekly hour of adoration, for example) or specific sacrifices (like fasting from meat on Fridays) are powerful. Pray for a specific number of seminarians or religious, parishioners, pray for those discerning to come from “our parish”. Families, pray for that a son or daughter may be open to discerning! Be specific.
7. We must present vocations out of a great opportunity versus crisis. In our great Diocese of New Ulm, like many throughout the world, it is easy to focus on the need we have for priests. Some, when they do speak on vocations and the need for priests, do so from a very pessimistic perspective. Giving the impression all is lost, and that the Church as we now have it is a sinking ship, leads to despair and many who may be called to walk away in despair. While we cannot be Pollyannish – ignoring the difficulty of our current situation – we must realize that God is still God, and He continues to call men to the priesthood, and men and women to the religious life. We need to encourage them instead of discouraging. Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, so it is safe to remain in the “barque of Peter”, in fact – it is the safest place to be.
8. There is a vocations crisis, but one that is bigger than just priests. We see the deterioration of family life in divorce, the attempts to redefine family in which the nuptial meaning of procreation is questioned due to the rampant culture of death. In such a climate, making a lifelong, permanent choice is difficult, if not impossible for many. To confront this, a concerted focus needs to be made in highlight the sacrament of matrimony and those who have embraced this vocation. We can highlight those couples lovingly commit themselves to each other freely, and lovingly embrace children as an extension of their love. The majority of priesthood and religious vocations will continue to come from those (in fact, in the Diocese of New Ulm, all of our current seminarians hail from intact families, and a the large majority of priests have intact, biological families). If our youth cannot identify even one strong witness of a married couple in their lives, how can our young discern a loving vocation, and commit themselves to live such a vocation freely and permanently? This is not to say that those from other types of homes cannot hear a vocation, or do not have a vocation, but it certainly makes responding to one more difficult as I can personally testify.
9. Sadly, certain scandals have damaged the personal witness of the vast majority of good and holy priests, adding to the fuel of those who claim vocations are in crisis. As the Church roots out the perpetrators, brings healing to the victims, and reestablishes trust with parishioners and others, we need to be even more diligent in seeking holiness ourselves.
10. Personal witness is the best vocations promotion. St. John Paul II drew hundreds of thousands to World Youth Days. When he died, many expressed concern that World Youth Days would cease to draw youth. While his personality was more reserved and introspective, Pope Emeritus Benedict drew massive crowds as well. The youth expressed that he was authentic. Pope Francis draws crowds with his warmth and wit. But all three drew people for the same reason – they love Jesus Christ with their whole being, and were leading people to Him, not to themselves (as a pop star might). If we want to draw people to Christ, we must be authentic, not pretending to be something we are not. We must avail ourselves of the grace of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist. We must be in love with Christ, and let that love permeate all that we do and say. In the end, we must all become saints!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

A sinful woman finds forgiveness because she has demonstrated her love and contrition to the Lord. When we respond to the Lord's ail for our lives, we, too, come to His feet and honor him with our love and commitment.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ reminds us of the absolute centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. Jesus Christ gives us this gift to make us the Church, and gives the priesthood to continue to offer the memorial sacrifice He initiated on the cross.

The sequence that the Church gives provides much reflection:

Sion, lift thy voice and sing;
Praise thy Savior and thy King;
Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true:
Dare thy most to praise Him well;
For He doth all praise excel;
None can ever reach His due.
Special theme of praise is thine,
That true living Bread divine,
That life-giving flesh adored,
Which the brethren twelve received,
As most faithfully believed,
At the Supper of the Lord.

Let the chant be loud and high;
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt to-day in every breast;
On this festival divine
Which recounts the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.

At this table of the King,
Our new Paschal offering
Brings to end the olden rite;
Here, for empty shadows fled,
Is reality instead;
Here, instead of darkness, light.

His own act, at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
In His memory divine;
Wherefore now, with adoration,
We the Host of our salvation
Consecrate from bread and wine.

Hear what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.
Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of sight transcending,
Leaps to things not understood.

Here in outward signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things, are all we see:-
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine;
Yet is Christ, in either sign,
All entire confessed to be.

They too who of Him partake
Sever not, nor rend, nor break,
But entire their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousands eat,
All receive the selfsame meat,
Nor the less for others leave.

Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food;
But with ends how opposite!
Here 'tis life; and there 'tis death;
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite.

Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the Host in twain,
But that in each part remains
What was in the whole before;
Since the simple sign alone
Suffers change in state or form,
The Signified remaining One
And the Same forevermore

Lo! upon the Altar lies,
Hidden deep from human eyes,
Angels' Bread from Paradise
Made the food of mortal man:
Children's meat to dogs denied;
In old types foresignified;
In the manna from the skies,
In Isaac, and the Paschal Lamb.

Jesu! Shepherd of the sheep!
Thy true flock in safety keep.
Living Bread! Thy life supply;
Strengthen us, or else we die;
Fill us with celestial grace:
Thou, who feedest us below!
Source of all we have or know!
Grant that with Thy Saints above,
Sitting at the Feast of Love,
We may see Thee face to face. Amen

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Lent

The prodigal father is an extravagant lover of both his sons. But both sons have a fatal flaw in their thinking. The first son, the youngest, asks for his inheritance which is akin to wishing the father dead. He takes the wealth, and squanders it. When it is gone, he realizes his flaw: he forgot his dignity, and though he knows he does not deserve it, he prepares to ask forgiveness and returns home. The Father restores that dignity after running to him. The older son, however, comes in from work. He refuses to recognize his brother. The Father goes to him, begs him. The son complains that he was never giving anything, even after following ever command. He does not know his dignity as son.
The question to us as the listener is not which son we are, but are we able to receive with joy the dignity that the Lord longs to give us, to know that He comes to us to redeem us!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Jesus Christ is baptized with John's Baptism of repentance, and in doing so identifies Himself as doing the will of the Father. He transforms the waters of the world, as the Church Fathers proclaimed. In His death and Resurrection, He initiates a new Baptism that causes regeneration in us. Because of our baptism, God initiates us into His family, given us a tremendous vocation that only we can do.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings this weekend help us to reflect on the reality of marriage. Marriage is a natural institution created by God in the very beginning. He created humanity as male and female, and the complementarity of the sexes is for the continuation of the human race. The institution of marriage is given to assure the raising of children in an ideal environment. In the Gospel, Jesus is questioned about the nature of divorce, and He responds that the Law allows divorce because of the hardness of heart - because of sin. But Jesus reminds them that this is not the way it was meant to be. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus raises the institution of marriage to a sacrament. Marriage is to have five traits, and as a sacrament, those traits are strengthened by grace: Free, total, Fruitful, faithful, and permanent. The fact that we have to add that Marriage is between one man, one woman, is proof that we have fallen further away from God and His will. May we have the strength and courage to proclaim the beauty of marriage as a reflection of original justice and God's plan for the propagation and education of children.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

To enter the Kingdom of God, we must become like children. As children, we would need to admit our dependance on God, our own limitations, and our need. We come to Christ on His terms, not on our own.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ reminds us of the absolute centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. Jesus Christ gives us this gift to make us the Church, and gives the priesthood to continue to offer the memorial sacrifice He initiated on the cross.

The sequence that the Church gives provides much reflection:

Sion, lift thy voice and sing;
Praise thy Savior and thy King;
Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true:
Dare thy most to praise Him well;
For He doth all praise excel;
None can ever reach His due.
Special theme of praise is thine,
That true living Bread divine,
That life-giving flesh adored,
Which the brethren twelve received,
As most faithfully believed,
At the Supper of the Lord.

Let the chant be loud and high;
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt to-day in every breast;
On this festival divine
Which recounts the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.

At this table of the King,
Our new Paschal offering
Brings to end the olden rite;
Here, for empty shadows fled,
Is reality instead;
Here, instead of darkness, light.

His own act, at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
In His memory divine;
Wherefore now, with adoration,
We the Host of our salvation
Consecrate from bread and wine.

Hear what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.
Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of sight transcending,
Leaps to things not understood.

Here in outward signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things, are all we see:-
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine;
Yet is Christ, in either sign,
All entire confessed to be.

They too who of Him partake
Sever not, nor rend, nor break,
But entire their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousands eat,
All receive the selfsame meat,
Nor the less for others leave.

Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food;
But with ends how opposite!
Here 'tis life; and there 'tis death;
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite.

Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the Host in twain,
But that in each part remains
What was in the whole before;
Since the simple sign alone
Suffers change in state or form,
The Signified remaining One
And the Same forevermore

Lo! upon the Altar lies,
Hidden deep from human eyes,
Angels' Bread from Paradise
Made the food of mortal man:
Children's meat to dogs denied;
In old types foresignified;
In the manna from the skies,
In Isaac, and the Paschal Lamb.

Jesu! Shepherd of the sheep!
Thy true flock in safety keep.
Living Bread! Thy life supply;
Strengthen us, or else we die;
Fill us with celestial grace:
Thou, who feedest us below!
Source of all we have or know!
Grant that with Thy Saints above,
Sitting at the Feast of Love,
We may see Thee face to face. Amen

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Parent's Guide for Vocations eBook through Kindle Store

I was able to get my Parent's Guide for Vocations adapted to the Kindle. I also was able to add a "Look inside" feature, so you can see the Table of Contents, Index, and random pages.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Parent's Guide for Vocations Update

I just got copies of my book A Parent's Guide for Vocations - I reset the price for $6, but use code 9N9MQ8XC on the check out to get it for $4.50!). I will be giving the parents of our Diocesan seminarians and young women religious a copy.
Not to boast, but the book looks great!!! It is good to see the fruits of my labor, and to hold it in my hands!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Third Sunday of Easter

This weekend, we hear St. Luke's account of the first Easter Evening. Cleopas and his companion are in the midst of sharing how Christ revealed Himself to them on the way to Emmaus and was made known in the breaking of bread. Christ suddenly appears to them, and proves to them that He is indeed real by not only asking them to touch Him, but eats in front of them. He removes their doubts, and gives them the task of proclaiming Him to all.
Christ can remove our doubts, too. We can find Him in the Eucharist, and we can ask Him to help us to see Him. Seeing Him, then, let us believe and proclaim Him to all the World.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Praise - the New Translation

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.
(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises).
It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.
Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.
These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.
This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.
Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!
This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.
O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honor of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death’s domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mass of the Lord's Supper Homily of Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict's Homily for the Mass of the Lord's Supper:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Holy Thursday is not only the day of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, whose splendour bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with his disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death; the betrayal of Judas, Jesus’ arrest and his denial by Peter; his indictment before the Sanhedrin and his being handed over to the Gentiles, to Pilate. Let us try at this hour to understand more deeply something of these events, for in them the mystery of our redemption takes place.

Jesus goes forth into the night. Night signifies lack of communication, a situation where people do not see one another. It is a symbol of incomprehension, of the obscuring of truth. It is the place where evil, which has to hide before the light, can grow. Jesus himself is light and truth, communication, purity and goodness. He enters into the night. Night is ultimately a symbol of death, the definitive loss of fellowship and life. Jesus enters into the night in order to overcome it and to inaugurate the new Day of God in the history of humanity.

On the way, he sang with his disciples Israel’s psalms of liberation and redemption, which evoked the first Passover in Egypt, the night of liberation. Now he goes, as was his custom, to pray in solitude and, as Son, to speak with the Father. But, unusually, he wants to have close to him three disciples: Peter, James and John. These are the three who had experienced his Transfiguration – when the light of God’s glory shone through his human figure – and had seen him standing between the Law and the Prophets, between Moses and Elijah. They had heard him speaking to both of them about his “exodus” to Jerusalem. Jesus’ exodus to Jerusalem – how mysterious are these words! Israel’s exodus from Egypt had been the event of escape and liberation for God’s People. What would be the form taken by the exodus of Jesus, in whom the meaning of that historic drama was to be definitively fulfilled? The disciples were now witnessing the first stage of that exodus – the utter abasement which was nonetheless the essential step of the going forth to the freedom and new life which was the goal of the exodus. The disciples, whom Jesus wanted to have close to him as an element of human support in that hour of extreme distress, quickly fell asleep. Yet they heard some fragments of the words of Jesus’ prayer and they witnessed his way of acting. Both were deeply impressed on their hearts and they transmitted them to Christians for all time. Jesus called God “Abba”. The word means – as they add – “Father”. Yet it is not the usual form of the word “father”, but rather a children’s word – an affectionate name which one would not have dared to use in speaking to God. It is the language of the one who is truly a “child”, the Son of the Father, the one who is conscious of being in communion with God, in deepest union with him.

If we ask ourselves what is most characteristic of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, we have to say that it is his relationship with God. He is constantly in communion with God. Being with the Father is the core of his personality. Through Christ we know God truly. “No one has ever seen God”, says Saint John. The one “who is close to the Father’s heart … has made him known” (1:18). Now we know God as he truly is. He is Father, and this in an absolute goodness to which we can entrust ourselves. The evangelist Mark, who has preserved the memories of Saint Peter, relates that Jesus, after calling God “Abba”, went on to say: “Everything is possible for you. You can do all things” (cf. 14:36). The one who is Goodness is at the same time Power; he is all-powerful. Power is goodness and goodness is power. We can learn this trust from Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives.

Before reflecting on the content of Jesus’ petition, we must still consider what the evangelists tell us about Jesus’ posture during his prayer. Matthew and Mark tell us that he “threw himself on the ground” (Mt 26:39; cf. Mk 14:35), thus assuming a posture of complete submission, as is preserved in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday. Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus prayed on his knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees: Stephen during his stoning, Peter at the raising of someone who had died, Paul on his way to martyrdom. In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge his divinity; by that posture we also express our confidence that he will prevail.

Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death. First and foremost this is simply the dread natural to every living creature in the face of death. In Jesus, however, something more is at work. His gaze peers deeper, into the nights of evil. He sees the filthy flood of all the lies and all the disgrace which he will encounter in that chalice from which he must drink. His is the dread of one who is completely pure and holy as he sees the entire flood of this world’s evil bursting upon him. He also sees me, and he prays for me. This moment of Jesus’ mortal anguish is thus an essential part of the process of redemption. Consequently, the Letter to the Hebrews describes the struggle of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a priestly event. In this prayer of Jesus, pervaded by mortal anguish, the Lord performs the office of a priest: he takes upon himself the sins of humanity, of us all, and he brings us before the Father.

Lastly, we must also pay attention to the content of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Jesus says: “Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want” (Mk 14:36). The natural will of the man Jesus recoils in fear before the enormity of the matter. He asks to be spared. Yet as the Son, he places this human will into the Father’s will: not I, but you. In this way he transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. This pride is the real essence of sin. We think we are free and truly ourselves only if we follow our own will. God appears as the opposite of our freedom. We need to be free of him – so we think – and only then will we be free. This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves. We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. Then we become truly “like God” – not by resisting God, eliminating him, or denying him. In his anguished prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus resolved the false opposition between obedience and freedom, and opened the path to freedom. Let us ask the Lord to draw us into this “yes” to God’s will, and in this way to make us truly free. Amen.

Chrism Mass Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI

A must read - His Holiness Pope Benedict's Chrism Mass Homily.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At this Holy Mass our thoughts go back to that moment when, through prayer and the laying on of hands, the bishop made us sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that we might be “consecrated in truth” (Jn 17:19), as Jesus besought the Father for us in his high-priestly prayer. He himself is the truth. He has consecrated us, that is to say, handed us over to God for ever, so that we can offer men and women a service that comes from God and leads to him. But does our consecration extend to the daily reality of our lives – do we operate as men of God in fellowship with Jesus Christ? This question places the Lord before us and us before him. “Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?” After this homily, I shall be addressing that question to each of you here and to myself as well. Two things, above all, are asked of us: there is a need for an interior bond, a configuration to Christ, and at the same time there has to be a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of what is simply our own, of the much-vaunted self-fulfilment. We need, I need, not to claim my life as my own, but to place it at the disposal of another – of Christ. I should be asking not what I stand to gain, but what I can give for him and so for others. Or to put it more specifically, this configuration to Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, who does not take, but rather gives – what form does it take in the often dramatic situation of the Church today? Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed he did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to his ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice. Nor must we forget: he was the Son, possessed of singular authority and responsibility to reveal the authentic will of God, so as to open up the path for God’s word to the world of the nations. And finally: he lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.

Let us ask again: do not such reflections serve simply to defend inertia, the fossilization of traditions? No. Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.

Dear friends, it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal. But perhaps at times the figure of Jesus Christ seems too lofty and too great for us to dare to measure ourselves by him. The Lord knows this. So he has provided “translations” on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us. For this same reason, Saint Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. For his disciples, he was a “translation” of Christ’s manner of life that they could see and identify with. Ever since Paul’s time, history has furnished a constant flow of other such “translations” of Jesus’ way into historical figures. We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II, who gave us an example, through his activity and his suffering, of configuration to Christ as “gift and mystery”. The saints show us how renewal works and how we can place ourselves at its service. And they help us realize that God is not concerned so much with great numbers and with outward successes, but achieves his victories under the humble sign of the mustard seed.

Dear friends, I would like briefly to touch on two more key phrases from the renewal of ordination promises, which should cause us to reflect at this time in the Church’s life and in our own lives. Firstly, the reminder that – as Saint Paul put it – we are “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1) and we are charged with the ministry of teaching, the (munus docendi), which forms a part of this stewardship of God’s mysteries, through which he shows us his face and his heart, in order to give us himself. At the meeting of Cardinals on the occasion of the recent Consistory, several of the pastors of the Church spoke, from experience, of the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less. But if we are to live and love our faith, if we are to love God and to hear him aright, we need to know what God has said to us – our minds and hearts must be touched by his word. The Year of Faith, commemorating the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, should provide us with an occasion to proclaim the message of faith with new enthusiasm and new joy. We find it of course first and foremost in sacred Scripture, which we can never read and ponder enough. Yet at the same time we all experience the need for help in accurately expounding it in the present day, if it is truly to touch our hearts. This help we find first of all in the words of the teaching Church: the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are essential tools which serve as an authentic guide to what the Church believes on the basis of God’s word. And of course this also includes the whole wealth of documents given to us by Pope John Paul II, still far from being fully explored.

All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: “My teaching is not mine” (Jn 7:16). We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are. Naturally this should not be taken to mean that I am not completely supportive of this teaching, or solidly anchored in it. In this regard I am always reminded of the words of Saint Augustine: what is so much mine as myself? And what is so little mine as myself? I do not own myself, and I become myself by the very fact that I transcend myself, and thereby become a part of Christ, a part of his body the Church. If we do not preach ourselves, and if we are inwardly so completely one with him who called us to be his ambassadors, that we are shaped by faith and live it, then our preaching will be credible. I do not seek to win people for myself, but I give myself. The CurĂ© of Ars was no scholar, no intellectual, we know that. But his preaching touched people’s hearts because his own heart had been touched.

The last keyword that I should like to consider is “zeal for souls”: animarum zelus. It is an old-fashioned expression, not much used these days. In some circles, the word “soul” is virtually banned because – ostensibly – it expresses a body-soul dualism that wrongly compartmentalizes the human being. Of course the human person is a unity, destined for eternity as body and soul. And yet that cannot mean that we no longer have a soul, a constituent principle guaranteeing our unity in this life and beyond earthly death. And as priests, of course, we are concerned for the whole person, including his or her physical needs – we care for the hungry, the sick, the homeless. And yet we are concerned not only with the body, but also with the needs of the soul: with those who suffer from the violation of their rights or from destroyed love, with those unable to perceive the truth, those who suffer for lack of truth and love. We are concerned with the salvation of men and women in body and soul. And as priests of Jesus Christ we carry out our task with enthusiasm. No one should ever have the impression that we work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with joy in his message, so that we may serve his truth and his love with joyful zeal. Amen.

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?