12 June 2022

Trinity Sunday


Today is Trinity Sunday. So what would you expect me to preach on? Perhaps you might be awaiting the story of St. Patrick with the three leafed shamrock or, if your expectations are a bit more refined, you might be awaiting an exposition on the history of the homoousios in the Nicene Creed.


Well, be not afraid, for I would suggest that the real reason why the Church celebrates a Sunday devoted to the Blessed Trinity is not so much to engage in theological speculation, as to describe how you and I can participate in the very life of God.

It’s all about relationships. It’s all about loving. Because God is love. He told us so, total, giving, self-sacrificing love. The kind of love that means sacrifice, giving up what I want. to give you what you need.

Love.It starts at the heart of the mystery, which we celebrate today: the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity. It starts with a Merciful Father, who creates the world out of love; And an Only-Begotten Son, love incarnate, who is born and dies and rises from the dead to redeem that creation. And the Holy Spirit who moves all things toward unity and truth in love.

Three persons, three images of love in one God. Saint Thomas Aquinas explained it like this: The Father loves the Son with a paternal, creative love; The Son loves the Father with a filial love which empties the self of all self-interest even unto death, death on a cross. And that love between the Father and the Son is what we call the Holy Spirit….Three persons in one God.

And to live in God, is to live in that love, to be caught up in that Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. “God is wholly and only love, the purest, infinite and eternal love. He does not live in splendid solitude but rather is an inexhaustible source of life that is ceaselessly given and communicated.”*

Think of the moment of creation, when through his co-eternal Son, God created all that is, out of love for us.

It starts with the creation of the light and the seas. You remember what it was like before creation…there was chaos on the face of the earth and darkness. And God breathed his breath upon the chaos and the seas were separated from the dry land, the light from the darkness and life began to be.

The word for God’s breath, for breathing, is the the same word for for wind or fire in Hebrew. The word is ruah. The breath, the wind and the fire of God, the Holy Spirit brings life.

And then God created us. Another word in Hebrew. Adamah. It means dirt. Do you remember how God created man? He took a handful of adamah and he breathed the ruah into it, and Adam was born. We are nothing but dirt with the breath of God added in!

I understoof that the first time I saw a baby born……and the same was true the first of so many times when I stood with a family as someone died, as we waited for that last breath to leave their bodies, for the ruah to return to God from which it came.

This, then, is what we affirm in the celebration of the Blessed Trinity, and each time we make the sign of the Cross: that we have been created in the love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, that we might live in that same love on this earth, and be worthy to praise his glory in heaven for ever and ever. Amen.
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* Pope Benedict XVI, 7 June 2009.

07 June 2022

Ars Celebrandi: Toward a Spirituality of the Diocesan Priest

 




Ars Celebrandi: 

Toward a Spirituality of the Diocesan Priest

ROCHESTER PRIESTS’ RETREAT

Notre Dame Retreat Center

Canandaigua, New York

5-9 June 2022






IN SEARCH OF A LITURGICAL SPIRITUALITY

FOR THE DIOCESAN PRIEST


Priests are among the most wonderful of human beings.  They suffer from the same pains and stresses as any other group, but they are constantly fed by a burning desire to do the right thing, to give their life to Christ and to his Church.


They are in love with their people and with the faith which Christ sends them to bring to the young and the old, the bright and the not so bright, the cheerful and the depressed, the rich and the poor, and all the people in between.


But Priests are also sometimes depressed, and in a sad spiritual straights.  The older ones grew up in a time when the priest was the most admired man in the community.  Today their brothers are accused of molesting children.  The younger ones suffered under a pastoral ministry that seems more intent on balloons and flowers than on faith and practice.  Many of them labor under the burden of skepticism and a search for authentic authority.


All Priests are weighed down by bureaucracies struggling to establish priorities, a media voracious for a fresh scandal, and people suffering in a world of ever-new challenges to what they believe and who they are.


It’s not all bad, certainly.  There’s the great majority of parishioners who love their priest more than he deserves. I will never forget the outpouring of affection upon the death of my first pastor.  As their only remaining priest, the parishioners practically anointed me with the tears they shed for this good man.  The love which people hold for their parish priest is extraordinarily durable, as recent studies on the impact of the sexual abuse scandal have shown.  


But still, especially for the Diocesan Priest, it can be hard to pray.  


While much of the following pages apply equally as well to my religious brothers, allow me to begin with a disclaimer.  Religious priests are a wonderful leaven in the diocesan dough.  They bring us Francis to call us back simplicity, and Dominic to make us think, and Ignatius to give us a conscience.  Each of the founders of religious communities still minister to us through their dedicated sons.


But these Priest sons have their Father to look to for inspiration and support.  In comparison, the diocesan priest can often seem like an orphan.


So where does the diocesan priest go to drink deeply of the particular charism of his calling?  It is, I suggest, to the Sacred Liturgy.

Here is the center of his day, the source and the summit of all his activity, and the principle time when the Church is made manifest to him and to the world.


The Sacred Liturgy is the bridge between the daily life of the people of God and Christ, who invites them to partake of his heavenly banquet.  It is the pontifex between this world and the next, and the Priest is the gatekeeper.  In the Sacred Liturgy two great loves of the priest’s life are brought into a holy communion: the People of God and the Lord who formed them into a royal priesthood.


Here too, then, we can find the root and the sustenance of the priest’s spiritual life.  Here it all makes sense, and here the priest finds the “food for the journey” on which he guides the flock entrusted to his care.


When I first wrote these words, I was sitting at my desk in Assisi looking out at the Cathedral of San Ruffino. This is what I saw:


There are a dozen kids playing soccer in the piazza in front of the Church.  The twelfth century lions serve as goal posts and the door of the Church the goal.


The Pastor just walked by the kids on his way to Mass and stopped.  He puzzled over whether he should yell at them about possibly doing damage with their games.  And then he smiled and went into Church.


They looked on with amazement at Father, this little incarnation of mercy.  They wonder about him and about who he is.  As they play their soccer, they trust that he is praying for them; that when they get lost in the coming years, he will help them get home; and that when the pain gets like the cross he will help them to understand.


They need him to be holy.  To be a man who says his prayers.  And we do too.


[Here are the presentations which followed. Please click the title to download the text.]


MONDAY

PRIESTLY IDENTITY


KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING


TUESDAY

BECOME WHAT YOU CELEBRATE


PREACHING WHAT YOU HAVE BECOME


WEDNESDAY

THE PRIEST AT PRAYER


ADORING CHRIST


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[Here are the homilies from the retreat. Please click the title to download the text.]







25 March 2022

Two brothers and us...

You must heard the story before. Maybe twenty times before. It’s a story about two sons.

The prodigal

The youngest son comes to his father demanding his half of the inheritance. In other words, he doesn’t want to wait until the old man dies: he wants the cold hard cash now! I know what I’d do if I were that Father...but what happens in Jesus’ story? The Father gives him a check, no, he gives him cash, and off the kid goes to spend the father’s hard earned money on desperate living.


And when the prodigal son returns, having wasted half of everything the Father ever earned, what does the Father do. He runs out to meet him, throws his arms around him, kisses him and throws a party.


And another thing. We are told that the father saw the son while “he was still a long way off.” How would he have seen him while “he was still a long way off?” Unless he had been standing on the porch, day and night, waiting for his son to return. Staring down the road, hoping against hope that he would return. So strong was his love that he never gave up hope. 


It is the love of the shepherd who when he loses a sheep leaves the ninety-nine and goes off in search of the one. If you did that, you wouldn’t be a shepherd for very long, because when you came back what’s to say the ninety-nine would not have wandered off, as well?  But what does the Good Shepherd do in Jesus’ story. He leaves the ninety-nine and goes off in search of even the single sheep who got himself lost.


Such is the mercy of God. Unbounded. Unreasonable. And so far beyond our tiny little hearts. The kind of mercy that forgives not seven times, but seventy times seven times. The kind of mercy that looks at the prostitute forced into confession and tells her, just don’t do it again. The kind of mercy that desires not the death of the sinner, but that he repent and live!


The older brother

It is the kind of love which loves all sons, even the older one, who should know better.


Now when you compare the older son to the younger, he looks pretty good at first glance. No evidence of lust or gluttony or any of the other devils that possessed the prodigal.  Maybe he was adopted.  


But what he lacks in the quantity of sins, he more than makes up for in the quality of his sin.  For the older brother is so very proud: too proud to go into the banquet, too proud to trust in his Father’s love, too proud to forgive his repentant brother.


So what’s the difference between the two sons?  We know that the sinful younger prodigal confessed his sins and was saved.  But we never hear what happened to the one who was too proud to ask for forgiveness to accept the father’s merciful love for his son.


Us

Which is a good lesson for us all. Sometimes we are the younger son, the prodigal, lustful, gluttonous, greedy, slothful, angry and filled with envy. And that’s why we have so many confessionals.


But at other times we are like the older son, blinded by the self-righteous log in our eye, spending so much time judging others, ascending our royal thrones and declaring how wicked they all are, and how lucky God is to have at least a handful of good folks like us.


Indeed, I fear, my brothers and sisters, that if we spend too much time on our high horses that, on the last day, when the Lord comes and looks upon those who have confessed their sins and leads them home to heaven, we may be left standing there with nothing more than wrists sprained from patting ourselves on the back.


For, the truth, as each evening’s examination of our consciences reveals, we are, each one of us, nothing but worthless sinners, defaced by the ugliness of our sin; and made beautiful only by the unmerited love of an infinitely merciful God.  Wretched in our selfishness, devious in our narcissism and often so totally self-absorbed that we fail to pray the most primal of prayers: Lord, have mercy!


So whether you are the older or younger son today, the prodigal or the proud, may God grant you the courage to pray the mantra of the cripple by the side of the road, the blind man who can’t find his way in the dark, and the sinner, who know how much he needs God’s mercy: Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.


Today is Trinity Sunday. So what would you expect me to preach on? Perhaps you might be awaiting the story of St. Patrick with the three le...