As many pastors do, I have been writing a little note to be included in the Parish Bulletin. After much thought I have decided to start posting them here. So here is my first online edition:
The daily Mass readings for this past Thursday reminded me of the two documents that I have written about the past two weeks. In the Gospel that day Jesus said “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” This saying of Jesus reminded me of Pope Benedict, who without a doubt, is very wise in bringing from the two thousand year old storeroom of the Church both the new and the old. He has recognized that there is value and beauty in what is old as well as in what is new.
Sadly, there are many in the Church, who do not agree, especially in the area of the Sacred Liturgy. Many get nervous, anxious, or even angry when the Church continues to affirm the beauty of things that are considered by some to be “old” and “outdated.” Surely we should be understanding of their hesitation, for many of them had bad experiences of the Church in the past, but we should also be able to affirm that one who is wise sees value in both the old and new. We should be able to recognize that what was once holy must indeed still be holy. If Latin and Gregorian Chant was once holy, then it must still be holy. If the priest facing the same way as the people (which is often mistakenly referred to as “having his back to the people) was once holy, then it still must be holy. If the Mass that nourished countless saints throughout the ages was once holy, it must still be holy. So there is no need to fear! Wisdom is at work in Pope Benedict, for he is bringing from the storeroom of the Church both the old and new.
I hope, that over time, I will have the wisdom to know how to bring both the old and the new from the storeroom of the Church into our Parish. I also hope that all of us will have the wisdom to see the beauty and value of both the old and new, and welcome them both into our Liturgies.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen.
“You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you!”
1. This night your life will be demanded of you. This very night…if I were the rich man from the gospel these words spoken by our Lord would strike terror in my heart. For at that moment I would know that the Lord’s return is near, at least for me. For in that moment I would hear the hoof beats of His white horse coming in the distance. In my mind and heart I would see Him as He is portrayed in the book of Revelation, His crimson blood dipped cloak flowing in the wind, His fiery eyes flashing flames of thunder, His sharp sword blazing forth from His mouth and His heavenly army behind Him. For those who are not ready, for those who seek the things of the earth, this would truly be a horrific and terrifying sight.
2. But for those of us who seek the things that are above, these words should quicken our hearts, for if we are truly living the life that we are called to, then the day that our life is required of us will be a day of great rejoicing, for on that day we will be born from Holy Mother Church into the glories of eternity.
3. Today, through the scriptures our Lord calls us to reject the ways of the rich man whose focus was solely on the things of this world in order to focus solely on the things of heaven – for that is our goal - and everything we do or have must point us in that direction.
4. St. Paul, in the second reading spells out for us what things of earth we are to avoid if we desire to reach our goal, and these hold true especially for those of us who are baptized Christians. We, my brothers and sisters, have a special responsibility to focus on the things of heaven and lead others, especially our families and children, to do the same. In order to do this effectively we must live what we teach – we must practice what we preach.
5. On the day of my ordination to the diaconate Bishop Carlson handed me the book of the Gospels and said “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” Practice what you teach! This is a lesson that I have already learned in my short time as a priest. People listen to their priest, and not only that, they watch – they know when I am just shooting off my mouth or when I am speaking something that I know because I live it. And the same is true for those of us who are parents. Your children will know when you are just shooting off your mouth, or when you are truly speaking about something you know to be true because you live it. They can see right through us when we don’t practice what we preach. For instance, if we tell them over and over again how important our faith is, and how important it is to go to Mass and then skip Mass while on vacation or when there is a conflict with a sporting event, they can see right through it. They know we don’t practice what we preach, and if that is the case, they will never take us seriously.
6. A few years ago I entered into a very long conversation with an atheist gentleman who had many, many critiques of the Church. Of all of his complaints and accusations against the Church there is one that always sticks out in my mind – he critiques us because of the fact that many Catholics, even Catholic Priests, have not lived what they taught. He’s not the only one who has pointed this out in recent years - there have been many who remind us of this, and as much as I hate to admit it, it is all too often a justified critique.
7. But it is one that we – you and me - must prove untrue. We can only do this by living what we teach, and whether we know it or not, we are teaching at every moment of every day. You parents know this. You know who easily Children pick up what we say and do. All of us teach those around us constantly, if not by words, certainly by example. But sadly, we all too often lapse into the ways of the world – we lose our focus on the goal. We forget that we are made for heaven.
8. It’s easy to lose our focus – we all know that from experience. When we are surrounded day and night by filthy television, billboards, and immodestly dressed women and men, it is hard to keep our focus on our goal, but we must because if we do not we will never be able to lead our flock to heaven. We must keep our goal always before us and be determined to be the instruments of God that we are called to be. We must work hard at allowing God to form us into the parents, that we are called to be. We will fail, no doubt, but in the face of our weakness we always move forward toward our goal remembering what St. Therese taught us, namely, that “We must have confidence, not in spite of our miseries, but because of them, since it is misery which attracts mercy.”
9. Life is short, and soon the Lord will come for us. Soon we will hear the hoof-beats of his white horse in the distance and if we have made heaven our focus and lived what we teach the veil that separates this world from the next will be pulled back and we will step into the Glorious Kingdom of God.
10. Today, as we gather around this altar to be nourished and strengthened by the flesh and blood of our Savior let us ask God to pour out upon us everything we need to practice what we teach.
Heart of Jesus, hope of all who die in thee, have mercy on us.
Mary, Gate of heaven, pray for us.
St. Rose of Lima, pray for us.
Posted by Father Christensen at 6:45 PM