Saturday, May 06, 2006

All are Priests. Some are Priests. None are Priests

A few years ago, pastoral leaders in this diocese; priests, deacons, and lay pastoral staff, were invited to come together to reflect upon the relationship of priestly leadership to lay pastoral leadership. We heard a very complex theological explanation by a professor from St. John’s University in Minnesota named Susan Wood which I found fascinating and thought provoking but almost everyone else found to be boring and wordy. Then we heard from another speaker named Zeni Fox who everyone else seemed to find enlightening but I felt like she reduced ministry to a hug, used lots of meaningless jargon, and generally oversimplified a complex issue. I had hoped the conversation at my table would help us understand the complexities at hand and come to some common ground but, instead, I found myself assigned to a table with a group of embittered priests and laity who complained about the declining number or priests and admitted to me that they didn’t try to work with the young men in their parish to nourish vocations to the priesthood because they want to “solve” all the church’s problems by forcing the Pope to allow women and married men to be priests. I walked away from the whole day feeling frustrated, angry, and concerned for the future of the church – and no closer to understanding the relationship of lay leaders to the ordained.

So you can imagine my surprise as I was reading over a commentary on today’s scriptures and heard the phrase that seemed to answer this very question. It said, “All are priests, some are priests, none are priests.” Let me repeat that in case you think that I left out a note or two. I said, “All are priests, some are priests, none are priests.” Now, let me explain. The Second Vatican Council rightly emphasized that, through the imposition of the Holy Spirit at baptism, we have all come to share in the priesthood of all believers. By being initiated into the Church of Christ, we are called upon by Christ to lay down our lives to lead a life of holiness. This vocation to holiness was described well in our second reading today. It said we are children of God just like Jesus was a child of God. This childhood is a sharing in the priesthood of Christ in the faith, hope, and love that was given to us in Christ’s triumph over sin and death on the cross. We, in turn, must live lives of faith hope and love in the way we steward our lives. Parents play a special role in this by training their children in the faith. Next week we will remember our mothers who, oftentimes, laid down their lives to raise their children. It’s only appropriate that we thank them for that sacrifice, so don’t forget!

Yet, amidst this general priesthood to which all people are called, there are a group of people that are called to a special priesthood. These priests, to which I have been called, model Christ for the community in a radical way – in their gender and in their undivided devotion to God. This is the priesthood in which Peter was participating in the first reading. He has been filled with the Spirit and is called forth by Jesus himself to be a leader in the Christian community. He was to put a holy order to things so that it was possible for the gospel to spread. His ordering of the holy community tells us that priests are not meant to do everything in a parish, nor are they confined to doing only the sacraments. They are to model Christ by laying down their lives so that they can be the shepherds of a community. That’s why we can’t be like the people at my table at that meeting hoping to coerce a change in the church. We need to pray that God continue to call forth good, holy leaders from among his people and always encourage our young men to be priests.

So, all are called to the priesthood of the faithful in baptism and some are called to priesthood by ordination. But what was I talking about by saying none are priests? The truth of the matter is that Jesus Christ is the only shepherd of his Church, the only priest. It said so in our Gospel today when Jesus said that there will be one flock and one shepherd. If any of us, lay or ordained, begin to believe that we have the authority to make decisions about faith or morals outside of the teaching of the Church of Christ then we have in effect strayed from the fold in an attempt to make ourselves the shepherd. The only true everlasting priesthood is that of Jesus Christ, the good Shepherd. He is the one who appoints certain men to be priests and he is the one who calls us all to the priesthood of all believers. Truly all are priests, some are priests, none are priests.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Blindness

The first reading for today's mass was from Acts 9 and told the story of the conversion of St. Paul. I was struck with the parallel between Luke's story of the man born blind and the story of St. Paul. The man born blind has faith, he can see interiorly, but cannot see exteriorly. Saul can see many things exteriorly but cannot see with the eyes of faith. This causes him to persecute the body of Christ, the church. We are called to be the culture of life in a society that persecutes the body of Christ. We are called to see when others are blind and to try to help them see.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Diocese of Juneau has a good shepherd

You can go to this site to find this great Easter message.


The highlight of the year for Christians is Easter! At Easter we celebrate that Christ has overcome sin and the power of death once and for all. Those who have been baptized and have died in Christ have the promise of eternal life in Christ. So we proclaim, “Christ is risen! Indeed, he is truly risen! Alleluia!”

The celebration of this great Christian feast, however, has an essential connection to the preceding days. Thus, the core celebration of our faith (if I can call it that) actually takes place over three days.

Beginning on the eve of Holy Thursday, we begin the celebration of the Holy Triduum with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion and the Easter Vigil. Over these three days, we remember Christ’s passion and death and his rising to new life.

It is vital to recall that “to remember” means more than re-enact as if it were solely a past historical event. As we celebrate it liturgically, we participate in a saving mystery at work in us now. A word used by some theologians to describe what is taking place is “actualized.”

Christ’s dying and rising is an event that we experience in our own time and place because it is an experience that transcends time and place. It has as much bearing on our lives today as it did for anyone in the past or anyone in the future.

Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead for all people of all time. Because of it, we allow our lives to be transformed into a likeness that bears the stamp of God, striving always to live as daughters of the Lord and sons of God.

As we celebrate Easter this year, may we remember that Easter is not and never has been a past event. It is always a present reality that we try to embody with our lives and celebrate through our liturgy.

We proclaim over these 50 days of the Easter season, that Christ has died for us, that Christ is risen for us, and that Christ will come again in the fullness of time for us.

Alleluia
Alleluia
Alleluia

Vatican asks for Duh Vinci Code boycott

How strong do I push this? Any publicity is good publicity. If I say, "please don't go see the movie, 'Da Vinci Code'" people will hear ...go see the movie 'Da Vinci Code'". My friends simultaneously say they are disappointed at how distorted the story is and, yet, they will see the movie because of Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg.

These are the struggles of a parish priest. In some ways, I feel like I have made my message heard and, now, all I can do is hope that people will actually listen. If I continue to push, it's just going to make me look like the albino Opus Dei member.
Once again, the socialists in China are attempting to subvert Christ's authority and set up a parallel church that they can control. Think of the number of people who are led astray by these false shepherds and how tragic this is for the one true church! My personal favorite statement from this article is this one;

"A big stumbling block remains the Vatican's official recognition of Taiwan, branded by China as a renegade province."

Actually, an even bigger stumbling block is the absolute failure of the Chinese government to acknowledge the existence of the Vatican or the Pope and/or to allow the church to operate outside of it's tentacles. If you are not a mouthpiece of the government then you are not allowed to operate in China. Pray for the true church in China which, like the early church, is forced underground and often persecuted for no other reason than fidelity to Christ.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

schools of liberalism

Like several commentators, I struggle to define what constitutes ecclesiastical liberalism ie. what makes someone "liberal" in the church. I used to understand the core to liberalism as "minimalism"; seeking to answer the question, "What else can I get rid of" or "How can I make this smaller/shorter".

I've discerned a new type of liberalism. It's not pure minimalism but does being by seeking to take out the permenant and make it all transitory. So, it begins in minimalism and then replaces it with something different. I experienced the height of this type of liberalism when I visited St. Joan of Arc parish in the Twin Cities. When I went there five years ago, the priest appeared in a tweed jacket and sat in an inconspicous place. The first reading was a poem. Then we heard the second reading of the day. Then there was a "happy song" that didn't really say anything about God at all. Then, the priest strolled over the pulpit for the gospel right before introducing the speaker of the day. Oh, the James Taylor songs we sang! I think you get the picture.

The first type of liberalism kills a parish by simply removing all the elements that people find comforting and, in its place, leaves a vacuum. There is no vision, let alone the vision of the church, so either the individual has to develop a deep personal spirituality or they will leave the church.

The second type of liberalism kills a parish by removing those elements and then replacing them with something a committee/staff memeber believes better expresses the "spirit of the church/vatican II" thus imposing one person's whim on a congregation and turning a parish into more of a fast food restaurant than the worship of the body of Christ (as in, "I like to go to St. X parish because it makes me happy/has great music/is child friendly)

I wonder if the John Paul II generation will learn from this or if we will simply turn into simple maximalists.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Don't be deceived: You are witnesses

It was first communion for the kids this weekend so I emphasized three interconnected things in the homily:

1. Jesus "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures." I told the kids that it's time that they pay attention to the readings when they come to mass and listen to what Fr. Ev or I say in the homily. I told them that the disciples heard the scriptures and didn't understand them and that it's important they listen to the church to understand them.

2. The Disciples "were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost" I told the kids that, even though they think they are eating simple bread and wine, don't be confused or scared because it is really the body and blood of Christ. This is how you become part of the body of Christ; by eating his body and drinking his blood.

3. "You are witnesses" I told them that, since they are part of the body of Christ and eat his body and drink his blood, that means they represent the catholic church. They must act like Jesus to the people they meet, treat them with love and faith and hope.

What I find instructive is that a lot of people that don't usually say "boo" to me will come up after mass and say that they got a lot out of the homily and that, sometimes, the direct approach is truly effective. It makes me wonder if I should spend less time on being poetic and more time on just saying what needs to be said.