Posted by: Thomas Richard | June 21, 2009

The Feast of John the Baptist…

Today is the feast of John the Baptist  – a fitting day to begin a Blog dedicated to renewal in the Church.  The reading in today’s Morning Prayer, in the Divine Office, includes this:

23 Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, Before the day of the LORD comes, the great and terrible day,

24 To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the land with doom. (Mal 3)

How is this reading and prophecy so appropriate to the call for Church renewal?  Listen to it, in the light of our Church led by our fathers in Christ!  We call our priests “Father”, for they are ordained to be fathers to us and for us in Jesus Christ.  In this year especially dedicated to the priesthood, begun June 19, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Church is calling us, priests and laity, to be especially attentive to the holy priesthood.  That is, we “children” are to turn our hearts to our spiritual fathers.  Our spiritual fathers, our priests and bishops, are to turn their hearts to their spiritual children – lest God come to strike this spiritual land, this Promised Land His Church, with doom.

Listening to the reading in this way, I can see how relevant and piercing it becomes.  How we need holy, sacrificial priests and bishops!  How we need a laity submitted and obedient to such fathers in Christ – because we need a people, a Church,  submitted to Christ.  We need this, and the world needs this, because the world awaits true, authentic living witnesses to the radical truth of God and His Gospel.

The world does not need one more lukewarm, distracted and bored assembly.  The People of God does not need more “company men” in the place of her priests and bishops, who say what is popular and what sells, who trouble no one, who reveal Christ to no one, who call no one to Life.  The Church needs holy priests and bishops.  The Church needs fathers whose hearts are turned to their children in truth, in authentic sacrificial love.

We as laity have expected too little of our fathers, our priests and bishops.  Instead, we have accepted the compromise.  As long as they refrain from the hard parts of the Gospel and of following Christ, we are free to chase after the pleasures and comforts of this world.  As long as the Liturgy is quick, our Sunday drive-through, we too can keep merely on the surface of it all, blind to the holy, the eternal, the transforming.  We remain untouched by the Cross, what light there is remains under a basket and the world remains in the dead idolatries of darkness.

Fathers, turn your hearts to your children!  Children, turn your hearts – your hearts – to your fathers!  We do not love our priests and bishops enough, even though, granted, many of them make it difficult for us to love them in truth.  Many priests and bishops keep themselves isolated and fortified against the fullness of love that would call them deeper into the depths and heights of their exalted vocation in Christ.

How we need truth among us!  We need the truth of love, as well as the love of truth.  May the Lord give us His grace, the grace of love, the grace to love.  The Church will remain as she is – largely weak, divided, confused, shallow and ineffective – until the transforming power of Christ is welcomed and is received within us all.  Business as usual is unacceptable in the light of the Cross of Christ.  He did not die to enable mediocrity, but rather sanctity.

Thomas Richard


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thank you for your prayerful efforts toward renewal in the Church. I hope that many persons will be blessed by this blog which continues the work of your website and your other writings.

    I was blessed especially by your words:
    “How we need truth among us! We need the truth of love, as well as the love of truth.”

    May this beautiful year of prayer for the Sanctification of Priests enrich all of us with the transforming power of God’s Love. He is Faithfully loving His Church, may we learn from Him how to love truly in return.

  2. Thomas – thanks so much for starting this blog! I will look forward to it daily, for inspiration on how to live God’s plan for us.

    Bless you.

  3. Rereading my original post, I find something that could easily be misunderstood. Let me try to clarify the statement:
    “We do not love our priests and bishops enough, even though, granted, many of them make it difficult for us to love them in truth. Many priests and bishops keep themselves isolated and fortified against the fullness of love that would call them deeper into the depths and heights of their exalted vocation in Christ.” (from original post above)

    By saying they “make it difficult for us to love them”, I certainly did not mean that they were unlovable, or that it was hard for us to hold true love for them in our hearts and minds! All men created by God deserve our love! Rather, what I meant was that many priests hold themselves at a certain distance from laity, and do not allow the kind of sincere and fraternal communication that authentic love requires. We are, in truth, all brothers and sisters in Christ. We all need to give and to receive Christ’s love, one to the other. Love can and sometimes must include fraternal sharing of gifts, advice, and even correction.

    In my experience, some priests and bishops keep themselves at a certain formal distance from laity in order that such sincere and charitable communication and sharing of gifts is prevented. This is not right, and is not good for the health of the Church. I remember one priest who, in the context of my (unsolicited, and it turned out, unwelcomed) thoughts about possible changes in parish offerings, said flatly, “You work for us.” In other words, they, the priests, tell us the laity what will and what will not be offered in (their) parishes. There is no doubt that rightful authority for governance of the parish rests in the pastor, under the headship of the bishop. However, laity does not “work for” the clergy! No one in the apostolate of the Church ought to be, or ought to be considered, a “hired man”! (see John 10:12-13) We are all, clergy and laity, under Christ – He is the ultimate head of the Church, and we all “work” for Him!

    Thus the truth of collaboration, clergy and laity, ought to be the guiding principle, in the rightful context always that final authority and responsibility for the parish rests with the pastor. Only when all the gifts entrusted to all the faithful are welcomed into the Church, will the Church become fully alive in her Lord.

    Thomas

  4. Dear Thomas,

    Many thanks for a truth that needs to be heard…and grown!

    I am reminded of a poster an employer hung up years ago, which read: “Act as if You Own the Place!” That statement has reminded me many times of the responsibility we each have to contribute to the well-being of any group through encouragement, participation, and careful assessment. In no place is it more important than faith!

    Re-wording it, it becomes the significant truth: Act as if You ARE the Church!

    Expecting our priests to be holy, and encouraging even the smallest sign of holiness can change the entire direction of a parish, a diocese, a conference…

    We need to ask ourselves:
    – Do I comment to Father on his homily? Do I ask questions pertaining to faith which spring from what he said…or left unsaid?
    – Do I thank him for his efforts, and offer to assist him where I am able?
    – Do I envision him as who he is truly ordained to be to us – the person of Christ – and treat him as such?

    How often we have heard that people live up – or down – to our expectations! But first, our self-expectations need to be set in a place that looks upward, to the destiny which all believers are called! If we heed the scriptural teaching of what the Church truly is, nourish ourselves on the truth of Christ and the graces of the sacraments, and respond to those graces lovingly, we will encourage holiness in our clergy…and we WILL renew the Church!


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