Wednesday, November 25, 2015



The season of Advent is the great good news, the amazing story of the eternal Son of God and his human-divine adventures in human time. Time, of course, is part of God’s creation. God’s necessary being is timeless. St. Augustine eloquently expresses the mystery of Christ and time when he writes – “He who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our short day of time.” Advent has a two-fold character: 1) it is a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first entrance into human history is remembered; and 2) as a season when that remembrance directs our minds and hearts to await Christ’s second coming at time’s end. Christ’s first coming belongs to the past. His second coming lies hidden in the future. In the meanwhile, in the interim (and this means our lives here and now), the risen Christ meets us and we him in sacramental mystery.

On the day of his glorious ascension into heaven, the risen Christ made two promises to his fearful, awe-struck disciples: 1) though he was leaving them, he would send them another helper, namely the Holy Spirit who would bring to their minds all that the Lord Jesus had taught them in his earthly sojourn with them; and 2) though he was leaving them in a bodily, tangible, sensible manner, he would never abandon them but would remain with them in a new presence, a real and true presence, a sacramental presence.

How remarkable is the sacramental presence of the risen Christ! It is at the heart of our Sunday worship. At the center of all that we do at the Sunday Liturgy lies the act, the action from the power of the Holy Spirit, of making the Lord Jesus, risen now in glory, really, truly, sacramentally present on the altars of the Catholic world in his life, death and resurrection. As the Second Vatican Council teaches us, to accomplish this great work of liturgy, Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of his minister, but especially under the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments, so that when a human being baptizes, it is really Christ who baptizes. He is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church. He is present when the Church prays and sings, for he promised: “wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst”.

We describe Christ’s three comings in terms of the following words: history, mystery and glory. What about this word “mystery”? When we speak, e.g., about the Agatha Christie mysteries, we think of such events as the discovery of the body of somebody who has been shot but we have no idea who did the shooting. Mystery in terms that the Church uses is very much like the word sacramental. A sacrament is an outward sign – visible, tangible, detectable – of unseen, hidden divine reality. And so we speak of the mystery of Christ. To Pilate Jesus was one of the Jews of the day, but not in favor with the Jews of authority. To us who see him in the light of faith, he is the Word of God who became flesh for our salvation. The sacrifice of the cross and the sacrifice we offer at Sunday Eucharist are really one and the same sacrifice except for the manner of offering. St. Paul speaks about the mystery of God, the mystery of Christ, hidden for ages and generations past but now made manifest to God’s holy ones. To the Ephesians Paul speaks of his ministry to bring to the attention of people all over the world God’s plan hidden from the very beginning. By God’s plan he means, of course, the will of God, the purpose of God, God’s vision of things for our redemption. Throughout the liturgical year we have the opportunity to share in what we call the mysteries of Christ, those actions which St. John’s Gospel calls “signs”, outward, visible actions of Jesus but with deeper and more significant divine meaning for our salvation. In fact, a good name for the new year we call the liturgical year could be “Christ in his mysteries”, God’s plan of salvation as it unfolds at Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, during Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost. In this way, Christ’s mysteries become our own as he invites us to himself as branches on the vine, as members of his body which is the Church. He lived his mysteries for us and now involves us in his mysteries. The challenge of Advent, in fact the challenge of the entire liturgical year is this: how are we to pray our way through the new liturgical year which is upon us? The answer to this question could be to say with one writer – “the mysteries of the life of Jesus are of great importance for the believer. This is because the believer’s personal relation to the risen Christ makes no sense without the earthly history of the risen Christ. The resurrection makes eternal the earthly life Christ lived, without which the risen Lord would remain anonymous.” In praying through the mysteries of the life of Jesus, our focus is always on the contemporary Christ, that is, our risen Lord. We do not focus on the baby Jesus at Christmas, or the preaching of Jesus in his public life or the suffering Jesus on the cross; rather, we concentrate on the risen Christ who once was the baby Jesus, the preaching Jesus, the suffering Jesus. The Lord is who he is in glory in virtue of the past experience of his earthly life. By focusing on his earthly mysteries and by receiving him in Holy Communion, we grow in his likeness and find our place in the history of salvation being carried on in our day.

Let us begin a new liturgical year as we remember: “It is with Christ that we journey, and we walk with our steps in his footprints: he it is who is our guide and the burning flame which illumines our paths; pioneer of salvation, he it is who draws us towards heaven, towards the Father, and promises success to those who seek in faith. We shall one day be that which he is in glory, if by faithful imitation of his example, we become true Christians, other Christs.”



Pope Innocent VI was bishop of Rome in the mid-decades of the 14th Century. He was a good hymnologist as well. He is the author of the beautiful but very brief eucharistic hymn which for several centuries was sung in the West after the Consecration at Mass. It is known by its Latin title – "Ave Verum Corpus". In the 19th Century it was set to music by the incomparable Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This hymn celebrates the truth of things, literally the realities we associate with our Catholic faith. The first line celebrates the reality of the mystery of the Incarnation – "Hail true Body born of the Virgin Mary". The second line celebrates the mystery of the cross – "Hail true Body, truly suffered, sacrificed on the cross for mankind”. The third line continues the theme of the Passion – “Hail true Body whose pierced side flowed with water and blood”. The fourth and final line directly reflects the Eucharist – “Let it be for us, in consideration, a foretaste of death”. Jesus whom we call the Christ is no mythical figure. Neither is his heavenly Father who mysteriously identified himself to the prophet Moses in the words "I AM". Neither is his earthly mother who said to Gabriel, "I am the handmaid of the Lord." The Lord Jesus is for real – real in his birth, real in his dying and rising, real in the Eucharist we will receive this very day, foreshadowing God’s gift of eternal life. The "Ave Verum Corpus" celebrates these realities.

I would call your attention to one of the prayers that we find in the Sacramentary at this time of Christmas. We say to God our Father – "Fill our hearts with your love, and as you revealed to us the coming of your Son as man, so lead us through his suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection". Any welcoming of the Lord at Christmas carries with it the acceptance of Christ’s cross.

For a Christmas meditation, I would propose a reflection on what I shall call the law of the cross. What does this mean? In shorthand, it goes something like this – All of human history, everybody’s human history, is a story of progress and decline. Because of sin, decline, disorder, evil become the conquerors. Justice comes along to try to right the wrongs, but the enmities, the rivalries, the hostilities that come from sin continue to conquer. Just look at the front pages of our newspapers. Better still, look in the mirror and try to examine the human heart. Where justice fails, only love can prevail, only love can wipe the slate clean of sin. This is what is meant by the law of the cross. Through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, God wipes the slate clean, for Christ is the true Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. In other words, God has introduced into human history a process of reversal. The consequences of our sins become the very means of our salvation. The prime instance is Jesus. By willingly accepting the consequences of our sins, though sinless himself, he passed through suffering and death; and God’s power at work in Jesus made this the passageway to resurrection and life. S. Paul puts it this way – God showed his love for us in this that while we were yet sinners. Christ died for us. The law of the cross works something like this – Two persons have a quarrel. As long as each party returns evil for evil, the quarrel escalates, the situation worsens, no fresh start is possible. Only a process of reversal will bring peace. Only when one party is willing to love one’s enemies and to pray for one’s persecutors, only then will the decline of evil be checked, only then will redemption be effected, only then will our own human history make progress towards God’s kingdom. (A note of gratitude is needed here to Father Bernard Lonergan who directed me in my theological studies. The Law of the Cross is an important part of Lonergan’s Christology.)

This is what happened in Jesus. This is what he wills to effect in us. This is what Christmas is all about. We cooperate with God’s redeeming power by returning good for evil, thus transforming the evil that surrounds us into the cross through which alone we are saved. This was a scandal to some of the Jews of Jesus’ time. This was all folly to the Greeks. To those who believed, Jew or Greek, this was the power of God and the wisdom of God. The law of the cross is still folly for so many in our day. The philosopher Nietzsche would reject Christian humility and self-giving love as the religion of slaves who are really envious of the rich and the powerful. Karl Marx would reject Christian patience and the doctrine of the cross as ideological invention to facilitate the enriching of the rich and the enslaving of the poor who are thus deceived by Christian teaching and drugged by the empty hope of abundant life beyond the grave.

The feast of Christmas makes an affirmation and asks a question. The affirmation is this – Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners. In other words, God out of love wipes our slates clean. The question is this – Are we willing to do the same for our brothers and sisters? Only those who understand the law of the cross can truly say – Merry Christmas.



What is a problem? What is a mystery? What does the adjective “secular” mean? What does the adjective “sacral” mean? We all know what problems are. We have wrestled with mathematics, physics in our early school days. We probably have read our share of mysteries where murders have been solved. Not so with a mystery. God is a mystery. When we say that God is a mystery we’re saying that we are incapable of expressing who God really is, although we can make good progress, with thoughtful reflection, in saying what God is not. No matter what we know of God, in the end we must say that God is incomprehensible. The adjective sacral refers to something that pertains to God or the worship of God. The chalice at Mass is sacral. The twelve or so banks here in Wellesley are all quite secular. (If you visit Rome and walk down the Via del Corso you will se a huge building with the sign – Il Banco di Santo Spirito. Don’t be fooled by the name. The Holy Spirit is sacral; the bank of the Holy Spirit is purely secular.)

Obviously a column in a bulletin is not the place for a treatise on Incarnation. The purpose of this column is to make us feel more at home with the translation of the New Roman Missal which deals with the Incarnation in the second part of the Creed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of Incarnation as follows: The fact that the Son of God assumed human nature and became man in order to accomplish our salvation in that same human nature. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both true God and true man, not part God or part man. The Apostolic preaching spoke about Incarnation to Jewish hearers who were the first to hear the New Testament word of God. St. John the Evangelist opens his gospel with the words – “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Incarnation literally means “becoming flesh, taking on our humanity”. As the Catechism expresses it – belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: “By this you know the spirit of God: every spirit which professes that Jesus Christ comes in the flesh is of God.”

Preaching to the Gentiles was different that preaching to the Jews. The preachers to the Jews could cite the many passages in the Old Testament that spoke about the one who was to come, but the Gentiles had no experience with the Old Testament at all. What we profess about the Lord Jesus at Sunday Mass was the product of several early Ecumenical Councils. The first Ecumenical took place at Nicea, up near the Bosphorus near present day Istanbul. Wrong thinking about Jesus was called Arianism. Yes, the Arians would say, Jesus is rightly called Son of God but obviously, they said, he cannot be God the way God the Father is God. The question was raised at Nicea – “Was there ever a time when the Son of God was not?” What this question really meant from the Arian point of view was that Christ, though superior to us, could not be equal to the Father and thus came under the creative power of God the Father. The Church’s answers to all of this was loud and clear. Jesus in his humanity became like ourselves but never ceased to be his divine self. And as his divine self he was equal to the Father and the Spirit in divinity. That is where the adjective consubstantial comes in. The Council picked up an ordinary word in everyday Greek language to speak about a unique fact in human history, that is, what God the Father is in his divinity that is what the Lord Jesus is as born of the Father before all ages. Hence, dear reader, the two changes in the second section of the Nicene Creed instead of saying – “By the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man”, we will be saying in the new translation “by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015



Just as Candlemas Day means the Mass of the Candles, so Christmas means the Mass of Christ. I would like to comment on the Christmas Liturgies.

As we know, Vatican II, in terms of its liturgical renewal and reform, restored the practice of the Sunday Vigil. This means that the Sunday celebration starts with evening prayer on Saturday evening and runs through evening prayer on Sunday. Thus we have become accustomed to the 4 o’clock or 5 o’clock Vigil Mass on Saturday afternoon. In my view, the Vigil Mass has been a mixed blessing. It is wonderful for us older folks to get out in the afternoon and enjoy daylight both coming to church and going home except for December and January’s dark days. On the other hand, however, it seems that the restoration of the Sunday Vigil has not helped the Church’s efforts to restore Sundays as the Day of God, the Day of Christ, the Day of the Church, our day for prayer and family life and family recreation and the like. Of course, restoring the Easter Vigil, which was the great gift when Pius XII was Pope, was wonderful beyond all words. For centuries the great Easter Vigil, the climax of the Church’s liturgical year, lay only in the Church’s memory and not in its practice. This, of course, does not mean starting the Easter Vigil at 7 o’clock or 8 o’clock in the evening. My dream is to restore to the parish the Easter Vigil that would begin at 10:30 p.m. which would then give us time for all nine scriptural readings which summarize the mystery of salvation from creation to our own day. Then at midnight we would celebrate the Lord’s resurrection at the Eucharist. Restoring the Vigil of Christmas in no way elicits my enthusiasm, certainly not the enthusiasm I showed in the last sentence for the Easter Vigil. (Of course, the Christmas Vigil would be good for us older folks for the same reasons listed above for the Sunday Vigil.) However, the way we celebrate the Christmas Vigil is not particularly helpful for the celebration of Christmas Day. It doesn’t capture, in my view, what the Christmas Liturgy has been designed to capture.

Christmas Day is one of those rare feasts which offers three distinct liturgies. Advent is the time we watch and pray as we hope for the final coming of the divine Messiah who first came on Christmas Day and comes to his Catholic people all over the world in sacramental mystery. Our urgent prayer that the Lord come and not delay is visible at midnight Mass for the minute the day begins we are ready to celebrate his coming. Then there is the Mass at Dawn; then there is the Mass During the Day. Obviously the Church does not insist that we attend three Masses, but those who used to do so in earlier centuries experienced a wonderful sense of the integrity of the Christmas celebration.

I would like to highlight aspects of our Christmas Liturgies. At the Vigil, the entrance antiphon will say to us – “Today you will know that the Lord is coming to save us, and in the morning you will see his glory.” In our opening prayer we will say to God our Father – “Every year we rejoice as we look forward to the feast of our salvation. May we welcome Christ as our Redeemer, and meet him with confidence when he comes to be our judge.” We will then listen to readings from Isaiah, the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Matthew. At Midnight, Psalm 2 says to us – “The Lord said to me: You are my Son; this day have I begotten you.” These words are addressed to our incarnate Lord. Their scriptural use is often seen as a resurrection theme. In our opening prayer we will say to God our Father – “You make this holy night radiant with the splendor of Jesus Christ our light. We welcome him as Lord, the true light of the world.” Then we read from Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Luke. The second reading – Paul to Titus – is printed below. The Mass at Dawn, begins with this antiphon: “A light will shine on us this day, the Lord is born for us: he shall be called Wonderful God, Prince of Peace, Father of the world to come; and his kingship will never end.” Then we say to God in prayer: “We are filled with the new light by the coming of your Word among us. May the light of faith shine in our words and actions.” Then we hear from Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Luke. The second reading is printed below. Then comes the Mass During the Day. The entrance antiphon says to us: “A child is born for us, a son is given to us; dominion is laid on his shoulder, and he shall be called Wonderful-Counselor.” In our opening prayer we will say to God our Father: “We praise you for creating man, and still more for restoring him in Christ. Your Son shared our weakness: may we share his glory.”

From the Letter of St. Paul to Titus:

“The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.”

A second reading from Paul to Titus:

“When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”



Firmly I believe and truly
God is three and God is one;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
In that manhood crucified;
And I love supremely, solely
Christ who for my sins has died.

And I hold in veneration,
For the love of him alone,
Holy Church as his creation
And her teachings as his own.

Praise and thanks be ever given
With and through the angel host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The author of the above Creed is Cardinal John Henry Newman. He was a revered 19th Century scholar and churchman. We think of his early years as his Anglican years, and we think of his later years as his Catholic years. His influence on scholarship was profound in his own day. Though he died some sixty years before the Second Vatican Council, his influence on the scholars of the Council was most significant. Perhaps it can be helpful for us in this column to reflect on Newman’s Creed so that we can appreciate the great mysteries we celebrate throughout the liturgical year. Newman first points to the foundational mystery on which all the truths of faith rest, that is, the mystery of our Three-Personed God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Theologians like to call this mystery “a necessary mystery” because we say of God – He always was; he always will be; he must exist. The next mystery is the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. We can call this mystery “a free mystery”, that is, it depends upon the freedom of God, because we can say of the first Christmas – it did not have to take place. Then Newman moves on to the mystery of Redemption and all the wonderful things God has done for us and continues to do for us through his Son and the Holy Spirit. Stanza three is important for us to read and to hear. Newman tells us the reason why he accepts as true the mysteries of faith. It is because faith is a gift that first comes to us from the Church in the Sacrament of Baptism. This is why Newman writes – “And I hold in veneration for the love of Christ alone, Holy Church as God’s creation and her teachings as his own.” We have the great truths of Trinity, Incarnation and Redemption. At the Advent-Christmas Liturgies, it is the Incarnation that stands center-stage.

The English word “incarnation” means “becoming flesh”, “taking on our humanity”. And so we read in John’s Gospel – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Christ Jesus, the very Son of God from all eternity, equal in divinity to the Father and Holy Spirit, at a particular moment in human history took on our humanity without ceasing to be his divine self and became like us in all things except sin. As we reflect on this mystery of faith and seek to grow in understanding, we praise God for his love and goodness as we ask the question – Why the Incarnation? Why did God the Son take on our humanity and enter truly into our human history? The Advent-Christmas Liturgies answer this question in different ways. They speak to us about a wondrous exchange between God and ourselves. For example, listen to the following antiphon – “What wondrous exchange: our Creator, taking on body and soul, in his kindness has been born from the Virgin Mary, and coming forth as Man, He has made us sharers in his divinity.” You and I, of course, do not cease to be our human selves, but now we share in God’s life through the grace and virtues of faith, hope and love.

We can learn a lot from some of the titles we give to the Lord Jesus. We call Him Savior, for we would be lost were it not for him. Who else can take away our two great enemies which are sin and death? We call him Redeemer, but why give him that title if he cannot free us from sin and death? So, if we do not grasp the truth that we are lost apart from Christ, that we never can become what God expects us to become apart from Christ, we will never appreciate Christmas.

Once again a new liturgical season has begun. Once again we are privileged to reflect on the Lord Jesus in his mysteries, in all that he has done and in all that he continues to do for us and for our salvation. We say of the Lord Jesus – Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. As such, he is our mediator. In fact, he is our perfect mediator. As perfectly divine, he is on God’s side of things. As perfectly human, he is on our side. As our mediator, he makes us one with the Father. As the Father’s mediator, he makes the Father one with us. As we reflect on Christ as our mediator, we think of him as truly man, truly the God-Man, and truly God. Augustine’s words can be of great help to us – “He who is God was made man, in taking that which he was not but without losing that which he was. Thus God became Man! Herein you have what is needful to your weakness. And herein you have also what is needful to your holiness of life. May Christ raise you by his ‘Being’ as man; may Christ guide you by his ‘Being’ as the God-Man; may Christ bring you to his ‘Being’ as God!”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Phenomenon of Unbelief


There is no sense in being overly dramatic, but can we not say that there is a gigantic struggle going on all over our world between the forces of humanism and the forces of barbarism? (Definitions of humanism and barbarism could be helpful but they are not needed at this time. Most readers of the column will understand the meanings conveyed by these words.) The question is this – Which will prevail, humanism or barbarism? If humanism triumphs over barbarism, then the second question becomes – What kind of humanism will prevail – secular humanism or Christian humanism? Are people going to say with Jean-Paul Sartre, with regard to us humans: “Man is only man when man is unbelieving man.”? Or are people going to say with theologian Karl Barth – “Man is only man when the God-man is his brother.”? After all, our Catholic faith is the experience of divinity through humanity. As John the Evangelist tells us – The eternal word became flesh and dwelt among us to share his divine life with all of us. The question between the two humanisms mentioned above is this – Which humanism is true humanism? Listen to the way Pope John Paul II begins his encyclical letter Faith and Reason: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth, in a word, to know Himself, so that by knowing and loving God, men and women also will come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” If we reflect for a moment on what this quotation from Pope John Paul tells us, should we not ask – How can there be a true humanism without God? This teaching was expressed in an excellent way at the Second Vatican Council in paragraph 22 of the Constitution of the Church in the Modern World. We read – “The fact is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word is light shed on the mystery of man. Adam, the first man, prefigured the man to come, Christ the Lord. Christ, who is the new Adam, by revealing the mystery of the Father and his love also fully reveals man to man himself and makes his exalted vocation known to him. In other words, if it were possible to ask God the question – What does it mean to be truly and integrally human?, God the Father would point to Jesus and say – “Here is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

At the present time, secular humanism triumphs all over Europe. Next Sunday we celebrate the feast day of Christ the King. That feast day was instituted in 1925 in order to counteract individual and social apostasy from God brought about by the secular spirit which relegates Christ’s Gospel to the private sphere. The secular spirit means for all practical purposes that God is dead. It is the “disincarnation of the spiritual!” In 1965 The Second Vatican Council spoke about the massive unbelief of our age when it reminded us that the “root reason for human dignity lies in man’s call to communion with God. From the very circumstance of his origin, man is already invited to converse with God. Still many of our contemporaries have never recognized this intimate and vital link with God or have explicitly rejected it.”

I remember reading a while back a review of a book – “The Education of An American Catholic”. This volume details the account of how one American Catholic lost his faith first given him in holy baptism. The author wrote – “It is the loss of any belief in the supernatural which is the central problem for the Post-Vatican II Church”. His own rejection of the supernatural came from the study of philosophy in the modern period – especially the skepticism of the language-philosophies. It was the author’s perception that the average Catholic of today gives not a thought to the supernatural. To this end he quotes a theologian – “How many Catholic Christians still have deep in their hearts the Christian fear of death and the last judgment? How many are capable of feeling desperately worried when some Catholic relative or dear friend dies without benefit of the sacraments?”

Prior to Our Priorities


Gregory Collins writes – “Christianity is a deeply objective thing. It is not first and foremost a subjective personal experience, neither is it simple adherence to a set of moral regulations nor even a sharing in a sacred tradition. There is indeed a subjective experience of God that can be had in sharing in a sacred tradition. There is indeed a subjective experience of God that can be had in prayer. There is a Christian ethic that has to be lived. There is also participation in ancient traditions of worship and adherence to bodies of doctrine. But they are the consequences of Christianity rather than its essence.” (From: Meeting Christ in his Mysteries.) Does not this author suggest that there is something prior to our priorities?

Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, had this to say – “It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society.” (Porta Fidei) It would seem that the Holy Father is reminding us that there is something at the heart of our faith that we take for granted as we explore other priorities with regard to our social and political lives. The Pope goes on to say – “Ever since the start of my ministry as successor of St. Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith, so as to shed ever-clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of our encounter with Christ. The Church as a whole and all her pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead God’s people out of the desert toward the place of light, toward friendship with the Son of God, towards the one who give us life and life in abundance. It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their faith commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition to life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition be taken for granted but it is often openly and massively denied.” I would ask the reader – What do you think the Pope is getting at with these words? I think he’s trying to help us make a distinction between the centrality of faith and what is consequent to that centrality. If we concentrate only on what is consequent to our faith, although that is always necessary, we will not be able to answer the questions – What or who is a Christian?

A while back a Benedictine Abbot was ordained as a Bishop after 37 years of life in the monastery. At his ordination the new Bishop was reminded he had to articulate soon his pastoral priorities. He said at his ordination that he would like to touch on something prior to any priorities. He had been asking himself what he had learned in his 37 years in the monastery. He said that there are many answers, lighthearted or other, but there was one answer that he thought to be true and he described it in these words. “It’s simply a realization, a glimmer of realization, a small beginning of a realization, of Christ the Lord.” He said that in a word he was merely talking about the discovery of Easter, of Christ’s Passover from death to life, his Resurrection. What the new Bishop was saying to his parishioners was that before all important priorities were reflected on and discussed there is something that is prior to these priorities. The Bishop then added – “What a monastery gives to monks and nuns is exactly what the Church gives to all her people. And what is that? It is what the women found when they found the empty tomb that Sunday morning in Jerusalem. It is what Peter and Paul and John found. It’s what the remarkable galaxy of people who wrote the New Testament were stammering to express. It is what the liturgy in its simple power and beauty keeps alive in the world. It’s not a what, it’s a who. It is the person of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, and the power of his Resurrection. The whole of Christianity, its faith, its worship, its ministry, its mission springs from that Sunday morning, that empty tomb. It springs from the Resurrection of Christ, his victory over sin and death. What can the Church do – for us who belong to her and those who live around us? What can the Church give? What can the Church bring? There is only one answer, namely, Easter – The person of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth and the power of his Cross and Resurrection.” These words are good for us to read and listen to as we soon begin a new liturgical year – 2015-2016. We soon set ourselves out on a journey that will lead us through the Lord’s Advent, through his public life and ministry, through his cross to the resurrection. If we live this liturgical year in this way, we will then be able to set down in print our new ministerial priorities.

These few comments from Bishop Hugh Gilbert can be very helpful to us in our Sunday worship. What we do every Sunday morning is truly the summit of our Catholic faith. It’s not the only thing we do because the work of education and evangelization and the work of RCIA are so necessary in leading up to the summit and then so many important things must be accomplished leading down from the summit. There is the living out of our lives of faith, hope and love. There are the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. There are the Beatitudes to be lived. There are the social teachings of the Church for a world calling out for justice and peace. The Christian is the person who has many priorities. However, this little column is suggesting that our priorities will not be effective if we have not discovered in the liturgy what is prior to our priorities.