Day 6:  Outside Jesus and Mary, there is no neutral ground!

jeremiah-arts-1Today we wrapped up the content of our retreat-sessions.  We had discussed as priests the importance of an interior life, of genuinely confessing our sins.  The fruitlessness of ministry was often attributed to priests not being willing to carry their cross on behalf of their parishioners.  In other words, it was suggested that we now live in a culture of “self-motivated comfort” whereby we ourselves are unwilling to accept with affection and love, suffering for others.  This ends up being the contradiction the saints, especially figures like St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.  When they were not suffering they might have felt abandoned by God, because the sourness of their suffering was accompanied by the sweetness of divine-love.  If we as priests avoid suffering and avoid our cross, it will likely lead us to treat other people the same in regard to how they carry their own cross.  If we do in fact carry our cross, but with resentment, then we will resent those who do not bear the load with us, and lack compassion on them as we preach to them the message of truth, but in the wrong spirit as did those who sat on the chair of Moses.  Or, if we are not carrying our cross because we presume such a right, we then extend that lawlessness to our own parishioners as a means to justify ourselves.  At times this is masked by the word “pastoral” as if carrying a cross was contrary to the Gospel. 

The middle ground of course is a priest who knows the heart-ache and joy of carrying his cross that he may have compassion on those who disciplines to do the same, and also be willing to carry it with them, and take on its weight in as much as he is willing to suffer for that person.

When we crystalize this teaching, we then began to discuss the persecution that some priests undergo in their respective dioceses.  Some were maligned by their own brother priests or bishops for wearing the cassock or even the roman collar in public.  Others were pushed out of the diocese because of a homily on the 4-last things.  We then reflected on how this type of persecution, though different today, also has existed in the past for other saints.  We think of St. John of the Cross who was kidnapped and tortured by his own brothers, or St. Jean Vianney who was almost chased out of town by wayward parishioners, or Padre Pio who had his faculties removed for a period of time, or St. Francis de Sales who was almost forced into an insane asylum. 

When the Church is all about puffing itself up, and “happy-talking” about its own image, and its own good-works, it neglects justice by not condemning the persecution of the saints.  However, despite all of this, priests were encouraged not to become resentful about it, if it had occurred to them.  Rather to silently suffer it and to become “priest-victims” whereby God can transform this pain, rejection, malicious judgment, orchestrated undermining of God’s laws.  It would be transformed into an oblation worthy of making our service of God at the altar or in prayer worthy of being heard, and effective in being answered.

passionIf Christ is being crucified today (spiritually), and we all the while are indifferent to offending him because, “He can take care of himself” as I have actually heard people in leadership say, then nothing consoles his Sacred Heart.  Imagine for a moment that a crowd is beating with cruelty the very flesh of Jesus, and someone responds:  “Don’t worry, He can save Himself, He can take care of Himself” and so they continue to beat Him or continue to walk by indifferently, never speaking up for Him, all this means is we do not, from the heart love the Lord.  If on the other hand we see that Christ is being wounded by our sins, in the very sins we commit today, would we not in righteousness cry out in protest, or ask for the crowd to turn on ourselves rather than the one we love above all else?  For Christ to see that gesture would give Him great consolation as we would fill up what was lacking in His sufferings, which is our thankfulness for it all, but also our willingness to suffer beside Him as a brother.  This seems to be an attitude that has “internalized” what sin really is, otherwise if we gloss over our offence to God as nothing more than something cheaply forgiven, we miss the real pain and suffering our saviour endured for our sake, and we would rather use it to continue to sin, rather than to transform our love for God.

DecisionMakingSo the homily at our Saturday mass ended by asking us the question simply:  You have a choice in this final battle:  Jesus or the Devil.  There is no neutral ground between the two of them – you cannot serve two masters.  When you go back to your parish, will you remain faithful to the Sacrament of Confession, to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, to the praying of the Rosary, and to the celebration of the Eucharist?  Or will you merely live in comfort, and therefore serve Satan?  Listen to Bob Dylan’s song when you get the chance…he might hit it home for you!  Click here to listen!

It was a troubling question, one that forces a decision that does not seek the comfort of grey, where it is up to my own preference and personal choice.  I suppose in some sense, all of us fall into that Luke-warm spirit.   Perhaps the call to holiness has been demeaned in the priest, perhaps the priest has sinned and is now ashamed, perhaps the priest is lost.  But the fact remains: he is a priest forever – that identity and calling does not change – and therefore we must all hit the “reset-button” on our spiritual life and be willing with great energy, zeal, combative defiance to Satan, pick up our cross and finish the race, as if there is nothing else more important than to arrive at heaven, because we have cooperated with God, in his Sacred Heart conjoined to the Immaculate heart of Mary. 

Tomorrow, we will be leaving the Hotel Grounds and heading on a pilgrimage.  I will again, bring your prayers with me on this journey, but please do not forget me in your prayers.

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