Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Reflection

Here is a reflection that I gave at my parish in Carmel today. It is on one of the traditional "seven last words of Christ." May it help you rejoice more fully in the Resurrection come Sunday morning.

Luke 23:39-43: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Although the image presented in this passage of Luke’s Gospel might be somewhat unsettling to us—Christ our King crucified between two heinous criminals—it seems that he is right where he is supposed to be: the Redeemer in the middle of two men desperately in need of redemption.

On one side, a man dying in his sin is nonetheless blind to his redeemer hanging next to him on a cross. His hope is in this world and he is so completely blinded by his pride that he cannot acknowledge that it is his own sinfulness that has brought him to this condition. He cannot recognize that the one who was hanging next to him and was suffering with him came not to take away all his suffering, but rather to save him from his sinful condition. Today, this man represents all of those who are quick to say, “Where was God” when they experience suffering in this world. “Where was God when my mother was dying from cancer?” “Where was God when my son was shot and killed?” “Where was God when my sister was being raped?” “If he is such a powerful God, then why didn’t he save them and me from our suffering?” “Are you not the Messiah?” the unrepentant thief says, “save yourself and us” (Lk 23:39). This one could not see that his Redeemer would be more than a divine dose of pain killers. He could not see that he, like his Redeemer, would be made perfect in suffering (Heb. 2:10). And so he misses his chance to live.

On the other side, we see the opposite. A man, also dying in his sin, sees in the man hanging next to him his Redeemer. He can do this because he first recognizes his own emptiness, his own need of redemption. In his sinfulness he is now nailed to the cross with no hope of being removed until after he has breathed his last breath and he can acknowledge—he chooses to acknowledge—that he is left now with nothing. He recognizes his nothingness. As soon as he can recognize his nothingness, he can turn to Jesus and see clearly the fullness of him sent to suffer with him and for him. He has no need to ask, “Where is God?” He knows where he is. He is on the cross next to him, suffering with him. Renouncing all of his pride, he can then turn to Jesus with the eyes of faith and say not “save me,” but rather “remember me.” He resigned himself to his own death in his sinfulness and asked only that he be remembered by the one who—mysteriously to him—would somehow come to reign in spite of this seemingly desperate condition.

Jesus gives no words to the man who remains blind to his sin. To the man who recognizes and acknowledges his own nothingness, however, Jesus gives those words of hope: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that the blind man who does not know he is blind cannot hope to see, but there is hope for him when he recognizes his need to see. The only thing worse than sin, he continues, is denying that we are sinners. There is hope, however, for the one who can acknowledge his or her sinfulness: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of God is theirs” (Mt 5:3). Perhaps today we can recognize our own poverty of spirit, our own sinfulness that has crucified us, so that we might recognize Christ our Redeemer, crucified with us and for us, and say: “Remember me, Lord….” Then, in the silence of our nothingness we can hope to hear our Savior say, “Amen, I say to you….”

Given at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Church – Carmel, Indiana
Good Friday, April 22, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mission: Retreat... Accomplished!

Greetings all in this holiest of weeks. Thank you for all of your prayers in the last week as I made my retreat. It was a blessed time of rest and restoration for me. I can't say that I had any great insights during the retreat, but rather I grew in confidence and conviction that this path that I have been on moving towards ordination is the path that God has laid out for me. The witness of the sisters was as much a source of meditation as was the Scriptures or the Rite of Ordination that I spent time with in their adoration chapel. To see so many women, young and old, who have given their lives completely to God reassured my faith that this step that I am about to take into consecrated ministry for the Church - while still a step into darkness, that is, into a mystery - is nonetheless one I can make boldly, trusting that God's love beckons me forth. The sisters are a witness to that love. Just as they stepped forth in love to return that love to God, so I know that I can step forth in the love I have for God. For all of this I can only give thanks, because I know that it is God who loved me first and it is the grace of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible for me to respond in love.

Tonight, we will celebrate the Chrism mass in Lafayette. It is the mass where the Bishop consecrates the sacred oils that will be used for the sacraments throughout the diocese in the next year (the chrism, the oil of catechumens, and the oil of the sick). It is a great event celebrating the unity of the diocese as representatives from each parish participate and receive the oils from the Bishop to take back to their parishes. It is also the mass where the priests of the diocese come together to renew their commitment to the priesthood. For me this will be another great witness as I prepare to enter into the Church's consecrated ministry. To see these men, young and old, renewing their commitment to the priestly ministry of Jesus Christ will be another sign of confidence that my love for God is real, and that my desire to step forth into this ministry is an authentic response to that love. If you've never had a chance to participate in an occasion such as this, I highly recommend doing so. It will strengthen your faith in God and in his church.

Thanks again for your prayers. As we approach the celebration of the greatest feast of the year (of all time, really), let us give ourselves more fervently to prayer so that on Easter day we will truly rejoice!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Retreat time... Finally!

It has been a tough semester for me so far and now, within 24 hours, I will be on retreat. Needless to say, I am greatly looking forward to it. With only a few weeks left to the semester after I return, I know that the time is now to seriously reflect and make myself consciously ready for ordination by focusing in on all the incredible things that God has done for me to get me to this point. God has called me to a vocation of love and I can only embrace that vocation as much as I am willing to let myself be completely open to the love he longs to give me. (This is true for all of us, by the way...) So, off I go to spend a week with the holy sisters up in Mishawaka. If you think of it, please say a prayer for me during this next week. I will pray for you!