The Roman Missal: The Institution Narrative (Part III)

“CONGRATULATIONS!  You’ve just been named the grand prize winner of a fabulous sum of money!  To claim your prize, please call the number at the end of this message!  Congratulations!”

Most of us probably know that these sort of “prizes” are scams, especially when they want your personal information and social security number!  Well, the Eucharist is a sort of prize in some ways.  Unlike the statement above, or the phone calls and e-mails you probably receive far too often, it’s not a scam at all, but each of us must respond to lay claim to that prize given by Christ.

We’ve been talking about the Institution Narrative, and the important and powerful words of Christ that he spoke to us at the Last Supper.  One of the more controversial parts in the new translation of the Roman Missal comes up at this point:  “…which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this in memory of me.”  That’s a big change from “for you and for all”!  We might react very negatively to this change, but we should ask ourselves, “What is the Holy Spirit and the Church trying to show us here in this translation?”

There are a few basic reasons for this change.  On the basic level, it is a better translation of the Latin text: “pro multis” is better translated “for many” than “for all.”  It’s also a biblical change.  Isaiah 53:12 reminds us that the Messiah would come to take away “the sins of many”, and Matthew and Mark both recall Jesus’ words as being this way as well.

But does that mean that Chris died only for a select few?  Simply put…of course not!  It is one of the most solemn dogmatic truths that Jesus died for all of us and for all mankind.  St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians even reminds us, “He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”  Christ died for all of us, regardless of age, gender, race or even creed.  Think about that!  Christ died for the atheist down the street as much as the person with the 3:00 am adoration slot!  Christ even died for those who hated him – Pontius Pilate, Herod, the Jewish leaders who condemned him, the Romans, etc.  That offer of salvation that Christ won for us on the Cross is extended to all.

But…the reality is that we have to accept that, and embrace the grace that Christ won for us.  Sadly, there are some in our world who don’t want to accept that gift of salvation, and out love and respect for their free will, Christ acknowledges this.  Like that prize money, you’re only going to win it if you call back.  Each of us has to accept Christ’s grace and then try to do our best to live by it in order to share eternal life.  This should remind us that salvation is not automatic or mechanical!  You and I have to go out there and respond daily to Christ’s offer for salvation, embracing his gifts to us by receiving the Sacraments, worshipping with the community, praying frequently, and doing acts of love for others, especially the poor and sick.

This is also an opportunity for us to pray for those who have declined that offer for now, that they might someday lay claim to the salvation won for them.  So this week, maybe consider how you want to respond to Christ’s gift of himself.  Do you desire to be one of the many?

Homily From the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

How many people here would say that they have busy lives?  I asked one of our gracious parishioners what her average day was like as a mom, and it got me to thinking, “I live a pretty cushy life!”  On the average day, she gets up, then gets the kids up, yells a few times, gets everyone a good breakfast and yells a few more times to get the kids moving.  Meanwhile, she has to get herself read for the workday with all the usual routine.  But before she can go, she makes sure they have everything they need for the day. My mom used to have a checklist: books, belt, wallet, keys, coat, etc.  Moving on, this mom then piles the kids into the car, realizing at the last minute that one of them forgot their coat… and another forgot their lunch.  She gets to work (late) putting a hard day of work in while trying to remember to make a doctor’s appointment for one of the kids.  Then of course, she runs to Wal-Mart to get toilet paper on the lunch break, getting back to finish the day and pick up the kids, then helping with the homework, throwing some dinner on the table…baths…showers…bedtime…before collapsing and getting a few minutes for herself and her husband (about 5)…assuming of course, that none of the kids brought home stomach flu in the middle of the night.  Wow.  I don’t know about you, but I think this woman deserves a medal.  But I think lots of us have days like this from time to time (or every day).  Life is busy, right?  So how do we make time for prayer in all that?

One of the biggest challenges of the Christian life is establishing that discipline to offer time for God each day.  Jesus gives us a great example of that today.  Prior to the gospel passage for today, he had been running around, healing the sick and driving out demons like crazy!  Huge crowds have been following him around, and his name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue!  You’d think that this would be enough to drive his work, but he knows that despite the great success he’s had, he needs to go off and pray.  He made prayer part of his life, and we hear it many times in the gospel that he went off to pray, such as in today’s reading.  He even did this on the eve of his crucifixion!  No matter whether he was experiencing the anguish of anticipation, success or popularity, or if he was worn down after a long day, he was praying.

I think this is important for each of us.  Sometimes we just put off our prayer until the worst times, the times of crisis.  Or sometimes, our day is just so packed with stuff that we’d rather spend those 15 minutes catching up on sleep rather than offering them to God, which is understandable.  But we know that just as much as prayer was an essential part of Jesus’ ministry, so it is with our lives as well!

As Christians, I think we need to do two things: making our work part of our prayer, and making our prayer part of our work.  So first, making our work part of our prayer.  In the seminary, there was a ton of stuff to do – grad school level classes, apostolic service, parish work, conferences and workshops, communal prayer, and of course, each professor gave tons of reading, because obviously, their class was the most important.  So that seemed pretty busy to us.  But our rector would always remind us that we weren’t busy.  Many people would love to have the opportunity to spend time at a holy hour or on retreat, the sort of things that made our lives busy.  But instead of being busy, we were blessed with many opportunities to do good.  I think this is pretty true with everyone.  Pretty much any job out there is filled with opportunities to do good for others, unless you’re a hitman or a bounty hunter or something.  If we see the things in our lives as gifts from God, we start to see them less as another job or another item on the calendar, and more as an opportunity to spread the Gospel.

The other half of the equation is making our prayer part of our work.  As Christians, I think it’s pretty clear that making time for prayer in our lives is something we ought to do.  I mean, how can we try to follow someone if we barely make time to listen to him, to talk to him about our difficulties and struggles, and to thank him?  But we have to work at this!  We have to make prayer an essential part of the day.  So how do we do this?  Well, here are a few tips.  First, you have to know yourself.  Jesus knew that if he was going to pray, he was going to have to get up early to fit it in his busy schedule.  But if you’re not a morning person, you’re probably not going to be able to do anything at 5:00!  Your prayer will basically consist of rolling over in bed and pressing the “snooze” button!  So pick times you know will be helpful and fruitful!  Second, start simple.  You’re never going to succeed at your two-holy-hour-a-day goal if you don’t have a base to work from, and in fact, you’ll probably just get fed up and frustrated, and quit altogether.  So start small: offer a few minutes of prayer at key parts of your day – the lunch break, the few minutes in the shower, the car drive to work or school.  Spending these small moments helps to develop an awareness of the presence of God, and can help you grow in the future.  Third, and very importantly, don’t skip it!  Most people don’t flat out quit prayer or quit going to Mass.  It’s just a matter of putting it off one too many times.  Stick with it, even if you don’t want to.  Those moments when you get anxious while praying and feel like you have to get something done are the very moments where God is calling you to stay, and to offer that anxiety as a prayer to him.  Sometimes the sacrifice of doing this is what helps you to grow in love of God.

Let’s be clear: none of us here are monks.  At this moment, maybe we’re not called to spend all day on our knees, but each of us are called to make prayer an essential part of our busy day.  Christ truly desires that holiness for us!  So as we prepare to celebrate these sacred mysteries around this altar, let us join together with Christ in offering the perfect prayer to the Father.

Archbishop Carlson’s Pastoral Letter on the HHS Mandate

For those of you who didn’t get to hear the Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter, or for those who would like to read it again, here is what we as priests were asked to read at Mass this past weekend.  Please take a moment to read through this and some of the links given.  I don’t want to appear as a doomsayer, but we cannot afford to be passive on this.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.  The federal government, which was formed to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people – the Catholic population – and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers,including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.  Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write.  And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.  And, as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences or to drop health coverage for our employees (and bring about the consequences for all in doing so).  The Administration’s sole concession was to give nonprofit employers, like hospitals and universities, which do not currently provide such coverage, one year in which to comply.

We believe this new requirement signals a direct attack on our religious freedom.  People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.  We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom.  Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights.  In generations past, the Church has always counted on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties.  I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.  Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

And, therefore, I would ask of you two things.  First, as a community of faith, we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting, that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored.  Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible.  Second, I would also recommend visiting www.usccb.org/conscience, to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Administration’s decision.

I call upon each of you to join me and the Bishops of the United States in speaking out on this violation of religious freedom and conscience by contacting your U.S. Representatives and our U.S. Senators.  Every Catholic has the responsibility to promote the dignity of human life and religious freedom.  If we do not make our voices heard, no one else will.  Let us work together to preserve the freedoms our forefathers established in our Constitution!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson
Archbishop of St. Louis

Here are some links that you might consider visiting to take some action on this:

First, the website cited in the letter from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops
www.usccb.org/conscience

The St. Louis Review’s website concerning latest news and articles on the HHS Mandate
http://stlouisreview.com/conscience

Petition to the White House asking for a reconsideration of  the HHS Mandate
wwws.whitehouse.gov

Please do what you can to protect religious freedom in our country!