Saturday, April 25, 2009

Visitors to Rome

Happy Easter! It's still Easter season...

This past Holy Week I had a couple groups of friends in town. I was a joyful time and a struggle as well. Having visitors is no vacation! :)

But nevertheless, this Easter Vigil made me realize something. One group of visitors which I took to the Easter Vigil were friends I had not seen since before I entered the seminary. See, I lived with these people for a year in a volunteer group before entering the seminary, and we spread out across the country as soon as the year was complete. But coming together again, I simply marveled at that way in which God so forcefully impacted my life. How could I have possibly known that a few years after my time volunteering, I would be in Rome on Easter Vigil with these friends? Who would have thunk it? Not me - heck I did not even want to see Rome ever again (I had a bad experience the first time).

Another point that hit me was talking to a young man in line for the Easter Vigil about his own desire to become a priest and my own joy and heartfelt prayer for him to courageously say yes to his vocation. I know these experiences are only because God wants me to realize He's in charge and there really is nothing wrong with it. In fact, I find immense peace in it. God continues to amaze me. This Holy Week as been an amazing opportunity for me to recall His goodness and the reality that the priesthood is a giving over to God and in my own words, holding on for the ride. Pope Benedict during the Chrism Mass in Rome, quoted the following verse and said:

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, so that they also may be consecrated in truth” (Jn 17:17ff.) To consecrate something or someone means, therefore, to give that thing or person to God as his property, to take it out of the context of what is ours and to insert it in his milieu, so that it no longer belongs to our affairs, but is totally of God. Consecration is thus a taking away from the world and a giving over to the living God. The thing or person no longer belongs to us, or even to itself, but is immersed in God. Such a giving up of something in order to give it over to God, we also call a sacrifice: this thing will no longer be my property, but his property. In the Old Testament, the giving over of a person to God, his “sanctification”, is identified with priestly ordination, and this also defines the essence of the priesthood: it is a transfer of ownership, a being taken out of the world and given to God. We can now see the two directions which belong to the process of sanctification-consecration. It is a departure from the milieux of worldly life – a “being set apart” for God. But for this very reason it is not a segregation. Rather, being given over to God means being charged to represent others. The priest is removed from worldly bonds and given over to God, and precisely in this way, starting with God, he is available for others, for everyone. When Jesus says: “I consecrate myself”, he makes himself both priest and victim. Bultmann was right to translate the phrase: “I consecrate myself” by “I sacrifice myself”. Do we now see what happens when Jesus says: “I consecrate myself for them”? This is the priestly act by which Jesus – the Man Jesus, who is one with the Son of God – gives himself over to the Father for us. It is the expression of the fact that he is both priest and victim. I consecrate myself – I sacrifice myself: this unfathomable word, which gives us a glimpse deep into the heart of Jesus Christ, should be the object of constantly renewed reflection. It contains the whole mystery of our redemption. It also contains the origins of the priesthood in the Church.


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