Fr. Gerard’s Weekly Column: 4/21/24

The reason the world does not know us, is that it did not know him..

What do we mean when we say that we “know” someone? On one level we may say we know of someone, when we are referring to a celebrity or a well-known leader. We identify that person through whatever knowledge we have gained in the public forum or through the opinions of others. We also may speak of knowing an acquaintance, whom we encounter on a regular basis. In this case, we can describe them by their physical appearance, observable traits or through knowledge we have gained through small talk.

Knowing someone whom we regard as a friend would mean we have some knowledge of their character, beliefs, passions, fears, and personal history. The deepest level of knowing a person and the most intimate form of knowing is experienced with those we love, whether it be family, friend or romantically. On this level we know the deeper identity of the person, possessing knowledge and history of the person because they have entrusted their truest self to us. Understanding these levels of knowledge are not only important to the human dynamic of our lives, but the spiritual as well. What therefore do we mean when we speak of knowing God or being known by God?

We certainly strive for the deepest level of knowing God. Typically, we come to know God by moving through the same levels of knowledge described above. What starts out as knowing, of God, moves closer to the intimate, the more we encounter God through our prayer, our study, our discussion with others and very importantly through the sacramental encounters of our lives. Ultimately what we seek comes not through intellectual exercises but through an experience of selfless love. The Greek word for this love is Agape.

Agape, or selfless unconditional love, is not a sentimental outpouring, nor is it condition based. It is the purest form of love; free from desires and expectations, and loves, regardless of the flaws and shortcomings of others. Agape love is an encounter with the divine, who seeks to love us through mercy, reconciliation, and the gift of everlasting life. In other words, this love can only be experienced by those who “know” God.

GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY – Today we look to the inspiration that comes from the Good Shepherd in today’s Gospel who knows and is known by the flock. This Sunday we express our love of the priesthood and pray for vocations. But we are also called to action. We cannot be passive and simply wait for our prayers to be answered as we wait to see who will come into our rectory, sacristy, or church.

A recent statement about priesthood came from Pope Francis in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Amazon, “Querida Amazonia” While some thought he might say something radically new about priesthood, Pope Francis wrote about the exclusive character received in Holy Orders, which he said,

Qualifies the priest alone to preside at the Eucharist. That is his particular, principal, and non-delegable function. There are those who think that what distinguishes the priest is power…but rather (the priest) is “totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members…The priest is a sign of that head and wellspring of grace above all when he celebrates the Eucharist, the source and summit of the entire Christian life. That is his great power, a power that can only be received in the sacrament of Holy Orders. For this reason, only the priest can say: “This is my body”. There are other words too, that he alone can speak: “I absolve you from your sins”. Because sacramental forgiveness is at the service of a worthy celebration of the Eucharist. These two sacraments lie at the heart of the priest’s exclusive identity.

A recent survey of newly ordained priests showed overwhelming data that the personal invitation from their parish priests and encouragement/support from the local faith community helped to strengthen and sustain the newly ordained on their journey to the altar. Vocations to priesthood and religious life do not fall from the sky, they are created and fostered within the parish community. As a parish community we are called to invite the men of our parish to consider a vocation to the priesthood and religious life. Actively casting the vocations net and inviting our young men to follow the Master’s call to “Go and Make Disciples.” is a task for all of us.

CHURCH DOOR CAMPAIGN – Donations for the replacement of our church doors have begun to come in. Thanks to all who are helping us to undergo this necessary capital project. The flyer in today’s bulletin has been updated to include a return slip for you to use when making your donation. Please see the flyer for complete information on the project.  Thank you for your support.