Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Christianity Makes Us More Human, Not Less

The Gospel yesterday spoke of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, James and John.  They all had names.  Christianity is personal.  Evangelization is personal.  Parishes are personal.  Abraham climbed up a mountain in order to make a very personal sacrifice.  If God had given him some vague command and said, "Climb up that mountain and improve yourself in some way," we probably wouldn't really care.  But instead, God commanded Abraham to "take your son, Isaac--the one whom you love--and sacrifice him as a burnt offering."  Now, that's personal!

As I posted earlier, the new pastoral plan of the Archdiocese calls for pastors of parishes involved to offer their resignations.  At first, my concerns about this were entirely about my parishes.  Would some new pastor come in and begin to dismantle those things that have made us strong?  Would some new pastor end Eucharistic adoration, start preaching nonsense, be dismissive of the Sacrament of Penance, do crazy things during the Mass?  Would he--like I've heard about some priests--refuse to pray for priestly vocations?  Would he refuse to preach the difficult moral truths?  We've all heard the horror stories.

But as time has passed, my fears about those things have diminished.  I'm really believing that if a new pastor is assigned, he's going to be a priest of the New Evangelization.  I hope we've learned from the past about what doesn't work and that where we see good things happening, we build upon them. In part I hold out this hope because our life depends upon it.  We're a community that has given more men to the priesthood and the seminary in the past five years than any other in the archdiocese. Vocations are our lifeblood, so I trust that nobody is going to come here and do anything but build on the foundation.  At long last, it seems that the New Evangelization is finally getting the respect it deserves.  There's no going back.

So why then am I still sorrowful?  Because Christianity is personal.  Christianity takes into account our humanity.  It doesn't try to replace it.  In fact, God became human--that's how intensely human Christianity is.  In fact, God chose to use the instrumentality of his Son's human nature to restore us back to him.  The Gospels are filled with examples of Christ interacting with real persons about real situations.  Christ ate and dined, wept and suffered, loved and obeyed in his human nature.  When St. Paul departed from Miletus, the Acts of the Apostles tells us that everybody was weeping.  I'm glad for that.  It doesn't say, "St. Paul left and everyone said, 'Hey, this is the life of an apostle.  He knew what he was getting into when he joined.  So, no crying."  Christianity sanctifies and redeems our humanity.  It doesn't ignore or suppress our humanity.

So, I'm sorrowful because parishioners and priests are human.  The homeless guy who was found passed out in the closet of my church today, he's human.  Dan, the fireman who helped, human.  The two little boys who sobbed this week when they heard I resigned, human.  Warren, whom I buried this morning and his wife Virginia of 68 years, human.  The young man whom I received into the Catholic Church a few weeks ago and who asked me last weekend to do his wedding, human.  The families with whom I have dinner, the men I go to the Red Sox with, the people I work with, Henry who leads the song every morning at communion time (the same two songs for the past 13 years), the people with whom I worship every Sunday, they're all humans.  And, humans experience sorrow when the moment calls for it.

I'd rather be sorrowful than inhuman.  And, in my book, those who try to skip over the sorrow or who attempt to spiritualize it away with the dismissive, "This is what happens in Catholic parishes,"
promote an inhuman approach to life and to the Church.  So, I'm going to be sorrowful because
leaving the people whom I love, is a cause for sorrow.  And, I hope that some of them are sorrowful too!  If they're not, I didn't do a very good job.  It's not to say that being reassigned is wrong.  But, it is to say that it is sorrowful.  Abraham was probably a little sorrowful climbing up that mountain. One of our titles for Mary is, "Our Lady of Sorrows."  One can be obedient, sorrowful, and joyful simultaneously in the Christian life.

The New Evangelization needs to be personal.  And when you get personal, you put your heart on the line.  And when you put your heart on the line, you eventually encounter suffering and sorrow.  The alternative would be inhuman and unCatholic.  Perhaps, the reason that so many parishes are foundering and that so few priestly vocations are springing forth is because we skip over our humanity.  Christianity ought to make us live our humanity more intensely, not less.  I hope that in the next few months, some young man sees how sorrowful I am at the thought of leaving my flock and thinks, "I want to be a priest some day and love my people with a love that is capable of such sorrow at the thought of leaving them."  The Word became flesh. That's personal.  Christianity and
the priesthood are personal too.  That's the New Evangelization.

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