No matter what we may think is the most important way priests should serve, and everyone has their own ideas here, THE reality is most important of all is not something he primarily does, but is: PRAYER!
Yep, being a living prayer. Especially: praying-celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; praying-hearing Confessions and all the other Sacraments; the Divine Office, the Holy Rosary – also simply putting his face to the ground: before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; a favourite statue or Icon of Our Blessed Mother or the patron saint of the parish, city, town, village.
Pleading and weeping for the whole world.
All prayer, by groaning of the Holy Spirit within us, is to the Father, in the Name of Jesus.
JESUS IS our perfect prayer to the Father.
Prayer may leave our hearts and lips as yearning, screaming in agony of incomprehension because of pain, as tears, some formulaic prayer, devotion, or as simply as a sigh.
Today, in the Divine Office in the Roman Rite, I was struck deeply by Psalm 38.
Here are some meditation thoughts inspired by the Psalm, which begins: Lord, punish me no more in Your anger; in Your wrath do not chastise me.
Lord, a minister claims the suffering of our Elder Brother Ariel is Your punishment because he sought to bring peace to Israel and Palestine.
Please, do not punish us for such uncharitable and arrogant foolishness. We wish no part in such harshness towards our Brother or his suffering people.
In Your righteous wrath, against our intemperance, lack of charity, slaughter of the pre-born little ones, assaults on the family, - You rightly challenge our claims in Canada and the United States to be Christian nations.
Far we have strayed from the Gospel and into the darkness of the culture of death.
Please do no chastise us but hear our plea for time to be converted.
Is it not understandable grieving families in West Virginia may feel as if arrows have pierced them through and through?
Perhaps even the weight of Your hand come down in anger is what others may feel as they bury their dead sons, husbands, brothers, sisters, wives, children amidst the grief which comes from duty protecting us at home and abroad, while families in Bavaria or Kashmir grieve because it seems as if Your very creation, as with Katrina, rebels against Your children; the millions with AIDS in Africa, bird-flu in Asia, may feel they are experiencing Your anger in their very flesh; while where floods rage, fields and houses burn, wars are a constant, terrorism slaughters those going to Mosque or pilgrims to Mecca are crushed beneath the crumbling hostel, surely many may feel as if iniquity in this world has overwhelmed them.
The Psalmist cries out, in the first person, a plea which is both confession and yearning for mercy – yet in our day it is not politically correct, and scary for liberal Christians, a state of denial for pseudo theologians – to admit any connection between MY lack of holiness, MY sins, and any negative, wrathful, dare I say, punitive, action on Your part.
This is precisely because we, lacking both a clear understanding of what sin is and does; lack likewise a true appreciation of what Divine Mercy really is and does.
What is offered as purification for conversion we arrogantly assume is punishment.
We read the signs of the times as: tragedies, accidents, natural disasters, acts of terror or disease, as if they were somehow disconnected from our very flesh, spirit, heart, soul.
It is the notion of things happening to someone else alone, or over there somewhere else, which enables our denial and calcifies our hearts.
We need the grace, O Jesus, Splendour of the Father, Divine Mercy, to make the connection between our insatiable greed, this obsession we have with a global economic system in bondage to MORE which leaves all of us living less.
The frenetic energy demanded of workers and employers alike, if we be truth-speaking, leads to weakened levees and dangerous pits, and always, always, the socially vulnerable, be they above ground at home when the waters rage or below ground when the earth rages, always, always they are the ones who die.
Our great sin is our culture of greed and death, a consuming culture which devours the consumers.
It is a culture of death at every level: politics of convenience and sleaze; of non-morality under the guise of elasticity of rights and denial of responsibility; a news media driven by agenda and profit, rather than the simple, factual, sharing of information; religion increasingly among the fearful, frustrated, powerless-feeling, has become a bully pulpit in search of a mythological Old Testament notion of You Father, minus the Mercy of Jesus; a religious fanaticism which is as insatiable as that of the Islamists; both engaged in the ultimate blasphemy and idolatry of claiming vengeance in Your Name – yet You have asked none of them to act in Your Name other than, as Jesus tells us: Love one another as I have loved you.
I acknowledge my own responsibility: abortion: for in the first year of my priesthood I failed to passionately defend life, making only tepid homiletic remarks, never going to the rallies, and hardly spending any time with my face to the ground pleading for a stemming of the oceans of innocent blood; abuse by brother priests: while I never knew of any of the sexual kind which violated the innocent, I was aware of clerical arrogance, laziness, failure to preach the truth from the pulpit, and in my early days as a priests did nothing; anti-Semitism: the evil which dishonours and endangers our Elder Brothers and Sisters in faith, oh I often thought of seeking out the town’s Rabbi, the town’s Orthodox Arab priest, but I never did: so I acknowledge my guilt and do grieve over my sin, repent by speaking out, by being prayer, by loving and no longer fearing if I am liked, or not, for I am but a servant.
We need You Jesus more than ever, do not forsake us, come anew and be actively our salvation, teach us to love, to slow down, consume less, share more, become playful children with You O Holy Child in this garden the Father has given to all of us, irrespective of our condition in life right now, or what we believe, our colour or any of that stuff we cling too as identifiers of our uniqueness, when I fact they simple entrench difference – yes smash our defensive walls, shoot Your arrows into our pet balloon notions, but please, with Your hand, wipe away our tears and scatter the darkness.
Come quickly to help us, our Lord and our Salvation.