Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Homily 30th Sunday of the Year 29 October 2006

This evening, I would like to ask each of you to picture in your mind
a priest that has been important in your life.
For some of you, Father Bernie may be the only priest you know.
For many of you, you may have known several different priests.
Think of one who has made a difference in your life…
Perhaps the priest who baptized you and was there as you grew up…
Perhaps the priest who married you…
Perhaps a priest who was there to listen
when you were going through a difficult time in your life…
Recall a priest who was important to you.

When you have a priest in mind,
lift him up in prayer,
say “thank you” to God for his presence in your life,
and for the many blessings of his ministry to the Church.

Every person in this church has experienced the ministry of a priest.
Over the more than seven years that I have been in seminary formation,
I have come to know many holy and dedicated priests,
whose service can only be described as “heroic.”

You are blessed in this parish to have a priest who loves you very much,
a priest who cares for you, works hard for you, and prays for you.
The Serra Club is an organization dedicated to supporting seminarians
and to praying for vocations.
Every year they designate one Sunday
as a special day to affirm the priesthood in the life of the Church,
to honor Jesus Christ, as the Great High Priest,
and to honor the priests of His Church.
This year, this Sunday, October 29th,
has been chosen as “Priesthood Sunday” in the United States.
So, as we gather for Mass today,
we give thanks to God for Father Bernie…
and for all the priests who have been a part of our lives,
and we honor them for their love and dedication to the Church.

Our celebration of “Priesthood Sunday”
coincides with a beautiful reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
on the meaning of the priesthood.
The lessons the Holy Spirit teaches us through this reading
are beautiful beyond compare.

The Scriptures tell us that the priest is
“taken from among men and made their representative before God.”

The priest is a mediator…a bridge.

He stands before the Altar of God on behalf of the people
and brings their prayers to the Lord.
In the Sacrament of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick,
the priest is an instrument of God’s unconditional love…
a love which has the power to heal every wound and forgive every sin.

Hebrews also says that the priest is chosen “to offer gifts and sacrifices.”
In the Church of Jesus Christ,
the priest no longer offers the sacrifices of bulls and goats,
as in the rituals of the Old Testament.
Jesus Christ has offered the ultimate sacrifice of His life on the Cross.
In the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass,
we enter into the great mystery of the one sacrifice of Jesus.

It is through the hands and the words of the priest in the Mass
that Jesus chooses to make Himself present to us.
Without the priest, there is no Eucharist.
Without the Eucharist, our spiritual lives whither…
like fruit that has fallen from the vine.

The priest is called to offer more than the sacrifice of the Mass.
He must also offer the sacrifice of his own life
for the sake of the flock he is called to serve.

The Church in our time needs men to give up their lives for Christ.
The Church needs holy priests, to follow in the footsteps of all those men
who have been such an important part of each of our lives.

Think back to the priest who you had in mind a few minutes ago…
the priest who is important or influential for you.
Imagine your life without that man.
Imagine if there was not a priest around to minister to you when you were in need.
Imagine this parish without a priest to celebrate the Mass every Sunday.

It is a sad thing to imagine, is it not?

That is the reality for far too many people in the world today.
As the number of retiring priests outnumbers those who are being ordained…
those who are left are spread thinner,
and the faithful are left without the shepherd’s care they deserve.

As I look forward to ordination…
I anticipate being made a pastor much sooner and with less experience
than past generations of priests.
I also anticipate having the responsibility of more than one parish.

Some have suggested that the answer to this “vocation crisis”
is to give more of the duties of priests to those who are not ordained.
Others suggest allowing priests to marry,
in order to attract those men for whom celibacy is an obstacle.

Yet, practically speaking, the clergy of other Christian churches…
who have married clergy…
experience the same shortages as we do.
Besides that, celibacy is a beautiful gift a man offers to God and the Church…
a gift that bears fruit in abundance in his ministry.
Celibate priestly life is a life modeled after Jesus Himself.
It has been a part of our tradition of priesthood since the early days of the Church.

The response to the vocation shortage is not to change the priesthood…
but rather to encourage it in a new and fervent way.

It is the task of every one of us to create an atmosphere…
in our homes and among our children…
in which a vocation to the priesthood is encouraged and supported.
As one of the speakers on the U. S. Bishops’ vocations video Fishers of Men says:
“It should be part of the life of every male Catholic
to think about becoming a priest.”

Despite the trends in our culture and in the media,
which promote selfish choices and undermine life-time commitments,
we must affirm the value and goodness of the priesthood.

There is no greater gift a man can give to the Church and to the world
than to lay down his life as a priest.

Today, as we celebrate “Priesthood Sunday”…
I ask you to pray for the priests of our diocese,
and for me and my brother seminarians
Pray that we may serve the Lord faithfully
and persevere in doing all He asks of us.

I also encourage you…as you leave Mass today…
to express in your own way your thanks to Father Bernie
for all he does for you and for the Church.

Finally, I remind you that we need to plan for the future.
The next generation of priests is among us.
It falls to us to encourage them and support them,
to make our homes places where the priesthood is honored
and a vocation to the priesthood is respected.

In all this, we celebrate the priesthood of Christ,
and who, out of love for us,
comes to dwell with us in the Eucharist we celebrate.

May Jesus Christ be forever praised!

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