Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

25th Sunday after Pentecost (6th Epiphany)

14 November A.D. 2010

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    This will be a very exciting week for me.  During the 10 o’clock Mass I will give a very lovely young lady her First Holy Communion—congratulations Khristie—and thank you Judy Strutner for the time you have spent in preparing Khristie for this important occasion.  Following that Mass, I hope to baptize another three youngsters, and our Lord will have three more souls to worship Him in the state of Sanctifying Grace.  And this coming Saturday I hope to participate in the ordination of a new priest, Father Dirk Dandy, who will be the Assistant Pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows in Knoxville, Tennessee.  All in all, it will be an exciting sacramental week.

    So what I hope to do this morning is to say a few words to put these Sacraments into proper context.

    We all learned from the Catechism that “a Sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.”  Also, we have probably all noticed that the Sacraments more or less parallel the unfolding of our earthly lives.  Baptism makes us children of God.  Holy Communion, and It’s frequent reception nourishes us for our life’s journey.  Sacramental Confession restores the innocence of Baptism, no matter how seriously, or how often, we may lose it.  Confirmation comes roughly with adolescence, as we have learned more about the Faith, and become prepared to stand up for It in public.  When we become of age to begin our own family, to become parents to our own children, we will take an husband or wife in the life long union of sacramental Marriage.  Should serious illness overtake us (and it overtakes everyone eventually) we will “call in the priests to be anointed with oil … and the Lord may raise us up, and if we are in sins we will be forgiven.”[1]  A few men and women will devote themselves to the religious life, like Father Dandy as a priest, or, otherwise by profession of the vows of religion.

    What is most important is that our spiritual life—what we might call our life with God—be as continuous as our mortal life in the world.  Our spiritual life must be a continuum, and not just a series of isolated events.  Nothing could be further from the mind of God than the joke we make about half-hearted Catholics who view the Church as nothing more than a sort of overseer for the “hatching, matching, and dispatching” of the members of their families—the folks we only see at Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals, and maybe midnight Mass on Christmas.  In point of fact, the spiritual life must be a day in and day out proposition.

    When we are baptized, God makes a radical change in our souls, so that he can dwell with us for each and every second of our lives.  Of course it is important that at Baptism we become members of the Catholic Church, but the character with which God imprints our soul is of far greater significance than the fancy certificate we will be given to place in our files or to hang on the wall.

    When we receive First Holy Communion, we enter into a close, personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom we receive body and soul, humanity and divinity, even though He appears to be no more than a little round of bread or a few drops of wine.  But First Communion must be only the beginning of a many years-long relationship with our Lord—a love for our Lord that is renewed in frequent Holy Communion.  He invites us to receive Him each and every day for the rest of our lives.  Even for very busy people, Communion every Sunday is not at all unreasonable.

    When we are Confirmed, we take on a new spiritual maturity—one which should again deepen our relationship with God, which should make it even more regular and continuous, and which presents a continuous witness to those around us.

    Should we marry, or enter religious life, we are, once again, entering into a continuous life-long relationship with God.  Both marriage and religious life are covenants to involve God in the day to day running of our lives.  Marriage must be more than a legal agreement to share the rent and the cooking and cleaning chores—for it is rather the way by which God populates heaven with the souls he loves so much.  Religious life or the priesthood is not just another job, as some make it out to be today.  It is not an ‘alternative life-style,” but a continuous effort to clear away the things that might keep us apart from God in our day by day existence.

    Now, I have left Extreme Unction—or the “last rites,” or the “anointing of the sick” for last—purposefully out of the order in which the Sacraments are usually named.  One of the greatest errors that Catholics sometimes make is that they presume that they can begin their spiritual life on their deathbed.  Erroneously, they presume that as long as a priest manages to get to them “before the soul leaves the body,” they have fulfilled the responsibilities of being a Catholic which they took upon at Baptism.

    To begin with, there is not, and never was, any guarantee that you will be able to receive those Sacraments when they become necessary.  People die unexpectedly, at every age, often far from church or priest.  This is even more true today when the state of confusion in the Church has made many priests less dedicated to their priestly ministry than in years gone past.  I visit a man who had two heart attacks—one in a Catholic hospital—who was not able to get a priest to his room!

    But, more to the point, if you have been listening to what I have been saying, those Last Sacraments are intended to be the culmination of a life long association with Almighty God.  They are intended to be a sort of crowning moment in a life lived well according to the Commandments, and in the habitual presence of God.  They ought not to be counted upon as a sort of emergency device for those who have long refused the spiritual life with Jesus Christ

    So let me urge all of you to do three things this week: 

  • Pray for those who are receiving these Sacraments today and next Saturday—pray that they may be strong in their commitment to God in the spiritual life.

  • Pray that God will send more of them along—pray that we have many more Baptisms, Confirmations, Holy Communions, and Ordinations to the Priesthood in our future.

  • And recognize for yourself the need for living each and every day in grace and unity of God, and in the holiness that only His grace can produce,


[1]   Cf. James v: 13-15


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