Chief Shepherd of the Flock
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays
down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and
the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as
he sees a wolf coming, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep. I
am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father
knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.
The Son of God be-came man for our salvation. Yes, He became incarnate.
He took to Himself a real human nature. Because Jesus possessed a real human
nature, He could die for us. As the Good Shepherd, He has laid down His life
for us, His sheep.
There are many thoughts which come to us when we reflect upon the truth
that the Son of God took to Himself a human nature and dwelt among us. Some
of these are as follows:
- The Word Was Made Flesh. St. John puts it very simply in his Gospel:
"The Word was made flesh, he lived among us..." (Jn 1:14). Yes, John
states it so succinctly, yet these few words contain a wealth of meaning
and mystery. We should expect nothing else, since this brief statement of
the fourth Gospel points out the central event of all human history. These
words sum up God's creative and redemptive activity. They sum up God's
process of Self-communication to us. Let us briefly examine some of the
implications of the Son of God becoming man.
Adequately to explain the intimacy of the way of redemption which is the
Incarnation is beyond the human powers of articulation. Jesus is
Emmanuel-God with us. How tremendously more approachable God is to us
because we have Jesus. The more the mind dwells on the meaning of the
Incarnation, the more one is stricken with wonder at this unfathomable
mystery of love. And yet, for one reason or the other, we are tempted to
allow the mystery of the Son becoming man to be a fact we take for
granted. Our sense of appreciation becomes dulled, and our feeling of
enthusiasm about Jesus becomes so tragically mediocre. If our enthusiasm
concerning Jesus is less than it should be, what are the reasons? We are
speaking of a deep-rooted penetrating kind of enthusiasm centered in our
graced wills. Some-times this enthusiasm has deep emotional overtones. If
properly controlled, this enthusiasm involving the human emotions can be a
tremendous asset in one's commitment to Jesus. But we just do not have it
within our power to turn the emotions on whenever we wish. The more
fundamental enthusiasm for Jesus which is rooted in the human will can and
should always be substantially with us.
- Realizing Jesus' Love for Us. One reason our commitment to Jesus can
lose its ardor is that the realization of how much Jesus loves each of us
becomes a kind of peripheral or notional assent. We intellectually assent
to the fact that Jesus loves us, but at times such an assent does not have
much more effect on our lives than admitting that Caesar crossed the
We are meant to assent with our entire being to the fact that Jesus loves
each of us so uniquely, so intimately, so unreservedly. This truth of
Jesus' love for us is supposed to transform our lives. It is supposed to
so grip our imagination so that we can say in the spirit of St. Paul: "For
I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing
that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor
any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made
visible in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rm 8:38-39)
Giving ourselves over to Jesus' love does not remove pain and suffering
from life. But, through the prism of Jesus' love for us, suffering is seen
in proper perspective. We see the pain and suffering as being able to lead
to something greater, just as it did in Jesus' life. His suffering led to
resurrection. We realize that if we relate to suffering properly, we
become persons with a deepened capacity to love God and man - persons
sharing more fully in Jesus' resurrection. With such an attitude, this
pain dimension of life can at times become hardly noticeable because we
are so taken up with Jesus and His cause.
- The Cause of Christ. What is this cause? Some two thousand years ago
Jesus walked this earth preaching His Father's message, healing the sick,
forgiving sins, extending His kindness and mercy, training the apostles.
In all His varied activity, Jesus was accomplishing the redemption. Today,
Jesus still walks the earth. He teaches the Father's truth. He is
concerned with the sick and the ignorant. He administers the sacraments.
He manifests the Father's love in many different ways. But, unlike that
time of two thousand years ago, Christ Himself is not visible. He is
visible only through us, His members. He extends to us the great
privilege-and responsibility-of assisting Him in the continuation of His
redemptive work. The total Christian community and each individual
Christian are, then, certain extensions and continuations of the
Incarnation. So close is this union between the Christian and Christ that
St. Paul speaks very strikingly that it is more Christ than Paul who now
lives: "I have been crucified with Christ, and I live now not with my own
life but with the life of Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in
this body I live in faith: faith in the Son of God who loved me and who
sacrificed himself for my sake." (Ga 2:19-20)
Each of us has the privilege of offering Jesus his or her own unique
person, one's own humanity, one's own human existence. As with St. Paul we
are asked to allow Jesus to live within us. Each Christian has the
opportunity to allow Jesus to live through the uniqueness which is this
particular Christian. To the extent the Christian does offer himself to
Jesus in this manner, to that extent Jesus has a unique opportunity of
continuing His redemptive work. To the extent the Christian holds back and
does not allow Jesus to live in oneself, to that degree Jesus loses this
- Historical and Cultural Awareness. If we are to carry forth the
salvific mission of Jesus properly, the People of God, individually and
collectively, must be aware of the Incarnation's principle of historical
and cultural awareness. Jesus, through His enfleshment, became situated
within an historical situation. He lived at a particular stage of history,
in a particular geographical locale, amid a particular kind of culture.
Jesus respected this historical conditioning. Without compromising His
Father's message, Jesus was aware of His historical milieu. He lived like
a good Jewish man of the time. He talked in language which respected the
linguistic idiom and thought patterns of the then existent Jewish culture.
He accepted the Jewish people as conditioned by a certain historical and
cultural milieu, and dealt with them accordingly.
The members of the Christian community must follow the example of Jesus.
In living and proclaiming the Gospel message, the People of God must be
aware of the particular historical and cultural milieu in which they find
themselves. But, also after the example of Jesus, they must strive for
this awareness without compromising the Gospel. We immediately see that
the Christian community is consequently open to a double danger. On the
one hand, there is the danger that the People of God will not read the
signs of the times properly. On the other hand, in the effort to be aware
of their historical setting there is the danger of compromising the Gospel
message. But the Christian community has to face these dangers and not
surrender to them.
- The Temporal Order. Another truth connected with the Incarnation -
another incarnational perspective - leads us to a discussion of the
Christian's responsibility toward the secular or temporal order of things.
Through His enfleshment Christ has assumed, or united to Himself, not only
the human race but the entire world or temporal order. The world literally
belongs to Christ. The Christian's attitude toward authentic temporal
values should therefore be obvious. He or she should love the world as
redeemed by Jesus more than does the non-believer. The Christian should be
the first to love all authentic human values. He or she should be the
first to promote these values. Obviously, the real progress of these
values must be according to their Christic design, however hidden this
design may be at times. Very importantly, the Christian should be the
first to be willing to suffer for the authentic progress of the world. And
why? We reiterate-because it all belongs to Christ.
The Christian should grieve because all is not well with the temporal
order. He or she should be duly disturbed that there is so much violence,
murder, social injustice, lust for power, drug peddling, pursuit of
hedonism, increasing Godlessness. These and other evils sadly mar the name
and image of Jesus which He imprinted upon the universe through His life,
death, and resurrection. The Christian should grieve because the face of
Christ is thus so often covered by the sinful dust of the market place.
But the market place, the temporal order, is not all evil. Far from it. It
is basically good with the creative goodness of God. It's basic goodness
and beauty have been deepened by the grandeur of Jesus' redemptive effort.
There is so much good in so many human hearts. This goodness manifests
itself in countless ways. There are so many ways that many allow us to see
their love for neighbor. There are those who selflessly give of themselves
for the good of others in the field of medicine and nursing, in the
political arena, in education, in science and technology, in laboring for
justice for the consumer, in striving for pollution control. The list only
be extended indefinitely. Some of these services of so many for the good
of neighbor command national attention. Many, many more services are so
hidden, hardly noticed.
Each Christian, grieving at the world's evil, but rejoicing in its
goodness and potential for greater good, must be inspired to action. He or
she should deeply love the world because it belongs to Christ. He or she
should deeply love the people who cover the face of this world, because
they too belong to Christ. His blood has touched them and redeemed them.
The love of the Christian for others must be an operative, an efficacious
love. It must be willing to do, to accomplish, and, in rare cases, to die.
Whatever one's state of life, be it activist or cloistered contemplative,
this is the privilege and the responsibility of the Christian. He or she
cannot be committed to Jesus in love without concomitantly being dedicated
to the human family and the temporal order. Through the Incarnation, all
this is interlinked.
If the Christian is to promote the good of the temporal order, one must be
free in regards to it. One must be free, even to the extent that he or she
is willing to renounce certain temporal values, good in themselves, for
the service of others. The one who really loves the world is the person
who is willing to forego its use at times. To love the world and to love
the things of the world are not always one and the same. A person can love
the things of the world- selfishly - and consequently, not love the world
in itself. This selfishness is an obstacle to helping the temporal order
to progress as it should.
- The Human Condition. As we continue a survey of some of the truths or
perspectives connected with the Incarnation, we notice that Jesus has
taught us that redemption occurs within the human condition. The Father
could have redeemed us in a number of ways. He chose that setting which
was the Incarnation of His Son. Jesus saved us by being fully man, a man
who exercised His manhood perfectly in the self-libation which was His.
Although His mission led Him to give up certain human values, He saved us
through real human acts. He saved us by loving Mary and Joseph, by eating
with friends, by teaching, by loving the little children, by thrilling to
the beauty of nature, by bearing properly insult and abuse, and, of
course, by dying and rising. Summarily, Jesus saved us by living that kind
of human life which was in harmony with His Father's will.
Jesus did not rebel because He found the human condition less than
perfect. He had come to change things, to give a new release to the
goodness of man. He was a revolutionary in the best sense. His effort was
to turn things around, to reorientate the human race toward God. But Jesus
was by no means always the recipient of the goodness He had come to
preach. Although He taught that one should love his or her neighbor, He
himself was not always loved. He suffered, and He suffered mightily,
because of the mean streak, the sinful streak in others. He Who had done
nothing wrong, Who had showed His love for others in so many different
ways, this man was the one they beat, insulted, scourged, crowned with
thorns, and nailed to the cross.
Jesus redeemed us within the human condition. We receive His redemption,
and help channel it to others, within that same human condition. We are
redeemed by living the authentically human in the way indicated by the
Father's will. Although we are led by that will to renounce various human
values at various times in various ways, we are saved by living a human
existence, or we are not saved at all. We have often heard that grace does
not destroy nature. But, perhaps, we do not too often penetrate the depths
of this theological truth. Perhaps we do not very often have a firm
realization that grace elevates nature, gives it a deepened capacity for
fulfillment, and that grace needs nature. Grace must work through nature
if it is to save. Consequently, we are not saved and sanctified by
becoming less human. We are saved and sanctified by being very human-by
allowing grace to perfect the various dimensions of our human nature.
Grace inspires us to the fullest exercise of our humanity. Grace inspires
to a Spirit-directed way of living, of eating and drinking, of working and
playing, of enjoying sense pleasure, of experiencing joy and suffering.
Participation in the human condition, then, offers us a marvelous
opportunity of developing all our human capacities in the work of ongoing
redemption. Yet the human condition is not by any means a completely
pleasant situation. As Jesus before us suffered because of the human
condition, so also must we. The human condition can be the occasion of
suffering in so many different ways. For instance, a person can suffer
because others treat him or her unjustly. One can suffer also precisely
because someone loves him or her and he or she loves in return. This love
makes one vulnerable to pain, not because the other intends it, but merely
because to love within the human condition means a certain amount of
inevitable suffering. We suffer also because we are to a certain extent
pilgrims in exile. We have not yet arrived at our final destiny, a destiny
which will be achieved only in eternity. Because we are still on the way,
we are not yet completely alive, completely fulfilled. And because all
this is so, we suffer, and sometimes deeply so. But, again looking to
Jesus, we must learn how to encounter suffering properly. He encountered
the human condition perfectly, whether it meant great joy or deep anguish.
The Spirit asks us to live by the same attitude.
- Bodily Values. Another perspective very close to the heart of the
Incarnation is the concept of bodily values. The connection is obvious.
The Son of God assumed a human nature with its bodily dimensions. He has
given a great new dignity to the human body. Any attitude which deprecates
the body is consequently totally un-Christian. There have been numerous
such attitudes which have influenced Christian thought and practice,
unofficially, of course. There have been Manichaeism, Gnosticism,
Neo-Platonism, and Jansenism, to name some. Each of these has in one
manner or other failed to see the beauty, dignity, and purpose of the
The body, despite its basic goodness and grandeur, still has sinful
tendencies, tendencies toward laziness, lust, unbridled pursuit of all
kinds of sense pleasure. If the body is to achieve its purpose, it must
obviously be properly disciplined. The one who loves his body the most is,
quite obviously, not the one who gives to it all its desires. He or she is
the one who takes the necessary means, however painful, to ensure that the
body serves its wonderful and God-given purpose.
- Incarnationalism and Transcendence. In a quick survey of some of the
important truths consequent upon the Son of God becoming man, certainly
one to be mentioned is the fact that Incarnationalism leads to
transcendence - to that which is invisible, to that which is above
material limitation. At the offertory of the Mass, as the priest adds a
drop of water to the wine to be offered, he says: "By the mystery of this
water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled
himself to share in our humanity." The Son has come to draw us to God - to
the ultimate Transcendent Reality.
Even though we would not have been given a supernatural destiny, we would
have had a thrust toward the transcendent. Our graced nature has an even
greater thrust toward transcendence. The ultimate Transcendent is God,
and, as St. Augustine said long ago, our hearts will not rest until they
rest in God.
Christ, in His human nature, points to that which is beyond His humanity
and everything else created. Christ ultimately points to God alone.
Through His enfleshment, the Son was marvelously immanent in this world.
But this very immanence of God pointed to the otherness, the transcendence
of God. Jesus taught us that there is something beyond the material,
something beyond marriage, and riches, and culture, something beyond all
Jesus told us to relate to these values in so far as they lead to God. He
told us to renounce them in so far as this would be more conducive to
union with God. Jesus told us something which we all have experienced -
the created in itself cannot radically satisfy us. Only God can, and the
created takes an ultimate meaning, and renders authentic satisfaction,
only when it leads us to God. The Son became man to lead us to
transcendence-indeed, to ultimate Transcendence, God Himself.
- Life and Death. "When this perishable nature has put on
imperishability, and when this mortal nature has put on immortality, then
the words of scripture will come true: Death is swallowed up in victory.
Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?" (1 Cor 15:
Death is a certainty. It cannot be wished away. It cannot be avoided by
pretending it is an event overtaking all people but oneself. It is a sign
of maturity, then, that a Christian fully and meaningfully accepts the
reality of his or her own death, and lives with this realization holding
proper perspective in one's consciousness.
God does not intend that a morbid fear of death poison the beauty of our
days. He does not intend that the thought of death diminish our enthusiasm
to be and to accomplish. He does not intend that the prospect of death
become an obstacle to our fulfilling our potential here below. God rather
intends that we see the profound union which is meant to harmonize the
reality of life with the reality of death.
If we have the proper attitude toward life, we will have the proper
attitude toward death.If we live the life-event properly, we will be
prepared to live the death-event properly. Death is the final event of our
earthly sojourn. If we live life generously, we shall be oriented to live
death generously. If we have tried lovingly to conform ourselves to God's
will throughout the course of life, we will be disposed to accept His will
in meeting death.
The attitudes and virtues which comprise a good Christian life are, then,
the same attitudes and virtues which will assure a good Christian death.
The best preparation for a successful Christian death is a successful
Christian life. To live each day as it comes with a deep love of God and
neighbor is simultaneously to prepare properly for the inevitable event of
dying. To live each day according to God's designs is to enable one to
say, "Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?"
- Idols Which Should Not Be.
"When Israel was a child I loved him,
and I called my son out of Egypt.
But the more I called to them, the further they went from me;
they have offered sacrifice to the Baals
and set their offerings smoking before the idols.
I myself taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in my arms;
yet they have not understood that I was the one looking after them.
I led them with reins of kindness,
with leading-strings of love." (Hos 11:1-4)
God loves us tenderly, mightily. He watches us grow, guiding our steps
with a loving concern so deep that we can never fully fathom it. He
constantly showers us with his varied gifts, all signs of His love.
Reflecting upon how much God loves us and how tenderly He cares for us, we
wonder how we could ever wander very far from His loving truth. But we
know there are numerous idols which can usurp His place in our lives if we
fail to resist their specious attractiveness.
Selfishness, greed, pride, laziness, gluttony, manipulation of others for
personal gain, a hedonistic pursuit of pleasure, abuse of power and
authority-these are some of the idols we can focus on rather than God
Himself. It is amazing that the false glitter of such idols, which but
thinly covers layers of ugliness, can tempt us to reject in varying
degrees the loveliness of our God, our God who, infinite in all
perfections, has consistently and overwhelmingly, and so mercifully, shown
how much He loves us.
Pursuing false idols will eventually leave us feeling empty, frustrated,
disgusted. How would it be otherwise? For to pursue false idols in the
place of God is to expect fulfillment and happiness from that which lacks
the capability to satisfy the human nature God has created. God makes us
for Himself. He alone can fulfill the fundamental longing we have for
complete happiness. He made our hearts to seek Him, and in Him alone do
they find the love, the peace, and the security they so deeply desire.
- The Way We Talk. Jesus tells us: "Make a tree sound and its fruit will
be sound; make a tree rotten and its fruit will be rotten. For the tree
can be told by its fruit. Brood of vipers, how can your speech be good
when you are evil? For a man's words flow out of what fills his heart. A
good man draws good things from his store of goodness; a bad man draws bad
things from his store of badness. So I tell you this, that for every
unfounded word men utter they will answer on Judgment day, since it is by
your words you will be acquitted, and by your words condemned." (Mt
The above scriptural passage tells us that the faculty of speech is indeed
a mighty one. It can accomplish much good. It can produce much that is
evil. Consequently, to use speech in a Christlike manner is a sign that
grace has taken deep hold of a person. On the other hand, a noticeably un-Christlike
mode of speech is a sign that the way of Christ has not yet deeply
penetrated the heart.
Our speech is laden with numerous and varied possibilities for good. There
is the sympathetic word. Words which convey a sense of "I understand and I
care", can be a soothing balm to the troubled heart. As insignificant as
such words may seem at times to the one offering sympathy and
understanding, to the recipient they can be one of the most precious gifts
possible. Especially is this true at moments of deep anguish. Only one who
has been spoken to with sincere sympathy at such a time can fully
appreciate the healing power of the kind and understanding word.
We should also highly value our words of affirmation and encouragement.
These can contribute significantly to the development of a person's
potential. One person needs more affirmation and encouragement than
another, but we all need some. Actually, we can be overcome with awe as we
reflect on the powerful role words of affirmation can assume in helping a
person to be and to to become. To help a person to be and to become what
God destines him or her to be-what a privilege this is-and yet we have
numerous, even daily opportunities to be such a catalyst. The right word
at the proper time can help change the orientation of a person's life. On
a more moderate scale, words of affirmation can be a sustaining force in a
person's quest for continuing growth.
We have discussed a few ways in which our words can be a very positive
force. However, the faculty of speech which can be a source of
constructive good, can also be the source of destructive evil. There is
the uncalled-for word which is so unkindly cutting. Always uncharitable,
it is especially so when it tends to crush the already bruised reed-the
heart already burdened with paralyzing sadness, or discouragement, or
grief. There is also the unjust word which can so suddenly and so
decisively ruin a reputation. There is the word which spreads unjust
criticism concerning a person who perhaps is performing marvelously in an
almost impossible situation. There can also be the word which needlessly
divides people. The different forms of community we must often build
rather slowly, and with much effort, pain and selflessness. Then comes the
divisive word which need not be.
We can so often be tempted to look for the more grandiose opportunities to
promote the cause of Christ. Such times, however, occur for most of us
only at rather rare intervals. It is the more ordinary setting for
accomplishing good that is usually ours. But the ordinariness of our
opportunities does not detract from their inherent greatness. One of those
ordinary possibilities for good, one which is constantly present, is the
proper use of our God-given power of speech.
- To Pay the Price. "All the runners at the stadium are trying to win,
but only one of them gets the prize. You must run in the same way, meaning
to win. All the fighters at the games go into strict training; they do
this just to win a wreath that will wither away, but we do it for a wreath
that will never wither. That is how I run, intent on winning; that is how
I fight, not beating the air. I treat my body hard and make it obey me,
for, having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be
disqualified." (1 Cor 9:24-27)
Long hours of practice, the physical weariness, the mental pressure of
competitiveness, the at-least-occasional sting of defeat, the discipline
of regular hours and diet-these are some of the factors involved in the
striving for athletic success. Some never do succeed; they never make the
team. Some achieve only moderate success. A few achieve top glory.
However, there are always numberless individuals who keep trying. Win or
lose, the price must be paid even to have the chance at victory and
success.The athlete knows unequivocally that to achieve a cherished goal
one must be willing to extend the necessary effort-one must be willing to
pay the price.
Obviously, it is not only the athlete who must pay the price for
achievement. Any worthwhile human endeavor demands effort and a type of
discipline commensurate with the envisioned goal.
The medical student, for example, must endure long years of demanding and
competitive study. His or her friends, engaged in less demanding academic
programs, have many more leisure hours for social events and other
interests. The medical student is tempted at times to wonder if the
demanded price is not too great, as one watches one's peers travel
considerably easier paths. The overriding desire to be a doctor, however,
is etched deep within the spirit. It resides there constantly, sometimes
as a quiet glow, sometimes as a burning flame, always, however, as a
persistent force thrusting the young man or woman onward toward a medical
Our goal as followers of Jesus is to be committed Christians. If we are
committed Christians, Jesus is the center of our existence. Jesus sums up
all for us. In Him, and through Him, and with Him, we, as committed
Christians, try to relate properly to all reality-to God, our fellow human
beings, the temporal order, and all else. In order to be committed
Christians, however, we have to be willing to pay the price-just as the
athlete and the medical student.
Sometimes, as we so well know from our past experience, we aren't willing
to pay the price. We turn a deaf ear to the voice of Jesus, which quietly
but persistently calls us to higher things, to a more mature living of the
Christian life. Sometimes we refuse Him because of fear, sometimes because
of laziness, sometimes because we simply don't take the time to listen.
There are other reasons too, but whatever the cause, we are poorer because
of our refusal. In the moments of honesty we admit this to ourselves. We
know that to refuse Jesus is to refuse growth. It is to refuse more vital
living. It is to refuse greater happiness. It is to refuse a greater
capacity to love our neighbor. It is to refuse a greater love-union with
At other times, we respond to the voice of Jesus. Whatever the
inconvenience involved, we are not deaf to His whisperings. Whatever the
pain involved, we tell ourselves that He suffered much, much more for us.
Whatever the fear involved, we are thoroughly convinced that Jesus will
never fail us. We are open to the way He is leading. We pay the price-and
how happy we are that we do. Jesus draws us closer to Himself. We feel
more intimately the warmth and security of His loving touch. In these
moments we wonder how and why we ever refuse His voice. We wonder how and
why we ever refuse to pay the price.
The Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests tells us: "The
command of the Lord: go to all the nations (Mt 28:18-20) definitively
expresses the place of the priest in front of the Church. Sent-missus-by the
Father by means of Christ, the priest pertains 'in an immediate' way to the
universal Church, which has the mission to announce the Good news unto the
'ends of the earth' (Acts 1:8).
"The spiritual gift received by priests in Ordination prepares them for a
wide and universal mission of salvation. In fact, through Orders and the
ministry received, all priests are associated with the Episcopal Body and,
in hierarchical communion with it, according to their vocation and grace,
they serve the good of the entire Church. Therefore, the membership to a
particular church, through incardination, must not enclose the priest in a
restricted and particularistic mentality, but rather should open him to the
service of other churches, because each church is the particular realization
of the only Church of Jesus Christ, such that the universal Church lives and
fulfills her mission in and from the particular churches in effective
communion with her. Thus, all the priests, must have a missionary heart and
mind and be open to the needs of the Church and the world."2
The Directory now speaks to us concerning the priest and his relationship
with the Eucharist:
"If the services of the Word is the foundational element of the priestly
ministry, the heart and the vital center of it is constituted, without a
doubt, in the Eucharist, which is, above all, the real presence in time of
the unique and eternal sacrifice of Christ.
"The sacramental memorial of the death and Resurrection of Christ, the true
and efficacious representation of the singular redemptive Sacrifice, source
and apex of Christian life in the whole of evangelization, the Eucharist is
the beginning, means, and end of the priestly ministry, since 'all
ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the
Eucharist and are directed towards it.' Consecrated in order to perpetuate
the Holy Sacrifice, the priest thus manifests, in the most evident manner,
"There exists, in fact, an intimate rapport between the centrality of the
Eucharist, pastoral charity, and the unity of life of the priest, who finds
in this rapport the decisive indications for the way to the holiness to
which he has been specifically called.
"If the priest lends to Christ, Most Eternal High Priest, his intelligence,
will, voice and hands so as to offer, through his very ministry, the
sacramental sacrifice of redemption to the Father, he should make his own
the dispositions of the Master and, like him, live those gifts for his
brothers in faith. He must therefore learn to unite himself intimately to
the offering, placing his entire life upon the altar of sacrifice as a
revealing sign of the gratuitous and anticipatory love of God."3
Pope John Paul II speaks to us movingly concerning the Heart of Christ:
"The Heart of the Redeemer enlivens the whole Church and draws men who have
opened their hearts 'to the inscrutable wealth' of this unique Heart....
"I desire in a special way to join spiritually with all those who inspire
their human hearts from this Divine Heart. It is a numerous family. Not a
few congregations, associations and communities live and develop in the
Church, taking their vital energy in a programmed way from the Heart of
Christ. This spiritual bond always leads to a great reawakening of apostolic
zeal. Adorers of the Divine Heart become people with sensitive consciences.
And when it is given to them to have a relationship with the Heart of our
Lord and Master, then need also reawakens in them to do reparation for the
sins of the world, for the indifference of so many hearts, for their
"How necessary these ranks of vigilant hearts are in the Church, so that
the love of the Divine Heart shall not remain isolated and without response!
In these ranks, special mention deserves to be made of all those who offer
up their sufferings as living victims in union with the Heart of Christ
pierced on the cross. Transformed in that way by love, human suffering
becomes a particular leaven of Christ's saving work in the Church...
"The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us, above all, of those moments
when this Heart was 'pierced by the lance,' and, thereby, opened in a
visible manner to man and the world. By reciting the litany and venerating
the Divine Heart in general, we learn the mystery of the Redemption in all
its divine and human profundity."
And the Pope also speaks to us about the heart of Mary: "The Immaculate
Heart of Mary was open to the word, 'Woman, there is your son.' It went to
meet spiritually the Heart of the Son opened by the soldier's lance. The
heart of Mary was opened by the same love for man and for the world with
which Christ loved man and the world, offering up himself on the cross, even
to that lance stroke from the soldier.
"Consecrating the world to the Immaculate heart of Mary means approaching
the same Source of Life, through the Mother's Intercession, that life which
flowed forth from Golgatha, the source which gushes out ceaselessly with
redemption and grace. Reparation for the sins of the world is continually
being accomplished in it. It is ceaselessly the font of new life and
"Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother means
returning under the Cross of the Son. More: it means consecration of this
world to the pierced Heart of the Savior, by bringing the world back to the
very source of its Redemption. Redemption is always greater than man's sin
and 'the sin of the world.' The power of Redemption infinitely surpasses the
whole range of evil in man and in the world.
"The Heart of the Mother is aware of it, more than anyone in the whole
cosmos, visible and invisible. This is why she calls. She does not call only
to conversion; she also calls upon us to let ourselves be helped by her, the
Mother, to return to the source of the Redemption."4
- Archbishop Joseph M. Raya of the Byzantine rite, speaks to us about
prayer: "The Fathers can tell us how to fast and abstain, or how to recite
and sing psalms. They can give some guidelines to the soul reaching out to
touch the Lord. But they know that prayer is essentially an experience of
a person-to-person relationship, a realization where mere information
becomes life, where the soul reaches out to touch a deeper life. They know
that it is ultimately God, and God alone, who teaches one how to pray. The
cry of the apostles - 'Lord, teach us how to pray'-is not the expression
of a desire for a new method. Rather, it is man's basic longing for a
personal relationship and encounter with God."5
- A well-known spiritual writer of our times, Don Humbert van Zeller,
reminds us that prayer is meant to unite us, not only with God, but also
with each other: "Not only is there a law in our members which wars
against the spirit and tempts to sin, but there is a law too which appears
to be on the side of the spirit but which in fact wars against it. This is
the law in us which tempts to personal autonomy. Pleading detachment from
human affection and the avoidance of distraction, this spurious law is the
enemy of the one thing, namely individual wholeness, which it claims to be
preserving. We are whole only when we are one with everyone else. This
unity of outlook has to be universal in application, because by being
selective it fails in an essential quality.
"Christ died for all, and not merely for an elect percentage...
"So we must be on our guard against the temptation which disguises itself
as a grace: the instinct which shrinks from closeness to our fellow human
beings. Psychologists have one name for it, theologians another. By
refusing to break down the barriers and by clinging to our independence,
we are not only being proud and uncharitable, but are also defying the law
of our nature-and a good law this time, not the kind of fallen law which
tempts. Whatever the call to contemplation, it can never be the call...to
contract out from mankind and live on a lonely peak.
"Somehow an exchange must be assured which means more than mutual
toleration. It means welcome, consideration, the crossing over from self
to another self. This is why Christianity, the law of love, alone brings
- A modern master of prayer, Thomas Merton, tells us: "In the 'prayer of
the heart' we seek first of all the deepest ground of our identity in God.
We do not reason about dogmas or faith or 'the mysteries'. We seek rather
to gain a direct existential grasp, a personal experience of the deepest
truths of life and faith, finding ourselves in God's truth. Inner
certainty depends on purification. The dark night rectifies our deepest
intentions. In the silence of this 'night of faith' we return to
simplicity and sincerity of heart. We learn recollection which consists in
listening for God's will, in direct and simple attention to reality.
Recollection is awareness of the unconditional. Prayer then means yearning
for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of his word,
for knowledge of his will and for capacity to hear and obey him."7
There formerly was a popular song that talked about smiling on the
outside, crying on the inside. The song touched upon a very real human
experience. During the journey of life all of us come to turns in the road
where heartache awaits us. It is impossible, given the human condition, to
avoid all such turns. There are no detours available. For the most part, we
have to bear the pain within the confines of our inner selves. There may be
another, or a few others, who know about the pain. It can help some to talk
to them about the suffering. But this by no means takes away all the pain.
The greater part of the suffering remains there, lodged firmly in the center
of the heart. And we wonder if it will ever leave. Obviously, we have to go
on living, but the heaviness of the days caused by the heaviness of the
heart, makes us feel as if we have lived, oh, such a long time, since the
heartache began. We try to put up a cheerful front, and with God's help we
even surprise ourselves at the degree of success we achieve with this
smiling on the outside. But the few who know us well, and who may know of
the pain, realize the price we are paying to appear the way we do.
During times of hidden pain, there is present a unique opportunity for
spiritual growth. We have to ask Jesus to allow us to see the pain in proper
perspective. We have to ask Him to help us grow through the experience-grow
into persons who increasingly project Christ to the world. We have to be
aware that Jesus is with us in His tender and consoling love, this love
which soothes the hidden pain within, this love which allows us to be in
St. Athanasius tells us: "Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to
individuals are given by the Father through the Word. ...and so the graces
given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when
the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and
the Father is present in the Word."8
Lord, Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, I consecrate my priestly life
to Your Heart, pierced on Calvary for love of us. From Your pierced Heart
the Church was born, the Church You have called me as a priest, to serve in
a most special way. You reveal Your heart as symbol of Your love in all its
aspects, including Your most special love for me, whom you have chosen as
your priest-companion. Help me always to pour out my life in love of God and
neighbor. Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in you.
Dear Blessed Virgin Mary, I consecrate myself to your maternal and
Immaculate Heart, this Heart which is symbol of your life of love. You are
the Mother of my Savior. You are also my Mother. You love me with a most
special love as this unique priest-son. In a return of love I give myself
entirely to your motherly love and protection. You followed Jesus perfectly.
You are His first and perfect disciple. Teach me to imitate you in the
putting on of Christ. Be my motherly intercessor so that, through your
Immaculate Heart, I may be guided to an ever closer union with the pierced
Heart of Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, Who leads me to the Father in
the Holy Spirit.
- Scriptural quotations are taken from The Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday &
- Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, as in special
supplement, Inside the Vatican, No. 15.
- Ibid., No. 48.
- Pope John Paul II. Prayers and Devotions, edited by Bishop
Peter Canuis Johannes Van Lierde, Viking, pp. 449-451.
- Archbishop John M. Raya, The Face of God: An Introduction to
Eastern Spirituality, God With Us Publications, p. 199.
- Don Hubert van Zeller, More Ideas for Prayer, Templegate, pp.
- Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, Doubleday Image Book, p.
- St. Athanasius, as in The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book
Publishing Co., Vol. III, pp. 584-585.