Tag Archives: father


Granted while I have no precise record of how long the research, mediation, prayer takes for each chapter, I can assure you when it comes to this topic, this reality and grace of our joyous vocation, it has taken a rather long time to be ready to put these reflections on paper.
Two things have dogged me for weeks.
One: a memory, which, until celebrating Holy Mass in the hermitage this morning, seemed unconnected to our vow of obedience.
The other: three gardens, while clearly connected, began through meditation, day in and day out, to make more and more sense.
The memory is almost thirty years old now and is offered here NOT to draw attention to myself, but rather to highlight the lavishness of, as St. John reminds us [Jn. 1: 16], God’s love ever animating, ever sustaining, ever affirming us.
I had been assigned as pastor to a remote rural parish, so run down both in terms of the faith praxis of the deeply divided membership and the physical state of rectory, church, vestments, etc., that a series of priests had gone down in flames before me: one had a massive coronary and died, another had a complete mental breakdown, another fled, my immediate predecessor was so burned out my first assignment was to remove him, which only led to more division.
After six months I was so disheartened I not only had decided to walk away from the parish but from priesthood as well.
The joy which had burned in me for almost two years since the moment of ordination in persona Christi, had soured.
                                                                    A thing is wisest when it is most fully itself, when it tastes most like itself, in keeping with its nature. It is “foolish” when it forgets to be what it is, when it no longer has its proper flavour, as when salt loses its strength, or when oil becomes rancid, or when wine turns to vinegar. [123]
Not as excuse but simple statement of fact: I was in such emotional, spiritual turmoil, so exhausted by the stress of discouragement, I had completely forgotten who I was, had lost my ‘proper flavour’, in a sense had allowed the chrism to become rancid, the joyous wine of priesthood had become vinegar of bitterness.
I was just about done packing a few things, having decided to abandon most of my possessions, such was the urgency to flee.
A slight spring morning breeze was coming through the open window of my study, but even its freshness was stale to me – however the open window also allowed the sound of a pickup truck, speeding across the gravel parking lot towards the rectory, to enter and irritate me.
The sound of booted feet rushing up the steps and along the wooden veranda, sound of fist pounding on the wooden door with the simultaneous ringing of the doorbell – inside my entire being screamed: “GO AWAY!” – well, to be honest, the words were more raw.
There was no stopping the pounding, the bell ringing, the now accompanying shout of one word, over and over: “FATHER! FATHER! FATHER!”
My being shuddered for, mixed in with the seething and contradictory emotions within me, a visual image from some long ago seen documentary –or perhaps of some movie: the scene is of the rail cars favoured by the Nazis, of shabbily dressed, thin, terrified adults pressed against the bars, knowing they are trapped yet peering out as if straining to see or imagine or conjure up a real human face, a saviour.
A small boy, perhaps five or so years old, running along the platform after the departing train, yelling over and over, with the pathos of the entire human family ever since the gates of the original garden slammed shut, the waters of the flood began to rise, each one’s inheritance wasted, and hunger gnaws: ‘ABBA! ABBA! ABBA!’– the most powerful of names Jesus gives to us and which we, in our fear, slavishly translate with the distant word ‘father’, but which in truth is: DADDY!
No ‘father’, no one with power in the sense of control over others, in the sense of ability to withdraw what is most hungered for by a son, a daughter – love, no, no, no – such a creature was not called for – but ‘daddy’ was: the compassionate embrace hungered for by the prodigal child was being begged for.
From whence came the grace to move, frankly to love enough and forget myself enough to answer the door?
                                                                    Only in heaven is it known how some are called to lay down their lives for others in a special way. In silence and hiddenness, many have consecrated their entire lives as a sacrifice for priests. [124]
When I opened the door immediately the elderly farmer, who had arrived with such urgency, quickly told me his father-in-law was dying, a man away from the sacraments for his entire adult life.
Would I come? Would I try and get the dying man to accept Christ before death?
Still in turmoil, still determined to leave, nonetheless I did as I was asked and, after getting the Blessed Sacrament and the ritual, got into my car and followed the old farmer, down one country road after another, into regions of the parish unknown to me, finally stopping behind his truck and following on foot along a path in the woods, an even less obvious one through a swamp.
We emerged from the swamp.
 Amazingly when I looked down my shoes, which should have been mud caked, my pants, which should have been wet, were neither, but such was my de-salted state I missed what was obvious.
The house was ramshackle. A hovel, really.
As I stepped across the threshold, into what seemed thick darkness after the brilliant sunlight reflecting from the dried grass of the field we had just crossed, I remember for the first time in my life, admittedly sotto voce, saying: “Peace to this house.”
Suddenly a silhouette began rising, shakily, from a chair, and a cracking voice began uttering halting words as the silhouette, edging forward into the small frame of sunlight from the still open door, formed the appearance of the dying man and my heart was sliced open by words as sharp as a scalpel incising deep into putrid flesh that poison might drain away – yet the words were uttered with the same childlike sound of the boy running after the escaping train: “I am not worthy that the priest of the Lord should enter my house.”
The old man simultaneously bowed as he spoke, took my hands, and kissed them.
                                                                          If a man has a great love within him, it’s as if this love gives him wings, and he endures life’s problems more easily, because he himself is in that light, which is faith: to be loved by God and to let oneself be loved by God in Christ Jesus. This act of allowing ourselves to be loved is the light that helps us to carry our daily burden. And holiness is not our work, our difficult work, but rather it is precisely this “openness”: Open the windows of the soul so that the light of God can enter, do not forget God because it is precisely in opening oneself to His light that strength is found, as well as the joy of the redeemed. 125]
Thus: the memory.
Now: the three gardens.
At the outset: because we are in the first instance endowed, at the moment God breathes breath of life within us, with an immortal soul, we have within us an enclosed garden, that intimate place within the depths of our being where, if we willingly, attentively listen – and respond – unfolds constant dialogue, communion of love, with the Most Holy Trinity for, in the second instance, we are baptized, are members of Christ’s own body, children of the Father, temples of the Holy Spirit, and thirdly, for we priests in persona Christi, intimacy with Abba is profound!
Therefore whatever I say about the three gardens is not said as if looking back to some historical event, or even forward to some anticipated after death fulfillment, but is a journey inward, a realization that, not just in a sense, but in reality, the fundamentals, in the deepest sense of constitutive aspects of lived experience, in Him, with Him, through Him, for Him, form the reality of pilgrimage from the moment of our being created to the moment of having crossed the threshold of death where we enter the true life for which we have been created: eternity of communion of love.
Within the first two chapters of Genesis there unfolds, as we know, one beautiful movement, action, gift of tangible love flowing, one after the other, like a rivulet of sparkling water begun high in the mountains, as the spring sun caresses ice and snow into light catching droplets, which gather and race together towards the valley below, along the way becoming a mighty river – only this dance culminates in the ultimate act of Divine-creative love: the human person, male and female, in the very image of God, who is Love!
The human person, the man and the woman, placed with such tenderness in the Garden, gifted with abilities we mostly take for granted: sight, touch, hearing, mobility, creativity, imagination, memory, will – to name a few obvious ones – also have, as we do, two extraordinarily generous gifts at the very core of our beings: free will and the capacity for self-gift as communion of love with other.
God, if I might use the expression, leaves nothing to chance. The man and the woman are so tenderly placed in the Garden upon their creation that neither experiences any want or lack of anything, nor because of Divine tenderness, loneliness, that is the absence of proximity and relationship with one like myself.
Granted I am stating here what we all know, but in the context of our vow of obedience, of the foundational importance of joyful, constant, living of the freely embraced gift of the virtue of an obedient heart and will, it does seem we need to meditate upon and seek to enter ever more fully, the depths of the critical – and by Adam and Eve initially, and still in the lives of virtually every human being, save in the life of the singular non-Incarnate person: Our Blessed Mother – reality of the antithesis of yes, of fiat: freely chosen, willed, acted disobedience.
Love Himself makes only one request, which contains within it, millennia before the Incarnate One, the Risen One, Himself asks it thrice [cf. Jn. 21:15-17] the one thing every father, every mother, every husband, every wife, every child, every friend, needs to know, uttered in word, yes, articulated in action: “Do you love me?”
The question is presented as acceptance of obedience, one which, if not embraced as act of love in return for love, will have dire and irrevocable, until Jesus, consequences [cf. Gen. 2: 16, 17].
Given the immensity of gifts from which to choose, the, for us in our day perhaps virtually incomprehensible lack of need, pain, disorder, etc., the stark reality is that being asked to forgo, in the midst of such plenitude, peace, security, love, joy, intimacy with other and with the Divine, one little thing – but such is the power of temptation, such is the impact of doubt………..
So comes along the primary disobedient one, the disrupter and liar, the tempter and the first sin, the first act of disobedience takes root and by the time we come to the second garden, the cumulative weight of every single act of disobedience – of sin – from this original one [cf. Gn. 3: 1-7] to the last one that shall every be willed, chosen, enacted until the end of time, will be taken on by one person, by the Second Adam, as St. Paul names Him.
There is a direct connection between what happens in the first garden and what Jesus endures in the desert, to be sure, however there is also a telling of Jesus in one of His Parables, of what really has happened in the first garden.
I refer to the parable of the Prodigal Son [Lk. 15:11-32].
In one act of disobedience all of humanity is present, distancing itself from the love given by Love Himself, by Abba, wandering off to places and people unknown, who devour, destroy, abandon, reject, humiliate.
Ultimately every sin is primarily a selfish act of disobedience, a refusal to love in return for love, a resounding NO: to the simple ask: “Do you love me?”
Today, as I continue to write these reflections, I point out that being now retired from parish responsibilities and living the hermitical life, leaving the hermitage a couple of days each week to serve the poor in a soup kitchen, I treasure the time to put down on paper what has flowed from the decades of parochial service.
That said, today in the Byzantine Liturgy is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son!
Having read and reflected upon the classic writings on obedience, from the Fathers of the Church, Latin and Greek, the teachings of the Desert Fathers, the men and women saints who reflected upon abandonment to Divine Providence, trust, fidelity, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, Catechism of the Catholic Church –  listed not to brag about reading but simply to make the point of having gone to the classic treasury of insights into the vow and virtue of obedience – because, as mentioned when it came to write this memory, the gardens kept coming to my heart.
 In the end I have drawn directly from only two works: THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON, by Henri Nouwen, and , THE MYSTERY OF EASTER by Raniero Cantalamessa.
At the outset of this work I inserted two quotations: 
                                                             Dear Fathers, do you realize that you are a joy to the world? [From the Servant of God Catherine Doherty]
                                                     The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. [From the Cure d’Ars, St. Jean-Marie Vianney.]
Our being a joy to the world is not automatic, that is, simply because we are priests – it does mean our countenance, the way we move, especially when celebrating Holy Mass for example, the tone of our voice, these must radiate joy, and if we are truly living the depths of holy obedience, joy will radiate from us.
Likewise it is to the degree our own intimacy of communion of love with Jesus in the depths of Holy Obedience, in Him, with Him, through Him, to the Holy Will of the Father by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and His sustaining us, that the fire of our love, the love of His Heart, will gush forth from us upon everyone we meet.
At its simplest, yet not without sincere effort, indeed at times great struggle, external obedience for we priests is a simple as “praying the black, doing the red” – in other words assenting to, proclaiming, all the Church believes and teaches, thus having interior obedience as well.
What I am reflecting upon here is much deeper than mere external and interior adherence to, fidelity within our vow of obedience, and yes in a sense even deeper than the depths of the virtue itself.
Here: obedience as absolute oneness with the obedience of Jesus, thus ever more full intimacy with the Father through total cooperation with the Holy Spirit as Jesus Himself cooperates with Him.
Thus the gardens of obedience: the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden of the Resurrection, which by the action of the Holy Spirit forms the enclosed garden within us. 
We turn once more then to the antitheses of Jesus’ obedience, surrender to, cooperation with the Holy Will of the Father, namely the prodigal disobedience of the collective human family, from Adam to the last person who shall live on earth, and the particular prodigal stance of each one of us.
The two are inseparable.
The first definitive sign of hope, of the possibility of a return to the Father, the first historical act, history here being primarily what we understand as salvation history, which indeed all human history is weaved within, is itself accepted gift, affirmed response to the Divine query about love, given as both free will choice in the affirmative and becomes at the same time the first of innumerable acts of love – I speak here of Our Blessed Mother and her FIAT!
We look to Mary and imitate Mary as we journey into the depths of the gardens of obedience – Mary who points to Jesus, urging us to follow His lead, His word to us – Mary who becomes our Mother at the foot of the Cross, in particular becoming Mother of Her Priest Sons – Mary who is constantly with us, teaching, guiding, protecting, and above all, loving.
In the same instant, historically speaking since obviously the obedience within the Godhead existed already, the moment of His Holy Incarnation, He Himself then, becomes not the second but rather the definitive, not sign but actuation of hope, first step of the journey of return.
It is essential then if we are to truly understand the implications of our vow of obedience, the virtue of obedience in its fullness, we come to understand, by embracing all its elements, the reality of the Prodigal Son as Adam and every human being, as ourselves to be sure, as embraced and taken on by Jesus.
Only then will we be able, holding the hand of Our Blessed Mother and guided by the Holy Spirit, to enter the Gardens of Obedience, which are gardens of joy, the immense, sweet, perfumed suffering, the fire-joy of being on the Cross with Him, taking up our cross, His Cross, each day and being one with Him in the fullness of our election, our unquenchable joy in persona Christi!
While here I will draw on the insights of Fr. Nouwen I do not intend to do a commentary on the entire book, best read and meditated upon individually.
Throughout the Holy Gospel Jesus is constantly calling to us, inviting us to follow Him, trust Him, be His disciples, forget self, take up our cross, to love everyone, including our enemies, to pray, to enter the secrecy of our room, itself symbolic of the garden enclosed and therein commune with the Father.
Nouwen early on zeros in on the abiding invitation:
                                                                         Yes, God dwells in my innermost being, but how could I accept Jesus’ call: “Make your home in Me as I make mine in you”? The invitation is clear and unambiguous. To make my home where God made His, this is the great spiritual challenge. [126]
Original disobedience results in being cast out of the original dwelling place with God on earth and we have been, the human family and each person, across the wide expanse of the earth, of millennia of history, the even greater expanse of our inner beings, wandering, fleeing actually.
                                                                   With my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and passions, I was constantly away from the place where God had chosen to make home. Coming home and staying there where God dwells, listening to the voice of truth and love, that was, indeed, the journey I most feared because I knew that God was a jealous lover who wanted every part of me all the time. When would I be ready to accept that kind of love? [127]
We know from Genesis that the first impact of the original disobedience was fear and the attempt by the human person to hide from God.
Absolute obedience is the foundation of that true love which casts out all fear.
Hence, once more, into our room, door closed, into the secrecy of the garden enclosed and:
                                                                    I have to kneel before the Father, and put my ear against His chest and listen, without interruption, to the heartbeat of God. Then, and only then, can I say carefully and very gently what I hear. [128]
This is key! 
What Nouwen is pointing to here is the essence of the proclaiming dimension of our priestly vocation – we must give the people God, that is speak only what we hear the Father say to us – obedience is this intimacy of listening and heeding, this joy of being through obedience freed from the dangerous temptation to preach self, or some agenda or anything that is not of God!
                                                                       I know now that I have to speak from eternity into time, from the lasting joy into the passing realities of our short existence in this world, from the house of love into the houses of fear, from God’s abode into the dwellings of human beings. [129]
In a very real sense all that I have written so far on these pages, from the first chapter until now, all other aspects of our priestly commitment, all liturgies, prayer, lectio divina, study, struggle, everything is preparatory prelude for enabling us to enter the joyous gardens of obedience, from whence we go forth to proclaim Him and to bring to every human being all that they long for.
As Jesus before us again and again and again withdrawing to lonely places to commune with the Father where we….
                                                             ………..are called to enter the inner sanctuary of [our] own being where God has chosen to dwell. The only way to that place is prayer, unceasing prayer. Many struggle and much pain can clear the way, but I am certain that only unceasing prayer can let me enter it. [130]
Since every sin, from the original to the last, my own sins, unfolds as a process of considering, then choosing, then willing, then acting ultimately disobedience, that is a refusal to love in return for Love Himself, for the Holy Trinity does not ‘give love’ as in offering a quantitative something, rather His love is the giving of His very self and so my refusal by word/act of disobedience is a refusal both to accept Him and to love Him.
Therefore, the entire human race, every individual and…
                                                                             I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found……………It’s almost as if I want to prove to myself and to my world that I do not need God’s love, that I can make a life on my own, that I want to be fully independent. [131]
If we priests are in such a flight mode, preoccupied with such a search for love where it cannot be found, we shall be joyless.
Indeed we shall become lost, virtually invisible within the mass of wandering, lost humanity, no longer a living flame beacon light, no longer giving off the sweet perfume of Jesus but adding the stench of our own confusion to the fog of daily life.
                                                                             The farther I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulations and power games of the world. [132]
Yes and the more entangled we become in the manipulations and power games of the institutional church, local chancery politics, parish divisions.
Likewise the reality of every human-prodigal-being, that is of everyone, their flight, their fears, their disobedience, their sin, their struggle, their hunger to be beloved – all this is ours, for we are His and in His persona, thus the only place for us to dwell where God dwells is within Jesus, within the gardens of obedience.
I must stop running away.
We priests must stop running away.
Our footsteps must be in the via dolorosa footsteps of Jesus for the only way of return, for us, for every prodigal, is to follow Jesus to the Cross, through the tomb – but we as priests MUST be the visible, obedient followers, and people will pick up the scent of the sweet perfume of Christ and come looking for Him and will notice the luminous joy of we priest- cross-carrying followers of Jesus and they will follow too – in our footsteps, yes through our very hearts and lived example, directly to Jesus!
We know that our culture is obsessed with notoriety/celebrity, neither of which should be confused with honour. 
Likewise our culture is obsessed with scandal and tears down the fame bestowed faster even than it bestows celebrity.
Any objective look at media reports on, for example, Pope John Paul II over the years of his pontificate will see this process of elevation and disdain repeat itself time and again.
How then are we to measure ourselves in humility and truth? 
Most of us, of course, will not have our self-image directly determined by media, but more directly our self-image will be impacted by parishioners, brother priests – though in a more general sense, of course, we are naturally impacted by the persistent assault against the priesthood in the media.
So how then are we to have a humble and balanced self-image?
We should take our measure in the light of Christ, which is standing before Him in the beauty of His Holy Incarnation, following the example of His life, loving and serving in imitation of Him and His humble, meek, courageous, generous Heart.
Most especially we take out measure in light of our willingness to embrace in our own lives oneness with Him in His passion, remembering through holy baptism we are also united with Him in His Holy Resurrection.
Thus before drawing from Fr. Cantalamessa’s words it is important to be clear: is my understanding of Jesus’ redemptive death and resurrection primarily that He did all for ‘everybody’ – or do I truly appreciate the personal, intimate aspect of His sacrifice and self-gift.
In other words: Jesus was born, lived, suffered, died, rose from the dead, for ME!
This intimate reality, if embraced, specifically if Jesus is embraced, my entire being opened to Him, life then becomes joy: joy in suffering, joy in every aspect of life.
As I continue this writing we have crossed the threshold into Holy Lent, beautifully referenced by Fr. Thomas Hopko as “the Lenten Spring,” the title of his book on this particular season.
Some of his words are a prelude to the reflections, to follow, from Fr. Cantalamessa.
                                                                     Joy is at the heart of everything in the Christian life, and Great Lent is no exception…..
                                                                      Life is a clash of loves. A person either loves God, and so, with God, everyone and everything – for it is impossible to love God and not to love all that God has created – or a person loves himself….sinfully…to live exclusively for oneself….
                                                                   ….repentance means change. It means a turning of one’s mind and heart to God. ….It means violent action in the deepest and most hidden parts of the human spirit. [133]
We shall see in His obedience in the Garden of Agony, Jesus embraced the fullness of the ‘violent action in the deepest and most hidden’ reality in every human soul, in all of creation.
Indeed, the more I struggle in my almost seventy years of life as a human being, a man, a priest, to truly follow Jesus, to truly live in imitating His own humble, meek, obedient Heart, His very self, the more I am convinced the fundamental reality of obedience is oneness with Jesus in the Garden of His Agony, the Garden of Obedience, hence:
                                                              The Gethsemane experience reaches its climax and resolution in those words of Jesus: “But not what I will but what You will” (Mark 14:36). [134]
When Jesus speaks the “I” here we should all rejoice for while, clearly, each human being must exercise our own freedom, declare and strive to live out ‘fiat’, obviously we cannot do so on our own and so, each time we pray the “Thy will be done” in the Our Father, each time we strive to be obedient, in little and great things, it is within this and every ascent to the will of the Father in Jesus’ life.
When we are faithful to all the Church believes and teaches, for example, we are truly in imitation of Jesus, to be sure.
However this fiat of Jesus in the Garden, this consent of His will to what is unfolding in the Garden, will unfold in cascade to the last drop in the remainder of His Passion and ultimately in His surrender to the Father through surrender to death
FIAT is His willingly embracing the weight and price of every human sin, and consequence thereof, from the previous millennia of human history, that of the immediate moment in history and all of history until the end of chronological time.
We are here also in a Trinitarian moment:
                                                                            The “I” is the Word, speaking…on behalf of the free human will which he assumed; the “you”, on the other hand, is the Trinitarian will which the Word has in common with the Father. In Jesus, the Word (God) humanly obeys the Father! [135]
Each time we embrace obedience, each time we are with Jesus in the Garden of Obedience, we too are in a Trinitarian communion of love moment, for it is our willingness to be one with Jesus the Obedient that opens the door of our being to the action and grace of the Holy Spirit who enables our word of yes and our action, our living out of yes to the Father.
Here, in particular as we are in persona Christi, we participate in the great work of the salvation of souls.
Yes one alone is Redeemer, but it pleases Him that we should participate with Him, most especially through the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, therefore light is shone on the critical act of obedience to the rubrics for if, even in a minor way, we allow disobedience to enter we contradict the very sacrifice we are celebrating.
                                                                          …in Gethsemane, when Jesus says, ‘Father….your will be done’ (Matt 26:42), he utters the fiat of the redemption…..It was here precisely….that grace and freedom kissed and the human and divine Passovers coincided. He who had to fight, that is, human nature, encountered Him who could overcome, that is, God, and victory was the result. [136]
Yes obedience can be experienced as an immense weight, a huge struggle, which if we resist the weight and the struggle can become a serious disorder and a haemorrhaging of joy from our lives: however if embraced then little by little the Holy Spirit will fill us with the very grace of holy freedom and joy!
Indeed we will become filled with that particular joy which comes from being other centered, from laying down our lives, with love, for other – first and foremost for the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and because of the love of the Trinity for us our love from them, our return of love, becomes love of other.
                                                                        …In the mysterious passing-over from that “I” to that “you” is contained the true, definitive, and universal paschal exodus of the human race. This is the crossing of the true Red Sea; a crossing between two shores which are very close together but between which runs an abyss; for we are speaking here about passing from the human will to the divine will, from rebellion to obedience. Following Jesus in this exodus means passing from the old “I” to the new “I”, from “me” to other people; from this world to the Father. [137]
Emotionally, yes even in the depths of our souls, we may well be fearful of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us into the depths of the Garden of Obedience, for we well know it is to consent to being lead into the depths of Jesus’ agony.
It is way too easy to reduce obedience, or even to see obedience as primarily, follow rules, rubrics, orders from the Pope or the Bishop.
In a sense that is kindergarten obedience!
True, we cannot claim to be obedient, to be living out “Your will, not mine”, if we are slack in being obedient on that level, indeed the struggle to be externally obedient is constitutive of our openness to being led into the depths of Jesus’ obedience in the Garden, on the Cross, yes in the Tomb.
Certainly we can maintain certain functionality as priests if we are obedient in the above sense and it is virtuous.
Will we find true joy in that?
I recall during World Youth Day 2002 it seemed very popular for the youth to wear a wrist band with: WWJD. 
Indeed what would Jesus do?
There were pundits in the media, sadly some of them priests and religious sisters, who mocked this as being simplistic, or worse ‘conservative’!
However it seems to me WWJD should be engraved, especially, on every priestly heart and be constantly in our awareness:
                                                                                    There is no moment, no action, in a believer’s life that cannot be transformed into an act of loving obedience to the Father…..ask ourselves: What does the Lord want me to do in this moment, in these circumstances? We know this was what Jesus himself did, so that he could say: “I always do what is pleasing to him”(John 8:29); “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me”(John 4:34)
                                                                   The great joy we human creatures can give God is to share the destiny of Jesus, “Servant of God,” by pushing our own will-to-obey to the very limits, even obeying in the most utter darkness as Jesus did in Gethsemane. Servants of Jesus Christ – those who put their lives totally at God’s disposal in Jesus – by virtue of doing so become, like Jesus, the object of the Father’s satisfaction. The words once uttered by the Father about Jesus become words uttered for them, above all, those words said to Jesus at his baptism: “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased”(Mark 1:11). [138]
What greater joy can there be than to know we are beloved of the Father, of Abba/Daddy who is joyfully pleased with us!
The Garden of Obedience is the threshold we must ‘pass-over’ with Jesus to oneness with Him throughout every aspect of His Passion, every step of His Via Dolorosa, every moment on His being placed on the paten of the Cross, into the fullness of His handing Himself over to the Father, into the deep silence, the awaiting in the tomb.
The cross is both place of ultimate priestly union with Jesus and doorway to the mysteries of our faith.
It is not a door which can be pushed against, rather it is a door which opens the more we remain still on the cross with Jesus.
No easy task and one beyond our own ability – hence prayer, prayer, prayer, the constant begging of the Holy Spirit for ‘grace in return for grace’!
In a sense the Cross is also the door, the threshold into the mystery of the tomb, the mystery of the obedience of Jesus even in death, the mystery of awaiting on the ‘time’ of the Father.
This is the third garden of obedience and the garden which, if you will, makes sense of the other two for without the Garden of the Resurrection [cf. Jn. 19:41] the Garden of Paradise would forever remain closed, i.e., the gates of the heavenly paradise would be forever shut; without the Garden of the Resurrection in a sense the Garden of His Agony- Obedience would simply remain an historical account of one man’s pre-arrest, torture, trail, execution.
To paraphrase St. Paul, if Jesus is NOT risen, then everything I have written here, indeed everything we priests have preached across the millennia, is bogus!
Perhaps we do not meditate enough, do not proclaim solemnly enough the great cry at the core of every Holy Mass when we declare, and call forth the proclamation of faith: 
We proclaim Your death, O Lord and profess Your Resurrection until You come again.
We live in the ‘is-ness’ of His Holy Resurrection, a truth however we cannot proclaim unless it is a reality we live, a reality for which:
                                                                  …we need a special grace to talk about Christ’s resurrection…….[139]
This is a grace we should beg for daily for this proclamation is foundational to the purpose of our priestly lives.
Everything flows from and towards proclaiming CHRIST IS RISEN!
We love one another, we love our enemies, we pray for our persecutors, we live the missio ad gentes, we go in search of the lost sheep, we build hospitals, schools, nursing homes, care for the poor, the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, indeed we get up in the morning, pray, struggle, celebrate sacraments, especially Holy Mass, celebrate popular pious devotions, – in a word all we are and all we do is, must be, proclamation of, witness to, celebration of His Holy Resurrection.
The very existence of all creation, its purpose and destiny, all human history, and most particular the very existence of human beings, of you and I, all flows, unfolds because He is risen.
When St. John tells us [cf. Jn. 1:1ff.]He was in the beginning, that He dwelt among us –  He still dwells among us until the end of time precisely because He is risen and therefore is really present with us in the Holy Eucharist, in Church, Priesthood and in the mystery of whatever we do for one another, to one another is rooted in the “I was…” teaching [cf. Mt. 25:31-46] – St. John also testifies to seeing His glory [v.14] and so we find ourselves once more in the Garden of the Resurrection for in truth the womb of Our Blessed Mother, the Manger, the Tomb, and yes each Tabernacle in which He dwells, each priest in persona Christi, each baptized man, woman, child – thus all creation, all history is inseparable from Him [cf. Col. 3:11].
                                                                All the “astounding things” that God has done find their fulfillment and more than fulfillment in this astounding thing: the resurrection of Christ. The Risen One entered the upper room “when the doors were locked”; today too he passes through locked doors………….
                                                             Nothing could have stopped its being Easter again this year; nothing will stop its being Easter a year from now, and so on until he returns. [140]



We know that through sacramental Baptism we are plunged into the sacred mystery of salvation. Through the same sacrament we become participants in the history of the Church. Through Baptism we are configured by the Holy Spirit initially, and ever more completely if we co-operate with grace throughout our lives, to Christ, crucified and raised from the dead.

Baptism initiates us into discipleship. We are not only escorted through the gateway of sacramental life, but encouraged, as it were, by the same Holy Spirit, to hunger for the fullness, source and summit of the life of grace, receiving Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Grafted as branches onto the Vine Himself we become members of His Mystical Body, members and children of Holy Mother the Church, participants in the life of the Communion of Saints, interceded for by the saints in heaven and benefiting the souls in purgatory by our prayer on their behalf.

At the same time, through Baptism, we become participants, co-workers, in Christ’s own priestly, kingly, and prophetic mission.

We become missionaries, first to our brothers and sisters in the Faith, then to all who, knowingly or not, are seeking the fullness of sacramental life, life in Christ, Christian life,  the anointed life.

Now, through Christ become true children of the Father, co-heirs with Christ, living temples of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit continues His work within all the Baptized, and within those chosen by Him to become priests, the process of our divine election.

In the context of our divine election the sacrament of Confirmation, being as it is the second of the three sacraments which indelibly seal the soul, is most worthy of our frequent meditation upon its continuous gift of the grace of fullness of the Divine Guest of the Soul and the consequent gifts and fruits which the same Holy Spirit lavishes upon us.

We alone, chosen by divine election and ordained in persona Christi, are blessed, sanctified, sealed with all three of the Holy Sacraments which indelibly mark the soul.

Marks: of holiness and beauty.

Marks: of communion of love.

Marks: of joy.

Marks: of no little responsibility to become what we are.

Haunting marks for all eternity even should we – may Christ have mercy on us – die unrepentant in the state of mortal sin.

Of course it may well be since for most of us it is many, many years since the day of our youth when we were confirmed, that the continuous reality of this sacrament is not always, nor even easily, present to our hearts.

The following may well help us recall that marvellous day when the Bishop, shepherd and father of our souls, anointed us with the Sacred Chrism, calling down the Holy Spirit who comes upon us laden with such heavenly gifts for us from the treasury of Christ’s Redemption:

   ….the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For ‘by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed. [57]

Completion of baptismal grace, more intimately bound to the Church, lavished with that strength which is of the Holy Spirit, affirmed in our reality of being witnesses of Christ and enjoined with the full range of joyful obligation to be evangelizers and defenders of the faith, with all our words and deeds!

It is the call to preach the Gospel with our very lives!

If we truly take this to heart, how much easier it will be as priests for us to labour joyfully, even in the heat of the day, in the vineyard of the Lord, to tirelessly tend the flock, and adhere with deep interior peace to all that Holy Mother the Church teaches and to submit with magnanimity to the demands of being called, rightly, Father; clerical dress; fidelity to rubrics.

Indeed we shall, through such little things done well, find within us that courage which has endowed the Church over the centuries with a vast cohort of sainted confessors and brave martyrs.

Further, we shall soon discover that the Spirit Himself blesses such fidelity on our part through the return of many souls to the sacraments and the conversion of countless others to the faith we proclaim with our lives.

How vital then, in light of this sacrament of Confirmation which binds us ever more closely to Holy Mother the Church, that we take deep into our hearts, and given the reality of the times grant pure intellectual ascent too as well, the Church’s own self-understanding:

                                                     …awareness of the mystery of the Church is a result of a mature and living faith. From such faith comes that ‘feel for the Church,’ which fills the Christian who has been raised in the school of the Divine Word. He has been nourished by the Grace of the Sacraments and of the ineffable inspirations of the Paraclete, has been trained in the practice of the virtues of the Gospel, has been imbued with the culture and community life of the Church, and is profoundly happy to find himself endowed with that Royal Priesthood proper to the people of God.

                                                  The mystery of the Church is not a mere object of theological knowledge; it is something to be lived, something that the faithful soul can have a kind of connatural experience of, even before arriving at a clear notion of it. Moreover, the community of the faithful can be profoundly certain of its participation in the Mystical Body of Christ when it realizes that by divine institution, the ministry of the Hierarchy of the Church is there to give it a beginning, to give it birth, to teach and sanctify and direct it. It is by means of this divine instrumentality that Christ communicates to His mystical members the marvels of His truth and of His grace, and confers to His Mystical Body as it travels its pilgrim way through time its visible structure, its sublime unity, its ability to function organically, its harmonious complexity, its spiritual beauty.

Images do not suffice to translate into meaningful language the full reality and depth of this mystery. However after dwelling on the image of the Mystical Body, which was suggested by the Apostle Paul, we should especially call to mind one suggested by Christ Himself, that of the edifice of which He is the Architect and the Builder, an edifice indeed founded on a man who of himself is weak but who was miraculously transformed by Christ into solid rock, that is, endowed with marvellous and everlasting indefectibility: ‘It is upon this rock that I will build My Church.’

                                            If we can awaken within ourselves such a strength-giving feeling for the Church and instil it in the faithful by profound and careful instruction, many of the difficulties which today trouble students of Ecclesiology, as for example, how the Church can be at once both visible and spiritual, at once free and subject to discipline, communitarian and hierarchical, already holy and yet still be sanctified, contemplative and active, and so on, will be overcome in practice and solved by those who, after being enlightened by sound teaching, experience the living reality of the Church herself. [58]

Christ loves His Bride the Church, pours Himself out for Her.

Confirmation binds us, as all Her children, more closely to Her, thus closer to Her Divine Bridegroom.

Ordination, configuring us in persona Christi, configures also in the person of He who is the Divine Bridegroom.

We are sacramentally blessed with a double grace of love for the Church.

Flowing initially from the sacrament of Confirmation for us, and for all the laity as well, this love for the Church means a deep respect and adherence to all the Church believes and teaches, celebrates and lives.

The Church is both communal and missionary by Her very nature, so we too are called upon to foster and participate in the communal, the family dimension of this pilgrimage through time as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and, to be evangelizers, missionaries, both to the de-churched and the un-churched.

True for all the Baptized, affirmed and strengthened in this mission of forming the community, the family, the civilization of love and spreading the Gospel, through the sacrament of Confirmation, how much more so does this become a sacred responsibility, and joy, for we priests in virtue of our sacramental ordination.

                                                           “It is the first task of priests as co-workers of the Bishops to preach the Gospel of God to all men…[so as to]…set up and increase the People of God.” Precisely because preaching the Gospel is not merely an intellectual transmission of a message but “the power of God for the salvation of all who believe” (Rm.1:16), accomplished for all time in Christ, its proclamation in the Church requires from its heralds a supernatural basis which guarantees its authenticity and effectiveness. The proclamation of the Gospel by the sacred ministers of the Church is, in a certain sense, a participation in the salvific character of the Word itself, not only because they speak of Christ, but because they proclaim the Gospel to their hearers with that power to call which comes from their participation in the consecration and mission of the Incarnate Word of God. The words of the Lord still resound in the ears of His ministers: “Whoever listens to you listens to Me; whoever despises you despises Me.”(Lk.10:16). Together with St. Paul they can testify: “The Spirit we have received is not the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit, helping us to recognize the gifts He has given us: we speak of these not in words of human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, thus interpreting spiritual things in spiritual terms.”(1Cor.2:12-13). [59]

In a deep and intimate way, through contemplation of the full meaning and continuous grace in our lives of the sacrament of Confirmation, we can become closer to the Divine Guest of the soul, the Holy Spirit.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, at least within the Western Church, there was a tendency to take the Holy Spirit for granted.

Some spiritual writers of the time often referred to Him as the forgotten Person of the Holy Trinity.

Here I will draw upon a classic work by the great and holy former Archbishop of Mexico, Archbishop Luis M. Martinez, whose profound work, written with deep devotion, is known in English as THE SANCTIFIER.

                                                         To the Artist of souls, sanctification and possession are the same act: for sanctification is the work of love, and love is possession.….the first relationship that the Holy Spirit has with souls is that of being the delightful Guest…..

                                                        The first gift of love is love itself, and all other gifts emanate from this supreme gift, as from their source. Therefore, the Gift of the love of God is the Holy Spirit.

                                                         The Holy Spirit brings to our souls the fruitfulness of the Father and binds us lovingly to the Son.

                                                       ….the Holy Spirit is truly the soul of our soul and the life of our life.

                                                          On the night when Jesus made us His friends, He revealed His secrets to us, and we heard from His lips the unfathomable promise that the Spirit of Truth would teach us all things. The operation of the Holy Spirit in our souls is motion. He sanctifies us by directing all our activities with the sweetness of love and the efficacy of omnipotence. He is the only One who can moves us in this way because He alone can penetrate into the hidden sanctuary of the soul, the enclosed garden, invisible to creatures.

                                                  ….in this very special movement the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in the deepest, the most intimate and most active part of our being. He constitutes Himself the immediate director of the soul, which in its full strength and freedom moves only under His inspiration. This intimate and very special movement is the work of love. It is founded on love, caused by love, and leads to love.

                                                   The Holy Spirit must be intimately united to a soul in order to move it. He moves us because He loves us……His movement is the caress of infinite love; …..the Holy Spirit moves us because in His intimate fusion with our soul, which is the work of charity, His divine movements, His holy palpitations, make themselves felt throughout the whole man, who is one with Him. [op.cit.p.60]

This IS communion of love with the Holy Trinity through intimacy with the Divine Guest of our soul!

This is our baptismal vocation in all its glory.

This is the affirmation lavished upon us in sacramental confirmation.

If, in being called upon as priest to celebrate any sacrament, and we find the celebration of that sacrament is a source of stress because it seems the people are lacking in faith or due reverence, or, if when it comes to discerning reception of sacrament we are tempted more towards abusive authoritarianism or lack of fatherly compassion: it is time to beg the Divine Guest of our soul to reanimate our own faith and charity.

If anything or anyone has become the prime object of our attention and affection, other than Christ and the things of Christ: it is time to beg the Sanctifier to renew within us His tender gifts of metanoia, kenosis and true contrition.

If our minds, hearts, souls are confused, swayed, or in bondage to any teachings which seek to overturn the treasures found in the whole deposit of faith and morals confided by Christ to the Church: it is time to beg the Spirit of Truth to renew within us all truth.

If our hearts and souls are in agony as we see Christ re-crucified in the Church, in the hearts of brother priests, in the hearts of the laity: it is time to beg the Spirit of courage and compassion to renew His strength and spirit of forgiveness within us.

If, after having laboured in the vineyard in the heat of the day, evening’s fatigue overwhelms, accedie claws at our hearts which themselves seem to have frozen over, as if we have forgotten our first love: it is time to beg the Spirit of Pentecost to renew within us our sacramental confirmation and set as afire once more.

In all these and other instances where our sinfulness and poverty seem to overcome us it is time to turn humbly to the Holy Spirit who will lavish love and comfort upon us.

The profound experience of being dedicated workers in the vineyard or the wheat field and there appearing before us no particular harvest or that the tares are choking the little shoots, this should neither surprise nor discourage us. Our Divine Lord Himself saw many leave Him when at Capernaum He first spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, He Himself saw even His chosen ones flee in the face of fear.

We priests are human beings, men, ordained men to be sure, but men still, ordained to preach the Gospel of Truth and Love with our lives without compromise in a marketplace which is a culture of death.

We are missionaries to a secular world where people are deeply fearful, wounded, and almost incapable of seeing beyond their own immediate wants.

We are baptized, confirmed, ordained men, priests in a very visible vocation at a time in history when the sheer reality of our being priest is seen by many as justification to abuse, pulverize, reject, ignore, even martyr us.

We are Fathers to children who leave home in droves with nary a backward glance, Shepherds of a flock marred by cognitive disconnect from what is actual reality, Teachers and Sanctifiers for those who have suffered a profound loss of both the sense of faith and sense of sin.

How much do we need to draw constantly on the gift of our Confirmation and its attended grace which strengths us in the faith and binds us more closely to the Church, thus to each other, for we are but a little band of brothers expected to cover with love and truth such a vast world, such an huge extended family.

The attended loneliness of such a unique vocation as a divinely elected pilgrim amongst such a vast number of pilgrims and those who do not even know the ultimate purpose of life is to pilgrim with the Church, through Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, home to our Heavenly Father, can be a real discouragement and great danger for we priests.

We need to turn always to the Holy Spirit who is alive and active, in motion, within us.

Open to Him we can cry out that indeed, while it is true we are believers [1Jn.4:16] nonetheless we need, in our own words, with our own tears, always to beg of Him: faith-MORE, hope-MORE, love-MORE, life-MORE, truth-MORE, courage-MORE, even unto martyrdom.

Through the gift of faith we shall grow in trust.

Through the gift of trust we will open wide the doors of our being to the Holy Spirit more and more.

The Consoler, Councillor, Advocate, Spirit of Truth – whom the Father constantly sends upon us in the Name of Jesus our Lord and God – will dwell within us as Jesus promises. [Jn.14:26]

As such grace unfolds within us, strengthens and renews us, we will hear more deeply in our hearts the words also from the Beloved Apostle about the grace of remaining rooted in the words of Jesus, what He teaches us, so that we remain in Jesus and with Jesus in the Father. [1Jn.2:24-27]

Confirmation is affirmation by the Holy Spirit of our call to holiness, to oneness in and with Christ, a prelude to the even deeper configuration to and intimacy with Him which is ours when, as a result of our divine election, we are ordained in persona Christi.

That too is the movement of the Holy Spirit within us.

All of this, all sacraments, are for the glory of the Father and thus of deep intimacy with the Father.

All sacraments are Trinitarian.

Our vocation of joy is Trinitarian.

                                                                   …..we might say that the ideal of the acts performed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit corresponds to the Father. The ideal is the first exemplar of the work. The Father is the beginning; the work of sanctification is a work of paternity and adoption; from the Father ‘all fatherhood in heaven and on earth receives its name.’ And the end of perfection is Jesus, for Jesus is the image of the Father. During the days of His mortal life He sought the ideal of His acts in the bosom of the Father. The will of the Father, which He came upon earth to accomplish, and the glory of the Father, which formed the one great desire of His soul, appear in the Holy Gospel as His supreme norms. In the most solemn moments of His life the Son lifted His profoundly understanding eyes to the Father, and seemed to gaze with all intentness and sweetness upon that ocean of light. [60-a]

The sanctifying grace within us through Confirmation is primarily the work of the Spirit Himself within us.

The Holy Spirit: urging us to imitate, to participate in, Christ’s own relationship with His Father, our Father.

The Holy Spirit: setting us ablaze with the fire of divine love.

The Holy Spirit: crying out within us Abba! Father – that we might ‘live and move and have our being’, truly, fully, in the Father.

The Holy Spirit: striving to fill us with the utter fullness of God, with Christ, Light from Light, and True Light from True Light:

                                                                    In order to teach us, this unique light has to be dispersed. It has to be adjusted to the capacity of each one of the seven gifts, as the ray is diffused in the colours of the spectrum. Only God can contain Himself in His infinite unity; in us, especially in exile, the facets of His unique beauty must appear one by one. [See note 60-b]

Once we have renewed within us, by the Holy Spirit, an appreciation for, understanding of, openness to the reality of, the sacrament of Confirmation, and by the movement of the Holy Spirit within us co-operate with all He seeks to accomplish within us through His lavishing outpouring of all His gifts, what fire shall blaze within us, what divine light shall pour forth from us!

What a passion we shall have to diligently prepare all those seeking to receive such a splendid gift in the communion of love.

With what sacred urgency shall we go forth and seek out the lost to re-evangelize them, the non-believers to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ.

How great shall be our courage to preach only Truth, our strength to make the gift of love and forgiveness to all, in particular our enemies, how unswerving our proclamation and defense of truth, especially the truth about the sacredness of life from the womb to the tomb.

                                            In the gift of fear, He is the sovereign we revere as the Master of life and death; in fortitude, He is the omnipotent force that delivers itself into the hands of weakness; in piety, He is the Father to whom we must adhere with filial affection, extolling His glory; in counsel, He is the eternal and supreme norm of human action; in knowledge, the inexhaustible exemplar of creatures; in understanding, the supernatural end that sheds light on all knowledge. And in wisdom, He is the focal point that illumines the soul because He is the focal point of love, and because He and Wisdom, united in an embrace of love, have revealed with love’s gentleness the secret of all truth. [60-c]



In the evening as I left the rectory for a walk, praying the Rosary, I came near the main alley of this neighbourhood.

The alley runs between the abandoned warehouses and the school.

A man came walking by.

He walked as one bent over with fatigue. His clothing indicated he was probably working in one of the factories over the hill at the bottom of our street.

My heart was immediately moved to pray for him, and all men, women and children throughout the world who labour long hours, in often dehumanizing conditions, for barely enough to put food on the table.

Just as I was passing the alley down which the man had headed, I heard him call out a name, and noticed a small child running towards him.

When the child was close enough he leapt into the man’s arms, his father.

As the man lifted the small, living, joyful weight onto his shoulders I noticed he was no longer moving with heavy step of exhaustion, but walked tall, straight, as if filled with new energy. [Gal.4:6,7]

Before ordination sacramentally configures us as father, in persona Christi, we are, sacramentally in Baptism, born anew as children, sons of the Father.

Already in baptism we become participants in the priestly, kingly, prophetic mission of Christ.

Ordination impels us, with great love, to become fully missionaries to all our brothers and sisters, especially those who ‘labour and are heavy burdened.’

We priests participate in the mystery of being both children, along with all the children of God, thus brother with all our brothers and sisters, and father, shepherd, teacher, evangelist, for those same brothers and sisters.

                                                 Catholic doctrinal tradition describes the priest as teacher of the Word, minister of the sacraments and leader of the Christian community entrusted to him. This is the starting point of all reflection on the identity and mission of the priest in the Church.

                                   ….Many of the baptized live in a world indifferent to religion. While maintaining a certain faith, these practically live a form of religious and moral indifferentism, alienated from Word and sacraments which are essential for Christian life.

                                  …For the contemporary Church, Mother and Teacher, the mission ad gentes and new evangelization are inseparable aspects of her mandate to teach, sanctify and guide all men to the father.

                                     ….In a particular way, priests have this duty since they have been specially chosen, consecrated and sent to make evident the presence of Christ whose authentic representatives and messengers they become. [48]

Thus we need to be truly aware of, grateful for, that baptismal faith which makes us His children. [Gal.3:26]

We can never contemplate to exhaustion the incredible gift and reality of our baptismal faith.

Indeed if our baptismal faith is weak, uncertain, confused, tainted in anyway by the surrounding culture of death, or specious notions in theology or spirituality, then our ability to be authentic evangelizers as priests will be seriously compromised.

Long before we were ordained, indeed a necessary gateway, we were brought by the Holy Spirit into new life in Christ at our baptism. [Gal.3:27]

It is this first clothing which makes possible our later configuration to Christ in the fullness of divine election at our ordination.

Satan wages war against the followers of Christ, the children of Mary. This we know not only from Revelations chapter 12, but from life experience.

What is true for all the baptized is an even more constant experience for we priests. [Col.2:6-8]

Pope John Paul II constantly, in his writings on the priesthood, urged us to be aware of the authentic reality of the sacramental priesthood, just as he constantly urged all the baptized to be aware of the reality of baptism.

For us priests it is a call for us to be fully aware of both sacramental realities of our ‘grace in return for grace’ existence.

Thus we must strive always to be aware, with great humility, that before we are celebrants of Christ’s sacraments, we are recipients of His sacraments.

We encounter in sacrament the One whose sacraments we bring to our brothers and sisters.

It is one of the realities which make our Catholic religion the religion of glory.

                                                    The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. [49]

It is often a reality for priests that we encounter much stress around the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism because of the very loss of a sense of faith and faith practice among the people. Thus it can be difficult for us, when striving to properly catechize parents and godparents alike, to appreciate the reality of what is being asked for on behalf of the child.

It is to be prayerfully wished that instructing parents, godparents, adults seeking to be baptized will offer us the opportunity to re-discover anew the tremendous gift of grace which is our faith, our baptismal, sacramental life.

Baptism is, to be sure, being reborn in and through Christ as we are plunged into the mystery of His death and resurrection.

Baptism is also a renewal, sacramentally, of that communion of love offered us by the Holy Trinity at the moment of our creation by the loving act of God.

Indeed the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where we are taught in paragraph 366 that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God “also reminds us of our creation for the purpose of this communion of love as noted in paragraph 367: “…man is ordered to a supernatural end and…his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God”.

We are called to by the Trinity, in particular through Baptism, as St. Peter reminds us, to this communion of love through grace given us by, the All-Holy One.

We are all called to holiness! [1Pt.1:15,16]

The more we accept the love of the Holy Trinity, the more we become love for others, and through love’s humble service, the holier we become.

                                    There is one characteristic common to all the Saints and holy people of the Church – a characteristic that predominates in the lives of the Apostles. It is their personal love of the Lord.

                                   ….Our Lord’s plan for each priest is a personal partnership: ‘We: Jesus and I.’ This is how He would have each priest live and act – in the first person plural. Our Lord wants to share every moment of our life, especially every moment of our ministry. He wants us to live and work in complete dependence upon Himself and His love, never forgetting, never doubting it. He wants us to think of Him always in the second person singular – not the third as many priests do. He wants us to be His friend; but He wants even more than that. He wants us to find in Him and to give to Him, all the love that human hearts can give each other. [50]

This intimate love affair begins with baptism, is re-established in confession every time we remove ourselves from this love through sin, is nourished and fortified, deepened, indeed made more passionate, every time we receive Him, glorified, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion.

The greater the depth of our meditation upon the reality of our baptism and its gift of faith, the more profound becomes our understanding of this same holy sacrament, in particular when we are blessed with the opportunity to baptize.

Indeed the preparation for and the celebration of this sacrament will no longer be an occasion when satan may attempt to seduce us into the sin of arrogance through a too narrow interpretation of the requirements expected of parents asking to have their child baptized.

We will be moved in the depths of our hearts with a fatherly patience, a shepherd’s understanding, a teacher’s truth-speaking ability to form where formation is needed, to overlook where charity should prevail.

When we know we are beloved of the True Lover, we rejoice in the mysterious reality that sacraments are not only sacred events, holy realities, but wonderful places of encounter with the Divine Beloved.

Thus we will approach teaching of the sacraments fully aware the Divine Lover seeks to encounter their very persons, no matter their apparent poverty of faith practice, and we will trust the power of the sacraments themselves.

Our people, irrespective of the sacrament they approach us for, particularly irregular or non-practicing parents seeking baptism for their child, will see in our eyes the tender expression of Christ Himself, His love for them.

This will motivate and encourage them to be willing students of faith and eager to resume faith practice.

Not as some imposed requirement, rather as their response to Love’s call.

Holy Mother the Church, in her own tender wisdom, places the renewal of our baptismal faith in the heart of the Easter Liturgy.

It is a moment we should enter with extreme gratitude and celebrate for our people with due reverence.

With our hearts full of joy at His Holy Resurrection we actually celebrate the first moment of what Scripture elsewhere refers to as the love we had ‘at first’.

For us priests it is also reliving the moment when our divine election to our vocation of joy, in persona Christi, began.

A reminder too that above all we are apostles of Love.

                                                          People need to hear at least once a week that God truly loves them, that He wants a relationship of love with them, that He cares infinitely for each one, so much that He is present to each one’s joy and each one’s sorrow, to each effort and each failure, that He loves and loves and loves and loves, that He forgives and forgives and forgives. [51]

It is when we priests doubt that truth, fail to trust His love for us, we run the risk of appearing unloving to our people and frustrating them in their desire to return to baptismal faith practice or to grow ever more in their lives of charity towards all.

Ours must be the very words of Jesus Himself, poured forth from our hearts as ardent prayer that it be so! [Jn.15:8-11]

The more we strive to become what we are through baptism the more we shall become what we are by virtue of our sacramental ordination as priests.

I do believe in the depths of my heart there is a direct connection between that priestly angst which seems at the root of so much sorrow in the priesthood today, such confusion, being vulnerable to pressure from those who would reduce priesthood to a mere function able to be ‘performed’ in most respects even by the un-ordained, and a type of forgetfulness regarding the reality of our baptism.

                                                       Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being. Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to Him who became a servant even giving Himself on the Cross (cf.Phil.2:5-8). Christ dwells by faith in the heart of every believer (cf.Eph.3:17), and thus the disciple is conformed to the Lord. This is the effect of grace, of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in us. Having become one with Christ, the Christian becomes a member of His Body, which is the Church (cf.1Cor.12:13,27). By the work of the Spirit, Baptism radically configures the faithful to Christ in the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection; it ‘clothes him’ in Christ (cf.Gal.3:270: ‘Let us rejoice and give thanks,’ exclaims Saint Augustine speaking to the baptized, ‘for we have become Christ!’ Having died to sin, those who are baptized receive new life (cf.Rom.6:3-11): alive for God in Christ Jesus, they are called to walk by the Spirit and manifest the Spirit’s fruits in their lives (cf.Gal.5:16-25). Sharing in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the New Covenant (cf.1Cor.11:23-29), is the culmination of our assimilation to Christ, the source of ‘eternal life’ (cf.Jn.6:51-58), the source and power of that complete gift of self, which Jesus – according to the testimony handed on by Paul – commands us to commemorate in liturgy and life: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (1Cor.11:26). [52]

As these truths permeate our being our hearts will become ever more filled with that Divine Fire which so burned in the Heart of Christ!

Indeed we shall feel ourselves, and yearn evermore, to be compelled to spread that fire through evangelization, baptizing the newly born or converted, seeking out the lost, and giving ourselves over fully to the missio ad gentes.

In a word: to spread His fire as He yearns. [Lk.12:49]

This is our call to holiness, to be fire spreaders, to set the world ablaze with love in return for Love.

True there will be those moments, perhaps even hours, days, weeks or more, of struggle when it may seem our hearts have grown so cold we have barely a spark to spread, but even the tiniest spark can begin an immense blaze.

So, by grace, we live faithful to the duty of the moment, our hearts open to this heartfelt plea:

                                                    ……try to walk in the way of sanctity which God has chosen for you….The pursuit of sanctity is like an interior flame, a sacred fire which we bear within us. At times this fire seems to be only a spark, but, believe me, it can be revived and become bright again. If we wish the Father, when He looks at us, to be able to say, as He said of Jesus: ‘This is My beloved Son,’ let all our efforts and all our aspirations tend towards the establishment of the reign of charity in our hearts. [53]

The real and great tragedy, the true scandal, pulverizing the priesthood today is not, per se, those abuse or heresy scandals which receive so much media attention.

They are, to be sure, serious indeed as sin certainly always is.

The great tragedy, which is fundamentally the root cause of those sins which become the perhaps more obvious, at least to the media, is our failure as priests to willingly become saints.

                                                      The saints know a truth that sin keeps secret: the human spirit is robbed of its natural dignity when it is content to be only natural. Evil claims to be natural, and this is the heart of its deceit. [54]

Baptism is both the gateway to the fullness of the rest of sacramental life and the call to holiness.

By sacramental ordination we become in persona Christi; in the person of the All Holy One.

                                            So how is it that we are not gathering our forces together to counteract the strange forces that continue to infiltrate into the Church, which arise even within the Church to manipulate the Church. There is one way in which it can be done, and only one way: the way of holiness. For this we were born: to be holy. We are given every advantage by the Church to follow the path of the Holy One who calls Himself ‘the Way.’

                                              The priest is a shepherd. He has a flock given him by God. For this he was ordained. God asks from His priests one thing: that he himself cleanse his soul, that he walk the path of the Holy One, now falling down, now bruising himself, but since the path is made by God, God is around and He will help the priest to stand up and continue walking. [55]

Flowing from our first experience of the communion of love and our baptismal commission to be witnesses to Christ, His Holy Resurrection, His Gospel of Love and Truth, of Life, comes that constant call to holiness which the Spirit Himself speaks to the depths of our being every moment of our priestly lives.

It is the call to become a living flame of love.

Jesus, the night of His Passion, having arrived at the hour when He would indeed spread divine fire and set the world ablaze, told us the time had come to ask for everything in His Name.

In the very asking and receiving will come the enhancement of our joy. [Jn.16.24]

The ancient prayer to the Holy Spirit begs Him to come and kindle again within us the fire of our first love, our true joy.

To become a living flame: that is the Gospel proclaimed by Jesus the Master. That is what He Himself is, the blazing sun who lights the whole world…..

                                                          ….. there is no secret about the nature of that fire. It is simply love. Love is the fire the Son of God came to cast on the earth….the burning passion for His Father and for us that bore Him to the cross and through it to His resurrection. Love is the fire the risen Lord pours into the hearts of all those who follow Him, those who hear His voice as well as His first friends.

                                                         This love is more than a human word or metaphor. It is the living Spirit of the living God, alive in us. It is the Holy Spirit who pours God’s love into us and makes us living flames. If we want, then, we can become living flames of love because, as Jesus has promised, His Father does not refuse the Spirit to anyone who asks. If we ask, we shall receive abundantly.

                                                        …..we are not on fire. Why not? I think that there are two reasons. The first is that we are uncertain that such extravagance is either possible or desirable. The second reason is that we are honestly not sure how to ask for the Spirit, even if we do sometimes see clearly that we can have no real joy outside the fire of His love.

                                                       In the story of the Pharisee and the publican, the Master is responding to this bewilderment of ours. He is telling us how to ask for the Holy Spirit. He is revealing to us the only fuel for the fire that He wants to set in our hearts. That fuel is humility….The Lord wants to teach us how to be humble, by telling us the truth about our own wretchedness as He reveals to us the greatest truth – the truth enfolding and encompassing every other truth – that is the mercy of His Father. [56]