Today is Spy Wednesday and one of the more spiritually difficult days of the year in my opinion. While today’s Gospel passage is from John 13, where we encounter Judas at the last supper with Jesus, the story from Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 26:14-25) giving us the account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus where he plans to hand him over to the chief priests in exchange for 30 pieces of silver is our focus here. We all know the story and for me, it is really hard to hear.
Here is a man who has been with Jesus since the beginning. He heard the words Jesus spoke, he listened to his teaching, he shared meals with him and witnessed the many miracles Jesus worked, and yet in Matthew 26:16, it says, “and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.” He is willing to just hand Jesus over to the men who want Him dead! It is shocking and sobering. Yet, how well, at times has this story represented the way I have treated my relationship with Christ?! How often have I been willing to give up my faith for those who want Jesus’ name unspoken?
As I reflected more on this one line I was struck by the wording of “looked for an opportunity.” That is what we, who are engaging in the new evangelization, are constantly asked to do. We are asked to look for that opportunity to share the way that Jesus Christ has changed our lives. It is striking that we, who also call ourselves disciples of Christ, who also spend time with him, read his words and ask him to speak to us and perform miracles in our lives and the lives of those we love (and often are witnesses of those miracles!) are presented today with a choice: look for opportunities to hand him over or look for opportunities to hand him on. Today, let’s take on the challenge to do reparation for the sins of Judas and look for the next opportunity to hand on the Good News of Jesus Christ.
One of the many questions that a seminarian is asked is “how does one discern God’s call?”, especially to the priesthood. This is a question that for me is hard to answer. Many times people see seminarians as people who have discernment all figured out and mastered. While this would be great if true, seminarians have just as hard of a time figuring out how to discern. This is something that I have to think about and contemplate on a daily basis. It was not until last month that I finally think I can understand discernment better.
Last month, the seminary had their annual retreat down at St. Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana. The retreat was lead by international writer and speaker, Fr. Larry Richards. This retreat has changed my life in many ways, but one in particular is that of discernment. At this retreat Fr. Larry talked to us about Holiness, and one of the resounding themes is having a relationship with God. Not only just having a relationship with God, but understanding how much He loves us and how we should love Him. This relationship is more that that of two friends, it is so much more than that. This relationship is of a Father and Son. For we were made in God’s image and likeness, and He loved us so much that he sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for us.
This relationship is almost indescribable. We are able to cry out to our God saying Abba, daddy, to the very God that created the whole universe and all that is contains. This is where discernment starts. It starts with God our Father. We have to start with crying out to our Father and knowing how much He loves us and desires a relationship with us. Forming a relationship with God is one of the most important steps into having a healthy discernment. No matter what vocation you are called to, one thing will always remain constant within every calling: A loving relationship with God our Father. Through this relationship and love we are able to know Him, walk with Him, know what He is calling us to, and most importantly, are not afraid to do the things that scare us in a particular vocation.
Now, this may seem like an impossible task; we sin, do bad things, say things we shouldn’t, etc. and we make God angry. However, God is not calling us to only form a relationship with Him when we are perfect; quite the opposite actually. God wants us to come to Him in our broken state. God does not just leave us out to dry when we fall; hence why he sent His Son to redeem us and allows us access to the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist. He wants us to depend on Him and know that He can save us from our brokenness.
Many people do not think they can have a good relationship with God and His Son because of their sin. Many have a dictator-like persona of God. There is a very important lesson I learned this year on this very question. It is not that God is mad when we sin because He said not to do it. No, He is worried about us when we sin, and He hates to see us enslaved to sin. God is not someone who sits in heaven wagging His finger at you when you sin, but one who sits in Heaven who wants you not to sin because not sinning will make you happy and is good for you. Sin corrupts us and turns us into slaves of ourselves and evil. God is not out to get us; He is here to love us and help us one day spend eternity with Him. This is an important lesson in forming a relationship with God.
As stated before, this is a relationship with God, and with that means it is something we have to work on. I can tell you that many priests who have been ordained for years are still working on their relationship with God. This is not to scare us however; as a relationship takes time. It helps us to realize a very important point: Vocation is not about ourselves, but for He that calls us. Through this relationship with God we begin to realize what He is calling us to more and more.
To look at priesthood specifically, this call has as it’s root a call from God the Father to a loving relationship with Him and to be an instrument of His love to His Church. This can seem like a hefty job that God calls a young man to do, but to echo the words of Pope St. John Paul II “Be not afraid!” God knows that a young man has to give up certain worldly pleasures for this call, but it is important to note that God calls a young man to the priesthood because He has made Him for that purpose and He knows the young man can do it. This is true for any vocation that God calls people to. God doesn’t call us to something we cannot do; He calls us to what He knows we can do for His Greater Glory and Love.
Now, this may seem like a young man entering seminary must have it all worked out before entering, and that you must have this great relationship with Christ. This cannot be further from the truth. Seminary is a time of formation where you learn new and better ways of forming your relationship with God. These 9 years of seminary are not here because it takes 9 years to learn how to be a priest. These 9 years are here to help form men be rooted in a strong relationship with God and how that translates into priestly ministry. Seminarians work everyday to form their relationship with God, and that means there is no one easy way to do that. Each guy is different. A young men entering may have many doubts, fears, and uncertainty about what this life can lead to. That is normal and every guy goes through that. You are not alone. One may have many fears about God and His love, but through formation a young man is able to discover a healthy relationship with God, the root of any vocation. Let us pray daily that we may accept God’s love and grow closer to Him.
For the first time in a number of years, Catholic men of the Greater Cincinnati area once again have the opportunity to gather and be ignited in their faith at this year’s E6 Catholic Men’s Conference happening on Saturday, March 5, 2016 from 8am-3:30pm at East Central High School in St. Leon, IN. Drawing from the scripture passage from Ephesians 6: 11-17 in which St. Paul tells believers to “put on the armor of God,” this year’s conference aims to strengthen men in their resolve to be men of faith and disciples of Jesus Christ.
There are many great reasons why you should attend this year’s conference, not the least of which is that we will be there! To learn more about E6, check out this short write up by The Catholic Beat and then go to www.e6catholicmensconference.com to register and watch a couple of fantastic videos that give you a glimpse into what you expect at the conference. Finally, if you are able, please help spread the word in your parish about the conference by making copies of the 2016 E6 Men’s Conference Flyer.
See you there!
The month of March is National Women’s History Month and two years ago a group of women religious had the fantastic idea to take some of that month to highlight the great history and influence of consecrated women in the history of our nation and of the Church! This year, on March 8-14, 2016, please celebrate with us and your parish National Catholic Sisters Week!
At www.nationalcatholicsistersweek.org you will find the history and purpose of the week, you will find resources to help you get involved in the week, and links to events that are happening across the nation to honor religious sisters.
For more inspiration and bulletin materials, go to www.sisterstories.org. There you can share your own note of gratitude for a religious woman who impacted your life, you can read the vocation stories of several women who have found their joy in following God’s will to give everything as a religious woman, or you can read more about sisters who have had great influence over the years.
If you are a young man who has lately (or for a very long time) felt a tugging at your heart toward the vocation of the Holy Priesthood, then it is well worth your time to check out the opportunites that are fast approaching to visit a seminary or religious community for a weekend with no strings attached. These opportunities cost nothing but time and your own travel expenses and give you unmeasurable benefits: a small taste of seminary life, interaction with seminarians (with whom you may one day be studying), discussions on discernment and practical tips on how to discern your vocation, and answers to all the practical questions you might have. Check out the details and flyers below and plan to attend.
Friday and Saturday, March 4-5, 2016: Welcome Weekend at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West – This weekend takes place at the seminary of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West is currently housing the highest number of seminarians it has seen in more than 35 years and is looking to increase that number with the help of God’s grace. Fr. Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh, Rector and Fr. Anthony Brausch, Vice Rector along with Frs. Earl Fernandes, David Endres, Paul Ruwe and Tom McQuillen provide the leadership for the seminary and set the tone for both a rigorous and pastoral formation environment in which all seminarians become better men while being formed to be holy priests.
Thursday-Saturday, March 10-12, 2016: College Live-in at Pontifical College Josephinum – This extended weekend takes place at the only Pontifical Seminary outside of Italy. The Josephinum has a long proud history of forming men to become great priests and the tradition has continued under the leadership of Rector Msgr. Christopher Schreck and College Vice-rector Fr. John Rozembajgier. In addition to the typical visit to a seminary which always includes the daily horarium of prayer, this visit also gives guests the opportunity to sit in on seminary classes to get a feel for the level of education our seminarians undergo. Register for the Live-in here.
Friday-Sunday, March 18-20, 2016: Come Away weekend at New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, Iowa. From the informational brochure: Would you like to learn more about religious life? Do you have questions about discerning your vocation? You are invited to share in our monastic celebration of the Liturgy of Hours, joining with us to pray together in the simplicity and beauty of our church. There will be time to talk about your personal story and to hear how we discerned our vocations. You will be able to share with others participating in the weekend, your experiences, hopes, and concerns about making life decisions. “Come Away” is offered as a retreat experience for single Catholic men between the ages of 23 and 45 who are discerning the possibility of a call to monastic life.
All three of these opportunities provide much for a person who is discerning a call to the consecrated life! Please prayerfully consider attending and giving God the opportunity to speak more clearly to your heart in a place where He is currently forming the hearts of men to be more united to His.
Today we added to our website a new resource for all parish vocation ministries across the Archdiocese. Initiated by a group of women from Immaculate Heart of Mary in Anderson Township and passed along to our office, the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests prayer apostolate.
This movement comes out of a recommendation by the Congregration for the Clergy when they published a document back in 2007 entitled Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity. In this document we read, “Pope St. Pius X rightfully confirms his experience that, ‘Every vocation to the priesthood comes from the heart of God, but it goes through the heart of a mother!'” And in this statement he does not mean to limit motherhood to those who are physical mothers, but, along with Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, he extends that meaning to all women who commit their lives to holiness and to prayer for priests. Children, mothers, widows, religious sisters, all can be spiritual mothers and the world needs them to become just that!
Please, take the time to read the documents found on our resource page, be inspired by the power of a mother’s prayers, look into the other great information on Spiritual Motherhood and pray about becoming a spiritual mother yourself and bringing a Spiritual Motherhood Sodality to your parish.
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
In this is love brought to perfection among us,
that we have confidence on the day of judgment
because as he is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. 1 John 4: 17-18
Yesterday, the first reading at mass ended with these beautiful and challenging words. God is love. What a beautiful thought and yet, it is easy for us to think of so many times in our lives when we don’t let love in our hearts. We choose to let anger and bitterness and resentment dwell there. We choose to let fear dwell there. We choose to let perfectionism and perhaps even legalism dwell there. Instead, this brief passage, and the opening verses from today’s mass (go here to read that right now) are challenging us to let only Love dwell there and to act from that FIRST.
Our perfect following of God’s holy will will only happen when we truly learn to love and to hold onto Love in all situations. When we seem to be lost in our vocation, when we seem to be stuttering on how to respond to difficult situations in our lives, we must turn to God and beg for the grace to love and to remember how gracious God is in giving us the most perfect example of Love. Our response to that is our love for those we can see and interact with on a daily basis. We show our love for God by showing love for our neighbors and our brothers. If we cannot do that, we cannot love God.
As we seek perfection, as we seek God’s will, as we seek refuge from our fears, let us do so by courageously examining how well we love one another. It is through this constant seeking to love and be the Love of God in this world that we will be transformed and become the person God has created us to be.
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