Mass with New Men
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
“In the celebration of the Liturgy,” the introduction to the Lectionary for Mass tells us, “the word of God is not announced in only one way nor does it always stir the hearts of the hearers with the same efficacy. Always, however, Christ is present in his word, as he carries out the mystery of salvation, sanctifies humanity and offers the Father perfect worship.”
How evident that is this morning, as you gather for the first time to celebrate these sacred mysteries as a seminarian at Saint John’s Seminary. Through his word God speaks to you, directly and succinctly, as he will every time you come to this place to worship him in spirit and in truth.
For when Isaiah speaks of a sign that God will set among the nations, he is speaking of you. Chances are, God willing, you will not be sent to Tarshish, Put or Lud, but you just might be sent to proclaim his glory in Leominster or Quincy, Bloomfield or New Bedford, Conway or Wilbraham that you might “bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the LORD...” Isaiah concludes by quoting the Lord: “Some of these I will take as priests and Levites...”
So how do you get form here to there. How do you discern whether God is calling you and then conform yourself to the image of Christ, our great High Priest. For that is now your work. It’s your full time job.
By the way, it’s my job too, and the job of every priest who was ever ordained: to continually offer ourselves along with the oblations we place upon that altar, to join ourselves to that great sacrifice of praise which Christ offered for our salvation upon the altar of the cross.
Sacrifice. There’s the key word. By offering sacrifice the priest becomes priestly. By offering first the sacrifice of his life, of himself...of his hopes and his dreams, of his joys and his tears, of his every waking breath...to join my life to the perfect sacrifice of Christ, my heart to his, my life to his.
Such a sacrifice, Christ teaches us, as he sheds every drop of blood in a perfect kenotic act of self-giving, is all about obedience. Obedience to love and to truth, obedience to God.
And that is what your life is all about here. Hear the author of the letter to the Hebrews:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges. Endure your trials as discipline.”
Emotional trials, intellectual trials, spiritual trials, pastoral trials; each of them has a purpose in God’s plan for you. Each makes you better, each carves you into what God wants you to be.
No suffering you will ever endure in the coming years is senseless, for each draws you closer to the cross and conforms you more closely to the image of Christ.
Last night I spoke of joy and this morning I speak of suffering, but both are really the same thing. No, I am not a masochist. Rather, I know that it is only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that we find true Joy and only in doing his will that we know that perfect joy which is “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
“So,” the author of the Hebews tells us, “strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.”
For the closing prayer of today’s Mass is the prayer of our life, my brothers, as we beg him to “complete within us...the healing work of your mercy and graciously perfect and sustain us, so that in all things we may please you. Through Christ our Lord.”