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Pope’s Homily from Mass with Abuse Victims

Posted in Pope Francis, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 8, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

FrancisOver the last twenty-four hours a lot of discussion has unfolded about Pope Francis’s meeting with six victims of clergy sexual abuse and the homily he delivered while celebrating Mass with them. Here is the text of his homily translated by Vatican Radio from the original Spanish.

The scene where Peter sees Jesus emerge after a terrible interrogation… Peter whose eyes meet the gaze of Jesus and weeps… This scene comes to my mind as I look at you, and think of so many men and women, boys and girls. I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons. Today, I am very grateful to you for having travelled so far to come here.

For some time now I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering. So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained until someone realized that Jesus was looking and others the same… and they set about to sustain that gaze.

And those few who began to weep have touched our conscience for this crime and grave sin. This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation. It is something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence. They profane the very image of God in whose likeness we were created. Childhood, as we all know, young hearts, so open and trusting, have their own way of understanding the mysteries of God’s love and are eager to grow in the faith. Today the heart of the Church looks into the eyes of Jesus in these boys and girls and wants to weep; she asks the grace to weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left life long scars.

I know that these wounds are a source of deep and often unrelenting emotional and spiritual pain, and even despair. Many of those who have suffered in this way have also sought relief in the path of addiction. Others have experienced difficulties in significant relationships, with parents, spouses and children. Suffering in families has been especially grave, since the damage provoked by abuse affects these vital family relationships.

Some have even had to deal with the terrible tragedy of the death of a loved one by suicide. The deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole Church. To these families I express my heartfelt love and sorrow. Jesus, tortured and interrogated with passionate hatred, is taken to another place and he looks out. He looks out upon one of his own, the one who denied him, and he makes him weep. Let us implore this grace together with that of making amends.

Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God. Some of you have held fast to faith, while for others the experience of betrayal and abandonment has led to a weakening of faith in God. Your presence here speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness. Surely it is a sign of God’s mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, to look in one another’s eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation.

Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.

I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.

On the other hand, the courage that you and others have shown by speaking up, by telling the truth, was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the Church. There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not. All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.

What Jesus says about those who cause scandal applies to all of us: the millstone and the sea (cf. Mt 18:6).

By the same token we will continue to exercise vigilance in priestly formation. I am counting on the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, all minors, whatever religion they belong to, they are little flowers which God looks lovingly upon.

I ask this support so as to help me ensure that we develop better policies and procedures in the universal Church for the protection of minors and for the training of church personnel in implementing those policies and procedures. We need to do everything in our power to ensure that these sins have no place in the Church.

Dear brothers and sisters, because we are all members of God’s family, we are called to live lives shaped by mercy. The Lord Jesus, our Savior, is the supreme example of this; though innocent, he took our sins upon himself on the cross. To be reconciled is the very essence of our shared identity as followers of Jesus Christ. By turning back to him, accompanied by our most holy Mother, who stood sorrowing at the foot of the cross, let us seek the grace of reconciliation with the entire people of God. The loving intercession of Our Lady of Tender Mercy is an unfailing source of help in the process of our healing.

You and all those who were abused by clergy are loved by God. I pray that the remnants of the darkness which touched you may be healed by the embrace of the Child Jesus and that the harm which was done to you will give way to renewed faith and joy.

I am grateful for this meeting. And please pray for me, so that the eyes of my heart will always clearly see the path of merciful love, and that God will grant me the courage to persevere on this path for the good of all children and young people. Jesus comes forth from an unjust trial, from a cruel interrogation and he looks in the eyes of Peter, and Peter weeps. We ask that he look at us and that we allow ourselves to be looked upon and to weep and that he give us the grace to be ashamed, so that, like Peter, forty days later, we can reply: “You know that I love you”; and hear him say: “go back and feed my sheep” – and I would add – “let no wolf enter the sheepfold”.

Photo: Wire

The Instrumentum Laboris: Too Early To Tell

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 27, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

120213112905-moses-bishops-politics-story-top1Now that the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops has released the Instrumentum Laboris (or “working document”) for the upcoming synod on the family there have been some mixed early reactions. By and large, the preliminary response has appeared to be one of muted disappointment on some fronts, with commentators noting that on disciplinary and doctrinal subjects the document reinstates the current church teaching despite having solicited worldwide consultation from laity and clergy. Yet, there has been enthusiasm by some for the notably pastoral and patient tone that the document seems to express in recognizing the complications of modern family life.

My own view of the text arises from my personal experience of religious life and the manner in which decisions are or are not deliberated and expressed in that context, as well as recalling the possibility for surprise that we have seen in relatively recent history at the Second Vatican Council. I have some contextual suggestions arising from these two points for those interested in reading the text and making sense of it.

    • First, readers should know what the text is and what it is not. It is the equivalent of a glorified agenda. It is a packet of summarized information that highlights the thematic foci of the following discussions, at least as they are currently planned. There are three primary divisions in the Instrumentum Laboris that lend a clue to the matters scheduled to be taken up by the bishops:
      • An examination of the faithful’s “knowledge and acceptance” of church teaching;
      • A study of “various challenges and actual situations” faced by families;
      • Pastoral challenges concerning “openness to life” and raising of children.

      Each of these areas highlight potential discussions and beg responses on the part of the church’s leadership. Hopefully, if the pastoral tone present at various points in the text offer any clues, there will be a constructive and healing response to the challenges seen between the church’s teaching and practice and the lived reality of women and men of faith.

    • Second, while this text outlines the agenda and topics for discussion, it is not an “official document” in the sense that an Apostolic Exhortation, including a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, is. Rather, this text serves as a starting point for the preparatory study and eventual discussion to take place at the synod. Bishops are permitted under the structure to introduce their own “interventions” to respond to, amend, address, or redirect the discussion or focus on particular aspects of the synod theme. That said, under John Paul II’s pontificate, these “interventions” were required to be submitted in advance for review, a practice still on the books.

 

    • Third, while it is possible that the text serves as a bellwether for what will eventually result as the “official text” of the synod, likely in the form of an Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis, down the road, it might not as well. This is where the lessons of Vatican II come in handy. The curial offices prepared preliminary documents such as this as well as working texts that were essentially thrown out by the participating bishops upon their arrival. It is conceivable, albeit admittedly unlikely, that the bishops of the world (0r a significant portion of those conference representatives that will participate in the first synod) reject the tenor or direction of this text and offer an alternative agenda. As has frequently been the case in the pontificate of Francis to date, anything seems possible.

All this is simply to say that it is far too early for people to get worked up about the Instrumentum Laboris and the forthcoming synod. Until the bishops meet, until reports begin to leak about the discussions, until there’s an official document — we won’t know.

As for those aspects of this text that seem to suggest the unchanging of church teaching on subjects like abortion, same-sex marriage, and the indissolubility of marriage — what did people expect? A preliminary agenda-setting document such as this cannot simply gesture toward radical change of teaching in this way. That is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit in the gathering of the leaders of local churches (bishops) in communion with one another and the bishop of Rome. Again, while unlikely, it is still possible that the bishops read the signs of the time through the lens of the Gospel, as Gaudium et Spes instructs, and conclude that something needs to change. Additionally, the pastoral tone and the sense of urgency about the disillusion and pain so many of the faithful experience in the gap between their lived reality and the church’s practice and teaching offers at least a minimal sign of hope.

Photo: File

Pope Francis, Christianity, and Marxism

Posted in Pope Francis, Social Justice, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 26, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

77cb7cd5eWell, it’s been a rather long break on my end, but I’m back after a month off. It hasn’t really been a true break given that, rather than enjoying a vacation as such, I’ve been on the road a lot for academic conferences, Provincial Chapter, board meetings, and speaking engagements, which was the primary reason for the radio silence from the DatingGod.org blog. Thanks to all who have patiently waited and thanks to those who have expressed their support and desire for the return of posting — your wish has come true today.

Ever since Pope Francis was elected Bishop of Rome in the Spring of 2013 his actions and words have captured the attention of millions. Most seem to be struck by the genuine humanity of this man whose primary concern seems to be rooted in the Gospel call to care for those women and men most at the margins: the poor, the disenfranchised, the ill, the disabled, the sexual minorities, and so on.

Yet, in the spirit of Dorothy Day’s prophetic insight — “when I feed the hungry, they call me a saint; when I ask why people are hungry, they call me a communist” — Pope Francis has been labeled a communist by various self-styled “right-wing” commentators. The role call of accusers is pretty familiar, including the usual suspects Limbaugh and Beck. However, this week a new voice has entered the mix, a voice that has a far-more-respected reputation: The Economist magazine.

The blogger over at The Economist takes this misguided discourse to a new level, suggesting that: “By positing a link between capitalism and war, he seems to be taking an ultra-radical line: one that consciously or unconsciously follows Vladimir Lenin in his diagnosis of capitalism and imperialism as the main reason why world war broke out a century ago.”

Pope Francis is certainly not the first to make this connection. In fact, I was thinking about former US President and 5-Star General Dwight Eisenhower’s famous admonition to the United States and world about the “military-industrial complex,” which itself presupposes the intrinsic link between military action (war) and industrial/market interests (capitalism). I think many would be hard pressed to caricature Eisenhower as a communist or “one that consciously or unconsciously follows Vladimir Lenin.”  But that is a digression.

My real interest here is in part to disabuse those who think that “Marxism,” a term thrown around without much actual study or background by most parties already named, is somehow a bad thing. Those who think it is an actual reality are first and foremost disillusioned.  It is fair to talk about the historical reality of communist governments, the USSR, for example. However, Marxism is a political philosophy that bears the name of Karl Marx and is likewise tied to a number of other thinkers too.

Some have suggested that “Marxism” (I am using the scare quotes deliberately to suggest the accusatory styling of the term as opposed to the un-quoted, which references the political philosophy) is an evil that is antithetical to Christianity. This is not exactly true. While it is correct that certain strains of Marxist philosophy are represented by self-professed atheists, the principles are what is important to appreciate. Many of these principles, concern for the oppressed, the social structures of sin, the increasing gap between rich and poor, the condition of labor, and so forth, are all deeply Christian at their core.

Pope Francis is neither “Marxist” nor Marxist. He is not a political philosopher nor an economist nor an anarchist. He is, true and true, a Christian and to be a Christian, to take seriously the Gospel, means to hold the views that he expresses and demonstrates. Period.

I am not at all surprised about the backlash Pope Francis has received. The Bishop of Rome is, after all, following in the footprints of Jesus Christ who also received a backlash for pointing out injustices and announcing the Reign of God that sought a different reality for the poor and oppressed — that backlash ended with a crucifixion. Anyone who bears the name “Christ” as a Christian, anyone who is baptized should likewise find herself or himself in Pope Francis’s position. Imagine that, imagine if we all took our baptismal vocations seriously and had to face the criticism of those who either benefit or seek to benefit from the unjust structures of wealth and power.

I suppose that is, in part, what Jesus meant when he told us that we need to pick up our crosses daily and follow him. There are a lot of people standing around with crosses still lying on the ground.

It’s powerful and refreshing to see that at least the Pope has picked up his.

UPDATE: Correction: the quote attributed to Dorothy Day above should be attributed to the late prelate, Dom Helder Camara.

Photo: The Atlantic

Craven Politicians and the NRA

Posted in Social Justice, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Shooting rampage in Isla Vista, CaliforniaI’m sitting in the Louisville airport with not much time before catching my flight to write a full post on the subject of the mass murder in Santa Barbara this weekend. I have been at the Abbey of Gethsemani with a group of Merton scholars on retreat and without regular internet access, so my ability to follow the news was incredibly limited. I have spent some time now trying to piece together what happened and, like The New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik, I have been moved and haunted by Richard Martinez’s brief press conference following the murder of his son, Chris.

Martinez is 100% correct. In addition to the particular circumstances that led that individual to kill six people, his misogyny has been identified among other factors, there are general circumstances and responsible parties that make possible the condition for the possibility of mass murder. The LA Times reported that the shooter purchased his semi-automatic handguns legally.

Personally, I am against all firearms. As a Franciscan friar and a Catholic Priest, I cannot maintain (nor would I) any other position. As someone who believes in the truth of the Gospel, I likewise find it impossible to hold an alternative view. Yet, I am also not entirely without a pragmatic side, recognizing the legitimacy of hunting rifles for food and safety in remote parts of this country and the world.

However, there is no legitimate alternative purpose for handguns other than to kill other human beings. Therefore, there is no legitimate right that anyone has to own them. Period.

Martinez’s comment about the responsibility of “craven politicians” and the “NRA” is absolutely correct. I have written elsewhere about the insane tragedy that played out in the wake of the Newtown shootings when the congress could not muster the fortitude to pass overwhelmingly popular legislation on firearm background checks — legislation that did not go far enough, but was something that any rational person could support.

I encourage everybody to read Gopnik’s reflections here: “Christopher Michael-Martinez’s Father Gets It Right About Guns.” He includes links to stories and data about how other, respectable, nations have responded to mass murder tragedies such as what we experience regularly in the US. Stricter laws have made for safer communities.

To handgun and semi-automatic weapon advocating Catholics: take note of Gopnik’s correct statement about the incompatibility of being “pro-life” and “pro-gun.” These days I can conceive of no greater hypocrisy on this subject and in the wake of these tragedies than women and men marching in Washington on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, or other comparable “pro-life” events, with an NRA membership card in their wallets and purses.

Photo: European Press Agency

The Persistence of the Mental Illness Stigma

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 22, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

stigmatizing-mental-illnessThere is an excellent guest op-ed piece in today’s New York Times written by two high-school women who articulately express the their experience of the travails of chronic depression, its isolating quality, and the stigma that remains attached to the reality. I was moved by their desire to unveil some of the solitary, and thereby confounding, dimension of such illness through their practice of journalism, only to be prevented by their school’s administrators. The argument against publishing such interviews with peers was “concern” for the students, yet this road constructed with seeming best intentions actually led to the reiterating hell of isolation and reinforcement of social stigma that needs to be lifted.

These young women deserve a lot of credit and I’m proud of the New York Times for publishing their piece. I have a number of friends — some in religious life, some not — who suffer from illnesses including chronic depression and general anxiety disorder. Part of their challenge, which is truly unnecessary, is the inability to freely share their experiences for all the reasons these two young women write about in their essay. I hope that this won’t be the end of the discussion. I also hope that their high school realizes that if it’s good enough for the NYT, it should be good enough for a school paper.

Here’s the full piece:

“Depressed, But Not Ashamed” by Madeline Halpert and Eva Rosenfeld.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — MOST of our closest friends didn’t know that we struggled with depression. It just wasn’t something we discussed with our high school classmates. We found that we both had taken Prozac only when one of us caught a glimpse of a prescription bottle in a suitcase during a journalism conference last November. For the first time, we openly discussed our feelings and our use of antidepressants with someone who could relate. We took a risk sharing our experiences with depression, but in our honesty, we found a support system. We knew we had to take the idea further.

In the United States, for people between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Untreated depression is one of the leading causes of suicide. According to the National Comorbidity Survey: Adolescent Supplement, 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18.

We were not alone. We wondered why, with so many teenagers dealing with depression, it was still addressed in such impersonal ways.

As editors at our high school newspaper, we decided to fight against the stigma and proposed devoting a whole edition to personal stories from our peers who were suffering from mental illness. We wanted honesty with no anonymity.

We knew that discussing mental health in this way would be edgy, even for our progressive community in Michigan. But we were shocked when the school administration would not allow us to publish the articles.

With the help of other journalism students, we interviewed teenagers from around our school district who shared stories of depression, eating disorders, homelessness, prescription abuse, insomnia and anxiety. Many discussed their personal struggles for the first time. All agreed to attach their full name — no anonymity or pseudonyms. Following online recommendations of the Student Press Law Center, we asked the parents of each student to sign consent forms for the articles.

As we were putting the stories together, the head of our school called us into her office to tell us about a former college football player from our area who had struggled with depression and would be willing to let us interview him. We wondered why she was proposing this story to us since he wasn’t a current high school student. We declined her suggestion. We didn’t want to replace these deeply personal articles about our peers with a piece about someone removed from the students. After we asked her why she was suggesting this, she told us that she couldn’t support our moving forward with the articles.

From an administrative perspective, this made some sense. It is her job to protect the students to the best of her ability. She believed that the well-being of those who shared their experiences — and most important, their names — would be put at risk because of potential bullying. She also mentioned that she had consulted a mental health professional, who told her that reading about their own depression could trigger a recurrence in some of the students and that those who committed to telling their stories might regret it later.

Our school has a very tolerant atmosphere, and it even has a depression awareness group, so this response seemed uncharacteristic. We were surprised that the administration and the adults who advocated for mental health awareness were the ones standing in the way of it. By telling us that students could not talk openly about their struggles, they reinforced the very stigma we were trying to eliminate.

The feeling of being alone is closely linked to depression. This can be exacerbated if there is no one to reach out to. Though there are professionals to talk to, we feel it doesn’t compare to sharing your experiences with a peer who has faced similar struggles. And, most important to us, no one afflicted with a mental illness should have to believe that it’s something he should feel obliged to hide in the first place. If someone has an illness such as diabetes, she is not discouraged from speaking about it. Depression does not indicate mental weakness. It is a disorder, often a flaw of biology, not one of character.

By interviewing these teenagers for our newspaper, we tried — and failed — to start small in the fight against stigma. Unfortunately, we’ve learned this won’t be easy. It seems that those who are charged with advocating for our well-being aren’t ready yet to let us have an open and honest dialogue about depression.

Full Text of Secretary John Kerry’s Boston College Commencement Address

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 19, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

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Although I didn’t attend my school’s commencement exercises this year, I’ve heard from a number of people who were in attendance about how good the Secretary of State’s address was. The United States State Department released the full text of his address, which is included below, and the messages conveyed live up to the expectation. I draw your attention to the fact that the BC Law School alum included references to St. Augustine, Pope Francis, St. Paul and, of course, St. Ignatius. Recalling Boston College’s founding as an institution for higher education to educate the Irish Catholics of Boston excluded from other universities (we’re looking at you, Harvard), Kerry shared some personal reflections about his own faith and how the BC tradition has informed his views of Climate Change, war and peace, the dignity of all human persons, among other subjects. Oh, and he gave a shout out to and quoted Fr. David Hollenbach, SJ, a current BC professor of theology.

SECRETARY KERRY: Your Eminence Cardinal O’Malley, Father President Leahy, Father Monan, Father Devino, members of the faculty, my fellow recipients of honorary degrees, parents, siblings, and the distinguished class of 2014: Congratulations to everybody here today.

You know I thought I had a lot to worry about as I was listening to the introduction, between Afghanistan and Iran and so forth. But now I’m worried about where Challenger is. (Laughter.) I will leave here knowing that Boston College liberates eagles. (Laughter.)

It’s a great honor to be with you. You all might remember from English class that the great American novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote that you can’t go home again. Or maybe you know that quote because it’s the same thing that your parents are telling you now. (Laughter.)

Well, Wolfe had obviously never been to Boston College. It is nice to be off an airplane, but my friends, it is great to be home. I am really happy to be here. (Applause and cheers.)

I know that many of you stayed up all night so you could see your last sunrise at BC. (Cheers.) Some of you thought it would never come, graduation that is. I’ve got news for you: Some of your parents and professors didn’t think so either. (Laughter.)

Now, I notice a lot of you are wearing shades. It won’t work, folks. I’ll still hear you snoring. (Laughter.)

I was on the campus of one of your rivals yesterday in New Haven. And while I let them know that they could be proud of their title in men’s hockey last year, I also had to put it in perspective: Yale is still four titles behind BC. (Cheers and applause.)

There are many things actually that Yale and Boston College have in common, but one is probably the most powerful: mutual dislike of Harvard. (Laughter.) Although to be fair, hundreds of schools don’t like Harvard very much.

As Secretary of State, I track many factions and rivalries around the world. BC versus Notre Dame is at the top of my list. Of course, there’s also Alec Baldwin versus the NYPD. (Laughter.) Beyonce’s sister versus Jay Z. (Laughter and cheers.) And then there’s the rivalry: Red Sox and Yankees. (Cheering and applause.) We absolutely loved the last ten years: Yankees – one World Series, and Red Sox – three. That’s my kind of rivalry, folks. (Cheers.)

Now BC reminds us today that though rivalries can be overcome, here today you have honored a Holy Cross alumnus, the great Bob Cousy, who, as you heard earlier in his degree presentation, won 117 games at Boston when he was coaching here. Eighty-five years old and the Celtics could have used him this year. (Laughter.)

So we have with us today a great legend, but most importantly an amazing person, an amazing player, and three other extraordinary builders of community, all of whom I am very honored to share degrees with today. Their lives and their selfless service are testimony to the fact that Boston College is an amazing place.

2014-05-19T163709Z_1_CBREA4I1A6600_RTROPTP_2_USA-KERRY-BOSTONOver the past years, you have all been blessed to experience a special quality that has always defined BC: the welcoming spirit of this community. That has been a distinguishing characteristic of Boston College since its first days, when it opened its doors to Irish immigrants and Catholics who were barred from other schools.

When I came here more than 40 years ago, I want you to know that I felt that welcome firsthand. I had, as you heard, served in war, and when I came home, I worked to end it. It was a turbulent time – for our country, for me personally. It was a time of division and disillusionment.

But because of one thoughtful man of conscience, one member of the Boston College community, I found a home right here.

Many of you today might not even recognize the name of Father Robert Drinan. He was the dean of the Law School and he was running for Congress when I first visited him on the campus.

And what impressed me most about Father Drinan – whether on Chestnut Hill or Capitol Hill – was that he made no apologies for his deep and abiding Catholic commitment to the weak, the helpless, the downtrodden.

“If a person is really a Christian,” Father Drinan would say, “they will be in anguish over global hunger, injustice, over the denial of educational opportunity.”

In fact, it was Father Drinan who encouraged me to study law at BC, even when it wasn’t the obvious path. I had come to law school from a different background than my classmates. I’d served in the Navy, just turned 30, and had a young family.

And because of where I’d been and what I’d seen, I came to Boston College with a set of nagging questions. I had confronted my own mortality head-on during the war, where faith was as much a part of my daily life as the battle itself. In fact, I wore my rosary around my neck hoping for protection.

But on closer examination, I realized my wartime relationship with God was really a dependent one – a “God, get me through this and I’ll be good” kind of relationship. And as I became disillusioned with the war, my faith also was put to test.

There’s something theologians call “the problem of evil.” It’s the difficulty of explaining how terrible and senseless events are, in fact, part of God’s plan. That was a very real test for me. Some of my closest friends were killed. You see things in war that haunt you for the rest of your life.

So coming here to BC Law, reading St. Augustine on the problem of evil, or St. Thomas Aquinas on just war, the letters of St. Paul and thoughts about suffering – this was not an abstract or academic exercise. It was a chance to dig in and really try to understand where and how everything fit, including trying to understand where I fit in. I’m sure a lot of you ask those questions.

It was the compassion, listening, and understanding that I experienced at BC that made me feel welcome, taught me literally how to think critically, how to ask the right questions, and reinforced in me a personal sense of direction.

It would be years before Pope Francis would talk about the responsibility we all have to reach out to those who “stand at the crossroads.” I might not have connected the dots at the time, but that is exactly what BC was doing for me and I hope has done for you.

The people I met here were putting into action the words of the Jesuit motto that you’ve heard already today: “Men and women for others.”

Every institution has a mission or a motto – that’s the easy part. The hard part is ensuring that they’re not just words. We have to make sure that even as our world changes rapidly and in so many ways, we can still, each of us, give new meaning to our values.

Today, I promise you that is one of the greatest challenges of America’s foreign policy: ensuring that even when it’s not popular, even when it’s not easy, America still lives up to our ideals and our responsibilities to lead.

Never forget that what makes America different from other nations is not a common religion or a common bloodline or a common ideology or a common heritage. What makes us different is that we are united by an uncommon idea: that we’re all created equal and all endowed with unalienable rights. America is – and I say this without chauvinism or any arrogance whatsoever, but America is not just a country like other countries. America is an idea, and we – all of us, you – get to fill it out over time. (Applause.) So our citizenship is not just a privilege – it is a profound responsibility.

And in a shrinking world, we can’t measure our success just by what we achieve as Americans for Americans, but also by the security and shared prosperity that we build with our partners all over world.

In times of crisis, violence, strife, epidemic, and instability – believe me – the world still looks to the United States of America as a partner of first resort. People aren’t worried about our presence; they’re worried about our leaving. One of the great privileges of being Secretary of State is getting to see that firsthand.

In December, I walked through the devastation left behind by the typhoon in the Philippines. The U.S. military and USAID had arrived on the scene before countries that are much closer than we are.

This month in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I saw how the United States is supporting surgeons and Catholic nuns helping victims of violence and abuse.

And just a few weeks ago in Ethiopia, I saw what our sustained commitment to combatting AIDS is achieving. Local doctors and nurses are making possible the dream of an AIDS-free generation. We’re on the cusp of achieving that.

And what we have done to turn back the armies of defeatism and indifference in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and even polio – this work should give every one of you confidence to confront another cross-border, cross-generational challenge, the challenge of a changing climate. If we’re going to live up to our values, this is a test that we have to meet.

Now look, I know this is hard, because I spent almost 30 years in the United States Senate pushing this issue, trying to get colleagues to move. We got up to maybe 55 votes, couldn’t quite get to 60. And I know it’s hard to feel the urgency. As we sit here on an absolutely beautiful morning in Boston, you might not see climate change as an immediate threat to your job, your community, or your families. But let me tell you, it is.

Two major recent reports, one from the UN and one from retired U.S. military leaders, warn us not just of the crippling consequences to come, but that some of them are already here. Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists tell us this is urgent. Why? Because if crops can’t grow, there’ll be food insecurity. If there’s less water because of longer droughts, if there are stronger and more powerful storms, things will change in a hurry and they will change for the worse.

Climate change is directly related to the potential of greater conflict and greater stability – instability. I’m telling you that there are people in parts of the world – in Africa today, they fight each other over water. They kill each over it. And if glaciers are melting and there’s less water available and more people, that is a challenge we have to face. And guess what? It is the poorest and the weakest who face the greatest risk. As Father Drinan would say, we should be in anguish over this. (Applause.)

What’s frustrating is that this challenge is not without a solution. In fact, not one problem I can think of today that we face in this country is without a solution. It’s a question of capacity, willpower. The solution is actually staring us in the face. It is energy policy. Make the right energy policy choices and America can lead a $6 trillion market with 4 billion users today and growing to 9 billion users in the next 50 years.

If we make the necessary efforts to address this challenge – and supposing I’m wrong or scientists are wrong, 97 percent of them all wrong – supposing they are, what’s the worst that can happen? We put millions of people to work transitioning our energy, creating new and renewable and alternative; we make life healthier because we have less particulates in the air and cleaner air and more health; we give ourselves greater security through greater energy independence – that’s the downside. This is not a matter of politics or partisanship; it’s a matter of science and stewardship. And it’s not a matter of capacity; it’s a matter of willpower. (Applause.)

But if we do nothing, and it turns out that the critics and the naysayers and the members of the Flat Earth Society, if it turns out that they’re wrong, then we are risking nothing less than the future of the entire planet. This is not a hard choice, frankly. But still, let me tell you we need the help of every single one of you to make it.

In the end, all of these global challenges – how to defend against extremism, how to eradicate disease, how to provide young people with opportunity, how to protect our planet – all of these questions of whether men and women can live in dignity. What do I mean by dignity? I mean exactly the same thing that Father David Hollenbach taught on this campus and brought to the forefront of Catholic social teaching: That when families have access to clean water and clean power, they can live in dignity. When people have the freedom to choose their government on election day and to engage their fellow citizens every day, they can live in dignity. When all citizens can make their full contribution no matter their ethnicity; no matter who they love or what name they give to God, they can live in dignity.

And this is where you come in: the struggle for dignity. Whether across town or across the world, it makes demands on your own lives. The diploma that you will receive today isn’t just a certificate of accomplishment. It’s a charge to keep. It’s a powerful challenge to every single one of you, because you have already been blessed with a world-class education, and with it comes responsibility. Part of that responsibility is taking to heart the values that you’ve learned here and sharing them with the world beyond BC. That spirit of service is part of the fabric of this school, just as it is part of the fabric of our nation.

I often think of the words of our first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, someone who also founded a prestigious university like yours. Jefferson spoke about the beauty of a simple image: using one candle to light another. And he said that when that happens, both candles gain light and neither candle loses any. He was talking about the contagious quality of shared knowledge. As heirs to the Jesuit tradition, this is an idea that you know well. Two centuries before Jefferson, St. Ignatius Loyola always closed his letters with a simple charge, and it’s one I pass on to you today. St. Ignatius wrote simply, “Set the world aflame.”

So graduates of 2014, pass on your light to others. Set the world aflame with your service. Welcome those who are lost; seek out those at the crossroads. That is how you can fulfill your responsibility as a graduate of this great institution. That is how you can answer the call to be a servant, leader, and that is how you can keep faith with and renew the idea of America, and that is how we all live up to our duty as citizens.

Congratulations to all of you. Good luck and God bless.

 

Photos: Reuters, AP

Ordination: Reflections Two Years Later

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 19, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

_DSC1563Two years ago today I was ordained to the presbyterate by Cardinal McCarrick in Washington, DC. It is hard to believe that it has been two years. On the one hand, time has flown and it seems like yesterday that my classmate Steve and I were processing into St. Camillus Church at the beginning of the ordination liturgy. On the other hand, it seems like my experience over the two years feels longer than the actual time, making me wonder whether it has really only been two years now.

These last two years have been marked by a number of grace-filled moments, experiences of both gift and challenge, encounters of joy and sorrow. During the first year of ordained ministry everything was new. First weddings, first masses, first funerals, first anointings, first confessions, first baptisms, and the like. During the second year of ordained ministry, the newness fades, but the diversity of experiences and the surprising moments of the Spirit continue.

As I have settled into this aspect of my life, I feel that the line from the Second Eucharistic prayer, which concludes, “…giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you,” summarizes the experience of the ministerial priesthood.

Contrary to those who believe, either about themselves or others, that the ministerial priesthood is really about some sort of “magical change” that transforms someone into something else, this prayer of the church at the Eucharistic celebration reminds us that the work of the college of presbyters is one for which none of us is inherently worthy, but nevertheless remains a call from God to service within the whole community of the baptized. Some people get uncomfortable when I point out that being a priest is not “special.” It is important, it is a real vocation, it is a necessary office in the church, but any sense of exulted specialness or uniqueness distracts a minister and the rest of the People of God from the foundational truth that the ministerial priesthood is founded on the priesthood of all the baptized as Lumen Gentium no. 10 so pointedly states.

I have become more comfortable over these years with my role as presider, as one who calls the community to prayer, as one who serves and comforts, who preaches and teaches, as one who has been ordained for that purpose. But, nevertheless, I continue to be uncomfortable with a number of my brother priests and with lay women and men who want to make more of ministerial priesthood than our orthodox theology would affirm. I still encounter seminarians and young priests who hide behind habits, collars, and titles, who understand themselves to be above and apart, who view themselves more in a cultic sacerdotal sense than as servants in the community, as those called by the Spirit and affirmed by their sisters and brothers for an important and difficult, yet still human ministry. I remain even more allergic to the various cultures of clericalism that continue to infect the Body of Christ, which is the Church, even in the age of Pope Francis. And this is very saddening.

Yet, I remain hopeful that this might become a discomfort alleviated with time and deeper theological reflection on the part of the whole community and facilitated by the reflections, model, and challenge of Pope Francis.

I look forward to continuing to grow in this ministry, grateful that I have, although I don’t deserve it, “been found worthy to be in God’s presence and minister.” Whether presiding at the Eucharist at Babson College on the weekends or at various places around the country, whether teaching in the classroom or in a public space, whether trying to get out of God’s way so that the Spirit may comfort the afflicted in the sacraments of healing — I’m grateful for this particular call to ministry. Having done so for two years already, may God continue to guide me in the years to come and may I always be open in responding to that direction.

Photo:  The Catholic Sun

 

 

 

Time, Hospitality, and Eucharist: The Road to Emmaus

Posted in Easter, Homilies, Scripture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 4, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERALast week’s Gospel featuring the so-called “doubting” Thomas, one of the Twelve also called Didymus, tends to draw most attention to the individual struggle of belief experienced by one disciple. Many, with good reason, take the opportunity to reflect on how they struggle with their own belief in the Risen Christ, in the Scripture, in the witness of the other disciples. Yet, one of the things that is often overlooked is the dynamic at play when Thomas does believe. The good news, the Gospel, here is that Jesus meets Thomas in his unbelief, always already present after the Resurrection. But how and where is he present? Have you ever noticed?

Jesus doesn’t just appear to Thomas for Thomas’s sake, alone as if to offer the individual special treatment. Rather, Jesus appears to Thomas one week later again in the midst of assembled community. A community traumatized by the execution of Jesus Christ, a community also confused and uncertain of what’s to come. Thomas comes to believe when joined to the rest of the community of faith, in communion with those who, in spite of their doubts and fears and struggles and weaknesses (let’s not forget “Denying Peter” is there as much as “Doubting Thomas”) they come to call to mind who Jesus is and what God has revealed to them.

The location of belief, the where Christ is made present after the Resurrection is seen in last week’s Gospel, and this week’s Gospel begins to reveal more to us about what it means to encounter the Risen Lord after his life, death, and resurrection. Here I want to reflect on only three of the many themes that come out of this incredibly powerful Gospel pericope: Time, Hospitality, and Eucharist.

Time

One of the most interesting things about the Gospel passage this week from Luke’s Gospel is the time in which the narrative is set. This is the day of the Resurrection, it has just been reported that morning and the two disciples traveling out of town are still pondering the meaning and the credibility of the accounts reported to them, first by the women — the earliest witnesses of the Resurrection — and then some of the Twelve.

This is a time of confusion, uncertainty, unexpectedness, doubt. It is a liminal time, placed between the experience of knowing Jesus as one knows another person in this life, and something else, a new way of coming to know Jesus — but how?

The time is our time as much as it is the disciples’ time early in those first days. One of the things that is revealed in the other dimensions of this narrative of encounter is that knowing the Risen Lord is for the disciples on the afternoon of the Resurrection the same as it is for us today.

We share this time with earliest believers. It is a new time, but it is not yet the end time.

Hospitality

The disciples only come to recognize the Risen Lord among them in the hospitality of welcoming a stranger into their midst. Today, perhaps more than ever, welcoming the stranger, welcoming the other, welcoming the unknown, welcoming what we don’t understand, welcoming the one of who we are afraid — this is not easy. So many barriers are easily placed between us and others: technology, money, status, social location, and the like. We tell ourselves comforting stories about why we should or shouldn’t welcome this or that person, pay attention or be concerned with another, be justified or entitled to fear or despise another, but the journey on the Road to Emmaus tells us something very different.

It is in welcoming the stranger that what could not be understood among those of like-mindedness becomes clarified in the encounter with another. The stranger, not yet recognized as Christ, is the one who is able to help make sense of these disciples’ lives and provide meaning to their faith. It is in meeting the stranger, in listening, and in sharing a meal in hospitality that the Risen Lord is encountered after the Resurrection.

Like St. Francis who encountered Christ in embracing the leper on a road outside Assisi, the disciples encounter Christ in the welcoming of a stranger and, likewise, we encounter Christ in the other when we, like these two believers, open our hearts to the experience of relationship with those we encounter on our own journeys — especially those we may not wish to encounter.

Eucharist

Like Thomas last week, these disciples do not encounter the Risen Lord alone. The setting is very clear, it is a setting that we celebrate each week when we gather as a community of believers, bringing out weaknesses and our doubts and our uncertainties, along with our hopes and needs and thanksgiving, to the celebration of the Eucharist.

The two disciples on the road journey together and welcome another, that small community then of “two or three” share the Word of God in the Scriptures, which enlivens their hearts like a fire within, and finally move to enter into communion with each other in the presentation, blessing, breaking, and sharing of the bread. Here is where the disciples realize what it all means. It might even have been the only time that week they understood.

What happens at the end is telling, and I don’t just mean the beautiful line about what is reported to the other disciples about “recognizing him in the breaking of the bread.” I mean the fact that they ran to report what they had experiencedThe celebration of the Eucharist is not an isolated event or a one-off experience. Instead, it is something that calls us together at a given time and with a concrete spirit of hospitality, and then drives us out into the world by the Spirit to proclaim what we’ve experienced in the community, in the Word, and in the breaking of the bread: the Risen Lord.

Eucharist, that liturgy of thanksgiving and grace, is where we encounter the Risen Lord most completely, which has been the case from the afternoon of the Resurrection to today and through the end time. It is not about “me” or “you” or “doubting Thomas.” But it is about the gathering together of those who have been touched by the encounter with Christ and seek to continue to make sense of what has happened and what is happening. We come to make sense of all of this in the breaking of the bread, but not in that alone, in the breaking open of the Word, and in the hospitality of the gathered community in this time.

Image: James B. Janknegt

‘It Is Finished’ — An excerpt from ‘The Last Words of Jesus’

Posted in Lent, Social Justice, The Last Words of Jesus, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 18, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

It-Is-Finished_wide_t_nv1The following reflection offered on this Good Friday is taken from chapter six of my new book, The Last Words of Jesus: A Meditation on Love and Suffering (2013).

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

There is a fine line between beginnings and endings. With one the other inevitably follows. There’s a reason that college graduations are called commencements: what at the same time marks the completion of several years of study also marks a new beginning, a new chapter in the life of the graduate. Central to the Christian message of the cross – the very reason that followers of Jesus hang these signs of death penalty and torture on walls and places of worship over the centuries – is that in earthly death one doesn’t find just an end, but one finds also a beginning. It is, as the Franciscan tradition refers to the anniversary of the death of St. Francis of Assisi, a Transitus – from the Latin word indicating a passing over from this life into the next.

What has, in a sense, finished has also just begun.

Curiously, the meaning of the Greek word used in the Gospels that captures what Jesus cried out from the Cross is not as clear-cut as we might at first think. Which, I’m sure, is no accident. Reflecting this fine line between beginnings and endings, what is generally translated into English as “it is finished,” might better be translated as “it is fulfilled.” The word “finished” has such a terminal sound to it. While some scripture scholars believe that tetelestai, the Greek word the author of John’s Gospel uses, is more triumphant than it is evocative of surrender. Francis Moloney explains: “Climaxing these [earlier scriptural] indications of fulfillment, Jesus cries out ‘tetelestai’ (v. 30a), an exclamation of achievement, almost of triumph. The task given to him by the Father (cf. [John] 4:34; 5:36; 17:4) has not been consummately brought to a conclusion.” The exclamation isn’t something from which one needs to shy as much as it is an embrace of all that has come before, yet points toward the future where we are now to go. It is a climactic exclamation – it is fulfilled! – just like college graduation, but it is also the announcement of what is also beginning.

No one understood this better than St. Francis. His biographer, Thomas of Celano, tells us that while Francis was very sick and near the end of his life, he spoke to his fellow brothers about how they were to look at this point in the Saint’s life and in their lives.

He used to say: “Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing.” He did not consider that he had already attained his goal, but tireless in pursuit of holy newness, he constantly hoped to begin again.

He wanted to return to serving lepers and to be held in contempt, just as he used to be. He intended to flee human company and go off to the most remote places, so that, letting go of every care and putting aside anxiety about others, for the time being only the wall of the flesh would stand between him and God.

As Francis came to the end of this earthly journey, he echoes the words “It is finished” proclaimed by Christ on the cross. His words are not helpless, regretful, or empty in their recognition of one chapter in the pilgrimage of life. Instead, he expresses – perhaps in a way more fully than Jesus’s simple “It is finished” – that, while the other friars and sisters were crying about the imminent loss of their leader in religious life, Francis wanted to remind them of what it means to announce a commencement, a completion, a fulfillment, and a beginning: It is not a time of sorrow or loss, but a time to refresh and renew one’s commitment to the Gospel, to live as one in the Kingdom, and to continue to serve the Lord with redoubled intent.

In this way, Francis’s mirrored expression of those from the cross – “let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing” – is an invitation to make Christ’s words – “It is finished” – our own over and over again in life. There is a sense in which the call to serve the Lord found in Francis’s deathbed announcement is a commentary or explanation of what Jesus might have meant in his own cry from the Cross, for to proclaim that “it is fulfilled” in a Christian context is to necessarily assert, “thy will be done.” Is it no wonder then that Francis, as he lay dying, asked that the reading from the Gospel of John at the Last Supper be read to him?

At his own Transitus from this life to the next, Francis sought to recall what it was that he committed himself to so many years earlier. “To live according the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That life was one of service in solidarity. That service in solidarity is demonstrated on the eve of the Lord’s own death, while at table with those he loved. The reading Francis begged to hear is this:

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and me head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.“ (John 13:1-15)

After the reading was completed, Francis “told them to cover him with sackcloth and to sprinkle him with ashes, as he was soon to become dust and ashes.” The last words Francis heard came to form a summary of the saint’s entire life: service and solidarity. Francis wasn’t just one who served others, but lived with and for them in a way that reflected the relationship Jesus demonstrated with all people. This is how Francis understood the Vita Evangelica, the life of the Gospel, and this is how he wished those who were to come after him would live. Francis lived his life as if every day was a proclamation of “It is finished, it is fulfilled.” He strove to obey the words of Jesus as after the Lord washed the feet of his followers and said, “For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.” Francis then left those who were following him to do likewise.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between beginnings and endings. Perhaps one of the strongest lessons in Jesus’s words from the Cross, those words lived in the life of St. Francis, is that we must not be as concerned about our time as we are about God’s time. In God’s time beginnings and endings are one in the same, because God’s time is not so much a matter of minutes, hours, and days as it is about a way of living in the world. The way we mark the passage of our life is not the same way that God marks our time. It is when washing the feet of others, the giving of ourselves for the sake of our brothers and sisters, that we live according to God’s time.

The time of the world is a time that sees the crucifixion of an accused criminal on a Roman Cross as an end. The time of the world is a time that sees a blind, poor man dying naked in medieval Italy as an end. Yet, the time of God is a time that sees in all things the potential for a new beginning, a reminder that life is more than an economy of checks and minuses, of winning and losing. God’s time is a time of fulfillment that makes little sense to the world, for what is logical is replaced by what is Kingdom-oriented and, as St. Paul reminds us, this way of thinking appears as foolishness and remains a stumbling block to the worldly (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

People like Jesus of Nazareth and Francis of Assisi were fools for God, abiding in time that was not limited by the priorities of popular culture and society. To be a disciple today, to live up to the claim that you or I are willfully following the one who cried “It is finished” from the Cross, means to risk being foolish in the eyes of the world to be wise, loving, and renewed in the eyes of God. It means living in a time that prioritizes relationship and second chances, of starting over again to serve the least among us, of valuing what it is that God values.

But do you have the time?

PRAYER

God of all time, You call us out of the ordinariness of our everyday lives to see the world anew in your time. Help us to respond to your call to see in all things: both a completion and a new beginning; both an end and a renewed start; both sadness and joy. While our time marks your death on a cross as an end, Your time marks the Transitus from one life to the next. Enflame in our hearts a desire to see in life and death the Transitus and transformation your life, death and resurrection has brought forth in the world. Your time is a time of fulfillment that makes little sense to the world, for what is logical is replaced by what is Kingdom-oriented, and this way of thinking appears as foolishness to the worldly. Help us to live as your fools, willing to announce your Kingdom. Give us the strength to keep your time, where relationships take priority and we start over again and again to serve the least among us. AMEN.

For more reflections on the last words of Christ on the Cross, consider reading: The Last Words of Jesus: A Meditation on Love and Suffering (2013), from which this excerpt was taken.

Photo: Stock

 

We Are the Body of Christ

Posted in Lent, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 17, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

LastSupperTonight on this solemnity of the Lord’s Supper, a lot of attention will be paid to the institution of the Eucharistic celebration, which is as Sacrosanctum Concilium (Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”) explains, is “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (no. 14). So it is with good reason that we recall when Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room to break bread, pass the cup, and demonstrate the meaning of Christian discipleship and leadership by washing the feet of those gathered.

Yet, while the Eucharistic species of bread and wine are a right and just focus of our reflection this evening, an over-emphasis to the exclusion of the other ways that Christ is made present in the Eucharist is a problem. It is for this reason that I’m thinking about the manifold way Christ is made present when the Church, which is the Body of Christ, gathers together to hear the Word and come to the Table of the Lord. Sacrosanctum Concilium explains:

Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, “the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross” [20], but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes [21]. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20) [no. 7].

According to the teaching of the Church, summarized here, Christ is made present in four ways: (a) in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine; (b) in the word, that is the scriptures; (c) in the entire assembly, that is the Church gathered in prayer; and (d) in the person of the minister, that is the presider.

Tonight, when we reflect on what happened when Jesus dined with those gathered, altering the traditional table prayers of his tradition, the Birkat Hamazon and the Kaddish, establishing what we would later call the Christian “institution narrative” and the accompanying Eucharistic Prayers, do we only focus on one quarter of the way that Christ continues to be present to his Body, gathered in prayer? Or do we recognize too the sacramental dimensions of the washing of the feet, the call to service, the connection that the table fellowship and the giving of his Body and Blood have to the proclamation of the Word of God, the prayers of all the people, and our being sent outward to do as Christ has done for us?

Photo: Stock
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