Who Do You Think I Am

WHO DO YOU THINK I AM?

 

Reflect on each of these questions and then give your personal answer to them.

 

 

  1. When I think of Christ, the picture than comes to my mind is:
    1. A beggar                                            h. A magician
    2. A policeman                                      i.   A saintly preacher
    3. A revolutionary                                 j.   A friend
    4. A serious judge                                k.
    5. A kind                                                 l.
    6. A brother                                            m.
    7. A priest
  2. For me being a Christian means:
    1. Making the sign of the cross
    2. Going to mass on Sunday
    3. Practicing charity
    4. Going to novenas
    5. Following Christ and living my life in agreement with his
    6. Wearing a medal or a cross
    7.  

    8.  
    9.  

 

  1. Here are a number of quotations, which describe the person of Christ in the    

Gospels:

     Choose the quotation which appeals to you.

  1. a.“I am the good Shepard “                “I am the living water”
  2. b.“I am the          g.   “I am the light of the world”
  3. c.“I am the         h.   “I am the way”

And the life”                                     i.   “I am the bread of life”

  1. d.“I am the truth”
  2. e.

     Reason WHY?I choose the quotation:

 

  

  1. The two things that I – like about Jesus are:
  1. I.
  2. II.

 

 

  1. Read the following passages which describe the meeting of Jesus with different people:

          Woman caught in adultery {John. 8/1-11}

          The woman who touched Jesus cloak {Luke. 8/42-48}

          The blind man at bethsaida {Mark. 8/22-26}

          The Samaritan woman at the well {John. 4/5-26}

          The rich man {Mark. 10/17-23}

          Nicodemus {John. 3/1-13}

          Jesus and Levi, the tax collector {mark.2/13-17}

          Martha and Mary {Luke. 10/38-42}

Of these people whom do you resemble most. Describe this resemblance in five sentences.

  1. Think of Jesus in your life and suppose you were to explain your relationship to  

Jesus in pictures, what image /picture would you use? Draw image in your own hand.

     7. How am I concretely going to acclaim Jesus as my lord?

The Vine and the Branches

John 15:1-17 THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES

LOOKING INTO THE SCRIPTURE/20 Minutes.

 

Read John 15:1-17 and discuss.

 

1. Take this test and share your answers TRUE or FALSE.

T F The life of the grape is in the branch

T F You can’t judge a grapevine by its looks
T F A good gardener is a tough pruner
T F Pruning a vine will not hurt it
T F It’s the job of the branch to stay connected to the vine
T F A vine without fruit is worthless

 

2. Why did Jesus use the illustration of a vine?

a. Everybody could understand
b. To explain spiritual principles
c. To threaten spiritual non-producers
d. He was passing through a vineyard

 

3. Where does this illustration fit into the larger discourse on the Holy Spirit’s ministry?

a. It explains how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together
b. It shows the Father as a loving caretaker

c. It shows the Son as the vine
d. It shows the importance of the believer abiding in the vine

 

4. What do the branch that bears no fruit and the fruitful branch have in common?
a. They both start out tapped into the vine
b. They both get cut off, but for different reasons

c. One is dead, the other is growing
d. neither bears fruit because the buds are cut off

 

5. If you had been one of the disciples hearing this illustration for the first time, what would you have learned?

a. Very little at the time

b. To cling to Christ

c. To trust God

d. To depend upon the Holy Spirit

e. Life brings with it humbling experiences

 

6. What is the Christian promised for remaining in the vine?

a. Success in everything he/she does

b. A life full of happiness

c. The fragrance of Christ in his/her life

d. Eternal life

e. The ability to do God’s work


MY OWN STORY/25 Minutes.

 

1. What kind of fruit would you like to see in your Christian life?

a. Love for my family

b. Compassion for the needy

c. Obedience to God

d. Willingness to serve others

e. Ability to share my faith

 

2. On those days when your vine is wilted, how do you get your spiritual energy back?

a. Drink some water: spend time alone with God

b. Cultivate the soil: seek encouragement from friends

c. Fertilize: sign up for a retreat or Bible study

d. Take out of the hot sun: get away from the stress

e. Submit to pruning: admit where I’ve been wrong

f. Wait for evening’s cool: get some sleep

 

3. If God could get his hands on you, what would he do?

a. I’m afraid to think

b. Prune off a few things

c. Do some radical surgery  

d. Care for me very tenderly

e. Nothing

 

4. Where do you struggle to “remain in the vine?”

a. Busy: no time for cultivation

b. Distracted: my work/school comes first

c. Tired: the fruit is too heavy

d. Disappointed: God hasn’t come through in my life
e. Defeated: it’s hard to be obedient to God’s will

f. Lonely: I feel like I’m the only branch on the vine

 

The True Jesus of the Gospels

The True Jesus of the Gospels (Part 1)
Commentary by Raniero Cantalamessa

VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Italian-language commentary by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, on the book “Inchiesta su Gesù” (An Investigation on Jesus) by Corrado Augias and Mauro Pesce .

Parts 2 and 3 will appear Tuesday and Wednesday.

* * *

1. In the path of the cyclone

In the wake of Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” cyclone there have appeared, as always happens in these cases, new studies of the figure of Jesus of Nazareth whose intention is to reveal Jesus’ true face which until now has been distorted by ecclesiastical orthodoxy. Even those who with their words distance themselves from such an undertaking show themselves to be influenced by it in many respects.

I think the book by Corrado Augias and Mauro Pesce, “Inchiesta su Gesù” (An Investigation of Jesus), published this year by Mondadori, is an example of this.

There are differences, as is natural, between the authors, the first being a journalist and the second a historian. But I do not wish to fall into the same error as this “investigation,” which is to take account always and only the differences between the evangelists, and never their convergences. It is this error more than any other which I think compromises this “investigation.” I will begin, therefore, with what is common to the two authors, Augias and Pesce.

It can be summed up thus: There existed at the beginning not one but many Christianities. One of these versions of Christianity won out over the others; it established, according to its own point of view, the canon of Scripture and imposed itself as orthodoxy, marginalizing the other versions as heresies and striking them from the record. However, thanks to the new discoveries of texts and a rigorous application of the historical method, today we are able to re-establish the truth and finally present Jesus of Nazareth as what he really was and as he intended to be, that is, as something completely different from that which the various Christian churches have up to now pretended he was.

No one questions the right of people to approach the figure of Christ historically, prescinding from the faith of the Church. Believing and non-believing historical criticism has been doing this with the most sophisticated instruments for at least three centuries now. The question is whether this current investigation of Jesus really gathers — though it be in a popular form accessible to the general public — the fruit of the work of these three centuries, or whether it operates from the beginning on the basis of a radical internal agenda and ends with a merely partial reconstruction.

I believe that, unfortunately, it is the latter that is the case. The thread that they have chosen is one which runs through Reimarus, Voltaire, Renan, Brandon and Hengel, and which today is taken up by literary critics and “humanities professors” such as Harold Bloom and Elaine Pagels.

What is completely absent is the contribution of the great Protestant and Catholic biblical exegesis developed after the war, in response to the theses of Rudolf Bultmann, which is much more positive about the possibility of reaching the Jesus of history through the Gospels.

To give one example, in 1998 Raymond Brown — “the most distinguished of American New Testament scholars, with few competitors worldwide,” according to the New York Times — published a work of 1608 pages on the accounts of the passion and death of Jesus. It has been defined by specialists in the field as “the benchmark by which any future study of the Passion narratives will be measured,” but in such a work there is no trace in the chapter dedicated to the motives behind Christ’s death sentence, nor does it figure in the final bibliography which lists various English titles.

To the selective use of studies there corresponds an equally selective use of sources. The Gospel narratives are later adaptations when they falsify our authors’ thesis, but they are taken to be historical when they are in agreement with it. Even the resurrection of Lazarus, although John’s Gospel is the only one to attest to it, is taken into consideration if it can serve to corroborate the thesis of the political motivation of Jesus’ arrest (p. 140).

2. But what do the apocrypha say?

But let us deal more directly with the book’s basic thesis. Here we touch on the discovery of new texts that are supposed to modify the historical understanding of the origins of Christianity. Essentially these are certain apocryphal gospels found in Egypt in the middle of the last century, above all the Nag Hammadi codices. A subtle operation is performed here: The date of the composition of the canonical Gospels is pushed forward as far as possible while the date of the composition of the apocryphal texts is pushed back as far as possible so that the latter can be regarded as valid alternative sources to the former. But here we run up against a wall that cannot be easily gotten over: No canonical Gospel (not even that of John according to modern criticism) can be dated any later than 100 A.D. and no apocryphal text can be dated before that year. (The most daring suggest, by conjecture, dates of composition around the beginning of the third century or the middle of the second century.)

All the apocrypha draw from or assume the canonical Gospels; none of the canonical Gospels draw from or assume the apocrypha. To take an example very much in vogue today, of the 114 sayings of Christ in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, 79 have parallels in the Synoptics, 11 are variants of synoptic parables. Only three parables are not attested to elsewhere.

Augias, in the line of Elaine Pagels, thinks he can overcome this chronological gap between the Synoptics and the Gospel of Thomas and the way that he tries to do this tells us something about the “historical rigor” with which these modern “investigations of Jesus” are conducted.

According to the author, in the Gospel of John we witness a clear attempt to discredit the apostle Thomas, a true persecution in his regard, comparable to that against Judas. The proof:
The insistence on Thomas’ incredulity! Explanation: The author of the fourth Gospel wants to discredit the doctrines that already in his time were circulating under the name of the apostle Thomas and that come together later in the gospel that bears Thomas’ name!

Thus we overcome the chronological gap. But what is forgotten is that John the Evangelist puts on Thomas’ lips the most moving of declarations of love for Jesus: “Let us go and die with him” (John 11:16) and the most solemn profession of faith in Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Many exegetes say that this profession constitutes the crowning moment of John’s entire Gospel. If Thomas is persecuted in the canonical Gospels, what should we say of poor Peter and all that they say about him! Perhaps Peter too was maligned so as to discredit a future apocryphal gospel that would bear his name.

But the important point is not even about the dates, but about the content of the apocryphal gospels. They say the exact opposite of that for which their authority is invoked. Our two authors advance a thesis according to which Jesus completely identifies with Judaism and did not intend to bring about any innovations in its regard. But all the apocryphal gospels profess, some more some less, a violent rupture with the Old Testament, making Jesus the revealer of a different and superior God. The revaluation of Judas in the gospel that goes by his name unfolds in conformity with this logic: With his betrayal, Judas helps Jesus to free himself from the last vestige of God the creator — the body! In this vision the heroes of the Old Testament become the villains and the villains, like Cain, become the heroes.

Jesus is presented in the book as a man who was elevated to the status of God only by the Church that came after him. The apocryphal gospels, on the contrary, present a Jesus who is true God but not true man; he has only taken on the appearance of a body (Docetism). For them, that which causes problems is not the divinity of Christ but his humanity. Are our authors disposed to follow the apocryphal gospels on this point?

We could make an even longer list of the equivocations in the usage of the apocryphal gospels. Dan Brown uses them to support the idea of a Jesus who exalts the feminine, who does not have problems with sex, and who marries Mary Magdalene. And to prove this Brown has recourse to the Gospel of Thomas, where it is said that if a woman wants to save herself she must cease being a woman and become a man!

The fact is that the apocryphal gospels, especially those that are Gnostic in origin, were not written with the intention of narrating historical facts and sayings of Jesus but as means for conveying a certain vision of God, of themselves and the world of an esoteric and Gnostic nature. Taking these texts as a basis for reconstructing the history of Jesus is like taking “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” as a basis not for understanding the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche but as one for understanding the thought of Zarathustra himself. For this reason, in the past although almost all the apocryphal texts were known, at least from ample citations in other works, no one ever thought of using them as sources for historical information about Jesus. Only our era of mass media, always exasperatedly searching for the commercial scoop, is doing this.

There are other historical sources for Jesus besides the canonical Gospels and it is strange that these are practically left out of this “investigation.” The principal of these sources is Paul, who wrote less than thirty years after the death of Jesus and after being a proud opponent of Jesus. His testimony is discussed only in regard to the resurrection and, naturally, only to be discredited. And yet what is there that is essential in the faith and in the “dogmas” of Christianity which is not found attested to (in substance if not in form) in Paul, that is, before it had time to absorb alien elements? Is it possible, for example, to claim that the contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees with their legalistic mentality is non-historical and is a fruit of the later concern not to alarm the Roman authorities when Paul himself acknowledges having been a Pharisee and says that he doggedly persecuted Christians because of this?

Reconcillation – Sin

RECONCILIATION AND THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE

Pastoral Letter to the Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Church of Pittsburgh

Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl, STD
Bishop of Pittsburgh

Grace and peace to all of you in Christ.

INTRODUCTION

Recently as I was standing in line at the airport a young man about 35 years old asked me if I could explain something to him.  He claimed that he had more or less been raised as a Catholic and that Catholics “Do something that helps them get rid of all the excess baggage they carry around so that they can start again brand new.”  I assumed that he was talking about the sacrament of Confession.  His reply was that he knew we had something like that; he just did not know how to use it.  He had never been properly instructed nor participated in this “Catholic way of getting rid of excess baggage.”

The young man at the airport is not alone.  All of us at times carry a great deal of “baggage” that we would like to unload.  Despite our best intentions each of us has experienced personal failure.  My hope is that all Catholics properly understand the nature and importance of the sacrament of Confession, but this letter is directed in a special way to those who do not or who have drifted away from its use.

 As we prepare for Lent 1999 and the Great Jubilee 2000 our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, invites us to undertake a renewed “journey to the Father… a journey of authentic conversion” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 50).  What a beautiful image Pope John Paul sets before us:

“The whole of the Christian life is like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love for every human creature, and in particular for the ‘prodigal son’ (cf. Lk 15:11-32), we discover anew each day.  This pilgrimage takes place in the heart of each person, extends to the believing community and then reaches to the whole of humanity”  (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 49).

In response to the Pope’s invitation this pastoral letter will speak of our need for reconciliation, explain how we receive it and present a diocesanwide program to both instruct and encourage people to receive the sacrament of Penance.

 My invitation to every Catholic in this diocese is to join this spiritual journey, to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation or, as we have traditionally said, “go to confession” during this special year of reconciliation, preferably during the season of Lent.  It would be difficult to think of a better way to prepare for the beginning of the next millenium than by returning in humble love to God, whose forgiveness restores us as his children and sets us at peace with his Church and our neighbors.

ROOT OF SIN

 Why is it so difficult at times to be good and to do what is right?  Even though we may have good intentions, why do we often find ourselves doing what we know we should not do or failing to do the good we know we ought to do?  These perplexing questions arise from our awareness that a part of us is determined to do good while at the same time an element within us continually turns away from the good we know we can do.

 In the seventh chapter of his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul describes this situation while writing about what we call the human condition.  “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate . .  .  I can will what is right but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me” (Rom. 7:15-20). 

 Saint Paul’s cry from the heart is something each of us has experienced.  Why is it that we have the best of intentions, sincerely make new year’s resolutions, firmly renew our aspirations, sometimes every day, and then allow the worst in us to come out?
 We can find an explanation in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. A description of this seemingly relentless and endless struggle between good and evil is described in the imagery of the serpent tempting Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit.  God said, “you may eat freely of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen. 2:16-17).  The tempter however said, “You will not die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). 

 Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.  They chose their own desires over God’s will and plan.  This teaching, whatever the imagery, is very clear.  Sin entered the world through the decision of a human being to choose self over God and God’s plan.  God is not responsible for the evil in the world.

…AND ALIENATION

 At the same time the harmony of creation was destroyed.  If we continue to read the book of Genesis, we see how Adam and Eve became aware of their sin and were filled with shame before God – hiding from him rather than seeking his face.  This was not the way it was meant to be.  Once sin entered into life and into our world, harmony with God was shattered and the whole network of relationships with each other and our world began to unravel – as Genesis recounts from the killing of Abel by his brother Cain through the utter confusion of the narrative about the Tower of Babel.  This first sinful action – this fundamental breakdown – we call original sin.  It results in what we call the human condition.

 Each one of us is an heir to Adam and Eve.  We are members of the human family.  We trace our lineage back to this couple and their failure to respect God’s law, will and plan.  The actions that they took shattered God’s created harmony not only for them but also for us.  Their sin is reflected in us and is mirrored in our daily life.  This helps to explain why it is so difficult to do good, to do what we know we should do.

TRACES OF ORIGINAL SIN

 Saint Paul describes the consequences of original sin within us as a struggle between the old and new person.  The old person is interested only in the selfish man or woman who dwells within each of us.  The life of the new person, baptized and alive in God’s grace, is directed to God, Christ and our neighbors.  This struggle deep within our human nature has continued from the time of Adam and Eve’s sin.  Our baptism washes away original sin but its effects still remain.

NEW LIFE IN CHRIST

 Yet we are not lost.  We are not left to our own devices.  Saint Paul in writing to the Corinthians reminds us that just as in Adam sin was introduced into the world and, through sin, death and all of its consequences; so too grace and new creation come to us in Christ.  Just as death came through a human being, so too the resurrection of the dead came through a human being.  As in Adam all people die, so in Christ all shall be brought to life — a fullness of life, a new creation already beginning in us through grace (cf. 1 Cor. 15). 

 This is the message we proclaim when we face the mystery of sin, the reality of original sin and the problems of the human condition that lead us to personal sin.  Just as Adam brought sin, death, disharmony, confusion, disruption and struggle into our lives, so too now Christ, the new Adam, gives us grace, redemption, new life and salvation.  It is in Jesus Christ that we now find the beginnings of the new creation.  He leads us back to the Father, overcomes the tragic alienation of sin and restores harmony. Jesus gives us newness of life in grace that begins to restore our relationship with God which will lead to full communion with God in glory.  It is for this reason that we identify Christ as the new Adam.  Grace is the beginning of a new creation for all of those baptized into Christ.

 When we face daily frustrations and struggle to be good, we need to recall the teaching of the Church that we have the power to triumph over sin because we have Christ’s grace within us.  We have the capacity to be victorious, but we must face it every day with our Lord and Savior, the new Adam, Jesus Christ.

BY YOUR HOLY CROSS…

 In one of the most familiar and cherished forms of the Way of the Cross, we find this invitation to prayer:  “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.” The people reply “Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”  In this brief invitatory and response, Saint Alphonsus Liguori captures the essence of the article of the creed that proclaims Jesus Christ “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.” 

 The central role of Christ’s cross and resurrection in the good news that the apostles preached is evident.  There is much more to this statement of faith than the simple recognition that Christ died.  If by his cross Christ had not redeemed us, his death would have had little meaning.  It is with the eyes of faith that the apostles and every believer after them gazes on the cross and sees much more than just the instrument on which Jesus hung until he died.

 Jesus became the new Passover, the unique and final sacrifice by which God’s saving plan was accomplished “once for all” by the redemptive death of his son Jesus Christ.  In God’s holy plan it was determined that the Word of God, made flesh in Jesus Christ, would be the expiatory sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world.  In fact we continue at the celebration of every Eucharist, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to proclaim before we receive the body and blood of Christ:  “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

 The Catholic faith teaches that Jesus truly saved us by deeds performed in his human nature, by his obedient love, and by his patient endurance as well as by offering his life as “a ransom for the many” (Matt. 20.28).  It was in his humanity that Jesus took on our sin and by dying atoned for it.  The tragic consequences of Adam’s sin could have no other remedy than the 

reconciliation of individual penitents and the rite for reconciliation of several penitents with individual confession and absolution.

The first rite is the most familiar form of penance and usually takes place in the private confessional or reconciliation room at the church.  Yet even in this “private” form of confession, the social and communal element is still expressed since the priest represents the Church in the act of reconciliation.

A second form, sometimes referred to as a communal penance service and often celebrated in Advent and Lent in preparation for the great feasts of Christmas and Easter, consists essentially in a communal celebration of the word in preparation for confession which is then administered in the form of private, individual confession.  Communal celebration shows more clearly both the social impact and the common experience of sin and the ecclesial nature of penance and reconciliation.  It should not be confused with general absolution which is reserved for special circumstances.

PASTORAL PROGRAM

 In order to concentrate on our personal reconciliation with God and the Church through the sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance, I am proposing the following pastoral program that has two components:  one educational and the other sacramental.

 To the secretariat for education I am entrusting the task of developing religious education materials to be used in all of the religious education programs of the diocese throughout this year of reconciliation.  A special effort will be made to enhance the educational program of adults, young adults and youth with regard to the sacrament of Penance. 

 Among the items to be produced is a small user-friendly brochure that can be distributed to all of the faithful.  This brochure detailing the mechanics of sacramental Confession would highlight how one goes to Confession. The flier will also contain the Act of Contrition for those who might like to detach it from the brochure and keep it with them.

 Any form of the Act of Contrition is a powerful prayer and we should use it frequently.  It is not just for Confession.  It is a prayer that we need to say every day with humility and gratitude as we regularly place ourselves before a loving and merciful God.

 Once the brochure on the sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance is completed and distributed throughout the parishes, I hope everyone will feel free to take copies of it and share it with members of your household, friends and particularly those with whom we would like to share this good news of Christ’s mercy available to us in Confession.

 Recently one of our pastors told me of how, in anticipation of Christmas and a “return home for the holiday” program, he prepared a letter addressed “Dear Friend” which was a friendly and sensitive invitation to a person who might have drifted away from the practice of the faith to use this time to “come home.”  The pastor invited the recipient of the letter to feel free to call him, come to church, be welcomed back through the sacrament of Confession.  This letter was then distributed in church for people to take home and give to anyone; family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor as an invitation from the pastor.

 It strikes me that this might be useful in all of our parishes:  a letter from the pastor distributed by parishioners to those who have drifted away.  Perhaps the letter could contain a copy of the brochure on the sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance.

…BY INSTRUCTION

 As a part of the educational component of our pastoral program I am also asking the secretariat for education to work with the secretariat for pastoral life to prepare a series of homiletic resources that can be used by the priests especially during the Sundays of Lent.  Since this is a special time of intense concentration on sacramental reconciliation, it seems appropriate for all priests to review with our faithful the teaching of the Church on reconciliation and to renew our understanding of the importance of this sacrament and the need all of us have to receive it.

BY THE GRACE OF THE SACRAMENT

The goal, as I have already noted, of our pastoral program is to see that all of us have an opportunity to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation during this year of reconciliation and particularly during Lent.

A large group of diocesan priests have participated in a program of spiritual formation and are functioning as spiritual directors and confessors for their brothers in the priesthood. Religious order priests of the diocese have also made themselves available as confessors.  At a recent Advent Vesper Service for priests we provided a number of confessors and will continue to do so at both the spring clergy convocation days and the annual clergy day.

We lead by example.  By frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance, priests become a living sermon on the importance of the sacrament to the faithful.  I remember being strongly impressed when, as a young person, I heard one of our parish priests speak about his going to confession – with regularity.

In order to highlight both the importance of the sacrament of Penance and its availability especially in the coming Lenten season, every pastor is asked to review the parish confession schedule to ensure the adequate availability of the sacrament of Penance to the faithful.  I am also asking the deans to work with the priests of their respective deaneries so that we can provide a series of deanerywide reconciliation services to which the faithful of the deanery will be invited and at which I will join a large number of our priests in hearing confessions.

The format of our deanery reconciliation service will be relatively simple.  Since I will be in the deanery to visit with all of the priests on a specific afternoon, we will hold an evening reconciliation service that will allow the maximum number of priests to be available to celebrate the sacrament with all who wish to receive it.

Such a diocesanwide concerted effort at sacramental reconciliation has two obvious positive benefits:  the administration of the sacraments to those who come to the penance services and the diocesanwide public witness to the importance of this sacrament.

To facilitate this effort I have asked the secretariat for pastoral life to work with the college of deans to see that appropriate and useful material is made available to the parishes in anticipation of these deanerywide reconciliation services. 

THE CROSS OF CHRIST

as well of this magnificent grace of renewal and new life.  I will use Ash Wednesday and the celebration of the Eucharist at Saint Mary of Mercy Church and the visits to parishes for the deanerywide reconciliation services as an occasion to bless our diocesan reconciliation crosses.

 The cross I hope will be a sign of our collective commitment to help renew ourselves individually and our diocesan community in a way that we will also impact on the world around us.  Thus, this “cross of reconciliation” is also a “cross of charity,”  Our Holy Father puts it this way:  “The call to conversion as the indispensable condition of Christian love is particularly important in contemporary society, where the very foundations of our ethically correct vision of human existence often seem to have been lost.”

 “It will therefore be necessary… to emphasize the theological virtue of charity, recalling [that]… ‘God is love’” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 50).

CONCLUSION

 As we complete these thoughts on the sacrament of Penance, we might well reflect that the deepest spiritual joy each of us can sense is the freedom from whatever would separate us from God and the restoration of our friendship with so loving and merciful a Father who receives each of us with all the forgiveness and love lavished on the prodigal son.  Renewed, refreshed and reconciled in this sacrament once more, we who have sinned become a “new creation.” Once more we are made new.  It is this newness of spirit and soul that I hope all of us experience this Lent and during this year of reconciliation.
 

  Faithfully in Christ,

Donald W. Wuerl
Bishop of Pittsburgh

January 10, 1999
Baptism of the Lord

Live Up to Where You Are

LIVE UP TO WHAT YOU ARE

               by Fr. MICHAEL ISTAS S.J.

 

 

We are many things: not easy to put together. Which one comes first?

Who am I?

From the ANTHROPOLOGICALpoint of view: we are influenced by the culture of shame(feeling of shame). If you don’t behave as you are expected to behave shame on you!

To live up to what we are there is a dichotomy between what we are now and what we should become (between the present and the future). We are not yet what we should become. A Christian is one who is baptized (present), but not yet grown to the fullness of Christ: of the Father.

We all are engaged in a process of growth towards what we have not yet reached.

When God has created us, He has put already there what we should become; our nature tells us what we should become.

 

So let us go and see our model: CHRIST; He will tell us what we should become. In order to be able to do it we have to use our own resourcesand what Jesus teaches us: only then we can reach the perfection of Christ. (To use our human resources and the divine resources: if one is lacking there will be no perfection as human-divine person; as fully human person). It is the good in us that must be brought to the full achievement, to the perfection.

So let us now go and see what we are in the present. WE ARE:

1) Children of God.

2) Children of our society.

3) Children of the sixth day.

4) Rational (intelligent) beings (head).

5) Our feelings (heart).

6) We are hands (we can do work, do things).                    

7) We are what we do – our doing determines our being.     I am = I do

8) We are our feet (traveling, marching, and walking).

9) We are our future (our choices; what we want to be in the future determines our choices). (I am who I am)

 

 

1- I AM IMAGE OF GOD (God’s likeness)

                                                                    (Genesis 1:23-27)

 

What is the meaning of this?

nGenesis 5: Adam got a son (at his image) and named him Set = physical likeness.

nOur dignity: In us there is the dignity of God; so also the dignity of man that should never been destroyed and damaged.

nRights of God: they are also the rights of men. (Genesis 9) Noah: sanctity of the human life, dignity as children of God, rights to be respected. It is the affirmation of the dignity and humility to obey God and not to make ourselves like God or to replace God, or to make ourselves God.

nGod is the Creator: men are called to become also creator; God has entrusted the world to men to be shaped; men has to continue God’s work of creation as He started and as it should be conducted to perfection. (Isaiah 45:10): He is the potter, we are the pot. We share in God’s qualities as Creator.

nAs image of God men have to do what God does and how He does.

nGod rested on the seventh day: men must rest on the seventh day. This is the command in Deuteronomy. It is to remember the day of liberation from the slavery of Egypt. Remember you were slave in the land of Egypt and I have you out of it: in resting on the seventh day we remember the day of liberation from the slavery of sin. Here there is a similarity: God is always the one who does: He is the NORM. So to be the image of God is to do what and how he has done; it means to do the same as He has done with our brothers and neighbors.

nGod is the way: men should follow the same way.

 

                 IMAGE:   created                               imitation

                                   dignity                               ambassadors (2Cor. 5, 20)

                                   creatures                           qualities

                                                    

 

Imperfection

              

 

 

 

Ambassadors:   representatives of Christ. How to be ambassadors of Christ? God is light; Christ is light; we are light so ambassadors of God for others; others are ambassadors of God for us; it means: respect for each other.

 

DUALISTIC DIVISION

 

       It is a Greek-western mentality:

           Soul                     –                   Body

         Immortal             –                   Mortal

         Spiritual             –                   Material

       The consequence is the division between:

                                             Good                   –                   Bad

       This dualistic tradition (division) is dangerous. When we speak of Image of God we must refer to the whole person; to be an image of God means to be an image in the whole person and not only in one part.

       The Encyclica “Laborem exercens” tells us that to be the Image of God is a personal responsibility. The same is stated in “Gaudium et Spes” No. 17 and No. 24.  

 

Qualities:   we find the Image of God in us in our own qualities. This is the dynamic perspective that must be put to fulfillment.

 

Imperfection: are we really already image of God?

       No. We are still imperfect; it is our weakness that is an impediment for reaching the perfection of God. In the Bible many passages are telling us that we are not yet Image of God.

         Psalm 51:8       God = holiness               men = sinfulness

         Job                   God = clean                     men = unclean

         Wisdom           God   = righteousness       men = injustice

       Eccl. 3:65         God = clean                     men = beyond any salvation

Vatican II: Jesus is the new man; He is the Image of God because he shows the perfection of the Human Person. So Christ is a challenge for us to become the Image of Christ and the Image of the FATHER.

CHRIST IS the image of the FATHER.

 

 

2 = SOCIAL DIMENSION

 

Man (male) alone is not good; he needs a companion. This is the social dimension: man is not meant to stay alone but to live as group, community.

nGod created two men: male and female created them. He gave them the possibility of LOVE and to be able to LOVE. We love others to support, to help and to be able also to donate to them what we are and what we have: to bring out our human dimension.

nMan should rule over you (woman). Here God is speaking to Eve when she is already in sin. What is the meaning beyond here?

nEquality = companionship.

nSin destroys society: the relationship between Adam and Eve is destroyed.

nTower of Babel: to become powerful. Pride destroys unity; it divides, that is why they have been scattered everywhere.

nThe story of Israel: the Patriarchs, they try to build the family. In Egypt the story of a family becomes the story of a people.

 

Jesus comes in: he speaks out against the rules of the society, he breaks them. That is why the Jews could not accept Him, they rejected Him.          

= The Jews IDENTITY, traditions: they were stuck to them, so they could not recognize and accept what Jesus was teaching and saying. The society, the community became closed up in itself and so there was no place for Jesus. (Gal. 3:28).                                                                                                          

= There was a need of rebuilding up in unity, without any barrier. This happened in the PENTECOST: no more boundaries; all united again. When the SPIRIT is given there is only reunification.                                  

= REVELATION: (on the last pages): the Lamb surrounded by all people of any race, tribe, etc. (Rev. Chapters 21-24).

= From the beginning of the CREATION to the end of the REVELATION we can see the effort of God to bring UNITY.   This is the social dimension.

 

OUR OWN SITUATION:

 

This effort to come to unity touches also our own experience. “I am because we are; because we are, so I am”.

Relationship between the INDIVIDUAL and the SOCIETY.

The society has to create the space where the individual can grow and find fulfillment. A person is linked within a chain. That is why a meaningful life can be achieved only in the society. The society helps the growth of the individual, but also it can be perceived as oppression.

In the western culture the prevalence is in on THE INDIVIDUAL. Society cannot interfere in the freedom of the individual.

In the African culture THE SOCIETY has the prevalence.

We need a balancing attitude both in the society or great community, and also in the small communities.

Balancing what we receive from the society (community), taking it to build up ourselves and trying to integrate ourselves in the society (community), finding a HARMONY in ourselves and with the society.

 

 

3 = WE ARE ANIMALS (CHILDREN OF THE 6th DAY)

 

Let us now go and see how this being animals (instincts) determines what and how we should live up.

nGod to Adam: be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Our body functions as the animals’ body. The Bible shows many similarities and differences between animals and human beings.

nSciences: they too show differences and similarities.

nBiology: there are some differences and similarities; ex. brain, etc.

nGenetics: our and their body is built up with the same basic material. That is why there is the possibility of so many manipulations.

nEcology: fill the hearth, dominate and submit it; use it for your benefits. But how far can men go on this matter? The task, here, is to care for creation so that nothing will be destroyed, but all saved and developed. We are not the owners of the earth, but the stewards of the creation: God is the Creator, the owner. (Lev.25: 23) (Psalm 39): we are only passing through, the land is given to us to be used and cared for.
Mt. 25; 1Cor. 4: we are servants of Christ and stewards of Christ mystery: so we must have great respect for nature like St. Francis of Assisi.

nBig question: what about petrol, smoking, pollution, etc.? If we are using all the resources now, what about the future and the next generations?

nEthology: is the science which studies the ETHOS = moral behavior. It analyzes what are the existing ways of behavior and the instincts.

nFour basic instincts:           1- anger

                                                  2- sexuality

3- flight (the instinct to escape from some happenings)

4- aggression (reaction)

According to the Christian tradition, the way for mastering these basic instincts is to use the opposite virtue:    

1- mortification

2- chastity

3- resisting and being firm

4- love

According to the modern psychology and spirituality these instincts should be used in the positive way, directing them in a positive behavior.

They should be deliberately oriented to a certain positive aim.

 

How to react to these following texts:

nThe desire of the flesh: (Gal.5:17).   Flesh: body perceived as the source of evil. The notion of flesh is not necessarily a source of evil, sin and so on.   Sexuality = usually is reduced to the problem of feeling sexuality. This instinct is not to sin, but to restore the relationship with others, in the community. We should look also to the feeling of emptiness.

nThe body of death (Rom 7:24). Here we have the body opposed to the soul. The body dies, the soul is immortal.

nThe temple of the Spirit. (1Cor. 6:19).

nThe spiritual body. (1Cor. 15:44). It means resurrection both for the physical and the spiritual body. The above is the role of our body to be fulfilled and not to be opposed.

 

 

4= WE ARE HOMO SAPIENS

 

What about our Thinking? Here we have the mind opposing the brain. (See science before-biology).

nThinking activity can be measured already on the second month of life by medicine and sciences, and for doctors is the sign that life is already there.

nIn archeologyman is considered Homo Sapiens because of the tools discovered and used by men of those times. Man’s activity is developed by our senses that get experience of many things, they react to this experiences and so they act: (reactions and activity): even this is in common with animals.  But man even if he starts to sense and react through senses has also the mind producing ideas, reacting with ideas beyond the reactions of his senses. He can accept or reject the reaction of the senses, he can master it: man has knowledge. Animals no, they don’t have knowledge and so they cannot do it. Animals are only selves centered because they depend only on their senses.

nThe infinity of God: we cannot know it, but we can perceive and experience it.

n We can perceive and make choices. There are choices imposed (death), and choices we can do in our own life by ourselves. In the process of maturity the possibility of making choices freely is something we cannot give up; the process of maturity is a process of continuos abstractions.   Reasoning is a function of the Intellect. We all have our own reasons, our rationalities, own way of reasoning. We think always in function of certain pattern of behavior according to the different kinds of formation we have received; we are also conditioned by the human and natural environment. Usually our reaction is “to judge and dismiss” because we think our way of thinking is the right one, other’s is wrong. Our way of thinking becomes our measure of judgment and so it can make our community way of life to become difficult. At the same time different expectations of life can bring to tensions and contrasts. These expectations show that there are different aims, different purposes, different cultures, etc., which can create misunderstanding.   Different rationalities are possible: but which one is the most rational, most valued? The one which is according to our own final aim and goal.

nWhat about God on this matter? The Church has emphasized the power of the reason: it is sharing with God, in His own gift that enables us to understand God and respondto Him. In philosophy they have stressed too much the approach with only thinking and reasoning. In the western philosophy they have divided between REASON and GOD. If we look at the book of Wisdom we see that man is participating in the WISDOM of God and this leads us to God. 1Cor. 1:18: the foolishness of God is to have sent his only Son to be incarnated and die on the Cross. (For the human reason is foolishness, but for God is Wisdom).

     So to be as wise as God is, it means to reach the foolishness of God as it is in St. Paul: it means the foolishness of the Cross, the Poverty of God-Jesus. Jesus invites us to join this way of thinking. It is difficult for a man to think on the way God is thinking. But this is the way of reasoning on which we have to enter because this is the wisdom of God.

 

 

5 = FEELINGS

 

We are what we feel. We cannot force others to feel. We cannot decide about feelings; they are there.

But there is a long history of resistance to feelings, even in the Church and in the formation in seminaries. Feelings are very important because they define our attitudes, our way of leaving.

 

Genesis: Adam-Eve.   They feel desires and also they feel the punishment of God = desire for your husband. This desire for the Israelites was something leading somebody where he was not willing to go or to do sin, bad.

Before it was desire only for God and that should have been the situation, but now because of sin and punishment Eve will have desire for her husband.

Beatitudes: Happy are…… these are feelings.

DESIRE: is a signpost telling us where to go; it shows the way, the aim towards which we can be led on in order to reach it.

In us there is an inner desire for fulfillment, for God.

 

Feelings can be manipulated so that we can force people to react in one way or another, as they like or as we like.

The Church itself manipulates feelings, especially in the liturgy. (Beautiful liturgies, beautiful monuments with the intention of praising God, etc.).

Feelings can be manipulated till the point of putting persons one against another.

Feelings are a mixture: some belong to the body, some to the spirit.

We have seen already that feelings can be manipulated. One way of manipulating them is:

nDrugs. Drugs provoke false signal, false signs, and false reactions. Once feelings are distorted, they can lead to a wrong way of life.

nFeelings can be given even to others and so they are not a solid base, not a rational base for community life. We need the RATIO so that we can master our feelings.

nFeelings are unstable: we cannot control them, but we can build on them.

nWe cannot live without feelings. Without them we cannot follow Jesus. (No compassion, mercy, love etc.).

nOur first encounter with persons and things makes us to feel and react. Reaction is the way we express our feelings: here the need to master and control them.  

nExpression is determined by culture. African art is abstract, geometrical; artist put great effort in rationalization; they try to express what is behind.   The European expression is more imitation of the reality.

nThere is also emotional expression: music, songs, dances, crying, etc.

nFeelings are culturally determined: What does it mean?                                      

     Live up to your feelings = express them according to your culture.

LOVE: love is a feeling, not only a feeling but also commitment to other persons (especially to those we do not like and love).

     Love can’t be determined only by feeling, we need the help also of our WILL. Through the will, little by little we can improve our feelings, they can be transformed by the will and they can be taken under control. They will become a challenge to see God even when we cannot see Him because of the many different feelings dwelling in us.

FAITH also can direct our feelings to the final aim.   Feelings can be mastered and directed and become a base for our growth. They will become our best fulfillment of what we should be and they should never become our Master: We should be their MASTERS.

 

 

6= I AM = I DO

  

Usually when we give an answer to people asking us who we are, we give our name, or our nationality, or what we do; very difficult to tell them who we are. WE DO: it determines also our relationship with others (this is a social aspect of relationship).

There is a great variety of doing, so there is also a great variety of values; and according what we do these values receive a priority, we give them a scale.

When we value a person: do we value him just for what he does? Is it so important what he does, that makes us to value a person just for that? Is this the value that we should have regarding a person?

We know there is much more: a person has a value because he is a PERSON.   WORK, now days, is considered a normal way of living.

So what is our criteria when we judge the value of a person? Work has a value when is at service of other people: it is not wrong to value a person also for his work: but is it all?

 

THE BIBLE: What is the Bible saying regarding the value of work?

nGen. 3; work is to subdue the world and make it to produce what is needed for sustenance.

nLuke 12:43; blessed the man whom his master finds working. What is the work here really meant? It is not the manual work, nor the ordinary work; but it is the work we do for God that we have to bring to fulfillment. Apart from Jesus we cannot do anything: the work we have to do with Jesus is:to plant the Kingdom of God and make it to grow; but without Jesus we cannot do nothing.

nGen.: we have to work even if it is not easy, nor joyful, or unpleasant. It is the punishment (the law) imposed on every man.

nLuke 17: we find here a kind of work of no value, useless, worthless.

nLuke 12: the foolish man. Tonight you will die.

nIsaiah. Work is necessary and not so good in itself.

nOther passages: God expects us to work and to do it very well and on this we will be judged.

nMagnificat: Mary praises God for what He has done and not for what she has done.

 

What about ourselves?

Is the value of person determined by what he does? Our work as religious is not determined by salary or productivity, so what is there that determines our personal value as a person?

Work as service to people, and not productivity. We as religious have to pass on a message regarding the significance of work and its real value that contradicts the common value and appreciation of work.

 

 

 

7 = I AM     WHO   I AM

                           Exodus 3:14

 

VALUES:   Mt. 25:30; Luke 17:10; to compare each other.

 

We have to work and not to put any value in the work because is God who works and bears fruit.

Created at the image of God: which God?

Let us go and see first in the OT: who is the God of the OT?

EXODUS 3:14: I AM WHO I AM.

God is “I am who I am”: and we are the image of God, why should we not use this definition even for ourselves. This definition is concerning not only God, but also us.

The encounter of God with Moses on mount Horeb:

nThe answer of God to Moses is like if it resounds on these terms: it is not a matter regarding you, nor your problem to know who I am.

nGod asks Moses to accept Him in faith, even if he doesn’t yet know Him .God asks each one of us to accept Him, to follow Him in faith even if we don’t know what will happen to us, what Mission He will entrust to us.   He asks only to TRUST IN HIM even if we do not know all things: it is a challenge of growth and knowledge.

nThis is what is happening in a Religious Institute; the Institute accepts a novice in Faith not knowing to much of him. It is like if the novice says to the Institute: please accept me, have faith in me as I am now; I hope I will be able to grow, to mature, to be, one day, like you.

nGod refuses to reveal his name: God refusing to reveal his name to Moses, refuses to give him the opportunity of using His name and manipulating it as Moses liked for his own benefits, advantage, profit. God never allows a person to manipulate His name for his own sake and profit, for getting power, privileges, etc. God invites us to grow in deeper intimacy with Him and identifying ourselves with Him we can become God’s Image and Christ Likeness, and then His Name will be revealed to us.   The more intimacy, the more revelation.

nAt the same time He invites us to reveal ourselves to Him in giving the whole ourselves to Him.

nWhy do we refuse to reveal ourselves?

1) Out of fear: because others can manipulate us; we want freedom.

2) To protect our weakness: not revealing them and putting a mask on ourselves.

3) We don’t trust those to whom we should reveal ourselves.

4) Un-williness to change, to grow, to go on progressing.

nGOD reveals himself in the weakness of Jesus: we too should be able and have the courage to reveal our weaknesses.

nI am who I am”: Self-affirmation of God, the living One, the Absolute, the only ONE; others are idols. It is difficult for us to reveal ourselves as one who lives, exists but still limited, small. If we are able to reveal our own weaknesses, limitations, imperfections, God himself will take them and bring us beyond in His own unlimitation, infinity and greatness.

nRefusing to give His own name can have also other several meanings:

a) The One I will be in the Future.

b) God is Permanent. His will and his promises will be fulfilled; so we can believe and trust in Him: He is the FAITHFUL.

c) For us: we hope to grow, to develop, to become the more and more mature through constant evolution; so we too can become permanent, faithful in our commitment to God, and we will not change it any more. So we will answer His Faithfulness through our faithfulness.   We should never fear our permanent commitment: we are invited to make a commitment that includes: permanence. Our growth will not affect our permanent commitment to the service of God.    

 

LIVE UP TO WHAT YOU ARE:

nThere are many aspects: it is a challenge for us to come out of our attitude of passivity and to continuously change so to become what we are meant to be.

nIt is an invitation to two things:       1) to look to WHO AM I?

2) To look the FACE OF GOD and there reflect ourselves so to see what we should be.

nTo discern and try to have a better perception of WHO GOD IS, and in Him to see what we are and what we should become.

nLooking at ourselves in this way, we are challenged not to stop but to deepen the knowledge of God and accept the invitation to go beyond, to continue to mirror the more and more ourselves in HIM.

                    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


    

Liturgy and Sacraments

LITURGY AND SACRAMENTS

By Fr. Eddie Murphy S.J.

 

 

During this course we will look at the Sacraments of the ORDER and the ANNOINTMENT OF THE SICK.

 

 

SACRAMENT OF THE ORDER

 

We will look at it under a double aspect:

A-    Christian Ministry

B-     Development of Christian Ministry

 

 

A-CHRISTIAN MINISTRY

 

EARLY CHRISTIANS  

 

1COR.12:1-11

 

At the time of the early Christian community there were a lot of Gifts and so a lot of Ministry. The Holy Spirit was giving Gifts to everybody and everybody was active in edifying the Church, the Body of Christ. It was the same Spirit who was working in everybody and through everybody, so they could work together.

 

ROM. 12:4-8

 

It shows the different gifts of the Spirit. What kind of gift do I have? How can I build up the community? What can I do and how can I do? How do I recognize that is a gift from the Spirit?

 

EPH. 4:11-13         ACTS 6:1-6

 

If I were an early Christian, what role would I have taken? At that time everybody was doing something, was very active and there were a lot of variety of services. It was the same Spirit who gave the gifts and who was taking all these gifts together.

And today? How do the Christians act? Only few people work, others vegetate. How is it that at the early time the Spirit could give so many gifts and all were shared, and now why not? Today most of the Catholics are passive and only few really work for the building up of the Church. Here is the problem: the Holy Spirit cannot work in them because they are passive. We have to open ourselves to a different way of looking at the Christian community today. Some feel ashamed to belong to the Christian community and so they do not do anything. Some are saying that it is because there are only few priests today. The Church is not only priests, but it is the whole people of God. How can we go and encounter the Spirit that was at work at the beginning? There is a great hope, but also we have to change some of our thoughts.

 

Let us now look at JESUS

 

Jesus was a Jew and so he was imbued by a lot of his culture. At his time there were also different kinds of ministry:

1-      PRIEST= They were concerned with the ritual. They were persons who were not too much flexible, but rigid and so not inclined to many changes. They were working in the Temple waiting for the People to come to them and give offerings. It was a ritual concerned with the sacrifices of animals because most of the people were farmers, so it was an agriculture society and culture. In two generations the Romans destroyed the Temple and from that moment there were no more sacrifice because the people were not going to the Temple anymore and the priesthood ceased to exist.

2-      PHARISEES= they were those people who were studying the law and the meaning of the words and were practicing them ad litteram. Jesus attacked them many times because, even if they were religious people, they were sticking to the law too much; they were fundamentalist. There were 613 numbers of the law to be observed, and only in observing them all one was an upright man.

They also were people of great knowledge of the TORA but Jesus told them many times that they missed the point of a correct interpretation. The missed point was to worship God and to love neighbors and not to spend all the time trying to observe ad litteram the law. Even now, in Israel, the Pharisees keep their religiosity.

3-      PROPHETS= They were people chosen by God to lead the people to live an upright life.     They were bringing the Word of God to the people to do good, to change, to be converted and return to God.   They were also foretelling the future, it means the consequences of what was going to happen if they were not keeping and acting according to the word of God and they were not converted. In the time of Jesus John the Baptist was the prophet.

4-      HOUSEHOLDER= He was a good Jews who was leading the celebration of the Passover in his house. He was a very important person.

 

Let us now look at Jesus: was he:

1-      A Priest? He had no contact with the priests, he never touched sacrifices; he was a lay man.

2-      A Pharisee? He was a preacher, he preached many times even in the Synagogues and people recognized him as the preacher.

3-      A Prophet? Yes, he was a prophet because he brought the Word of the Father to the people.

4-      A householder? Yes, he was the head of his house, even in the Last Supper.

 

Of these four ministries Jesus did not exercised that of the priest according to the Jews mentality.

Jesus started to gather disciples around him and also women because the group was increasing. Jesus gave to his disciples the authority to baptize; he celebrated with them his own death; he was not killed, he gave his own life by himself. His own death was an important event because it was bringing salvation. In this sense He was also priest, he was both the priest offering the sacrifice and the victim offered. But he exercised this ministry only at the end of his life.

 

AUTHORITY

 

How did Jesus consider authority? The disciples were arguing among themselves who will be the first in the kingdom; and Jesus asks them: what were you arguing among yourselves on the way? So Jesus teaches them what they should do to live together. Jesus was aware of the power given to him by the Father of preaching, healing, casting demons, etc; but now he has to do the will of the Father who wants him to be a teacher. What does he teach? During His Baptism, Jesus had a great experience of the Father and so he wanted to share and proclaim to everybody that experience; he started to preach the Father.

 

RELIGION: it is always pointing to somebody outside oneself. A religious person is the one who points always outside himself and so Jesus was a very religious person because he was pointing and referring always to his Father. “My words are not of my own, my life is not of my own”. Basically Jesus is serving his Father; so the idea of authority in Jesus was to look after somebody else outside him, that somebody was his Father. His authority was based on His Father. Jesus in the parable of the good steward has used the word “STEWARD”; it means STE-WARD = KEEPER OF THE HOUSE. So Jesus is not acting and preaching on his own authority but on the authority of the Father; he is the one who look after, care for, keep it, protect it for the Father and in the name of the Father.

 

In the Genesis God gave us the authority to be the housekeepers of the world, to care for it, to look after it, to be the guardians of it.

 

We are sent to be messengers of Christ; it is not our message, we keep it for Jesus and in the name of Jesus. Therefore the authority of every Christians is to look after what is belonging to the Master.

Lk 12:42-48 The authority in the Christian community is the one who looks after the community in the name of Christ, for Christ, in the place of Christ. It is not ours this authority, it belongs to Jesus who has entrusted it to us.

 

Authority: the good housekeeper, the guardian, vigilant for Jesus, in his name. That is why the Pope calls himself “servant of the servants of God”.

 

The source of the authority is the Father.

 

Servant = servile

Steward = official

We are not the center of the world, even of our inner world; God is the center because we are only his gifts, God is a loving God so he gives us what is the best for us. That is why to do the will of God is the best medicine for us. Usually we prefer what pleases us, gives us pleasure, more power and honor and this is not the best for us, neither the will of God. God is a loving God who gives only the best but in his own way. We will be sure of the will of God only when we are totally and wholly open to him.

 

Way of exercising authority:

    

Servant = to serve God. The exercise of our authority is to serve, to give a service and not to be Number one, or to stay in power and honor. There are many ways of exercising authority according to the office each one has received; any how it is a responsibility given to somebody and he has to try to give back to the people what is theirs. Authority is to care for, to look after the people of whom we are in charge and have been entrusted to us. Christian authority is caring for, to look after; it is coming from the Father of whose authority we are keepers, caring for and stewards. My life is not mine, it is a gift of the Father to me and I have to carry for, use it for becoming what He wants me to become.

 

What does service mean?

 

It means commitment to others. To be committed to others doesn’t mean to be 24 hours a day for them, to do too much (exaggeration) otherwise we will BURN OUT, and this is not the will of God. It is very easy for us and to be tempted to concentrate more on doing than in being. When we have no time to reflect on our own life we miss the meaning of service and we get lost, we feel empty and we go on crisis.

 

Purpose of prayer: is to reflect on our life, what kind of person God invites us to be and to find him in our life.

St. Paul was a fanatic Pharisee and also a fanatic Christian totally committed. Like him some people got from God the gift of being able to do a lot of work (usually they are the extroverted), but sometimes they do too much. This gift is not for everybody; we need to take time also for ourselves (See the example of St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus).

Service: to do what we can do according to our gifts, always realizing that is Jesus who work through us and in us. We cannot give only, we need also to get otherwise we will find ourselves empty. We get from Jesus. We need to help people to see themselves as they are and after that we need to take time for ourselves (Confessions, spiritual direction, etc.)

 

In the use of my talents I fulfill myself and I feel fulfilled. When people are fulfilled they find meaning in life and their life become meaningful. In the service of others we have to find our inner fulfillment and not gratification (sensibility level, egoistic and narcissistic attitude). We need to become self-emptying persons (persons who empty themselves of themselves) in other to reach out other people.

Instead when we get burnt-out or we feel empty is selfishness, egoism, narcissism).

 

Christian Ministry

   

Elements of Christian Ministry:

 

1-      Doing something: something concrete, practical and graspable.

2-      For the advent of the Kingdom: the Kingdom is the way Jesus looks at life: helping one another, forgiving one another, etc. The Kingdom of God is the way of living, is to live as Jesus lived, with his attitudes, the way he cared for, is to invite people to forgive, is peace, justice. The Kingdom is to render present Jesus Himself in the way he lived; it is anything that makes a better world.

3-      In public: in the name and in front of the Christian community. If we do in private is not ministry.

4-      On behalf of the Christian community: we are delegated by the Christian community, in their name, for them

5-      It is a gift from the Spirit: it is something given by the Spirit; there are different gifts given by the Spiritand so there are different ministries.

6-      It is an activity in its own right: the activity must go according to the gift.

 

Ministry doesn’t mean that we must be ordained as priests; priesthood is only one of the different Ministries. Every gift must be used for the community; that is why we have to revise our idea of ministry as it is conceived now.

 

B-DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

 

Where are we now and were should we go?

 

I- EARLY CHRISTIANS

 

1-      FIRST GENERATION       (30-70 AD)       = Apostolic times

2-      SECOND GENERATION   (70-100 AD)     = Writings times

3-      THIRD GENERATION       (100 AND UP) = Maturity

 

1-      FIRST GENERATION (30-70)

 

The very early Christians were full of enthusiasm; full of the Spirit of the Message of Christ and this had a great impact on people. The Apostles were the rock, the pillars of the Christians. Basically the early Christians were lay people. All these lay people were talking in public and preaching. They were uneducated, simple people, but full of the message that was for everybody and they were calling and respecting each other as brothers and sisters. They were a good charismatic people, there was not written theology but they were practicing what they were preaching and inviting others to do the same. Practically it was a counter culture for their times. Even the pagans could become Christians without the need of becoming Jews. They were a very radical lay group.

Structure: apostles, disciples, lay persons. But when the group started to enlarge a lot of them volunteered to give a service in the community and so they started different service according to the gifts of each one.

They were faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, the breaking of the bread and prayer. Brotherhood was very strong among them, very often (how much we do not know) they were doing what Jesus has done in the Last Supper; they were baptizing as Jesus taught them. Baptism was the means, the way of joining the group, it was an initiation ceremony into the group; they were anointing also the people with oil. The Apostles were looking after them.

One thing is very clear, the early Christians understood very well that Jesus laid down his life for them and that in his death he established a new people through forgiveness of sins. They understood very clearly Jesus as PRIEST.

A priest is the one who stands between people and God and brings back the people to God: this is the meaning of sacrifice as Jesus has done. Jesus willingly and freely laid down his life for the people and this is the sacrifice he made; he was both the offering one and the victim and this is why the early Christians saw Jesus as PRIEST. For this reason they were calling nobody priest but Jesus.

Very soon many Christians left Jerusalem and so the Apostles set up different groups in different places and put somebody in charge to look after each community; these people were called ELDERS. Every Christian was active in the community in his own way and according his own gifts received by the same Spirit who was the source of unification of all the gifts together.

Among the gifts received by the Holy Spirit, Paul classifies three of them as the top gifts: FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE. Among the three, LOVE is the first. The first early communities could remain united and one because of the work of the Holy Spirit and the task of the elders was to look and care if they were one.

The Spirit was the driving force of the early Christian community, the one who guided and developed the community.

The early community was very dynamic, full of the message of Christ, enthusiastic; there was always the danger of been split and so the Spirit himself was taking the community united. All the members of the community had a job to do not a position to defend.

 

2-      SECOND GENERATION (WRITING)

 

The Apostles died; Christians begun to worry about the teaching of Jesus and so they started to write down what the Apostles had preached and they became the people of the books (Gospels). Now we have quite a lot of knowledge on how the Gospels have been put together and have been written. The first part that has been written is the Passion and Death of Jesus because it was what had struck the most the people; that is why it has been written in details. At that time a lot of stories about the teaching of Jesus were going around and so the Christians started to search for, collecting and putting together. In order to write down they have to rely on what they could remember (traditions).

Apostles: they kept always the number of 13 and nobody later on was called again Apostle in that sense. Paul later on called himself Apostle even if he was never with Jesus. In this sense the number remained and is still13.

Mt 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evil-doers”.

This phrase is coming from the second generation when there were a lot of preachers but not authorized by the Elders. It means that the Christians of that time were dealing with their concrete situation. They were interpreting the message of Jesus according their situations and their own way of living. That is why they tried to preserve the teaching of Jesus through writings. This is the period also when the Church started to be more organized and the elders more involved in the concrete life of the Christians.

Mt 28:18-21 it comes from the second generation and it shows a Church more organized and a community settled down.

Mk 16:15-18 this phrase belongs to the first generation.

 

To be able to keep a group together we need also certain human structures, but the problem is that later we start to think and saying that everything is coming from God, even the human structures. In the early Church there were no human structures but only the Apostles, the disciples, deacons and other workers. If there are no human structure to keep the community together, the community will collapse. The Christian community is the people of God, coming from God but there is also the need of human structures.

 

As we have already seen, in the second generation they started to write down the teaching of the Apostles and to send copies to other Churches. It is the time when many people wrote in the name of Paul or other Apostles, but the Church didn’t accept these writings as inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Church was always very careful in accepting these writings as inspired. This is the time the Church began to be more settled with there own elders and preachers; that is why they started not to accept other preachers from other places; in so doing even the prophets disappeared.

 

3d GENERATION = THE MATURE COMMUNITY (100 YEARS AND UP)

 

The church is already settled and the prophets had gone. The church started to expand herself in the remote villages (Pagus = in English = peasants = and later the derivation of pagans). Looking after the community we find:

¨       Overseers

¨       Elders

¨       Deacons

¨       Other ministries of which Paul talks about

The first three are very strong ministries and required people committed totally at permanent level, it means dedicated only to these ministries and for the whole life.

The forth one instead is only occasional ministry, on daily basis.

 

The development of the Church was both at human level (structures to keep people together) and at level of the Spirit (at this level was the Spirit who kept the people united, in communion, one).

So the structures at human level, as any other human instrument, if they do not work according and for the task they have been formed, they can be changed.

 

II- THE CHURCH IN THE FIRST CENTURY

 

            In the first 200 years the Church went through certain changes. History now reveals to us why we are still living under certain structures. Let us have a look at the changes that happened in the Church in this period:

1-      SECULARIZATION: (made secular).

For the first 200-300 years the Church was small, dynamic and under persecutions; Christians were very convinced people. The emperor later realized that if he wanted to keep the empire united there was a need also of having only one religion and so in the year 325 the emperor Costantine declared the Catholic religion the only one religion of the empire. A lot of people joined the Church, some good and some less convinced of the faith.

It is the time of the Fathers of the Church; they were very brilliant and intelligent Christians, very capable not only in preaching, writing but also in leading the Christians. The Emperor gave them power, authority, money and more territory to look after and to protect. They became rich and started to build up great Basilicas. Bishops became little by little also princes under the Emperor and things in their territory could go smoothly. This was the process of secularization. The towns began to become bigger, bishops started to live in big and luxurious palaces in these big cities and so they isolated themselves the more and more from the people. They became very powerful, more civil servants than spiritual leaders.

2-      CENTRALIZATION: (It is something that is still there even at our times).

Only if we are aware from were it is coming we can understand why bishops are living in big palaces, big offices, involved in the affairs of the towns and in the problems of the countries and politics. They were so potent that the Emperor started to control bishops as it was form many centuries. Even in the recent past there were great battles between the Holy See and certain governments for the appointment of the bishops; but since some years ago the Church succeeded in getting freedom and now all the bishops are nominated in Rome and only from Rome.

From here we can see the process of centralization. Now it is Rome who nominates bishops, before instead the people elected them. It is true that the Spirit works through human structures, through human mediations but there is also the need to facilitate His work. Bishops are still very important persons and potent.

 

3-      SACRALIZATION: (made holy, sacred).

There was a separation between the material and the spiritual. Many objects were separated from their ordinary meaning and work and put in the hands of certain persons as a sign of authority and holiness. It is a normal process to separate something and make it holy or for the use only in holy ceremonies, at the service of God in order to put in communion with God. Normal to use things or make things holy. The problem arises when we make these things to be too holy it is very dangerous because we take risk of loosing the meaning of these objects. (See the altar, chalice, bread and wine, crucifix, etc). Even the Crosses of today are more Passion Crosses than Resurrection Crosses; in this way we risk of loosing the meaning of the resurrection. We must keep this sense of holiness, but not to make it too much holy. When we loose the meaning of holy we fall in the trap of making objects to become idols; we need to know the meaning of what we are celebrating.

– Ex. To be ordained priest. The ordination should be for the community and in accordance of the needs of the community, if there are not communities there should not be priests or ordination of priests. The danger of the ABSOLUTE ORDINATIONS is that we make it to become a position of honor, security, privilege and power.

– The Eucharist: now many are ordained just for the Eucharist (to celebrate the Mass). At the beginning it was not like that, they were ordained for the community. If they are ordained only for the Eucharist it quite easy to understand why they are venerated as Holy persons, because they are more near to Jesus, but this is not what makes a person holy. And also in modern time the character of the ordination is very associated with the idea of power, dignity, honor and position and not with the idea that he is for the community.

4-    CLERICALISATION: (clerics take power).  

Reasons for this development:

  • At the beginning bishops became princes and so they moved away from the community, from the people. They became powerful.
  • The Church began to be spread as the empire; priests started to take decisions by themselves, they received more and more power, position for themselves and they exercised it apart from the community.
  • The early Christian community believed Christ as a Prophet, a Housekeeper, as the High Priest. But some years later the priests took over the title of high priest and they started to behave like the priests of the OT. In the OT priests were very important even in front of the King and the priests of the NT took on themselves the same prerogatives and power. Even now Christians think of priests as it was in the OT. The elders, the priest became more concerned with the Eucharist, ceremonies than to be leaders of the community. In the early Church priests were leaders of the community than performers of rituals, now it is exactly the opposite. Priests should be more concerned with preaching the Word of God than rituals. The life of Christ was interpreted as a sacrifice through which people were brought back to Christ and for this reason he was considered as High Priest. The community is a priestly community and the priest should be only a leader, a preacher of the Word. Today priests are perhaps good in rituals, but not so good in preaching the Word, when before it was in the opposite way. After some centuries the altar in many Churches and communities has been separated from the people with curtains and even walls.

 

5-PATRIARCHY: (Men take power). Men dominated and took over completely the power and they controlled everything like kings.

For women there was no place at all. Let us go and see in the NT.

Luke: baptism of John, Zechariah and Elisabeth are mentioned together.

         Baptism of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are together. Simeon and Anna; even when Luke speaks of the miracles he intervals the miracles of men and women showing that for Jesus they are equal.

It is very clear that Luke reflects the teaching of Jesus where all were EQUAL before the Lord. This concept is very strong in the life of Jesus and of the first community. The teaching of Jesus is very against the culture of the Jews and against many prejudices of his time. It was that radical teaching of Jesus that attracted people to come to him.

So did it come that later we have changed? (See just the difference between Canon II made by the early Church and Canon III made 20 years ago where only men are mentioned and never women). The problem arose because the Church has been run always by men.

 

WOMEN MSSIONARIES

 

St. Paul in his letters mentions several times the name of women who were his followers and co-workers for Christ. Co-workers means: preaching the Kerygma with Paul in the Synagogues and to the Christians communities. Paul wanted them to be respected because they were doing the same preaching and fighting for the Lord as he was doing.

In Paul women were Key evangelizers and among the 26 names that Paul mentions as his collaborators on preaching half are women.

 

Houses as Churches: the early Christians met together for the Eucharist and prayer in private houses. How many of these houses, in Paul, are under the name of women?

            In Acts as soon that Peter realized he was free from prison he went immediately to the house of Mary mother of John Mark.

In Philippians Paul send greetings to Appia and the Church who meets in her house.

Again in Acts he addresses to Ninpha and to the people meeting in her house and so in many other letters.

In the early Church, women’s house became the community’s Church were they could meet and celebrate the Eucharist and the Word of God.

Only later the Church started to be run only by men and clerics and they took over even in the celebration of the Eucharist and the Word. Will women be ordained priests in the future???? Those who will live will see.

 

C- MODERN CHURCH

 

Before Vatican II the Church for many reasons could not change and till Vatican II the Church was defined as a structural Church; Vatican II instead defined the Church as “people of God” and this was an enormous change. The people of God, the community became the most important and so the people who serves the community has a meaning till the community exists and so needs people at her service. Before Vatican II the importance was given to the ministries but with Vatican II the community comes first and the ministries later at her service.

 

DIFFERENT KINDS OF MINISTRIES:

 

1-   General: everybody is called to build and serve the Christian community now and then.

2-   General but not stable: these are ministries with a certain commitment and for a limited time (counselors, masters, teachers, etc.).

3-   Specific, stable and permanent: it demands persons who take these ministries for the whole life, permanently and so they must be prepared for. The three permanent ministries are:

a-   bishops

b-   priests

c-    deacons

   In the Church there is the need of having a permanent structure and these three ministries are ordained for this purpose: to maintain alive the human structure. They are three different ministries from each other, separated because they are three different gifts of the Holy Spirit and they are not superior to each other. It is the Holy Spirit who makes them different; it the Holy Spirit who gives these gifts and so it is not simply because somebody has received them that they are holier than other people who has received different gifts; only the Church is Holy. Ministries are fits given by the Holy Spirit for a service, for looking after the Christian community. In between the second and the third group there are a variety of different ministries.

     In Africa for example, to be a Catechist is a very important ministry.

 

Anyhow, Vatican II begins now to take shape and the results start to be already visible in the Church.

Modern society has become extremely complex and only few people cannot run all the problems. Persons are becoming the more and more specialized only in one or just few things in order to get a better knowledge. We must put the emphasis now on the need of having many and different persons who are willing to come over and serve the community according to their gifts.

Ministry is a gift given by the Spirit for the build up of the Christian community the Church; there are many and different gifts. This is the way of developing the Church and this is the future of the Church.

If we refuse to go this way we are opposing the Holy Spirit.

    

 

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANOINTMENT OF THE SICK

It is a pastoral ministry to the sick and we can do it without anointing the sick. Working with the sick is not easy and this is why it is a great ministry. It is good to help people to handle their own suffering and so the sacrament of the Anointment of the sick calls us to do a pastoral ministry for people who are suffering, have difficulties, problems and wounds.

 

How to handle sickness and death? It one of the most difficult problems because it is a searching for meaning in life. It is good also to have problems because we are challenged to find meaning in life and this is a very deep human need and also aspiration. We are challenged to give a meaning, a direction to our life because if we do not find a meaning in our life we cannot pass the good news to other and so they are forced to go to other people or to other sources. We need to find a direction in our life in order to be able to help others to find direction and meaning in their life. Speaking of suffering and death we are challenged to confront the unknown, to take a risk, to make a jump in the darkness and this will help us to grow, to conquer them, to be free from the fear of them and this will make us happy in life and able to help others.

Jesus came to live in this world to show us the way to home, to happiness here in this world and that is why he spoke of a recompense of hundred folds in this world, of happiness and joy here and now.

 

What about sickness? Why was Jesus killed so brutally? The answer is that if we are able to conquer suffering and death as Jesus has done we will become really fully human persons as he became. Jesus accepted suffering, he overcame and conquered it and he was completed transformed in a new person (The Risen Lord), he found his home and the Father since here in this world. Suffering if accepted and handled in the right sense, if conquered through a victory over it will transforms people in better persons. When we let us to be challenged by problems, difficulties and suffering we are transformed much more.

Suffering can also kill, make persons to become un-human and destroy persons. Suffering can transform and destroy: it is our freedom that makes us to choose which one should prevail in our life.

How do we handle our suffering? We are free to choose for the better or the worse in our life. Nobody can make me suffer in a particular way: with bitterness or with joy; it is my own choice. People can make me suffer, but the way of handling suffering for the worse or for the better is only my personal choice. If we let us transformed by suffering the reward is peace, inner joy and life becomes meaningful. We must look at Jesus and imitate him in the way he handled up his suffering and difficulties; he is the way.

 

When we look at our suffering it is spontaneous to ask ourselves: how can God be good to us if he permits suffering to visit us? In front of such a big question we can reject God or to accept suffering and be transformed by it in better persons.

 

How did the HUMAN JESUS handle his difficulties and suffering? He went to Jerusalem willing and freely because that was the will of the Father. Even Jesus as human person struggled to accept suffering but he accepted putting always in front of him the will of the Father, his LOVE for the Father. When we face our struggles we have to put ourselves in front of God with the same attitude of Jesus. Jesus could see a value, a purpose in his death: the redemption of the humanity and he celebrated his death in the last supper leaving it as a memorial to us of what he has done so that we could do the same always remembering what he has done.

ABBA = DADDY is the word a child uses in calling his father. Jesus taught us to call God with the same word, the same attitude a child uses and has when he calls his father. Why? Because a child firmly believes his father can do everything for him and this was the attitude of Jesus towards his Father.

Sometimes we do not understand the meaning of suffering, but we can go beyond in faith even if it will take a long time to understand it and perhaps we are not even able to find it. To accept suffering with love it what makes us to be really trusting persons in the ABBA.

Even the disciples and the Apostles never accepted a suffering Messiah because their idea was that of a glorious, triumphant King; from here their disappointment in front of a different reality. (See the two disciples of Emmaus).

Suffering is a part of the plain of God and for this reason Jesus came to show us how to suffer, to die and to be risen. To be a real human being means to be able to accept suffering and still believe that God loves us. The more we are able to conquer suffering the more we will be able to grow as better people, more faithful and loving persons and this way we can become fully human, fully alive persons. If we do not copy with suffering, struggles, hardships they will conquer us, overcome us and we will live a life of hell without any happiness in our life.

The attitude that we must have in front of suffering is that of a little child, that of Jesus himself in front of so great suffering: we do not understand but we trust in ABBA and firmly believe He loves us.

Jesus conquered death because he accepted it and took it with patience and love and so in it he found new life, more compassion, more trustfulness, more thankfulness, more understanding of the suffering of others.). Only then we are really able to understand and say “THANKS TO GOD” because he set us free and has prepared us for a new mission of healing, of salvation.

Sometimes hardships follow us but most of the time we are the cause of hardships for ourselves because we do not accept them in our own life. We should always be in the attitude of being able to accept ourselves as we are and put ourselves in front of God asking him to forgive us because we are sinners, able to make mistakes, always in the possibility of falling down and commit sins.

We should also become aware of how we handle our own hardships and suffering in order to share, to help other to handle their sickness, suffering, hardships and grieves.

This is the pastoral dimension of the sacrament of Anointment of the Sick.

 

Many times we suggest to people in suffering to pray and the suggestion is good. But we should also realized that there are things that we can do and we have to do in order to overcome suffering and hardships; prayer will help us to start and to continue to do it. We must be able to change what we can change and accept that sometimes we cannot change many things and even we cannot do anything about.

What we need is to be able to surrender in front of what we cannot change, but also in front of the reality of what we can change and perhaps we are unwilling to change.

 

 

PRACTICAL PASTORAL THEOLOGY

 

How can I practically help a person who is sick to be able to accept the reality?

As Christian I can help a sick person to get psychologically and spiritually healed even without perform the Sacrament of the Anointment of the Sick. Many persons have this gift. What does feel a person in the sickness? Sometimes they suffer more for being in the hospital then for the sickness. They suffer interiorly because of different problems both personal and external. A sick person in the hospital feel confused because they have to leave his home, family and friends, work and so he is full of worries like a fish out of water. Hospital is the best place to get physically cured but not for curing the interior suffering; patients feel isolated, not respected by doctors and nurses. From here the need of HUMANIZING hospitals, patients are called by numbers and not by name. They feel they have lost their identity and that they have no rights even regarding their sickness; many times they feel they are simple material of experimentation in the hands of doctors. In hospitals people are known as patients and not as persons; patients feel the need to be recognized as they are and for what they are. Hospitals are always painful place in the psychological sense.

Those who are going to visit the patients need to be able to understand their feelings because doctors and nurses cure the body but they are not interested in the psychological and spiritual problems and suffering of the patients.

So what can we do about the person of the patient? Sickness brings many implications; that is why we need to be able to help them to share and relieve their feelings with patience even if it will take a long time. It is not an easy mission. We should be able to recognize their feeling going beyond their words. Sometimes just to be there in silence is enough: our presence speaks by itself.

We need to learn from our own experience, analyze it, become aware of our own feelings; our experience becomes our teacher. We need to get the feedback from our own experience. We never learn unless we reflect on what we feel and we open them to persons with more experience; this is the only way we can learn how to help other people.

 

We should also not to give promises because in that way we will make people to become more anxious, getting more expectations that if not fulfilled will make them to fall in frustrations and disappointment.

 

How does sick persons copy with their sickness? Some will accept; some will refuse and for those who refuse there are different steps through which they must pass. According to Dr. Kubler Ross there are 5 different stages:

 

1-      DENIAL = The first reaction is not to accept saying to themselves that it not true, they try to forget, to repress, etc. the problem is not here, but in the fact that if they are unable to accept the truth the problem will start. (In some persons the block of the memory). This stage anyhow is a helping stage in the process of healing and acceptance. How long does it take to go through this stage and be able to overcome it? It is up to the sick persons and the ability of those who try to help them.

2-      ANGER = this is a natural stage that a sick person has to pass through in sickness. They blame the doctor, the nurses, other persons, never themselves. It is already a better helping stage because it shows that we are already starting to accept the reality at least in the subconscious. To blame others is a mechanism of self defense, of ex-culpation. What the person needs is to pas through this stage and overcome it moving to the next stage.

3-      BARGAINING = here there is no more denial, less anger and the person is looking for something else to survive. He starts to bargain with God, the family, etc. the person is still in the process of trying to escape from the real problem and he tries to fight against illusions. It is not yet a step to reality and so the promises the sick person makes at this stage are not really binding because they are not real promises. The persons do it out of fear.

4-      DEPRESSION = the person sees that she can do nothing and start to ask herself: what is it useful to continue? It is life and so she starts to give up. This can bring to suicide or to the final stage.

5-      ACCEPTANCE = to reach this stage it takes time; not more time but the time needed by that person. The time is proportioned also to the depth of the hound and to the seriousness of the sickness. We need to wait till the time for that person is ripe. It depends also from the habit, the training that a person had in her personal life in overcoming grief and hardships, personal experience in this field is the best teacher.

 

It is very interesting to ask myself now how much time it will take to me to accept the reality of a sickness or a wound of the past. If it takes a lot time it means I have not yet grown enough in this process. Acceptance brings peace, tranquillity, serenity and inner joy.

 

GRIEF: it is not only sickness but also hardships that make us to suffer. So this process is first of all for me, for my personal growth. I should ask myself in which area do I have a wound and in which stage do I am in the process of healing?

 

To do pastoral ministry with the sick we need to seat down, become listeners and let the people to free themselves of their burdens. The ritual of the Sacrament of the Anointment of the Sick has no meaning unless the patient has pass through this process first. Every Christian person can do this kind of ministry, but he should be prepared for it. Till the present time this sacrament has not being considered a great sacrament because we have lost the true meaning of it, we have forget the process of healing first and little by little has become the sacrament of the dead or of those we have to die. This sacrament is not only a ritual but the sacrament of healing; only when we will be able to understand it in the true meaning we will be able to appreciate it as a great sacrament.

 

Sometimes the patient accepts the reality, but not the family; so the healing process must be done with the family. When both patient and family accept it is very good to call all the members of the family to celebrate the in anticipation, like Jesus, the death of the sick person to the world and the entrance in the new life.

 

What to do with those who do not accept the reality? We have to respect people, their freedom. Anyhow nobody can forbid us to be present, stay with them always respecting their choice and freedom.

 

In order to make this sacrament a living sacrament in our life we need to stop our activities and analyze our life looking back at it and be able to see the hand of the Lord at work in it. The Israelite people looking back at their history, in particular during the hardships in the desert they found out that God was caring for them, looking after them and loving them. That was their history of salvation.

If we really look back in our own life and we are able to pass through the desert of our life, we will find out what was our way of salvation and how God has worked in us, and this will bring us to thank the Lord for his goodness in our own life. If I do not find in myself this sense of thanksgiving it means there is still something in my life I do not accept or deny.

This is a human, natural process; it is the acceptance of God’s love in my life and so my life becomes happy, peaceful, joyful and meaningful.

It is an invitation that we should carry on and apply to our own life.