Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Catholic Defender: Prepare Yourself

(Editors note) Because of the Gospel reading today, I want to add the Gospel message to this article because of the importance of the message.

Matthew 25:1-13 states, "Jesus told his disciples this parable: 'The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out tomeet him!' Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out'. But the wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.' While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, 'Lord, open the door for us!' But he said in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.' Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour".

Jesus is definitely making it clear that we need to be ready! No one knows the day nor the hour in which the Lord Jesus will return. Todays's message coming from the universal Church, the holy Catholic Church, is to "prepare yourself" every day.

From the "Chaplains Corner", today Father Downey explains, "Setting priorities" is a common expression we hear a lot today. But what exactly does that mean and how does that expression fit with today's Gospel? The five virgins who brought flasks of oil with their lamps were singularly focused about who they were and where they were heading; the other five virgins were focused, but not singularly focused as their companions. As a result, those foolish virgins allowed themselves to be too concerned with the things of this world at the expense of their relationship with Jesus. Jesus is asking us to put our complete trust in Him and His plan for our lives. This is symbolized by the wise virgins who had lamps with oil. This is certainly easier said than done, and often times we can get frustrated when things don't go the way we want or expect them to go. We try to fill the void of our emptiness they experienced is symbolized by the flasks empty of any oil. When the Bridegroom came (Jesus), He didn't know the foolish virgins because He didn't recognize Himself (the oil) in them. Let's make it our priority to keep Jesus at the center of our lives and trust with Him our lives, we will be like the wise virgins".

Recently, my wife and I was watching a favorite movie we like, "SecondHand Lions" when I became struck how the movie tied things together in the lives of the characters starring Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, and Haley Joel Osment.

The story telling, the adventure, and the plot thickens as the excitement builds.

As the young boy finds courage through the example of his uncles, the words "prepare yourself" or to say, "defend yourself" demonstrates a determination to face danger.

This morning at Mass, our Priest, Father Downey raised some key points along the lines of "prepare yourself".

The background was not full of adventure that the movie portrays, but the context is as much important, and even more so.

This coming advent, the Church will enact the proposed changes in the wording of the liturgy. The following is taken from our parish bulletin:

"At the beginning of Mass, after the procession and the "Sign of the Cross", the celebrant extends one of three different liturgical greetings to the people.

The one that is perhaps most commonly used is "The Lord be with you". It is a familiar line that will remain unchanged with the new translation.

However, our new response will be the first major change in the Order of Mass.

Instead of "And also with you", we will now be saying, "And with your spirit". This new response will also be made at the four other times during mass when this dialogue occurs: at the reading of the gospel, at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, during the Sign of Peace (when the priest says, "The peace of the Lord be with you always"), and at the conclusion of Mass.

When the congregation responds to the Priest, "And with your spirit", it is actually a theological statement about what we Catholics believe regarding ordained ministers.

A Catholic priest is not just any other preacher or minister of another faith. Our faith teaches that at his ordination, a priest's soul is permanently changed when the Bishop lays his hands on the head of the man to be ordained.

And this change is permanent - it can never be taken away: "You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek".

John 6:53 says: "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you".

Along with the other sacraments, the Eucharist, which is what this passage is referring to, can only happen through a validly ordained Catholic or Orthodox priest.

Put plainly, a priest, by virtue of his ordination is different from any other human being!

He's not better - he's in need of God's love and forgiveness just like anyone else, but he has been set aside for service to the community, primarily, through making Christ's body and blood sacramentally present to all people for all generations.

A deacon also has received Holy Orders,but to a lesser degree; nevertheless, his soul is permanently altered as well at ordination, but to be of service to the poor, the home bound, and to assist the priest at Mass.

This response of "And with your spirit" will be a difficult change to remember - perhaps one of the most difficult for us laity. However, it will not take long to grow accustomed to the new wording, especially given its frequency.

Above all, we should reflect on how it conveys the content of Sacred Scripture, as well as the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church".

All of the baptized have been changed, their souls have been given a mark that will never be taken away. Some may deny and reject their baptism, but the mark is there nonetheless.

Our baptism makes us a new creation in Christ. The intro exchange, "The Lord be with you", and the response, "And with your Spirit" is a preparation for what we are getting ready to celebrate.

Hence, "Prepare Yourself". It is simply not just a greeting! With our Baptism, we become forever changed. All the sacraments work to transform us and build in us, a soul designated to God. This journey is filled with all kinds of adventure and as you look backward, every story is inspiring and important.

"The Lord be with you" is a recognition of the baptized in the community. May we faithfully live out our baptismal vows.

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