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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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GOSPEL

If there is a deacon who will be proclaiming the Gospel, he bows before the priest and beseeches a blessing.  The priest responds, gesturing the Cross, “May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim the Gospel worthily and well.  In the name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit +. Amen.” When there is no deacon, he bows to the altar and says, “Cleanse my heart and lips Almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your Holy Gospel.”  This is the first of a series of secret or softly spoken ministerial prayers.  If the Book of the Gospels is on the altar, it is carried to the ambo.  When there is great festivity it may be incensed. 

Along with the congregation, when the Gospel is announced all make three small crosses— first, on the forehead, second, upon the lips and third, upon the chest.  This invocation is asserting that we will have Christ and his truth in our minds (thoughts), upon our lips (proclamation and actions) and in our hearts (to love as he loves). All of us, the one proclaiming the Gospel and those who hear it must both be disposed or receptive to the truths of Christ. These truths are communicated through direct statements and actions by Christ, by his stories or parables, by the events in his life and by his interaction with those around him. The Gospel is more than a historical narrative.  Just as we celebrate the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; the Gospel also communicates the real presence of Jesus as the Eternal Word.  Both the Word and the Eucharist enable our joyous encounter with the risen Lord. The Gospel is not composed of dead letters on a page. It is a proclamation alive and transformative to those who hear or read.  It is imbued with the Spirit of God making possible repentance, conversion and saving relationships with Jesus Christ.  

All stand as a sign of heightened respect. The preacher is entrusted with the reading which must be communicated loudly and clearly. The weekday readings follow a two year (alternating) pattern.  The Sunday Gospel readings follow a three year cycle.  While there is some variation in the Old Testament, between Catholics and Protestants, the canonical book listing of the New Testament with the Gospels is the same. Indeed, a number of the mainline traditions often read the same Gospel on Sunday as in the Catholic Church.  This is a meaningful sign of unity.  The New Testament canon of 27 books has remained stable since 170 AD and Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians all cherish the four Gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  While critics are often quick to point out differences between the Gospels; the Church asserts that the evangelists each have his own perspective or theological tradition upon the Greatest Story Ever Told. 

Mark focuses on Jesus as a miracle worker and teacher.  Our Lord is frequently presented as misunderstood by his followers. Matthew portrays Jesus as the long awaited Jewish Messiah, urging fidelity to the covenant given them by their fathers and to his new law of love. Luke as a Greek physician stresses Jesus as a compassionate healer, one who is intensely concerned about women, the impoverished and even Gentiles or non-Jews.  John gives the gravity in his narrative to Jesus as divine and in control. The last of the Gospels, it shows an intense spiritual reflection upon the Lord’s ultimate identity and mission. All reflect differing facets of the same truth.  God so loves us that he sends his only Son.  Jesus takes upon himself the sins of the world and suffers our punishment in enduring the Cross.  He redeems us from Satan and conquers suffering, sin and death.  He offers us a share in eternal life.  He commissions his apostles to go out to the entire world with the Good News and to make disciples. 

The deacon and especially the priest have a love affair with the altar and ambo.  As a priest I have always been deeply moved by kissing the altar at the beginning of Mass, by kissing the text of the Gospels and at the end by kissing the altar again.  The minister kisses the Lectionary or Book of the Gospels after the proclamation and says quietly, “Through the words of the Gospel, may our sins be wiped away.” Every good priest ponders his unworthiness to stand at the altar and pulpit.  His failure to be a saint makes him not only a notable sinner but the greatest of hypocrites before God and his holy people. He knows this uncomfortable truth but seeks to be faithful and to allow the Lord to use him as a flawed and broken instrument.  It is all about the message, not the messenger.  It is all about decreasing as did John the Baptizer, so that the Lord might increase. Those who would receive the Eucharist, must first encounter Christ in his Word.

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