• Our Blogger

    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.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Nithin varghese on Ask a Priest
    Diane on Ask a Priest
    brett on Ask a Priest
    dana on Ask a Priest
    Maria on Ask a Priest

Twelve Easter Insights

jesus-clip-art-90(1) A new day has dawned.

(2) The promise of old has been fulfilled.

(3) The breech is healed.

(4) The salvific work of Christ has redeemed us from the devil.

(5) While the primordial trespass brought suffering and death into the world– Christ’s fidelity ushers forth healing and life.

(6) Nothing will ever be the same again.

(7) Death is conquered if not entirely undone.

(8) We no longer need fear the specter of death.

(9) The grave will not consume us.

(10) No one need live in vain.

(11) Like the apostles we are called as witnesses to the saving truth.

(12) Christ becomes the pattern of our discipleship: we must die with Christ if we hope to live with him.

Advertisements

The Mission of the Church

The mission of the Church is to spread the Gospel and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are sent on mission at the end of Sunday worship each week: “The Mass has ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” We must take our role as missionary seriously. Where is our passion for the Gospel? Why are we not on fire telling people about it?

Certainly, we all relate to our brothers and sisters in different ways. But what does it matter? Everyone has something to contribute. Because of in-depth knowledge of our teachings and the Scriptures, some may be called to add apologetics to the work of winning converts. Others might find themselves in jeopardy if they walked that route, but be exceptional in helping people with their hurts and in touching others through personal charity. Some may relate well with young people who often look for answers in the wrong places. Still others may be able to reveal in ecumenical prayer and service the fraternity of Catholics with other believers in the Lord. We need to bring the Gospel to our homes, to our neighbors, and to our workplaces.

However, if we are going to share our faith, we had best make sure that we are Christians and good Catholics first. We need to nurture a determination to stick with the Church no matter what disappointments may come our way. Some do not do this and the results can be tragic for all. I recall a woman who studied at a Catholic college for four years and was certified to do parochial work. When the new pastor was assigned, he failed to keep a position for her. Along with this disappointment, the Pope reaffirmed that women could never be priests. Well, that was the last straw for her and she left the Church. What is sadder is that she took a few others with her. There are only so many clergy and most of the outreach into the community must be done by the laity. We have to be flexible enough to bounce with the bumps in the road. Doors close and other doors open. We have to be receptive to God’s will, even when we do not entirely understand it. The work is not so much ours, as it is the Lord’s. Some are given the gift of Holy Orders, but there are other gifts, particularly given to the laity, that facilitate the expansion of the Church and the proclamation of the Good News. Married couples are missionaries to their children. Many non-Catholic spouses embrace the faith of their Catholic partner. Single people have the gift of time and availability to help in youth groups, bible study programs, prayer circles, charity endeavors, etc. With the loss of sisters and religious brothers, the laity teach in Catholic schools, CCD and RCIA programs, etc. There are even parishioners that go door-to-door with the invitation to explore the faith and their parishes.

Spreading the faith requires that we grow in the faith, ourselves. We should search in ourselves and with others for a stronger faith and then share it, loving and caring for those with whom we come into contact– keeping in mind that the burden of conversion is held between the individual and God. God changes a wicked person into a saintly one. Our care for the poor, the sick, our families, our neighbors, by our pursuit of social justice, for peace, etc., in all these things we witness for the Gospel.

Souls are not simply converted by highly educated or witty missionaries; rather, they are brought to the Lord through the work of Christ in holy men and women inspired and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Look at Peter, he was an ignorant fisherman! Neither Mary nor Joseph was ordained a priest; and yet, who could estimate the enormous spiritual benefits that both of them have exerted for our well being? The Holy Spirit is the Divine Counselor, who like Father and Son, makes use of frail instruments to achieve his purposes.

While the kingdom of Christ will be realized in God’s good time, the laity and clergy work together for this eventuality. Having spoken about our universal call as missionaries, I would like to say a few words about priestly ministry. Have you ever wondered what it must be like as a priest? He knows the dark secrets of people’s lives and weeps over their sins and the sheep that go astray. He sees more than his share of sickness and dying, particularly those with a regular hospital ministry. Yes, he knows the joy of witnessing marriages; but he also feels the arrogance of those who violate the commandments in dating promiscuity and cohabitation. He sometimes wonders if the young even listen to him. The happiest times are when he baptizes a child; and yet, he can never forget the babies he could not save from abortion. When things go right, God gets the praise and when they go wrong, the priest gets the blame.

People angry with the Church see him as an icon for the institution and assault him for things he had no part in, possibly going back to before he was born. This often happens when priests wearing clerics are recognized in public. When I was a young associate, I recall one fellow on the subway who sat next to me and without any introduction, shouted, “I left the Church thirty years ago, and let me tell you why!” In such situations, the priest wants to get away or argue in return, but he just sits back and listens. “A priest yelled at me in the confessional,” the man says, although he cannot recall what it was about. Such a little thing, and for all we know the poor priest probably had his own demons plaguing him at the time or was maybe just not feeling well. In any case, it was enough to make this man leave the Church. I explained how sorry I was that it happened, and the tone of the conversation changes. I miss my metro stop, but it is okay. His wife recently passed away and he had a bad heart. His mind often went back to his childhood days. Eventually, he asks, “Father, how do I come back to the Church?” What happened? I could not recall saying anything particularly moving. It must have been God’s grace. I take out my purple stole. His eyes open wide. We move to a vacant section of the train, he falls to his knees, and says, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.” When I leave the train a prodigal son is back home. I catch a subway car going in the opposite direction, back to my exit which I missed. When I enter the rectory, I am chastised for my tardiness. I say nothing.

As a sign of contradiction in our culture, the priesthood can be difficult. However, there is also a deep consolation in being an instrument of God’s mercy in a sometimes cold world. The same difficulty should be a daily element in the lives of all Christian believers. Evangelization is not just the business of professional religious people. It is an indispensable part of our baptismal call. We can work together to make the Church a more heart-warming place for all those wounded and searching.

When it comes to Christology, the theological study of Jesus, there are some theologians who seem heavily orientated toward Christmas (the incarnation) and others who branch out from Easter (the resurrection). These are the poles of Christ’s earthly life and both have essential importance. If we are to share Jesus, we must know him.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

Make Disciples of the Whole World

Mark has Jesus appearing to his friends at table in Mark 16:9-15 and takes note of the fact that they were at first hesitant to believe that he had risen from the dead. Mark says that Jesus “took them to task for their disbelief and their stubbornness, since they had put no faith in those who had seen him after he had been raised.” Remember, all except for John, had fled into hiding and Peter had denied ever knowing him. They had practically given up on Jesus. His resurrection was now an occasion for Jesus to call them back to faithfulness — to call them back to life.

Acts 4:13-21, shows us just how very successful Jesus was. Peter and John answered the priests and elders with courage and honesty: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight for us to obey you rather than God. Surely we cannot help speaking of what we have heard and seen.” There is no way under God’s heaven that they can keep quiet now. Just as Jesus aided them to make a huge catch; now he will fulfill his promise to make them fishers of men. He tells them to go out and to make disciples of the whole world.

We also need to be so enthusiastic with the message of Easter that we have to proclaim it to everyone we meet. Jesus is alive! And, what’s more, he wants all of us to have a share in his life. In a world steeped in sin, suffering, and death, this message is as vital today as ever before. In our prayer, our witness, and our proclamation we must bring this to people still blinded by the darkness of oppression and suffering. Just as the disciples were able to cure the lame man which incited an interrogation; we too can offer healing to others, if not always in body, then at least in spirit. We are the hands and feet and mouths of the risen Christ in the world — he lives in us!

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

Yearning for Life and Happiness

We do not want to die. Okay, I know that some would object to this statement, but opposing sentiments are usually the exception. These exceptions are generally aberrations due to some form of suffering. We have all heard of suicide victims due to mental illness and depression, emotional trauma, excessive physical pain and handicap, and delusion (as in certain cults). In all these cases there is a running away from something (pain or anxiety) or a fleeing toward something (a higher plain of existence or some other such alternative). The latter comes close to the Christian hope, although with one essential difference, true faith defends the dignity and sacredness of all life, here and now.

Our desire for life is joined with a natural longing for happiness and a supernatural yearning for reconstitution and union. Thoughts of heaven are often filled with joyful images. It is associated with the festivity of a wedding banquet. We will be eternally happy. We will know the peace that the world can only dream about. All our analogies pale in comparison to what awaits us. Popular religion often envisions peaceful angels playing harps while sitting on soft clouds. It is a cute picture, but the reality we anticipate as Catholics is more complex. We want to live forever, but not at all costs. That is why the contrary image of hell is ever so frightful. Instead of happy images, popular piety views it as a dark abode of stifling smoke, eternal flame, and agonizing pain. Again, this is very interesting, but here too, the Catholic contribution would go much further. Why is there joy in heaven and pain in hell?

When we attempt to answer that question, our view of life after death becomes much more mature and realistic. Those who opt for hell, despite the irrationality of it, have mysteriously chosen it. A good God will not force his children to be happy and so he honors this choice. This is the most frightful freedom given to us, the ability to embrace or to reject the God for whom we were fashioned. Unlike the Seventh Day Adventists and similar groups, we do not believe that the dead momentarily pop out of existence or sleep or become unconscious. They are alive. However, the eternal life promised by Christ refers not merely to continued existence beyond the grave but to a participation in the life of God. This is first made possible in this world through faith, the sacraments, and the grace of God. Thus, the elect of God, despite difficult bouts with sin and the need for constant forgiveness, already in this world walk with one foot in the next.

We believe that the souls of the dead, commonly called ghosts, pass from this world into heaven or hell. That journey to heaven may take them through a period of purgation, a time of cleansing in which our prayers are most beneficial for them. While hell signifies eternal frustration and both a hatred of God and self; heaven is understood primarily as the abode of God. Christ has promised a room in his Father’s house to those who love God.

The life of heaven implies perfection into the likeness (holiness) of God. We are not only completely healed from the lingering effects of sin, but grace builds upon nature making us something greater than if left to ourselves. God fills that space in us that only he can make complete. There is union with God and with those who have gone before us. This reunion with our beloved dead is a principal element of our expectation for the life of heaven. Every loss has wounded us. Every death has reduced us. This is given back in heaven. The stagnant image of heaven and eternal life, so prevalent in popular Christian culture, would never satisfy. The finite creature can never exhaust the mystery of an infinite Creator. Heaven allows an exploration into God himself that will never know final resolution. Heaven is endless discovery and satisfaction. By comparison, everything we know now fails quickly to satisfy. Mortal life is short and often filled with disappointments, hurts, and loss. While we are promised a full restoration, body and soul; like our glorified Lord, we will know the wondrous everlasting fruits of his victory over suffering, sin, and death.

There is an irony today regarding our desire for life and happiness as compared to our society in the grips of a culture of death. Our preoccupation with our own personal lives and transitory pleasure seeks to disfigure what life is really about. Many who claim a faith affiliation live and act as if this existence is all there is. When this life becomes difficult, increasing numbers want the option of euthanasia. Quality of life decisions and careers often take precedence over the lives of the unborn, leading to millions and millions of abortions. Many are advocating infanticide for those children deemed defective, as if a handicapped life has no worth, and creating too great a burden upon us. The new deity of science is holding out the prospect of longer lives through DNA manipulation and the harvesting of body parts from clones designated as non-persons. It may sound like Science Fiction, but the brave new world is rushing upon us and the dignity of human life may very well be a casualty.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

A Message for Every Age

The Lord appears to Mary Magdalene, consoles her, and sends her off with the news, “I have seen the Lord!” (see John 20:11-18). The insistence upon the witness of women in the Scriptures reveals to us just how much both men and women were called to be Christ’s disciples. Mary Magdalene proclaims the Good News to Jesus’ other followers, the men with whom he had entrusted his apostolic authority and power. Notice his words to her. She is so thrilled to see him that he must immediately tell her not to cling to him. He exclaims that he is “ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God!” This is one of the clearest statements by Christ that his particular Easter event will also be ours. The words also echo the time when he taught his friends to call God, “Our Father,” in the Lord’s Prayer. We, who belong to Christ, belong also to the one who sent and raised him up. We who are now identified with Christ can appropriately call God our adopted Father. He keeps us in existence and in baptism refashions us into the likeness of his Son.

Likewise, the disciples in Acts 2:36-41 take this message and make it the cornerstone of their ministry. We have put Christ to death by our sins; however, we can repent and be baptized into Christ Jesus. Peter said, “It was to you and your children that the promise was made, and to all those still far off whom the Lord our God calls.” I would love to etch those words near the main doors of the church. The message of Christ was not simply for the Jewish people, nor was it for the Gentiles alone who lived two-thousand years ago. His has been a message for every age. We are many miles and many years separated from the period when Jesus walked the earth; however, no matter how far off we have been from him, his message is just as important and alive today as it was yesterday. We are still called to repent and believe. No political order, no philosophy, no educational program, no, none of these have been able to make man one iota better than he was in ancient Palestine. “Save yourselves from this generation which has gone astray.” Yesterday and today our hope remains in Christ and in his forgiveness. Just as our sins in this age contributed to his crucifixion; so too does his grace and forgiveness contribute to our redemption.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

Our Bodies Are Us

Jesus appears to his friends and wishes them peace (Luke 24:35-48). I want to speak briefly about this appearance and a connection we can make with it in our lives. When his friends doubt it is him, or fear that it might be a ghost, he tells them to look, to see, and to touch. He shows them his wounds and says, “…a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I do.” Then he accepts and eats a piece of fish with them. St. Luke is adamant in having us understand that he is really in this scene and no mere ghostly apparition or simply an internal feeling that he is present, as we sometimes sense at prayer. He is much more here.

It is this stress upon his risen bodily presence which, I believe, offers us much consolation. The human person is not a disembodied spirit; nor is it angelic. We are created with both bodies and souls and it constitutes who and what we are. That is why the Church is so insistent that on the final Judgment Day, we will be restored body and soul. Although this mystery goes beyond our feeble minds, we see hints to how it might be in Christ. Notice that he is both the same and different; at first they did not recognize him. This is no wonder. Could any of us recognize a human countenance where all the wrinkles of age, the scars of disease, the marks of pain, and where all tears have been wiped away? Think what such a person might look like. However, after awhile, especially in the breaking of the bread, they come to see him for who he really is. Indeed, he still carries the marks of the crucifixion which are his badges of honor in his victorious fight against sin and death.

In Acts 3:11-26, the cured lame man signifies that what happened to Jesus will touch each and every one of us who believe in him. As a sign of this belief, we need to respect our bodies as his temples and extensions in the world. Our bodies are who we are and therefore we need to take care of them. We are our bodies! This message emerges in our celebration of both Christmas and Easter where our humanity is elevated and then restored. This message touches all the doctrines and feasts of the Church. Yes, it touches moral theology, too. After all, in the various arguments about abortion, euthanasia, artificial contraception, etc. we are speaking not so much about the body as a shell or robot which we can manipulate as we wish; but rather, we are talking about our very selves and our personhood. People who see the issues of the Church disjointed do not realize that to allow selfishness to rewrite our moral principles would ultimately destroy the meaning of the coming of Christ into our world and his resurrection.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

The Gates are Opened

The story of Jesus appearing to two men on the road to Emmaus is one of the most famous of our resurrection accounts (see Luke 24:13-35). The last phrase, “. . . they had come to know him in the breaking of the bread,” speaks to us about how we encounter the risen Lord in our Eucharist. The Eucharist is Christ’s living legacy to us. No matter what age it might be, he does not abandon us. After his ascension, the Lord continues to abide in his early disciples as well. He sends them his Spirit and works his ministry through them.

We see one incident of this in Acts 3:1-10. Peter and John are going up to the temple to pray. Outside the edifice, at the temple gate, is a beggar who for years has been at the practice of begging from those who come to worship. It is interesting that he is outside the temple because as a cripple he is also outside the hearts and lives of many of his own people. He is tolerated, but looked down upon. He must beg for his sustenance. He is a man whose dignity has been tarnished by a situation beyond his control. Peter is poor in worldly riches; but, he has already begun to save up for himself treasure from heaven. He possesses Christ and he gives Christ. In the name of Jesus, he heals the crippled man and orders him to walk. In that single incident, the poor man’s dignity is restored. He would no longer be a castoff from society. He is whole again. This is the meaning of Easter. We may be weighed down by our sins, be of ill health, be lonely, or sad; and yet, Jesus offers us healing and forgiveness. We had cut ourselves off from God and from his friends by our rebellion; now we can be reconciled and aliens no longer. Our shame from the primordial rebellion is no longer imputed against us and our hearts can be turned around — making Christ our greatest treasure — living only to serve and love God.

Notice what the first act of the lame man is once he is healed. No longer merely at the gate of the temple, he walks inside the temple with them. Through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, the gates of our heavenly Jerusalem are now open to us. May we be filled with the same joy as this healed lame man, entering heaven by “walking, jumping about, and praising God.”

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.