From the Pastor – June 13, 2010

Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. (Lk 8:1)

This Sunday’s Gospel recounts one story in the life of Christ. It’s one visit to a household, one sinner anointing the feet of Jesus, one lesson taught, and one sinner forgiven. When Jesus was on earth in the flesh, He limited Himself to being in one place at a time, and those encounters – so beautifully recounted in Sacred Scripture – reveal him reaching out and touching and healing specific individuals through the power of His love. And Jesus was accompanied by the Twelve Apostles and some women who were witnesses to His love.

After the Ascension and Pentecost, the Apostles obeyed the commands of Christ to go out to preach, sanctify (by the Sacraments) and govern the whole world. Priests take part in that mission by sharing in the mission of their bishop, who is himself a successor of the Apostles. And the mission is the mission of Christ. The Holy Father, the Bishops and the priests take part in the mission of Christ by going to individuals. Even today, it’s one visit to a household, one lesson taught, and one sinner forgiven at a time. Christ is present in each of those encounters.

This past week, the Church celebrated the closing of the Year for Priests. As you might remember from articles that I have written throughout the past year, the Holy Father had dedicated this past year to the priesthood: to pray for them, to support them, and to focus on their role in the body of Christ. I was so fortunate to have been able to work on the earliest stages of this project while serving as an official at the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome. This week, I am also fortunate to be in Rome to attend the conferences, Holy Hours and Masses to mark the closing. Everything culminated in a Mass this morning (I’m writing on Friday, June 11) where the Holy Father concelebrated with about 15,000 priests! I remember attending the Jubilee for Priests during the Holy Year of 2000, and there were about 8,000 priests. It’s hard to believe there was double the number for this Mass!

I feel so fortunate to be here, and to be able to reconnect with so many of my brother priests still living and working in Rome. And we were all able to be part of the largest concelebrated Mass in the history of the Vatican! And we were able to hear the words of our Chief Shepherd, Pope Benedict XVI, words of encouragement and of hope. You might read about this event in the secular press, but I suspect it will not be highly covered. There might be mention that the Holy Father “once again” addressed the scandal of sexual abuse in the Church. Or you might read that the Pope apologized for the sins of some of the clergy. But you probably won’t hear one thing that actually drew applause in the middle of the Homily. The Holy Father made direct reference to the devil. Recognizing that the abuse crisis reemerged during the Year for Priests, he said: “It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the ”˜enemy’; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world.”

It’s an important thing to point out. We are all sinners. But even the worst sinner is human being made in God’s image and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. God wants us all to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of His Truth. The devil hates God, and attacks God by attacking us – the Children of God. Today’s Mass was a triumph of God’s love. It permeated the air. And love conquers all – even sin and death. Jesus won the victory. Priests bring that victory to people: one sinner at a time.

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty