|R.C. PRIEST - HERE TODAY|
SEE YOU IN HEAVEN
There comes a time in every Catholic diocese during the course of every year when the faithful congregants struggle with the meaning of the changing of the guard, so to speak.
The world of the Catholic Church is one that is focused on the end times, the final judgment, the moment of truth, the hour of death, the arrival of the Bridegroom, the meeting of our Creator/Father. There are many elements of Catholic life that prepare us for the moment when we leave the temporal dimension and enter into dimensionless eternity. One such element of this preparation is the call and the promise to continuity and unity of purpose in the life of the Church. It is the factual, flint hard, day to day renewal of our Faith in the presence of God in every facet of our lives. Besides the call to stay faithful to our families, to our jobs, to our country, to our own personal relationship with our friends and neighbors and finally to God through His Church. Yes, all of these commitments require dedicated perseverance. They require that we keep our hearts, souls and minds focused on the final reality, the rest of eternity in the presence of God.
We are brought up in the faith that says that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic (Universal) and Apostolic. The greatest of these is its Unity. It is one through time, one in mind, heart and soul every day and everywhere. It is in its Unity, Holiness, Catholicity and Apostolicity that Jesus could promise that the gates of Hell would never prevail against it. We know that this is true because every day we get the opportunity to talk to someone clear across the world who has been to Mass in the morning; we say "God be with you" as we part company with an acquaintance; we get a telephone call from our Presbyterian friend asking for Catholic prayers before submitting himself to surgery; we travel anywhere on the continent and go to Mass in any language and we can relate; we travel anywhere and we know that there will be a daily Mass somewhere in which we can participate either to begin or end our day; we also know that at that Mass there will be warm hearted brethren willing to spend a joyful moment with us. The priest may even be one of those who approaches us lovingly. Yes, the priest. Ah, the priest.
Where does he come from? How long has he been here? For how long will he be here? Is he the pastor? Maybe one of the vicars? Maybe from across town? Maybe even traveling like us and just happens to be here for a couple of days? Oh, he's from Africa! We take that for granted these days. We don't give it a second thought but in these two paragraphs we are living moments of preparation for eternity with the One, Unchanging Creator Father. Eternity will be dimensionless, remember. No time. No coming and going. Just constant measureless, wonderfully awesome love of God. Our life in the Church prepares us for that.
We don't go to participate in the Mass because Father Mack is the celebrant. We don't go to Mass at the cross-town church for the sake of the cross-town church.
We don't go to Mass where there are cushioned kneelers and pews for our comfort. We don't have to worry about which priest will be celebrating the sacrament of Baptism next Sunday. We don't worry about which priest is going to come to our death bed. We know that if we are in our own country or a country far away, when we are there we are also in church, prayers and sacraments, tabernacles and sanctuary lights, pictures (icons) and statues, tabernacles and Stations of the Cross as well as incense and holy water. It doesn't matter whether it is Bethlehem in Palestine or Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, it's all the same.
Finally, and to the point of all this, when the jolly merry-go-round of clergy changes happens every year, one priest leaves and one comes in behind him. The Church doesn't move, they do. You and I move too, but the Church doesn't move, we do.The Church is our heaven here below. It doesn't change. The Church is the beginning of Heaven. The Church is the bride of Jesus. We hold Her hand and side by side with Her we hold His hand along the Way to heaven. On the way to heaven we have to have the Church in one hand and Jesus in the other. The occasional do-si-do of the clergy is nothing but the confirmation that the Church remains the Church and the rest is God's plan of using his human creatures as His collaborators along the way to Eternity.
We find the foundation of our faith in the Church in the mystery of Pentecost. Jesus promised us the Advocate, the Counselor, the Comforter, the fire carrier who infuses our hearts and souls with the zeal for God's house. The Holy Spirit showed the disciples the way of courage, penance, prayer and zeal. We are in that same boat. The Ark that did not sink; the boat where the apostles were sleeping did not sink; the boat that we are in will not sink per the promise mentioned above. This is a journey in a boat that leads to the Eternal Harbor of boundless, dimensionless love. We know that because even in our short lives we see it weather so many storms. Our contribution as faithful members of the Church is to keep our hearts and souls locked in to the eternal Light that never wavers because it is not human. That is what the Church teaches us by its very existence.
I firmly believe that and because I do, I am telling you, never cry at the transfer of the clergy because we don't own them, and do not even get tempted to cry at my funeral.