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Many people have a poor understanding of the purpose of the Priesthood. It's as if they peer at these men through a great cloud of incomprehension, and yet expect Baptism, marriage services and burial. If more of the Clergy did what the Lord has called them to do - asking sinners to repent and to avoid Hell, and to accept the grace that leads to Heaven, people would understand them more clearly, and some would respect them for their courage.
God's chosen people were led by God on a long journey to the Promised Land, through a desert, and not always understanding His wishes - as if deep in a canyon. When they emerged, so to speak, to witness Jesus the Saviour in His life-time, it was as if on a great plain, at a time of testing. Few believed. Others crucified Jesus; but He rose to Heaven, having conquered sin and death.
We must never forget how much Christ has changed our lives, through His grace and guidance. Nor must we forget how great is the need for continued evangelisation, as whole communities seem to follow the world's way of selfishness rather than Christ's way of selfless love. People need firm teaching about how we cannot serve two masters. We choose, by our behaviour, to serve God or Satan.
We must watch our words, carefully. Where two people speak fervently about something of great importance to them, it is only too easy to slide into uncharity, in mentioning other people, just as when people on a riverbank speak with vehement concern but with violent movements, it is very likely that the one nearest the river will slide away and fall in.
When politicians purposely allow no mention of God, and forget the Christian heritage of Europe, they inevitably pass foolish or wicked laws, increase immorality in society, and witness an associated decline in charity - which they deplore, but which they have helped to accelerate.
Many Catholics like to appear strong, to fit in with the world. We must not do wrong, to please a secular or atheistic government. When there is confusion or near-panic amongst Catholics about dealing with the world and organising medical or surgical care, or schooling or Catechesis, in ways which fit in with the guidelines of a secular government, the Pope, and Christ Himself, serve as exemplars. If we do what is right, and do nothing wrong, willing to accept the consequences, we will please God and have peaceful consciences.
Christ is the way, the truth and the life: the only Saviour. Christ asks every Christian teacher, author, parent, religious, Clergyman and missionary to do what St. Paul did, who urged people to be reconciled with God, through Christ, in Baptism or Confession. It is as if Christ says, in this age of hesitation or even doubt: 'Would you send people to a false god or to false prophets?' He is the Way.
Christ wants everyone to know and serve Him, in His Church. Everyone who claims to know Christ's Will, and professes a desire to lead people to Christ, must examine his conscience. He must answer to God for what he sees in his own heart. Each of us knows if we are really urging people to turn to Christ, or are encouraging indifferentism, saying it doesn't really matter about commitment or Baptism.
Each Catholic priest should be aware of what is necessary for renewal in the vocation which he freely accepted. His feet should be those of a person who brings Good News: of God's love, and forgiveness brought through Christ. His heart should be full of compassion for sinners. His mind should be fixed on Christ, and Heavenly things. His hands should be clean - as when they were anointed, for the offering of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Christ asks us to be bolder and braver, in direct proclamation of the Gospel message, that God loves us so much that He came from Heaven to live here as man, to save us from sin, and the fear of death. If we repent and trust in Him, we can be transformed, by the graces received in prayer, and through the Church. At present there is too much 'pre-evangelisation', which is not converting people, but causing some to think conversion is not important.
It is hard to bear criticism for doing right, or persecution, personal abuse or slander. But if we bear it in patience, with peaceful words and peaceful hearts, we please Christ, Who has power to give us whatever help He wishes. He has power, too, over our persecutors, even when He has given them the freedom to do good or evil.
If a child could look back five centuries, then another five, then another - to when Christ lived on earth, she would see: the very same Catholic Faith is taught today, as in the first century after Christ. God the Father looks upon the earth, glad to see people who believe in the whole Deposit of Faith, handed down from the time of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Yet very few believe the Faith in its entirety; so, in our age, as in the first century, and the fifth, tenth and fifteenth, there is a great need for witness, evangelisation, and intercession.
God looks down from Heaven, ready to distribute lavish gifts upon us, yet sees many dispirited priests who are too afraid to teach the Faith in its fullness; thus they are unwilling to imitate their Saviour and risk criticism from those they teach; and so they omit to mention the wrongness of adultery, contraceptive use, desertion of spouses, and neglect of children by mothers, and much more. In failing to rescue people from sin they fail in their duty, as if hiding away in a pit, hoping to be unnoticed.
A President of a great country has political power. But the most ordinary, apparently insignificant Christian has power: the power of the Truth, which, boldly spoken, can change hearts and lives, by the grace of God.
This is the ideal, for a priest: to be totally conformed to Christ - and for lay-persons too, who want to do the Will of God. Whoever conforms his will to the Will of Christ, and believes and practices the teachings of the Church, for love of Christ, and has a pure heart, avoids all sin, and shares the Faith where he can, and loves his neighbour, is a channel for God's powerful graces to others, even if he or she has weaknesses and imperfections from character defects, or poor upbringing.
God sets free from foolish ideas those who love Christ, believe in the teachings of the Church, and faithfully try to practice them, guided by the Pope and the other Catholic Bishops. Catholics who constantly grumble about teaching and discipline displease Christ, are unfair to the Popes, and distress faithful Catholics who are rightly shocked by public dissent, witnessed by the Church's enemies.
God wants us to lead lives which are as pure as fresh snow, with each of our thoughts, words and deeds holy. We should have pure intentions, treating everyone with kindness, speaking the truth always, and leading chaste lives worthy of Christians. None of this can be achieved by our own power, but with God's grace we can change, and prepare for our life in Heaven. Christ asks us: will we be ready for Heaven, when we die?
Christ asks us to share the truth with hesitant Catholics, that the surest way to a holy life, and a confident but holy journey to Heaven, is to make a good Confession; then, freed from all sin, and trusting in Christ, in prayer, and guided by the teachings of His Church, the Way ahead becomes clear.
Just as, in a cold, snowy street, the people are encouraged to be cheerful because of the unseen work of electrical engineers, gas suppliers and other who provide background services, so in the 'winter' of the Church in recent times, people who love Christ and the Church have helped to keep others cheerful, and hopeful, through fervent and sustained evangelisation and declarations of faith.
The Lord asked me to use, in a talk, the phrase I'd heard long ago, on television, at the end of a Gospel Rock-Concert. The star called out, "God exists! Jesus is alive!" - to a roar of delight and approval from his audience, who admired his faith and courage.
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