A time to remember His precious blood

a word from bishop les 2 350px

I know that you will all wish to join me in offering our warmest congratulations to Monsignor Peter Jeffrey and Father John Ryan, as they celebrate fifty years of priesthood. A Golden Jubilee is a wonderful occasion when we celebrate a life of faith commitment and love of God and His people. Furthermore, Father Peter Taylor and Father Owen Doyle have great reason to celebrate their Silver Jubilee which marks a quarter of a century of loving service of God’s people in the Priesthood. We know that during this time these four priests have offered inspiring examples of dedication and commitment to the Church and brought the richness of the Sacraments to the people through their ministry. They continue to do extraordinary jobs: all so different, yet they meet their challenges with faithfulness and strong adherence to prayer in their everyday lives.

There are many academic, well-structured essays and statements on the priesthood. However, I would like to take a more personal look at the priest in today’s society. The rate of change in the world continues to increase, so that priests must be able to cope with change and development, with fast moving, shifting, and highly technological cultures. We understand that the Catholic laity is more highly educated that ever, and this education now begins to include religious or theological study in Christian faith.  The priest is no longer the only expert on religious matters, and the laity rightfully express their views on topics of religion and mission.    

So, let’s look at the image of the priest today? What is this actually? There are so many perspectives; so many variables! While most priests are good, holy, and faithful; scandals regarding the sexual misconduct of priests have shocked the world.   Many are asking questions about the quality of the priests. I find immense consolation in the fact that the Gospels give us a realistic portrayal of our first priests, the apostles. They were ordinary men like us, full of humanity and shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. They were entrusted however, to carry on the most important mission in the history of the world and despite all of their weaknesses, they did an extraordinary job. Grace is always there for us too to do an extraordinary job!

We all know that the ‘extraordinary job’ which is the role of the priest, is to announce the Word and to celebrate the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. After Jesus gave his life and was raised by God, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in remembrance of his life, death and resurrection.  Christians know about the blood Jesus shed for us. When Christ lifted the cup at the last Passover, He said, "...This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:20). We memorialize His sacrifice every time we celebrate Mass and we receive communion.

The month of July is dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus. John XXIII in his Apostolic Letter ‘Inde a primis’ reminded us that ‘by gazing at the wounds of the crucified Christ each man, even in conditions of abject moral poverty, can say: ‘God has not abandoned me, He loves me, He gave his life for me’, and thus rediscove hope. The entire month of July falls within the liturgical season of Ordinary Time, which is represented by the liturgical color green, which is a symbol of hope. The Precious Blood of Christ is the pledge of God’s faithful love for humankind, which offers hope for all.

We are reminded in these readings of ordinary time in our liturgical year, that our earthly pilgrimage is also a journey, a great adventure towards union with Christ, the Beginning and the End of our journey. Each Sunday becomes a mile marker along the way, linking where we have been with where we are going.

This reflection is so important for our youth. As we move into the month of July, excitement is mounting for many of our young people as they make preparation for World Youth Day 2013 to be hosted in Rio de Janiero from July 23 to 28. This will be the 14th international World Youth Day, a Catholic event focused on religious faith and youth. Pope Francis has invited us to pray that this event will encourage all young Christians to become disciples and missionaries of the Gospel. This year’s theme is: Go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).

I am proud to be able to support our youth as they discern their life pathways and I am particularly proud to support our priests in their vocation to the priesthood in the Diocese of Sandhurst. I also believe that vocations will continue to grow, if we all continue to be courageous and if we continue to believe in a loving God. It makes the future hopeful when men like our four Jubilarians are willing to live for something greater than themselves by choosing constantly to respond to the Lord’s call. I pray that the Precious Blood of Christ will sustain us all on our life’s journey and it is my earnest hope that everyone in our Diocese of Sandhurst is inspired by the courage and faithfulness of our many good priests, and may we all join in the four jubilee celebrations with great joy!

- Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, July 2013