Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Power of Benedict

Okay, tonight was pretty cool. I had been feeling poorly all day today because of really awful lack of sleep. However, tonight was a cool re-energizing encounter with Christ's saving power in my parish. Let me explain.

First, at 6:30 p.m. we held evening prayer with a Eucharistic Holy Hour. I preached a brief homily on the role of being immersed in the covenant and how adoration allows us to be washed in the blood of the Lamb. It was also a solid time for reflection on the Acts of the Apostles. In my prayer I was focused upon the personal dimension of the encounter with the Apostles and how that personal exchange leads others to salvation. I was especially taken with the numinous notion that proclamation leads to suffering and persecution which leads back to proclamation and from that proclamation, conversion. So I was well prepared for the next event.

Second, at 7:30 p.m. the college students came over and we wrapped up our common reading of Deus Caritas Est. This was especially fruitful as the college students understood how love must be a work and not just a notion or an idea. Next week, we are going back to Guissani's work. I guess I will have to review how to do a School of Community. However, tonight, one of the kids brought a guest, who has been with us before. After we wrapped up, we broke up but this kid wanted to talk to me.

Now, I have to confess. I thought I was going to get in a theological throwdown over some Protestant/Catholic issue. That's not what happened.

The young man wanted to know how to be saved. Yes, you read that correctly. He wanted to be saved. I gave him a 15 minute overview of the nature of salvation and then set the stage for his conversion. I used that phrase from Acts of the Apostles 2:37-38: "And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" In essence, I tried to lead the young man to see that salvation is a both/and sort of experience. In one way, it is a sudden realization -- "what shall we do?" In another way, it is a slow process based on knowing your sins and receiving the sacraments in knowledge and in faith. (By the way, this notion of multiple step conversion to Christ and His Church, in contrast to Fundamentalist ideas, permeates the New Testament. Cf. Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; John 3:5, 22, 26; 4:1; Acts 16:15, 33 [infant baptism allusion (iba)]; 22:16 [baptism has an effect proper to itself -- forgiveness of sins]; Titus 3:5; I Peter 3:18-22.)

Christ has been calling these people and they have been coming because they, in small and subtle ways, have heard that summons. If I hadn't been reading Acts, would I have been ready to welcome this young man, on the verge of tears, to give him a point in the right direction? How tremendous in Christ is the salvation He has in store for each of us! Of course, I give all credit for this beginning of a new conversion to Pope Benedict's encyclical. It was his conversation about the centrality of love, the absolute need to love and to be loved which reached through to this young man.

Happy Lent, kids, and pray from him.

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