Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Lectionary: 318

Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect
those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year.

The older I get the more fascinated I am by “the law.” I am far less inclined to “experiment” with the rituals of the Mass than I was forty years ago. I know it’s not my Mass; I am only an administrator of the mysteries. I find more satisfaction in reading the Liturgy of the Hours than in private devotion, and even my private devotions have little spontaneity. I am content with reciting the rosary and recalling the traditional mysteries of each decade.

Old people like me tend to control religion; our memories are longer; our habits, more settled. New ideas and innovations are rarely new; we’ve heard them before. That's not necessarily a good thing. 

The Church in every age has been challenged to reimagine our faith and re-present it to a generation that has different experience and original perspectives. Today’s millennial (or mosaic) generation has a radically different experience than their parents and grandparents. They do not remember a world without the Internet, terrorism and cocaine. They understand social media. They don’t use email to write long, folksy letters to one another with all the news, weather and sports.

When I was young I had little interest in any spiritual or religious books that predated the Second Vatican Council. I understood that extraordinary gathering as a reset for everything we ever knew about God, Jesus and Church. Perhaps today’s millennials think of the Internet in the same way: history began with the computer; everything before is prologue.

In the earliest years of the Church, the Evangelists and New Testament Writers, like today's theologians, were charged with reimagining old religious traditions in the light of Jesus’ life, teachings, death and resurrection. Salvation History did not begin with him; but it had been fulfilled and had to be rewritten.

Jewish and gentile Christians agreed that the Jewish religion, as beautiful as it had been, was “only a shadow of the good things to come. It could “never make perfect those who come to worship by the same sacrifices” that had been offered in the temple for centuries. It’s over, done, kaput! When Jesus the Son of God said, “Behold I come to do your will!” everything changed.

I have no doubt that Jesus will continue to fascinate every generation from now till the end of time; I am sure the Church will remain as the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” vessel which retains the spirit and presence of Jesus. With that confidence I need not insist that anyone should pray as I pray or think as I think. I leave those important matters to the Holy Spirit, confident that what the Lord has revealed to me will be manifest to others.

And I remain confident that the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council has only begun. We have yet to to experience the beauty, grace and power of our restored liturgies. The ecumenical movement reuniting Catholic and Protestant, Roman and Orthodox will astonish the world with its Gospel proclamation.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.