These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Then the LORD said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD. (Ez 37:1-14)
The human project can sometimes feel like a massive failure, but God can raise up even our dead, dry bones and give us new life, new hope, new vision.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you; you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ez 36:23-28)
God’s mercy and compassion are inexhaustible. God makes all things new . . . including us: a new spirit, a new heart, a new people!
Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. (Ez 34:1-11)
When Pope Francis says that shepherds should have the smell of the sheep, he’s talking about the problem of clericalism. The Prophet Ezekiel is also talking about shepherds who pasture themselves rather than the sheep. “Shepherds, hear the word of the LORD” and what follows are some of the most terrible words in all the Scriptures. What God wants is that the weak be strengthened, the sick healed, the injured cared for, the strayed to be returned, the lost to be found. As God says: “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” And as the Psalmist joyfully proclaims: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre: Thus says the Lord GOD: Because you are haughty of heart, you say, “A god am I! I occupy a godly throne in the heart of the sea!”— And yet you are a man, and not a god, however you may think yourself like a god. No, you are man, not a god, handed over to those who will slay you. (Ez 28:1-10)
The prophet Ezekiel pronounces the doom of the Prince of Tyre who is the biblical definition of hubris. It’s what happens when we throw our weight around and act like we own the world. There will be a reckoning. As Ezekiel reminds us: you are human, you are not a god.
Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life. (1 Cor 15:20-27)
The old translation for the Preface for the Ascension of the Lord says: “Where he has gone, we hope to follow.” Today’s feast of the Assumption of Mary reminds us that one day, we too will follow him, for he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And as Mary sings in her hymn of praise: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord . . . for he has lifted up the lowly. Holy is his name.”
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. (Heb 12:1-4)
The great cloud of witnesses—how important is the story of those who have gone before us in Christ. We tell their stories knowing that one day we, too, will take our place in that great cloud. Who then will tell our stories?
Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." After he placed his hands on them, he went away. (Mt 19:13-15)
Jesus and the children is an image we all can relate too, especially parents with crying babies. The disciples were saying, “No crying babies near Jesus!” Jesus, on the other hand, just scooped the children up in his arms and then reminded his disciples about the priorities of the Kingdom. Today’s picture is of Pope Francis who baptized 33 babies in the Sistine Chapel. He told the mothers that if their baby cried that it was okay to go ahead and breastfeed them. Some cardinals were not amused.