Note: The full text of this Rector’s Conference is not available. Below is an outline of the presentation and speaker’s notes.
“You, my dear seminarians, are not training to do a job, to become officials in a company or a bureaucratic entity. We have many, many priests who walked half the walk . . . It hurts to think that they did not complete the full journey, that they have become some sort of bureaucrat, with a bureaucratic halo that bodes nothing good for the Church. Please, be careful not to fall in this yourselves! You are becoming shepherds in the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, in order to be like Him and through Him be amid his flocks to feed his sheep.”
Chapter 11 of Saint John: Raising of Lazarus
Lord, By Now There will be a Stench
Words spoken by Martha. She has trouble believing in what the presence of Christ means – even for the dead.
Captures for us how this event can be seen through the lens of priestly formation
Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary falls ill
Mary is the one who anointed Jesus and dried his feet with her hair
Jesus receives the news about Lazarus
“This illness is not to end in death but is for the glory of God that the Son of Man may be glorified through it”
What is this Glory of God?
Life over death
Light over Darkness
“Behold, I make all things new”
The glory of God is the salvation of our souls
The glory of God is our redemption
The glory of God is resurrection
The glory of God has its own plan
Man cannot control the glory of God
So – Jesus waits for two days – he waits for Lazarus to die
Saint Peter Chrysologus writes that Christ gives death free reign
Freedom to choose God
Freedom to choose sin
Death entered the human experience because of an abuse of freedom
Life enters the human experience because the Glory of God does not leave death as the last word
O happy fault – as was acknowledged at the Great Vigil of Easter
Jesus attempts a pastoral response:
Lazarus will fall to sleep
Apostles respond – OK, then he can be saved
Because if he is dead – what power does Jesus have over death
Somehow thinking that Jesus’ power is limited
So – BLUNTLY: Jesus responds – Lazarus has died
And Jesus says: And I am glad for you that I was not there that you may believe
The apostles are entrusted with this power
As seen in our first reading today
The Church will be entrusted with this power
You – as future priests – will be entrusted with this power
Not a magical power – not resurrection powers but powers that draw people into the life of Jesus who heals, forgives, and saves
The power to bring Christ into moments of darkness
Darkness of death
Darkness of sin
Word and Sacrament – the priest mediates the power of God as the alter Christus
And so – Jesus teaches the apostles that in this case – there would be a personal physical presence of the Lord as he announces they are to go back to Judea
The response – they just tried stoning – why go back.
There are other miracles in which Jesus is not physically present but the power of God is indeed present
Jesus responds back – there are 12 hours of day light – walk in the light
Saint Augustine writes that the apostles are these 12 hours and Jesus is in the light
Walking with Jesus through troubled times
Staying close to Jesus – he is the light
With God, nothing is impossible
Before Jesus arrives – Martha comes to greet him
There is the exchange
Martha confesses: I have come to believe that you are the Christ
Before arriving both Mary and other Jews came
Mary – if you had been here he would not have died
As if Jesus could cure him before death but once dead – Christ has no power
There are limitations to his power
Then – is he really God, the Christ??
Jews – could not the one who opened the eyes of a blind man have done something so that he would not die?
Saint John writes:
Jesus is perturbed and troubled
Then he wept – before coming to the tomb
Early church fathers – he wept because of their lack of faith; he wept because he does not want people think that God is powerless in the face of death.
HE ARRIVES AT THE TOMB
He orders the stone to be removed
Martha – who made the confession that she had come to believe he was the Christ
Lord, by now there will be a stench
This implies that he is really dead – stench representing the power of death over life
He orders the Jews to roll away the stone
1) There is no fear in going back to Judea – he is the Christ
Unconditional in going where we are to minister
2) The glory of God is that life conquers death – I am the way, truth and life
Everything we do is for Jesus
3) The apostles are being prepared to handle the mysteries of our salvation – but they are to stay close the Lord (that which most did not do later resulting in a suicide, betrayal, fear, and lack of faith)
We are not accidental – our humanity required
4) What stinks is not what in the tomb – but the lack of faith in Mary, Martha, and the Jews
- Jesus weeps over this – he does not mourn for that reflects that death is indeed permanent in that God has no power over death
- No – he weeps for our salvation. Will man freely accept the Gospel, the KOG
5) Freedom is given full reign – the flesh does stink and we carry this cross. Jesus teaches us how to handle the stink of the cross in a holy, humble, courageous way.
- So, yes – the flesh of Lazarus stinks but not his soul. What is pre-figured in Lazarus is what God intends for all who believe
- Augustine reminds – while the flesh corrupts, the soul does not when we are faithful to God. Death cannot touch the soul unless we allow it to touch the soul
6) Jesus reveals that Lazarus is good man – a faithful man therefore death has not touch his soul
- God’s power is then to raise the soul and perfect the body. This is the glory of God.
- Lazarus did not stink
Christians do not stink – yes, we are sinners and we know this and therefore we work to leave the stink of our flesh in a tomb.
7) Lazarus comes out a new man – and so he entered the tomb in death and leaves the stink behind.
- Jesus orders – untie him and let him go
- Untie him – he is now free from death
Lord, by now there will be a stench
What does Easter look like in a seminary?
What does Easter mean for a seminarian?
What does Easter mean for one to be ordained this Spring?
What does Easter look like for you men discerning out of the program?
It looks like stink!!
Priestly formation is all about discernment –a discernment rooted in conversion, purification, purgation, and transformation.
The grace of God, that you willingly, without condition, embrace is given through the experience of formation.
When you come out of the tomb of seminary life – the stink is left behind
Notre Dame Seminary stinks – in the best sense of what happened in the tomb
It stinks here and it should
Pride really stinks
Because you have embraced formation – you are dealing with purification.
With a purified intellect, will and soul – you leave here as a deacon, priest, or layman – leaving behind the stink
In this tomb – we are working out our salvation by God’s grace
A purified mind allows us to know the will of God
Am I called to be a priest
Am I called to be married
Am I called to be consecrated for the Lord
Blessed are the pure of heart – for they shall see God
Leaving NDS – we leave the stink behind
Lord, By Now There will be a Stench
“Faced with this vocation we can respond as the Virgin Mary did with the angel, ‘How is this possible?'” Becoming “good shepherds” in Jesus’ image “is something too big, and we are so small”. Yet, “it is not really our doing; [. . .] it is the work of the Holy Spirit, with our collaboration.” Hence, “Humbly, we must offer ourselves, like clay to be molded, because God is the potter who works with water and fire, with the Word and the Spirit.”
SO – THERE IS STINK when we do not cooperate with the Church
Martha – Mary – Jews – Apostles
They thought if Jesus had only cured Lazarus before he died – this power would save
The stink of the Evil One was to have them think God does not have power over death
To make God little – a simple miracle worker
It is true “that at the beginning, there is not always a total rectitude of intention,” the pope noted. Indeed, “it is unlikely that there could ever be.” In fact, “All of us always have little things that fall short of the rectitude of intention, but over time this is resolved through every day conversion. Think about the apostles! Think about James and John, one who wanted to become prime minister and the other economy minister, because that was more important.
. . . The apostles . . . thought about something else and, with great patience, the Lord . . . corrected their intention and in the end, their rectitude of intention was so enhanced that they gave their life to preaching and martyrdom. [Thus] Do not be afraid!”
“Talk to your spiritual father; talk to your teachers; pray, pray, pray. You will see that the rectitude of intention will move forward.”
MUST TRUST IN THE FORMATION PROCESS
THANK YOU FOR DOING SO
POPE ASKS THAT IF YOU CANNOT DO THIS:
“This means that we must be men of prayer in order to become the voice of Christ who praises the Father and interceding for our brothers.” If “you are unwilling to follow this route,” or have “these attitudes and these experiences, it is best for you to have the courage to seek another path.”
APOSTLES DID NOT WANT TO GET INTO DANGER IN JUDEA – THE TRIUMPH OF MEDIOCRITY
“In the Church, there are many ways to bear Christian witness, and many routes that lead to holiness. There is no room for mediocrity in Jesus’ ministerial sequela, the kind of mediocrity that always leads to using God’s holy people to one’s advantage. ‘Woe to the wicked shepherds who pasture themselves and not their flocks!’ shouted the Prophets with great force.”
“Woe to the wicked shepherds because the seminary, let’s face it, is not a refuge for the many limitations we may have, or a haven for psychological deficiencies or a shelter because I do not have the courage to move forward in life and I am looking for a place to defend me”.
“No, it cannot be that. If your seminary were like that, it would mortgage the Church’s future! No! The seminary exists to go forward, forward on [right] path. When we hear the prophets say ‘woe’, let that ‘woe’ make you reflect seriously about your future. Pius XI once said that it was better to lose a vocation than take risks with an unsure candidate. He liked to climb mountains, and knew these things.”