March 16, 2010 // Uncategorized

Immersed in the Word of God

Opening/Closing Song:
“How Great Thou Art” (Gather Comprehensive No. 494); “Center of My Life” (No. 598); “You Are Near” (No. 604)

Opening Prayer:
Prayer for Priests

Gracious and loving God, we thank You for the gift of our priests. Through them, we experience Your presence in the sacraments. Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for Your people. Grant them the wisdom, understanding and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Inspire them with the vision of Your Kingdom. Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry. Help them to become instruments of Your divine grace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen.
— From the Web site:

Excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Priests:
In today’s world, as in the troubled times of the Curé of Ars, the lives and activity of priests need to be distinguished by a determined witness to the Gospel. Lest we experience existential emptiness and the effectiveness of our ministry be compromised, we need to ask ourselves ever anew: “Are we truly pervaded by the Word of God? Is that Word truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world? Do we really know that Word? Do we love it? Are we deeply engaged with this Word to the point that it really leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking?”

Commentary from Father Mark Gurtner, pastor, St. Anthony de Padua, South Bend:
Personally, I live these words out in my life as a priest by making a Holy Hour of Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament each day. I find that the time that I spend each day before the Real Presence of Jesus, who is the living “Word of God,” melts away fear, discouragement and listlessness in the pursuit of pastoral ministry. Also, by meditating during this time on the written Word of God in the Scriptures, the Word of God comes alive with meaning, especially as I prepare for homilies.

Also, I believe that every human is susceptible to this feeling of “existential emptiness” of which the pope speaks. This means that we can fall prey to a sense of lack of meaning and purpose in life. However, by immersing ourselves in the Word of God, this cloud of despair disperses, and we find ourselves basking in the full glow of God’s love. This ultimately is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives — being close to God.

Father Gurtner’s comments speak to the need of priests to continually renew themselves in the presence of God in order to lead and nourish the people of God. They — and we — are challenged by the words of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, a doctor of the Church, who said as a very young priest: “We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently” — CCC, No. 1589.

Both priests and laity have a responsibility to continually renew themselves in the presence of God. Father Gurtner spends time each day before the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle so that he may remain close to the living Word of God. We can also avail ourselves of the opportunities in many parishes for visitation or daily Mass to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Moments of prayer
Another way to renew ourselves is to become more aware that God is always present to us — even when we may not be present to God. Once we understand that we can turn to God in every moment of every day, the possibilities for renewing ourselves in the Word of God are limited only by our awareness and commitment.

Fostering a closer relationship with God can be done in myriad ways. As soon as we awaken or as we shower or drive, we can thank God for the opportunity to live another day in service to Him and others. Noticing the beauty of the seasons and giving praise to God for His wonderful creations can give rise to spontaneous prayer. As we engage in our daily work or play, we can often turn to God as our constant companion. Finally, we can end each day by quietly reflecting on the day’s events in a short examination of conscience, thanking God for whatever good was accomplished and asking forgiveness for shortcomings.

As Father Gurtner says, immersing ourselves in God’s Word helps us realize God’s great love for us and dispels fear and anxiety in becoming determined witnesses to the Gospel. For both clergy and laity, being close to God is indeed what gives ultimate purpose and meaning to our lives!

Reflection questions by Pope Benedict XVI:
• Are we truly pervaded by the Word of God? Is that Word truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world?
• Do we really know that Word? Do we love it?
• Are we deeply engaged with this Word to the point that it really leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking?

Closing prayer
God of love and mercy, You call us to be Your people; You gift us with Your abundant grace. Make us a holy people, radiating the fullness of Your love. Form us into a community, a people who care, expressing Your compassion. Remind us day after day of our baptismal call to serve, with joy and courage. Teach us how to grow in wisdom and grace and joy in Your presence. Through Jesus in Your Spirit, we make this prayer. Amen.
— Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium, “A Prayer,” page v, © 1995, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Washington, D.C.

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