June 13 is the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Friday, June 11, is the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
On Friday, June 11, Pope Benedict XVI will solemnly close the Year for Priests at Mass in St. Peter’s Square at 10am.
In his letter announcing that the Year for Priests would begin last year on the feast day of the Sacred Heart, Pope Benedict struck a personal note:
“I still treasure the memory of the first parish priest at whose side I exercised my ministry as a young priest: He left me an example of unreserved devotion to his pastoral duties, even to meeting his own death in the act of bringing viaticum to a gravely ill person. I also recall the countless confreres whom I have met and continue to meet, not least in my pastoral visits to different countries: men generously dedicated to the daily exercise of their priestly ministry. Yet the expression of St. John Mary also makes us think of Christ’s pierced heart and the crown of thorns which surrounds it. I also think, therefore, of the countless situations of suffering endured by many priests, either because they themselves share in the manifold human experience of pain or because they encounter misunderstanding from the very persons to whom they minister.”
If you haven’t yet congratulated your priests during the Year for Priests, now is your last chance! Here are some ideas:
Feed them. You could invite the priest over for dinner — or mix it up by inviting him for lunch, brunch or dessert instead.
Write a letter to the priests who have been important to you: the one who baptized your oldest child (or you!); the one who married you (or your daughter); the one who helped you through the death of a loved one; the one who visited you in the hospital.
Make cards from the kids for your parish priest thanking him for all he does for your family and the parish.
Give a spiritual bouquet to your priest, promising prayers for him. (Quick tip: Promise the prayers you already do so that you can simply dedicate those to him. Spiritual bouquets that you don’t fulfill are like a bouquet of wilted flowers!)
Share stories with your children about how much priests have done for you in your life.
2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13; Psalms 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11; Galatians 2:16, 19-21; Luke 7:36-8:3 or 7:36-50
Today’s readings are about forgiveness, and they make a crucial point: When God forgives us, he doesn’t undo what we did. He truly forgives — “He imputes no guilt,” as the Psalm says — but forgiving and forgetting are one thing: Reversing the decisions you made is not part of the deal.
This all goes back to the mystery of freedom and responsibility.
There are different levels of freedom. We try to encourage our children to make decisions in life, but we don’t give them unlimited freedom. We will hold up the corn flakes and the Cheerios and ask, “Which would you like?” We don’t say, “You may eat anything in the kitchen that you want.” If on a wild and crazy day we decided to offer that kind of freedom, we would still limit it. We wouldn’t allow the kids to eat the Drano under the kitchen sink because it would hurt them.
The freedom God gives us isn’t like the freedom we give each other.
God gives us the tools to know the best decisions to make and the power to make the worst decision — the power even to do things that hurt us. When he forgives us, he withholds punishment. But he still allows the natural consequences of our actions to go along unhindered.
Thus, in today’s first reading, God forgives David his many sins. But he doesn’t change the situation those sins caused: “The sword shall never depart your house because you despised me.”
We can try to learn his lesson when we forgive our own children. In order to learn that their choices are real, the consequences of their actions have to be real. If their infraction demands grounding, they should be grounded even if that special weekend activity was coming up. If their infraction destroyed something they wished they hadn’t destroyed, then they should learn to live without that thing, not have it automatically replaced out of pity.
Even Christ in today’s Gospel offers this kind of forgiveness. He forgives the sinful woman who anoints his feet — but he doesn’t magically restore her good reputation. He points out that she loves more than the Pharisee, but he doesn’t magically swap his good reputation for hers.
Tom and April Hoopes write
from Atchison, Kansas.