Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for May 28, 2006

Although the Liturgical and Scriptural traditions of the Church have customarily placed the Ascension on a Thursday, recent pastoral adaptation for much of the United States has transferred the celebration of this great Solemnity to the following Sunday. Therefore, today is the seventh Sunday of Easter, but we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. This feast recalls the events described in Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51, and Acts 1:3-12. Just as every liturgical feast is more than a simple “remembering,” so to, our celebration of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven is more than celebrating an historical event.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger, in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, reminds us that the Liturgical commemoration of history brings us into immediate contact with that reality; in a certain sense the historical event is made present even as we become partakers in the eternal present of God’s action. He writes: “The liturgy is the means by which earthly time is inserted into the time of Jesus Christ and into its present. It is the turning point in the process of redemption” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 61). In a passage that is a bit more obscure, we read “The real interior act, though it does not exist without the exterior, transcends time, but since it comes from time, time can again and again be brought into it. That is how we can become contemporary with the past events of salvation” (ibid., p. 56).

Even though these ideas are somewhat theologically advanced, they are not impossible to penetrate. In our liturgical celebration of the saving events of our redemption – the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ – we truly participate in the eternal action of the Son, even as He acted concretely in history. Because, however, Jesus Christ is a divine person, His actions are not limited to space or time. When we participate in the Sacred Liturgy, we make present those historical realities and are caught up into the eternal worship of the Father by the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension today, our hearts and minds are caught up with Jesus Christ as He ascends to the Father. In some way, we gaze into the heavens along with the Apostles, admonished by the two angels: “Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). We long for the second coming of Christ, but at the same time, know that unless our Lord departs, He cannot send the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, Whom we await at Pentecost (cf. John 16:7).

Through the mystery of the Ascension, we know that we have a home awaiting us in heaven. Each of us is called by the Father to dwell with Him, His Son, and the Holy Spirit for all eternity; this is an amazing call, made more amazing by our Lord’s continual offer of the divine life of grace so that we may achieve this great destiny. We are charged to live out the mystery of the Ascension, not gazing into heaven, but preaching the Gospel with our words and deeds, until we too are called home.

We also celebrate a feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary this week, at the end of the month dedicated to her honor. May 31st is the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, recalling her visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Even though Mary herself was pregnant with the child Jesus, she undertook an arduous journey to the hill-country of Judea in order to minister to her cousin during the final months of her pregnancy. Seeing Mary as the new “Ark of the Covenant,” the parallels between Luke 1:39-56 and 2 Samuel 6:10-15 provide an interesting example of “typology,” a traditional way of seeing the unity of Scripture and interpreting the prophetic actions and words of the Old Testament in light of the New.

As we celebrate this Memorial Day with family and friends, may we be inspired by the example of charity given us by the Virgin Mary, and carry the Christ-child with us to our summer holiday destinations. Then we won’t simply gaze into the heavens, longing for our Lord’s return, but we can truly make Him present everywhere we go, through the power of His Spirit. May God bless you!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for May 21, 2006

As I celebrated the baptism of my nephew, Maximillian Patrick, last weekend in Palo Alto, California, I was reminded of the great joy that the Church always experiences when she welcomes new members at the baptismal font. But the Rite of Baptism also reminds us of the great responsibilities we have as baptized members of Christ’s Body, the Church. During the Easter Season, the Church focuses on the Sacrament of Baptism in a unique way, because the Paschal Mystery – the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – is the way in which we are reborn into the life of Christ.

Today’s first reading recalls the extension of the Sacramental life of the Church to the Gentiles, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. St. Peter, speaking in his capacity as the head of the Apostles and the first Pope, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, teaches that since the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles, they could not be denied baptism. Baptism wasn’t the end of the journey for those new Christians, nor is it the end of our journey. This Sacrament is the beginning of our life in Christ, opening us to the grace of the Sacraments, and welcoming us into His Body. Apart from these graces, though, Baptism confers a great responsibility upon each of us: parents, godparents, children, and indeed the whole Christian community.

Our Baptism compels us to live a life of Christian fidelity and evangelical zeal. This means that everyone we meet should in some way know the love of the Father; amazingly enough, as we spread this love of the Father, we experience His love in an ever deeper way. Obeying the Commandments of God allow us to know His love, because this is the way in which we experience His Covenant. Christ was faithful unto death, and when we imitate His fidelity, we are no longer slaves, but His friends.

While I have been gone to California, I have been blessed in many different ways, especially with the opportunity to celebrate Mass at two of the great California missions: Santa Barbara and San Juan Bautista. I also celebrated Mass at my sister’s parish, and was privileged to be able to preside at a beautiful celebration of Vespers on Sunday evening. You are all in my prayers, and I thank you for your prayers while I have been gone. May God bless you abundantly!

Faith Seeking Understanding for May 14, 2006

Today, May 14, is my first anniversary of priestly ordination; it is almost impossible to believe that a year has already passed. God has blessed me in so many ways during this year, and I am thoroughly grateful for the opportunity and grace to serve His Church as a priest. This weekend, however, I rejoice in a special way, as I baptize my nephew, Maximilian Patrick Ortega, in Palo Alto, California, where my sister and brother-in-law currently live.

As I have been reflecting on the sacrament of baptism, particularly after the Easter Vigil, but also in preparation for my nephew’s baptism, the marvelous generosity of God continues to astound me. We often speak of God’s goodness, of His mercy, and of His grace, but thinking about exactly what happens in baptism can bring us to a new and deeper level of faith. Today’s Scripture readings also speak powerfully of God’s grace and of the importance of baptism as the first sacrament, the sacrament of entrance into His family. As we celebrate Mother’s Day, as well, we recall the joy of our Mother, the Church, as she welcomes new children through this marvelous Sacrament.

Our Lord says: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Baptism grafts us onto the true vine of Christ. By the free gift of God’s grace, “Baptism takes away original sin, all personal sins and all punishment due to sin. It makes the baptized person a participant in the divine life of the Trinity through sanctifying grace, the grace of justification which incorporates one into Christ and into his Church.” This isn’t all; baptism also “gives one a share in the priesthood of Christ and provides the basis for communion with all Christians.” Finally, “it bestows the theological virtues [Faith, Hope, and Love] and the gifts of the Holy Spirit [Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord]. A baptized person belongs forever to Christ. He is marked with the indelible seal of Christ (character)” (Compendium, q. 263).

All of these effects are brought about, not through our own effort, but simply because the Father loves us and has given us His Son and His Spirit, in Whom we are baptized. This is clearly shown when parents share their faith with their children who are quite young. Such generosity clearly demonstrates God’s boundless love for each of us, who are welcomed into His family from the baptismal font. Whether we consider the image to be a flock of sheep (from last Sunday) or the vine (this Sunday), we know that our vocation is to belong to Christ. He has redeemed us, and He desires us so much that he has given us the Sacraments to share in His own divine life. Baptism is the entrance to that life.

In baptism, we become adopted sons and daughters of God, “partakers of the divine nature,” and co-heirs with Christ to the Kingdom. The baptized person also becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within him and continually renews his life (cf. Catechism, para. 1265 ff.). Pondering these graces, we might think they are outlandish or extravagant; they seem to be too much, and often our experiences seem to contradict this truth. Often, during trials and temptations, we feel more like outsiders than the sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd; when sufferings arise, we feel like we have been pruned from Christ’s vine, and cast into the fire.

St. John comforts the early Church (and us as well) with his letter: “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.” Even though it is difficult, especially in our world, St. John encourages us, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” We have an immense confidence in God, and in the grace that He gave each of us in baptism, and in the life He continues to pour out through the Sacraments of the Church. We know that we are members of His Body, called to the Divine life, and the Banquet of Eternal Life. He is always faithful to His promises.

May God bless all mothers today, in a special way, as we honor their sacrifices and love. Thank you for your witness and fidelity!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for May 7, 2006

Since last Sunday, several people have asked about the book I mentioned in my homily. The book is called the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and is published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a concise resource to open the treasures of the Church’s Tradition and teaching to the world. The first printing was in March 2006, and it is widely available, either online or in bookstores. Pope Benedict XVI, in the motu proprio dated June 28, 2005, presented the Latin original to the Church with these stirring words:

“The Compendium, which I now present to the Universal Church, is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church’s faith … which allows believers and non-believers alike to behold the entire panorama of the Catholic faith.

“I entrust this Compendium above all to the entire Church and, in particular, to every Christian, in order that it may awaken in the Church of the third millennium renewed zeal for evangelization and education in the faith, which ought to characterize every community in the Church and every Christian believer, regardless of age or nationality.

“But this Compendium, with its brevity, clarity and comprehensiveness, is directed to every human being, who in a world of distractions and multifarious messages, desires to know the Way of Life, the Truth, entrusted by God to His Son’s Church.”

Such an endorsement is an excellent reminder that we can always do more to encounter Jesus Christ, particularly as we seek to follow and serve Him with all our heart, mind, and strength. The Compendium is an excellent way to form our minds in accord with the Church, so that as members of the Body of Christ, we conform our ways of thinking and acting to the Truth of Jesus Christ.

In today’s first reading, St. Peter instructs his listeners in the unique and foundational truth of Jesus Christ: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” We are often easily swayed by the culture to believe that many paths lead to heaven, or that as long as we are sincere in our beliefs, things will be just fine. The passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus teach us something much different: Jesus Christ alone is our salvation.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed at the time by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, issued a document entitled Dominus Iesus (the Lord Jesus) on August 6, 2000, clarifying the Church’s teaching in this regard. Many of us struggle with evangelization (preaching the gospel) and apologetics (defending the teachings of the Church) on a daily basis. At work, with our families, and even with friends, questions continually arise about the nature of Christ, the possibility of grace, the moral teaching of the Church, and the Sacraments. All of these questions have answers, but ultimately, their solution is found in the person of Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. John 14:6).

These continual struggles remind us of the necessity of developing a personal holiness of life, founded upon the Sacraments (particularly of Penance and the Eucharist) and daily prayer (Eucharistic adoration, the Holy Rosary, lectio divina, Sacred Scripture); we also must, in addition to this personal holiness, cultivate an intellectual life that learns from the Church, and deepens our appreciation of the Mysteries of our Faith. As a result, our deeds and words will begin to draw many souls to Christ and we will become “evangelists” ourselves.

May God bless you all abundantly!