|BISHOP OF BROKEN BAY PETER COMENSOLI|
As I've been making my way around the Diocese, I am often asked what my priorities are. May I suggest that this is a dangerous question to ask a Bishop, as he is likely to give you an answer! As it happens, every Bishop is likely to give the same answer: There is only one priority : to proclaim Christ, our crucified friend and risen Lord. Of course that's not quite what people are getting at when they ask the question, but it is important to always place this answer at the beginning and end of all we do in the life of our local Church. Christ is the foundation of every vocation, task and service we undertake.
At the time of my installation, I stated that there will be four areas of focus that will influence how I think about the life of our Diocese : (1) parishes as local communities of grace; (2) Christian marriage and family life as a sign for our culture; (3) young people as the hope of our Church; (4) vocations to priestly and consecrated life.with this edition of BBN , I'd like to start a conversation about #2 but doing so in conjunction with #4; in other words, Christian marriage and family life , and vocations to priestly and consecrated life.
A few Sundays ago we celebrated " Good Shepherd Sunday", so called because the Gospel is always taken from St. John and his image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, who sacrifices His life for the sake of the sheep. ( Jn. 10: 1-19) This image has traditionally been associated with priestly vocations. Hence, "Good Shepherd Sunday"is often called " Vocations Sunday". What this reminds us is that the Ordained Priesthood is a sign of the sacrificial love of Jesus, Who gave His life for all.A Priest is a visible sign of this sacrificial kind of love that Jesus lived out. At least, that's what we as Priests are meant to be.
However, the Good Shepherd is not the only image of the love of Jesus that Scripture leaves for us. Jesus is also called the Bridegroom ( Mt. 9: 15; Jn. 3: 29), with the Church being His bride ( Ep. 5: 24-32; Rv. 19 : 7-9) This spousal image of Jesus reminds us that His love for us is not only sacrificial, but also unifying. Christ's love binds us to Him in a marital way. Marital love - or , as it is spoken of by theolgians, nuptial love - expresses the way Christ seeks to unite himself to His Church, and the way in which the Church takes on the shape of God's Own life. In other words, Christ, loves me ( and you) simply for myself ( and yourself) , and not for anything we can give back. Jesus delights in us; He desires our company; he wants to be united to us. Jesus loves us ; and we are invited into this love.Pope St.John Paul II called this the " nuptial meaning" of our bodies. We are privileged to reflect in our bodies a meaning that goes far beyond any crude scientific understanding. our bodies reflect the glory, beauty and love of Christ, and we have been made by God so as to reciprocate this glory, beauty and love. ( By the way, we can see here why the Church has traditionally been referred to using the personal pronoun "she". The Church is not an "it", a thing that cannot respond in kind . Rather the Church is " she" who fully receives and reciprocates the love of Christ.)
In this nuptial image we can see the bold purpose of Christian marriage. It is a sign of the love of Christ that binds and unites us: in His body Jesus gave Himself to us, and in our bodies we may give ourselves to Christ. When a married couple bind and unite themselves to each other in the way of Jesus - freely, faithfully, fruitfully - then we have before us the visible , bodily sign of God among us.
Allow me to say a few words on those three "F's": free, faithful, fruitful. Jesus freely gave Himself to us in the Incarnation, He faithfully offered Himself for us on the Cross, and He fruitfully abides with us in His Holy Spirit. These are the same ingredients that go to make up a Christian marriage. A couple freely give themselves to each other; they faithfully live out that choice until death; and they show the fruit of their love , especially in their lovemaking and child bearing. When one of these elements is essentially missing in the very foundation of a marriage , then we do not call it " marriage".
The more that we grasp these basic truths about Christian marriage, the more clearly we can see it as a vocation that God calls husbands and wives into. And thee more clearly we understand that the more powerful the vocations of priestly ministry and religious life become, precisely because we can already witness the joys that a total life-calling can be in the family home. Just as in married life, for young men called to the Priesthood and for men and women called to the religious life, Jesus the Bridegroom calls forth His beloved because he delights in them and wishes to share his life with them.
Of course, there is so much more to be said about the nature of Christian marriageand its role as a sign of our culture , but this is enough to get the conversation started. It would be great if you who wish to be married, , are married, or have been married could share this conversation about:
the image of Jesus as Bridegroom;
the nuptial meaning of our bodies; and
the three "F's" of marriage
with each other. So , over to you!
Please keep me in your prayers, as I promise to keep you in mine.
Most Reverend Peter A. Comensoli
Bishop of Broken Bay "
|Auxiliary to Cardinal Pell|