The Passion

Before this cross stretched out on Calvary where Christ has died, we need to stop to reflect on where we find ourselves.

For it is here in a single sweep of this wide horizon that we can grasp the real meaning of church and priesthood.

Christ, the Godman, is often called the “second Adam” in the scriptures. This is to say that he is the prototype of a new humanity; a prototype that includes all men and women in its newness and remodelling, a prototype that allows all humankind to rediscover the divine element it once lost through the first Adam’s fault.

We have all heard the modern technical term “prototype.” It refers to a model, the first example of a new kind of thing, of a new “race” of machines. In a sense, it includes them all, it is them all, it is found in them all. If there has been an error or deliberate sabotage on the level of the prototype, then all the machines being built from that prototype will bear the same fault; this will prevent them from realizing the aims set by the engineer who designed the original model. A new prototype would be needed to correct the situation. This new model would be perfectly formed, and it would make possible the correction of all the faulty machines copied from the first prototype. Then they would be able to perform to expectations; they would be able to meet their original goal, and their existence would finally make sense. Just as the first prototype included all the machines, the second would also include them, would bear them within itself, would be in all of them. This is undoubtedly a really materialistic model of things, but it may help us to understand Christ’s position.

Adam, as we call the first human person in the full sense of the words, was like the first prototype of humankind; he disfigured God’s achievement within himself. Abusing his freedom, he considered himself great enough to play God; he wanted to create himself, all by himself; “you will be like gods,” whispered the demon. But, turning in on himself, he fell back on his own tyranny and became the slave of evil and sin. A secret slavery, perhaps, and one in which he could find delight: thanks to his intelligence he was still the master of creation. He could be successful, organize the world and find happiness. But he was locked in his biological role of an intelligent animal. He lost his divine possibilities, lost his “Paradise”, an image and symbol which expresses the intimacy of his life with God in the freedom of a child, like a son with his father.

Christ, the second prototype of humankind, came into the world and into history. He bore within himself God’s forgiveness and the power to communicate to men the divine life which filled him. Man like other men and women, he took their sinful flesh. In solidarity with them he behaved as the responsible one, and entered into a decisive struggle to free his brothers and sisters.

To do so he assumed a role contrary to that of Adam the rebel. He accepted the whole of the human condition from the moment of his birth. He lived the life of an ordinary man, in a given time, in a specific country and specific village, with a definite style of life and a definite occupation. He was familiar with all human necessity: he ate, drank, slept like everyone else. Beyond that, he made himself a servant, the hostage designated to replace the guilty. He went to the extreme limit, the rock-bottom of all dejection: betrayed, abandoned by all, whipped, tortured, he took on himself all the sins of the history of the world. And he completed the sacrifice of the “humiliated servant” to repair the damage done by the “leader of a rebellious race.”

Evil, the demon, no longer had any hold, could act on nothing at all, and thus lost all its power. Sin was conquered. Suddenly the barrier which kept humankind from assuming its divine dimension was lifted: it could rediscover its forgotten intimacy with the Father because God had accepted the sacrifice of his “humiliated servant” and proved this in resurrecting him.

On Calvary Jesus reopened the way toward the Father when he told the criminal who regretted his evil past, “I promise you, this very night you will be with me in Paradise.” So it was a man of really obvious guilt, a thief, who first reentered this path.

For this man united himself to Christ in his sacrifice; he agreed to let himself be torn away from the servitude to evil which bound up his heart. He set himself on the side of the new human prototype; he surrendered to God. He was “saved,” he pursued his “salvation” — which is what Christianity is all about. Onto the old human nature inherited from the first prototype of man, it was necessary to graft Christ; as a barren tree receives the graft of a living and fruitful branch. So life is transformed, transfigured.

To be sure, it is something of a radical break, a change of heart, a “conversion,” to be united with Christ in his sacrifice. We might have to give up our secret slavery, like a grafted trunk gives up its own branches. We have to convert ourselves to a wholly new way of thinking, as we noticed in talking about the “reign of God”; and to do so we have to leave behind a way of living where we are satisfied with our selfishness, our Interests, our quiet, our comfort, our lack of love for others, our habits of sin. And the price is nothing less than to be a disciple of the crucified. What’s really wrong in the world is that this victory won by Christ can be canceled, rendered useless for one person or another. For man’s freedom resists the love of Christ which presses on him. And God respects this freedom.

Continuing this work of salvation, bringing men and women of all times and all races to God in proclaiming his Christ, submerging them in the saving sacrifice forever being set before them (“Do this in memory of me,” Jesus said), grafting Christ onto them in order to have them flourish with a new, divine life — in short, making them new persons on the model of Christ and thus sons and daughters of God — this is the essence of ministry in the church of Jesus Christ. And these are the reasons one becomes a priest.

Philosophers and scholars, scientists and technicians, sociologists and economists, politicians and labor leaders, artists of all kinds — the world needs people like these to reach its fulfillment. Christian writers and thinkers, authentic disciples of Christ in all fields and all social classes who put the law of love of the reign of God in their lives —the world also needs people like these to bear witness to Truth. These are all useful and necessary vocations, at once different and complementary.

But the priestly vocation is indispensible among all others, in order that Jesus Christ, the only bridge of salvation between heaven and earth, be made known and spread throughout the universe; and so that humanity, now given the new life it was meant to have from the first instant of creation, may find itself in God.

Father Menard in his work At All Times

Feast of St. Joseph – March 19

JOSEPH

Our Missionary Society wants to give priests afire with zeal to a world that needs them, so badly.

“We are what we are before God, and not what we seem to be in the eyes of men.” (Saint Francis of Assisi)

Our titles, our position, and our functions are of secondary importance, externals. They are merely what we appear to be in the eyes of men. However, what we are, what we are really worth is measured by the extent to which we live inwardly by our love of Christ.

Mary, a humble housewife, who kneaded bread and mended clothing; Joseph, a simple workman who made tools, wooden chests; Jesus, an apprentice carpenter, who worked in his father’s workshop, amid the smell of wood. Such did these three great souls appear in the eyes of men.

Joseph, an honest artisan, whose social position was far from brilliant, was none the less the man chosen because of his righteousness, to be – after Mary – the guardian and depositary of God’s secrets.

Cum esset justus!” He was perfect in all the virtues (Saint Leonard of Port Maurice). In Saint Joseph “were gathered all the wisdom and holiness of all the other saints taken together, so that his life might conform more closely to the lives of Jesus and Mary” (Saint Gregory Nazianzan). “To be just is to be perfectly united to the Will of God, and always to conform to it in every circumstance, whether propitious or adverse” (Saint Francis de Sales).

Silence, prayer, mental prayer, work: these words sum up Saint Joseph. They also sum up the Missionary of the Holy Apostles.

Written by Father Menard in the MSA Spiritual Directory Christmas 1962

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Jesus Have Mercy on Us Sinners

Never was there shown Considerateness towards others such as that shown by this man:

For Him, one’s neighbor is always better than reports handed down about him by doctors of the Law who endlessly intend to reduce him in stature. For Him, instead; one can see in the neighbor always room for hope, room for a vitalized promise, a possibility past imagining, that of a being summoned straight out of its limitations, and in spite of them, straight out of sins, crimes, even to a different future. It happens so that we can observe deep inside it some secret wonders whose contemplation brings forth thanksgiving.

He says not: behold here a public sinner, tainted in the moral and religious traditions of her background, and besides, a mere female. What he does, ins­tead, is just to ask her for a drink of water and thus is started the conversation.

(The Samaritan Woman at the well of Jacob)

He says not: behold a public sinner, a prostitute steeped in vice for life. What He says, instead, is: She has a better chance for the Kingdom of God than those too-attached to their wealth or who boast of their own virtue or wisdom.

(Mary Magdalene)

He says not: she is an adventuress in adultery. What He says is, simply: I condemn you not; go and sin no more.                      (The woman taken in adultery)

He says not: that’s some hysterical woman who’s grabbed hold of my clothing. Instead; He hears her out, addresses her, and cures her.

(The Canaanite Woman)

He says not: this old lady with penny that she drops into the temple poor-box, what a superstitious one she is. What instead He does is praise that acts of hers and draws there from a general lesson in generosity.    (The woman with the two pennies)

He says not: what a nuisance these children. What He says is, simply: let these children come right to me and you will have to become again like them.

(The children and the Apostles)

He says not: nothing more than a fraudulent official is this man, with his facile praise for the man of power while grinding the poor to dust. Instead, He invites Himself for supper at this official’s home and further declares Salvation for his whole household.                                                            (Zacchaeus)

He says not: this man is blind, verily, in payment for sins of his forebears. Instead, He states that everybody, the Apostles included, has been barking up the wrong tree, in telling them all that this man enjoys the favor of God: Necessary is it that God’s action be manifest in him.                                                 (The man born blind)

He says not: this centurion just holds a job. What He says, instead, is: Never have I seen such faith in Israel.                      (The Centurion)

He says not: this wise man is too brainy. What He, instead, does, is open the way for total re-birth spiritually.                       (Nicodemus)

He says not: this fellow is an outlaw. What He says, instead, is: Today wilt thou be with me in Paradise.                            (The good thief)

He says not: a traitor for good is this Judas. Instead, He kisses him, calling him friend.

He says not: this windbag is a renegade at heart. Instead, He declares, Pedro, loves thou me?

He says not: these high priests are treacherous judges, this king a nincompoop, this Roman procurator a frightened coward; this crowd that scorns me is nothing but a mob; these soldiers , nothing but hangmen. He says, Father, forgive them or they know not what they do.

Never did the lips of Jesus say: nothing good is there in this one or in that one, or in this setting, or the world to come. Were He to be speaking to people today, never would have labeled such-and-such as a modernist, a leftist, a fascist, an theist, a fool…In His concept, all others, whatever their deeds, their identities, their reputation, are beloved by God.

No other man ever held others in such considerateness as that of this man. Unique stands He. He is the Only-begotten Son, who makes the sun to shine alike over the good and the evil.

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.

Fourth Sunday of Lent – We Are All Prodigal Sons

The old man of sin still sleeps within the heart of the baptized Christian, who is always free to make compromises with evil. And it is very difficult to strip oneself completely of the mentality of the kingdoms of earth which one inherits in being born into the world — and which sleeps in the dark depths of the heart with all its perversions and its selfish law of the jungle — in order to put on the “new man” of rightness and perfection. The evil and sin in the world saturate us and attack us from every direction. And in our own hearts there are always rationalizations which will give them an entry.

Luckily enough for humankind, God loves man with an obstinate love which follows him everywhere, no matter how far he wanders. God loves us like the father of a boy who lets himself be reconquered by the spirit of evil. The sinner loses his divine status, his rights as a citizen of the kingdom of God. But God waits for him always. He stands at the roadside, ready to welcome him, to give him the dignity of a son. The only thing necessary is for the errant boy to express a gesture of regret, to take the first step homeward. And he’ll see God come out to meet him.

At All Times – By Father Menard