Charity: Divine Love Poured Out

Divine Revelation has shown us that God is a free and total outpouring and exchange of charity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  What is more is that He has destined us to share in this great and mysterious exchange of divine love!

Galahad_grailby Fr. Jeff Loseke

When most people hear the word charity, they probably associate it with donations for the poor, such as food, clothing, toys, money, and so forth.  Others probably think of worthy causes, nonprofit organizations, and tax-deductible donations that help those in need.  The problem with these ideas is that they reduce charity to seasonal or occasional acts of goodwill that are drawn from one’s excess resources.  Charity, then, becomes a thing—and an optional one at that.

A Christian, however, must approach charity not as a something but as a Someone.  Saint John’s first letter attests to the fact that “God is love” (4:8) and that “love is of God” (4:7).  In the original language of this letter, the Apostle uses the Greek word agape to describe this kind of love that is divine in origin.  The Greek language possesses several different words for love, making the author’s choice to describe God in terms of agape most significant for us.  Agape suggests a love that is unconditional and freely given.  Traditionally, this has been rendered in Latin as caritas and then into English as charity.  This revelation gives our understanding of charity an entirely different dimension: God is charity, and charity is of God (cf. 1 John 4:7-8).  We realize that God is selfless, unconditional charity that seeks to pour out Himself for the good of another.  Theologically, this divine outpouring is referred to as kenosis, and it remains a central—if not the most central—characteristic of who God is.  Indeed, Divine Revelation has shown us that God is a free and total outpouring and exchange of charity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  What is more is that He has destined us to share in this great and mysterious exchange of divine love!

God has invited us to share in the eternal banquet of His charity (cf. Revelation 19:7-9).  The question remains: How do we respond?  At the Last Supper, Jesus connected His own Sacrifice on the Cross to the ritual of the Passover and told His disciples to “do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19).  By commanding His disciples to perpetuate His Sacrifice through the Holy Eucharist, Jesus invited them into the participation of His total outpouring of charity.  To further demonstrate His desire for them, He gave His disciples an example of charity as He washed their feet and said to them, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:15).  Our response to God’s charity to us is a charitable return of ourselves to Him and to each other.  Our gift of self must not be occasional or seasonal.  It must not be limited or conditional.  It must be continual and relational.  We have been called to love as God loves, and that means that we must lay down our lives for others (cf. John 9:15-17).  Charity is not an option for the Christian.  Charity is a way of life.

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

Art: The Attainment: The Vision of the Holy Grail to Sir Galahad, Sir Bors, and Sir Perceval by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1895-96 (Wikimedia Commons)

 

A Faith Rooted in History

Through her living Tradition, the Church has preserved and handed down the Sacred Scriptures, the teachings of the Apostles, and the mode for celebrating the Sacraments. 

by Fr. Jeff Loseke

As a seminarian in Rome, I used to lead English-speaking pilgrims on a faith-filled tour of St. Peter’s Basilica on a weekly basis.  One of the highlights of the Vatican Basilica is the St_Peters_Basilica_Domemagnificent dome, which rises 448 ft above the floor.  It is set directly over the main altar, which itself is set directly over altars from the 7th to the 12th centuries on the crypt level of the basilica.  These altars themselves are situated directly above another monument from the first century that marks the gravesite of the Apostle Peter.  The ancient Roman cemetery that lies beneath St. Peter’s Basilica was unwittingly preserved by Emperor Constantine, when he buried the cemetery in order to create the foundation for the first church built over the site of Peter’s tomb.  Excavations carried out between 1939 and 1949 unearthed the ancient cemetery once again and confirmed the Church’s memory that the basilica was indeed built directly over the Apostle’s grave.

As we trace the history of the Church back through the centuries, we are reminded of the truth of St. Paul’s words in his first letter to the Corinthians that the Christian faith has been—and continues to be—passed on from one generation to the next through the lived Tradition: “For I handed on to you… what I also received” (15:3).  Through her living Tradition, the Church has preserved and handed down the Sacred Scriptures, the teachings of the Apostles, and the mode for celebrating the Sacraments.  In a word, the Church of today continues to do what the Church of the first century did: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts of the Apostles 2:42).

Because 2,000 years separate us from the days when Jesus Christ walked among us in the flesh, the Christian of today can be tempted to doubt the authenticity of what has been passed down through the centuries by the Church.  In fact, this temptation formed, in part, the impetus for the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago—that the Church had fallen off the rails and was in need of a complete overhaul.  This is why knowledge of history is so important if we hope to stand strong in the true faith!  The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us as part of our human history (cf. John 1:14; Matthew 1:1-25).  Even more, Jesus promised that He would remain with His Church until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), that the Holy Spirit would keep her always in the truth and free from error (John 16:13), and that the power of hell shall never prevail over the Church (Matthew 16:18).  Now it is our turn.  We must be open to receiving the deposit of faith as it has been passed down to us by the Church for centuries.  In this way, we ourselves become a part of the living history of the Church.  Then, and only then, do we participate in its authentic transmission to the next generation of believers.  Truly, “we hold this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7) and so we must take great care with it.

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

Photo: St. Peter’s Basilica, Dome, 2014 (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The Terrible Beauty of God’s Love

Despite our complete inadequacy before God, we know that He desires that we open up ourselves in order to give ourselves to Him to the best of our abilities—even if it falls short.  Love requires an openness that makes one vulnerable.

by Fr. Jeff Loseke

There is nothing more beautiful—and more terrifying—than to reflect upon the love of God.  God’s love is so beautiful and so terrifying because God’s love is utterly real.  It is Believer Heartnot merely an emotion, a thought, or an ideal.  Rather, the love of God is His very self.  To stand before the love of God is to stand before Him who made us and who knows us better than we could ever know ourselves.  Despite our complete inadequacy before God, we know that He desires that we open up ourselves in order to give ourselves to Him to the best of our abilities—even if it falls short.  Love requires an openness that makes one vulnerable.

As human beings, we do such a good job covering up our weaknesses and donning various armors and defense mechanisms all for the sake of protecting our weak and vulnerable selves.  On the one hand, we desire love and intimacy.  On the other hand, we want to remain in control.  We struggle with weakness—both in ourselves and in others.  We are often perturbed by our own lack of strength and fortitude, and we are not always gentle and understanding with the weaknesses and shortcomings of others.  And so, as an antidote, we must look to the Cross.

The Cross of Jesus Christ is God’s most perfect communication of His love for us.  On the Cross, Jesus chose to become weak, broken, despised, and even forgotten.  What an act of faith to look at Jesus’ Cross and see God there!  To the nonbeliever, one would see only a criminal, beaten beyond recognition, guilty of treason, and left to die on an instrument of profound humiliation and torture.  He is a loser, defeated… and yet, in that total emptying of self, He gives all, and He gains all.  This is the truth about love, which makes little sense to our secular society that is driven primarily by feelings, emotions, and personal desires.

To understand and relish the truth about love requires one to spend time studying, digesting, and even entering into a relationship with the truth.  I use the word relationship to highlight this reality because if God is truth, then to know and relish the truth is to know and relish one’s relationship with God.  That relationship, however, ought not to collapse in on itself, however.  Therefore, to translate the truth into the way one lives his or her life is necessary for love to be complete.  Love must bear fruit, give life, and bring people together.  It must be relational, fruitful, and affect the way we live our lives—for God and for others.  This is the mystery of love, the mystery of God, and the mystery of the human person.  To be open and vulnerable before another in total self-gift is to be real.  This is what makes God’s love both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

 

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

Art: Christ, helped by angels, decorates the believer’s heart wit, 2014 (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Only the Sinless Enjoy True Freedom

As we approach our nation’s Independence Day, we have much for which to be grateful.  Fundamentally, our gratitude stems from the recognition that the blessings we enjoy in this country do not come from ourselves. 

by Fr. Jeff Loseke

Whenever we read or watch the world news, we are reminded just how uncommon the freedom is that we possess and celebrate here in the United States.  There are countless Hassam,_Flags,_fifth_avenuemany people across our globe who yearn to be able to live in peace and to pursue happiness in their own homelands, and there are countless others who would risk even their own lives to come to America to experience it.  As we approach our nation’s Independence Day, we have much for which to be grateful.  Fundamentally, our gratitude stems from the recognition that the blessings we enjoy in this country do not come from ourselves.  It was someone else’s sacrifice, someone else’s struggle that won the independence we so cherish.  As Christians, we can give thanks further for the ultimate gift of freedom that was purchased for us by Jesus’ one Sacrifice on the Cross.  His Sacrifice fulfills all others, and, moreover, it infuses all other sacrifices with the power to defeat evil.  Not only are we given the gift of freedom, but we are invested with its responsibility as well.  All those who have been baptized are now sharers in the work of Christ in bringing this freedom of salvation to the whole world (cf. Col 1:24).

The idea of “freedom”, however, often gets muddled in our increasingly individualistic society, and many understand it to mean: the ability to do whatever one chooses.  On the contrary, “freedom” is more precisely defined as: the ability to choose the good.  As a people redeemed by Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross, we have been set free from the tyranny of sin and death… if only we cooperate with Him through the choices we make and the lives we live (cf. Gal 5:1).  When we choose the good, we enjoy true freedom.  When we give in to temptation and choose evil, we become slaves to sin and lose the freedom won for us by Jesus’ Precious Blood.  The greater the freedom, the greater the responsibility.  We must recognize in our Independence Day celebrations that not only do we enjoy many freedoms, but also we have many responsibilities.  Liberty always comes at the price of someone’s blood: for our nation it was the blood of many brave soldiers, for humanity it was the Blood of the Son of God.

The picnics and parades and family gatherings around the barbecue this coming week help us to appreciate what we possess in freedom and also serve to draw us out of our individualism into the communion we have with one another.  They also remind us of our responsibilities to each another.  While no one of us may be able to bring about peace in the Middle East or resolve the problems of the whole world, we can make our little corners of the world better places to live.  To that end, we must reflect upon our own areas of responsibility—home, community, workplace, etc.—and recommit to making those places free of sin and temptation.  By extending the victory of the Cross, we extend boundaries of freedom itself.

 

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

Art: Flags by Childe Hassam, 1918 (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The “Jesus Fish”: It’s All Greek to Me

Since Greek was the unofficial language of the time, it, therefore, became the first language of Christianity—so much so that the entire New Testament was originally written in Greek.

by Fr. Jeff Loseke

Today, the most recognizable symbol of Christianity is a cross.  This once-popular method of execution by the Romans was forever changed after Jesus conquered His own fishcrucifixion by rising from the dead.  Interestingly, the cross was not one of the principal symbols the first Christians used to identify themselves as followers of Jesus, however.  Why not?  Probably because it was far too obvious.  To publicly declare oneself a Christian, especially during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, was a crime punishable by death.  While many believers publicly professed their faith when pressed to do so, they were not necessarily in the habit of volunteering such information.  This was by no means an act of cowardice, but rather an act of prudence.

Rather than openly advertise their Christian beliefs with a cross, they utilized less obvious, though deeply meaningful symbols to identify themselves to one another.  For example, they would impose the Greek letters Chi (X) and Rho (P) atop one another in the now familiar traditional symbol for Christ.  They did so because these are the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ.  Incidentally, this is why the letter Chi (X) is used even today as an abbreviation for Christ (e.g., Xmas for Christmas, Xianity for Christianity, etc.).  Another common ancient Christian symbol—often seen today on the backs of vehicles—is the fish.  This clever innovation, used by our Christian ancestors, makes an acronym out of the first letters of the phrase, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior,” which spell “ichthus,” the Greek word for “fish”.  Thus, the symbol came to represent Christians in the first centuries.

So why all this Greek in early Christianity?  Under the Roman Empire, while Latin was spoken as the official language, Greek was more commonly spoken among its subjects.  Indeed, many of the Jews of the Diaspora spoke Greek better than they did Hebrew.  These Greek-speaking Jews, along with Greek-speaking pagans, became the more likely candidates for conversion to Christianity than many of the Hebrew-speaking Jews of Israel.  Since Greek was the unofficial language of the time, it, therefore, became the first language of Christianity—so much so that the entire New Testament was originally written in Greek.  This is why we hear Jesus describe Himself in Revelation as “the Alpha and the Omega,” the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  Furthermore, even the liturgy pays homage to our Greek-speaking roots by retaining one of the oldest titles for Jesus in its original Greek: Kurios, which means “Lord”.  Remember, in order to avoid uttering the Holy Name of God unnecessarily, faithful Jews would substitute the title “Lord” for God’s Name.  By using this same title, the first Christians were professing that Jesus Christ is the same Lord, the same God of Israel.  It is Greek we speak, not Latin, when we say, “Kyrie, eleison.  Christe, eleison.  Kyrie, eleison.”

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

Art: Hörnse kyrka auf Gotland. Chorportal: Fische by Wolfgang Sauber, 2007 (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Making an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart

In this week between the Solemnities of Corpus Christi and the Most Sacred Heart, every Catholic ought to be especially aware of his or her participation in the work of salvation and, in communion with Jesus Christ and the whole Church, strive to offer oneself to the Father in reparation for sin.

by Fr. Jeff Loseke

This Friday, June 23rd, is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  On the one hand, it is a feast day that reminds us of God’s great love for His people; at the same time, 490px-Sacred_Heart_1770it is a feast that acknowledges humanity’s failure to love God fully in return.  Without the Savior loving both us and the Father to the end, we would not be redeemed.  Not only did Jesus willingly lay down His life for our salvation, but also He allowed His very heart to be pierced by a lance.  With that final act of man’s rejection of the Father’s love, God could have poured out judgment upon the centurion and upon the whole world for the death of His Son.  Instead, God willed that blood and water—symbols of the Eucharist and Baptism—should flow from Christ’s wounded Heart to bring healing and conversion to sinful humanity.  No matter how many times humanity has offended and rejected God, He has always been ready to meet us with mercy and forgiveness.

The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart, then, is a fitting day for the whole Church to offer an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart for the many sins committed against the love of God.  Certainly, upon the Cross, Christ the Head has offered the one Sacrifice that redeems humanity.  Nevertheless, as members of His Body, we recognize that each of us is called to make atonement for sin so that the whole Christ—Head and members—are united in the work of salvation.  With St. Paul, we ought to be able to say: “In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His Body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24).  The Blessed Virgin Mary already shows us how to do this.  She is the type and model of the Church’s participation in the work of salvation, for she stands beneath the Cross of her Son and unites her Immaculate Heart to His Sacred Heart.

In this week between the Solemnities of Corpus Christi and the Most Sacred Heart, every Catholic ought to be especially aware of his or her participation in the work of salvation and, in communion with Jesus Christ and the whole Church, strive to offer oneself to the Father in reparation for sin.  I encourage each member of the Body of Christ to offer the Act of Reparation (see below) in these days leading up to the feast of the Sacred Heart.  Hopefully, on the day itself, pastors will lead their people in a public recitation of this Act of Reparation.  Indeed, the Church grants a plenary indulgence to the Christian faithful who publicly recite the “Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart” on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  (In all other cases and at all other times, the indulgence is partial.)  In order to merit a plenary indulgence—either for oneself or for one who has died—the following conditions must be met: (1) Be free of all attachment to sin, even venial sin; (2) Perform the indulgenced work; and (3) Receive sacramental Confession, Holy Communion, and pray for the Pope’s intentions (e.g., by reciting an Our Father and a Hail Mary) within several days (about 20) before or after carrying out the indulgenced work.  (Only one plenary indulgence may be merited per day.  One sacramental Confession will suffice for several plenary indulgences; however, a separate Communion and separate prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.)

 

Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart (from The Handbook of Indulgences)

Most loving Jesus, how great is the love which You have poured out upon the world.  How casual and careless is our response!  Kneeling before You, we wish to atone for the indifference and the slights which pierce You to the heart.

Praise to the heart of Jesus, our Savior and our God.

We ask forgiveness for our own shameful neglect.  We wish to make amends for those who are obstinate in their unbelief, for those who turn away from the light and wander like sheep without a shepherd; and for those who have broken their baptismal promises and reject the gentle yoke of Your law.

Praise to the heart of Jesus, our Savior and our God.

We wish to make amends for the sins of our society: for lust and degradation, for the corruption of the young, for indifference and blasphemy, for attacks against Your Church, for irreverence and even sacrilege against Your love in this Blessed Sacrament, and for the public defiance of Your Law.

Praise to the heart of Jesus, our Savior and our God.

These are the sins for which You died, but now we share in Your Atonement by offering on the altar in union with You the living Sacrifice You made on the Cross, joining to it the sufferings of Your Virgin Mother, and those of all the Saints and the whole Church.

Praise to the heart of Jesus, our Savior and our God.

We promise faithfully that by Your grace we shall make reparation for our own sins and for those of others by a strong faith, by holy living, and by obedience to the law of the Gospel, whose greatest commandment is that of charity.

Praise to the heart of Jesus, our Savior and our God.

We also  promise to do our best to discourage others from insulting You and bring those we can to follow You.

Praise to the heart of Jesus, our Savior and our God.

Jesus, Lord, receive this loving act of homage together with the prayers of our Lady, who stood by the Cross, our model in reparation.  Keep us faithful, even to the point of death, give us the gift of perseverance and lead us all to our promised land in heaven, where You, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, live and reign for ever and ever.  Amen.

Praise to the heart of Jesus, our Savior and our God.

 

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

 

Art: Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga by José de Páez, Mexico, circa 1770 (Wikimedia Commons)

A Symbolic Eucharist: “To Hell with It”

To undermine belief in the Holy Eucharist is nothing other than Satan’s attack against the very heart of the Church… the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ Himself. 

by Fr. Jeff Loseke

Next Sunday, the Church celebrates Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord.  It is a feast that rejoices in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist: Christ’s Allegory_of_the_Eucharist_-_Google_Art_Projectsubstantial, real, and abiding presence in His Church.  We acknowledge and worship this sacramental mystery whereby ordinary bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.  Neither is the Eucharist just a symbol of Christ’s Body and Blood nor does it reveal Christ to us only spiritually.  We know that Christ is really and truly present—body, blood, soul, and divinity—in the Eucharist.  This truth is so central and so important to our faith that the great Catholic American author Flannery O’Connor (d. 1964) once said in defense of the Eucharist: “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.  It is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

We cannot help but echo O’Connor’s bold words today: To hell with the idea that the Eucharist is mere symbol without substance!  To hell with this idea because it is the lie of the Evil One!  To hell with it because it is a lie that has infected so much of Western Christianity since the Protestant Reformation!  To hell with it because it is a lie that has robbed so many of our Christian brothers and sisters of such a great gift from God—a necessary help to our salvation!  As Sacred Scripture reminds us: “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day’” (John 6:53-54).  To undermine belief in the Holy Eucharist is nothing other than Satan’s attack against the very heart of the Church… the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ Himself.  The lance that was thrust into Christ’s side on the Cross continues to be hurled at the Savior every time His Real Presence is denied in the Eucharist.The Church dedicates the month of June to the Body of Christ and to His Most Sacred Heart.  In the Eucharist, we find the burning love of Christ made present for us upon our altar and abiding in silence in the tabernacle.  This month affords us the opportunity to examine how each of us can give better witness to the Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and how we can enthrone Him in our own hearts and our homes.  Faith is always made visible in our works (cf. James 2:14-26).  Therefore, we do well to examine our outward signs of piety and reverence whenever we enter the church and then again to examine our outward signs of charity and mercy as we leave the church to go back to our homes and out into the world.  The Eucharist must be seen as the center of our existence, especially in today’s age of disbelief.

 

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

Art: Allegory of the Eucharist by Artist Unknown, Ca. 1676-1725 (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Easter Love Gives Life

In God, love is always unitive and creative. It is always faithful, free, total, and fruitful.

by Rev. Jeff Loseke

The Easter Season celebrates divine life and love, especially as it is shared with us.  We have been redeemed by God and given a share in His divine life through the waters of 800px-Wilhelm_Alexander_Meyerheim_Mother_and_baby_in_an_interiorBaptism, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and the nourishment provided in the Most Holy Eucharist.  As God’s people, we reject sin and promise to live a new life of faith in Christ.  Indeed, as witnesses of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, we do what St. Paul urges: “Offer your own bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God… Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2).

When mounting the wood of the Cross, Jesus Christ put His Body into our hands and breathed out His Spirit upon us with His dying breath.  He gave Himself to His Bride, the Church, totally, freely, and faithfully.  This gift has borne great fruit in destroying death and giving new life to countless children reborn from the Church’s maternal, baptismal womb.  In God, love is always unitive and creative.  It is always faithful, free, total, and fruitful.  This is the kind of love that the world has rejected, because the Prince of this World, Satan, knows that this kind of divine love has the power to redeem the world and to transform the children of Adam into the children of God.  And so, one of the Devil’s most pernicious temptations against the kind of love that God has shown us is through the widespread embrace of contraception and surgical sterilization, rejecting the very first words God spoke to our first parents, “Be fertile and multiply” (Gen 1:28b).  The Evil One has convinced so many Christians to believe his lie that our sexuality and our fertility are diseases that need to be cured.  Since the early 20th century, artificial means of contraception and birth control have even been touted as a means of liberation for women.  Let’s be honest, however… the real message being communicated under the veil of that lie is that the female body, with its cycles of fertility and infertility, is seriously flawed and even undesirable in its natural state—it must be changed, fixed, and controlled.

As a pastor of souls, I know that this is an area of great moral distress for so many Catholic families, especially since many of them have never been presented with a full and faithful teaching of the beauty of our human sexuality as God designed it.  How can we be faithful to the Gospel of Life if it is not preached and taught to us?  Especially in our age, when so many evils are waging war against marriage, the family, human sexuality, and so forth, the whole Church must give ever greater witness to the beauty of God’s plan for His people.  “Let your love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good” (Rom 12:9).

 

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

 

Art: Mother and Baby in an Interior by Wilhelm Meyerheim, 1882 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Paschal Mystery in Three Acts

This week, during the Sacred Triduum, the Church invites you to participate in the very mysteries that merited salvation for you and for all.

by Rev. Jeff Loseke

This week, during the Sacred Triduum, the Church invites you to participate in the very mysteries that merited salvation for you and for all.  “Triduum” literally means “three 800px-Triduum_Pascal_St_Léger_d'Orvault_02.jpgdays” and commemorates the events of the Paschal Mystery from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday.  The Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, which recalls Jesus’ Last Supper with His Apostles.  The Gospels remind us that on this night, Jesus instituted the Eucharist, washed His Apostles’ feet, and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper we do the same: the Eucharist is celebrated as usual, the Priest washes the feet of twelve parishioners, and the Blessed Sacrament is taken to a side altar for adoration throughout the night.

Holy Thursday’s Mass has no formal conclusion… it simply ends.  The liturgy commemorating the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday has no formal beginning… it simply picks up where Thursday’s Mass left off.  The altar has been stripped, and the tabernacle stands empty: Jesus has been arrested and has been taken away to die on the Cross.  The Passion from John’s Gospel is proclaimed and the faithful have the opportunity to venerate the Cross, paying homage to the Tree of Life on which was hung their Savior.  Afterwards, Holy Communion is distributed.  Since no Mass is permitted on Good Friday, there must be enough hosts in reserve from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper from the day before.  This liturgy has no formal conclusion either.  Everyone departs in silence, leaving us with an eerie sense of emptiness.

Finally, the Easter Vigil begins in the darkness where Good Friday left off.  A fire is lit, and the Easter Candle emerges, scattering the darkness of death with its Resurrected light.  This candle represents Jesus Himself risen from the grave!  The whole Church is reborn on this night.  The Liturgy of the Word consists of many readings, retracing the promise of salvation up until the coming of the Messiah.  The Gloria and Alleluia are reintroduced to the congregation by the Priest, and the waters of Baptism are blessed.  Those being baptized and/or confirmed are brought into full union with the Church, and every believer reaffirms his or her own baptismal promises.  The Eucharist is celebrated, and the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle again.  This liturgy concludes what was begun on Thursday night, and the final blessing is imparted at long last.  These are liturgies not to be missed.  If you regularly attend them, you know of what I speak.  If you have not been to them before, then I invite you to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord” in these, the Church’s most beautiful and moving rites.

 

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

 

Art: Triduum Pascal St. Leger d’Orvault (Wikimedia Commons)

Our Mission – like Saint Paul’s – is the Salvation of the World

More than daily monotony, each moment is laced with the potential to change the world by changing those whom we encounter.

by Rev. Jeff Loseke

More often than not, the Second Reading at Mass each Sunday comes from one of the letters of St. Paul.  In many ways, he is a model for us to embrace and to follow, especially 470px-DUJARDIN_Karel_St_Paul_Healing_the_Cripple_at_Lystrain our own identity as Christians, who, like Paul, never met Jesus in the flesh.  There can be no doubt that Christianity would look very differently today—if it existed at all!—without the efforts of St. Paul and his companion missionaries.  For this reason, the  Church has always regarded St. Paul as a model for evangelization and as one of the principal architects of the Church.  Saint Paul’s missionary strategy (i.e., establishing a communal identity among new believers) is precisely what the Catholic Church has always understood as “Sacred Tradition.”  Saint Paul and the other Apostles modeled their style of leadership after that of Jesus Christ and passed it on in a living Tradition.  Jesus gathered His closest followers around Himself and, for a period of about three years, established a way of life that would give them their identity as His Apostles.  He did not hand them a book of instructions; rather, He enjoined upon them a way of life, a communal identity, a Sacred Tradition.  They in turn passed it on to the next generation.

We ourselves should be very aware of this communal aspect of the Sacred Tradition, especially in the weekly ritual of Sunday Mass.  In the Church, there is an old adage: lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.  In essence, it declares that what we pray is what we believe, and what we believe is how we live.  Ritual, belief, and way of life are intimately tied together.  I know that part of my role as a Priest is to help men and women discover who they are in Jesus Christ.  In so doing, I realize that I am helping them to be defined by their faith in God, which ought to have a concrete effect on their lives when they leave the church building.

At the end of Mass, we are instructed by the minister to go forth and to spread the Good News by the way we live our own lives.  In essence, we are sent out on mission, just like St. Paul for the salvation of the whole world.  This is certainly something we must reflect upon in our daily lives, especially in moments of difficulty or tedium.  We ought to be reminded just how important each and every opportunity is.  More than daily monotony, each moment is laced with the potential to change the world by changing those whom we encounter.  I imagine St. Paul and his companions recognized this when they chose to do very ordinary things in quite extraordinary ways, thus breathing new life into Christianity.  Why should one think that today we are any less able to have as profound an effect on the world as St. Paul did if it is the same Jesus Christ at work in all of us?  With St. Paul, we too can say, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20a).

 

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

 

Art: St Paul Healing the Cripple at Lystra by Karel Dujardin, 1663 (Wikimedia Commons)

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