People who fall away from the Sacraments or stop going to church, may forget all about God. They could run after idols or feel that God has abandoned them ... but as we read in paragraph 2567 of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (2nd ed.), "God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation."
This is a very significant paragraph, for it tells us that with all the power we think we have, God's power and love are infinitely greater. It is He who reaches out to us when we are in trouble, similar to the Good Shepherd who seeks His lost sheep. I read an article today, from a homily by Archbishop Timothy Dolan (New York Archdiocese), where he finds a huge amount of sheep of two intermingled flocks, belonging to two shepherds. Upon wondering how each flock runs after the shepherd of that flock, Archbishop Dolan tells us that even if the shepherds change their outer clothing, the sheep that belong to that shepherd will correctly follow that person, and not the other shepherd. That's highly interesting since many people say that sheep are stupid creatures ... they know who takes care of them. They know their master's voice and perhaps his walk or manners.
In John 10:14-17 NAB, Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd."
Another line in para. 2567 above, "prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation." Yes, a covenant drama, referring back to the old Testament in Lev. 26:42 NAB, "I will remember my covenant with Jacob, my covenant with Isaac, and my covenant with Abraham; and of the land, too, I will be mindful." And one might also look at Jer 24:7 NAB, "I will give them a heart with which to understand that I am the LORD. They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart." That's His promise to us, and that's the covenant drama 2567 refers to.
I recommend a thorough reading of Ezekiel 37:26-28, better yet the entire chapter, as this is very helpful to come to understand God's relationship to us. Maybe use the Douay-Rheims version, "And I will make a covenant of peace with them, it shall be an everlasting covenant with them : and I will establish them, and will multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for ever. And my tabernacle shall be with them: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever".
I love the Douay-Rheims because it reads clearly, all those other translations may be the best of the latest, but it gets confusing when one tries to compare one version to the other. Let the Douay-Rheims be the standard, the source translation, if you feel that is right. That's a matter of personal choice. Also the D-R is in the public domain.
"my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever" - Means he will always be among us, as He stated that when two or more pray together... The beauty of that statement is that we are never alone. Jesus is a powerful intercessor between us and His Father through the Holy Spirit, and so when we pray to the Father, Jesus is with us and we are no longer by ourselves. I've often thought about that when I was a monk, as I was almost always alone when I prayed (although in most monasteries monks and other religious pray in common, the common of community). We all belong. We belong to the Body of Christ, so we are never all alone. Those of us who belong to the Secular Franciscan Order by profession, we also are never alone, there is a large number of Franciscans and "we are family."
This discussion reminds me of the following formation paragraph:
From: TAU-USA—December 2006 issue featured the following under the Formation Commission which we share with you.
"Fraternity is Family — we come together to share our Franciscan hopes and dreams.
Fraternity is Relationship — God has chosen our relationship. Each person who is in fraternity is brother or sister to us.
Fraternity is Allegiance — Our allegiance belongs to the fraternity, first and foremost, before any other commitment we have, outside of our own families. Our International Fraternity reminded us that if there is a conflict between a parish ministry and our gathering, we are to choose the gathering.
Fraternity is Trust — It is necessary for the fraternity to survive.
Fraternity is Earnestness — that we be sincere with one another and with the world. We are not to be Franciscan for the short time we spend together each month. We are to be Franciscan in the world. We come together to have our Franciscanism nourished so that we go out and share our Franciscan values in the world.
Fraternity is Reliance — asks us to be dependent on one another. Francis reminded his brothers that they were to make their needs known to one another. The fraternity cannot help us if we do not make our needs known.
Fraternity is Necessary — for our way of life; fraternity is our way of life. Who better to challenge us to live the gospel than our brothers and sisters who have promised the same?
Fraternity is Intimacy — we are not to be strangers to one another. Do others recognize us as brothers and sisters?
Fraternity is Truthfulness — a necessary component, if any relationship is to grow. We must always speak the truth, with kindness, to each other.
Fraternity is You — without you, we have no Franciscan family, no Franciscan connection. You are God’s gift to the Fraternity."
And God called us first (He gave us a Vocation to become Franciscans!)
Peace and all Good!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
May 25, 2011