"The Gift of Our Lives!"

"We have seen his star in the East, and have come with the gift of our lives, to worship the Lord!"

Those are the words of the Benedictus antiphon we Norbertines chant at Morning Prayer each day between the Solemnities of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord. Just prior to chanting those words to a pretty decent melody this morning, Father Tim Shillcox announced, "Today we celebrate the anniversary of our brother, Jim Baraniak, who celebrates 18 years of priesthood today." While the anniversary crossed my mind yesterday while celebrating Mass at Lambeau Field (the prayers and readings of the Mass spark such remembrance), I was not thinking about the anniversary as I awoke this morning. After Tim's kind reminder, my private prayer at Lauds this morning included the intention that my priesthood today would be just as happy and fulfilled, as challenging and demanding as it was on Day One, January 3rd back in 1993. My prayer was that, like Mary, I too would be able to say 'yes' to God regardless of the request that might be asked of me.

For the most part, today was a catch-up day. I had planned on writing more thank you notes to those who remembered my family at the time of my Father's death, but other demands of the day would prevent my making any further strides on my personal "J-mester" project. There was really only one issue that struck me as pretty much out of the ordinary today; I'll ponder the issue as I go to bed shortly....

I had a note on my desk asking me to call a former student of mine, a 2006 graduate of St. Norbert College. The note was marked "urgent," so I was hoping that I'd be able to make contact without too many unsuccessful attempts. Gladly, the alum answered on the fourth ring of the first call! His answer came from a military base in Alaska.

This former student has spent the past four years in the military and is preparing for deployment this spring. While he was getting his papers in order, part of such deployment organization requires a soldier to make funeral plans in advance of the departure, should the effects of war prove deadly. This guy was calling to ask if I would preside at his funeral -- to be held here at Old Saint Joe's -- if the combat in Afghanistan would take his life. I cannot begin to describe for you what a sobering phone call that was today. While I've always admired this individual for so many reasons -- as well as the other young men and women Green Knights who have been a part of our ROTC program -- I must admit, this request was a new one for me. It will give me pause for some time, to be sure!

While I am not aware of all of the emotions that went into this guy's thinking as he filled out his papers and as he asked me his humble question, but I can tell you that I cannot imagine a greater gift, to be honored in such a way, for a young guy in his mid-twenties to ask such a provocative question. My priesthood was blessed today by a call as if out of the blue; I hope and pray that his request will never need to be fulfilled, but that we can celebrate all sorts of other, more life-giving milestones within the context of the Holy Eucharist -- as time goes by.

My morning prayers today made me reflect on how I, as a Child of God and as a Norbertine Priest, might be asked to offer the "gift of my life" as a tangible and self-sacrificing means of worshiping the Lord. Now at day's end, I am reflecting on all those women and men who place their lives on the line on a daily basis to fight for our freedom, peace and security. Their dedication is an even more beautiful and profound expression of self-donation. I keep them in thought and prayer tonight.

At Epiphany, the Light of Christ shines brightly upon our lives with the hope that we will reflect the Light of Christ in a sometimes darkened, war-torn world -- by the the conduct of our living and dying. We ourselves, "have seen his star in the East!" May we find some decent and profound means to, "offer the gift of our lives ... ... ... to worship the Lord!"


Anonymous said...

Idol Worship and Idolatry!

The wages of sin is spiritual death!

Lombardi Trophy VIOLATES God’s Ten Commandments, does it not?

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