– JUNE 7, 2020 – CHRIST THE KING
If these past nearly three months have taught me anything, it is that humans were not meant to live in isolation; it was intended from the very beginning that we should live in relationship with others. We see this clearly in the opening pages of the Bible. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we read that God did not intend for man to be alone, and so he created woman to be an equal partner for the man. These first humans were to live in partnership, in relationship with one another. This was God’s will from the very beginning.
This intention for relationship is found in the mystery of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit who together are the one God. It is the relationship of Father and Son that lovingly produces and sends forth upon us the Spirit that brings us to share in the divine life itself. When we are baptized it is with purpose, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thus incorporating us into the life of the Trinity. And so we enter into relationship with the three persons in one God.
I have for many years thought the only, at least the best way to understand the mystery of the Trinity is to see it in terms of relationship, not unlike relationships that we all have in our lives. We begin life in relationship with a family, we continue in school, in work and for many, in the ultimate, beautiful human relationship of marriage. Together in this great act of human love, man and woman bring forth new life, just as God showed his love in giving us his Son. The Gospel told us: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” And so God enters into a loving relationship with his people and all creation. This is the mystery of the Trinity realized.
The beauty of human relationship is seen in a special way in the Sacrament of Marriage. But it is not reserved solely to the married but also those not married, including priests, hopefully so.
Fifty years ago today I celebrated my First Mass of Thanksgiving after having been ordained a priest the day before, on June 6, 1970 at Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral, here in Indianapolis. In those fifty years, I have been blessed with many wonderful relationships among those whom I have served in the various parishes and ministries I have been part of, since 2002 here at Christ the King. As I have reflected on these 50 years, I realized that I have served with eight different pastors in various assignments over this time, four here at Christ the King! All good priests.
As I look back, these have been very interesting years, in both Church and society, years full of rewards and also challenges. I began my seminary years at St. Meinrad in 1962, the same year the Second Vatican Council began in Rome. Those were special years to be sure, and I feel that I have been very much formed by the Council. I believe that Vatican II has truly been a gift for the Church, especially in regard to the liturgy, the Church’s public worship. As the Council said, liturgy is “the source and summit” of our Catholic faith. That has never been so clear, I believe, as in these last three months when Catholics were deprived of receiving the Sacrament.
There have also been challenges, which by definition are not always pleasant. There have been years of crisis in the Church, not all of which, unfortunately, have yet been resolved. And the society in which the Church lives has had many difficulties of its own – various wars (Vietnam was raging when I was ordained), economic problems, civil unrest, and now a pandemic. But I truly believe what Jesus said, that he would not leave us abandoned. And so, I/we have hope.
So today, after 50 years, I have only gratitude in my heart for the gift of the priesthood and the gift that priestly ministry has been for me. I am most grateful for the wonderful relationships God has blessed me with in the various parishes and ministries I have served over this time.
I had hoped to be able to celebrate this occasion with you, and my family and others last Sunday here at Christ the King, but due to the current health situation that was postponed, so hopefully it will now be on Sunday, August 16th.
In closing, a priest friend sent me an anniversary note. It quoted Fr. Karl Rahner, a well-known German Jesuit theologian during Vatican II, writing about priests. He said this: “The priest is not an angel sent from heaven. He is a man chosen from among men, a member of the Church, a Christian. Remaining man and Christian, he begins to speak to you the Word of God…For must not some one of us say something about God, about eternal life, about the majesty of grace in our sanctified being; must not some one of us speak of sin, the judgment and mercy of God? So my dear friends, pray for him, carry him so that he might be able to sustain others by bringing to them the mystery of God’s love revealed in Christ Jesus (thru the Sprit).” Please pray for me, and all priests and deacons!
Father James Bonke