Jesuit Father Peter Callery has put much thought into the sacraments. He believes that Catholics should not just go through the motions or see the sacraments performed as rituals only.
“They are meant to be lived out every day,” Father Callery said. “Our call is not to be just the arms of Christ, but the face of Christ to the world.”
For almost an hour on Dec. 11 at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie, Father Callery and Deacon Jeré Crago offered many thoughts during “Living the Eucharist,” an Advent hour of prayer and reflection before the exposed Eucharist.
The two tag-teamed – with Deacon Crago offering a Gospel reading and Father Callery following with a short explanation.
The main message: Be the people that God calls us to be and love one another.
Deacon Crego first quoted Jesus in St. John’s Gospel: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Father Callery said Jesus always gave in abundance when someone in need asked for help: multiplying the loaves and fish and turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Because of that, Catholics may wonder if they have anything of worth to offer. He reassured the congregation that human treasure is Christ’s spirit within us.
“I believe each and every one of you has something very special to offer God’s people,” Father Callery said. “You may think that it is not enough, but it will turn out to be plenty.”
Deacon Crago then read the passage from St. John in which Jesus washes the apostles’ feet at the Last Supper, which serves as a model of behavior. “Do you realize what I have done for you?” Jesus asks the apostles. “The teacher and master has washed your feet. … You are to wash each other’s feet.” He also said to love one another and keep his word.
“Jesus comes with the Father to live within us, and we’re given the spirit – the spirit of truth,” Father Callery said.
Be doers of the word
The third readings from John and James reinforced the message of being “doers of the word, not just hearers.”
“I think Jesus is God’s message to us, and we are called to be God’s message to one another,” Father Callery said. “Be witnesses of Christ by loving each other.”
Jesus implored his followers to show no partiality as they delivered the Lord’s faith, and Deacon Crego read from the book of James: “If you show partiality, you commit sin.”
“There is a spirit in the world that is very active, but it is not the spirit of Christ,” Father Callery said. It is the spirit of animosity and intolerance that harbors hatred.
Father Callery asked everyone to examine, “How much have I accepted this spirit myself?” He said no person knows or understands everything, so we shouldn’t judge who is or is not worth listening to or helping. This was echoed in the fifth reading from James.
“If we listen to each other, then both of us know more than we do by ourselves,” Father Callery said. “All of us are God’s children.”
Father Callery said Jesus’ farewell gift to us was peace.
“Jesus embodied peace,” he said, and urged others to honor the two commandments he gave to his disciples – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Father Callery said in proclaiming those commandments, Jesus actually meant a third was necessary.
“If we love ourselves properly, we are in the position to love our neighbor,” he said. “If we don’t love ourselves the way the Lord wants us to, we are in no shape to care for or love someone else.”
The last reading Father Callery chose from St. John exhorted the audience to love one another, and in order to do that, we must forgive. He told a story about a man trying to pass Peter and enter the pearly gates to get into heaven, but he can’t because he is carrying a sack of unforgiveness.
“Unforgiveness has no place in the kingdom of heaven,” Peter tells the man. “You can come in, but you have to leave that sack behind.”
“There is something we need to pray fervently for – the ability to forgive one another, to love as God calls us to love,” Father Callery said.
He ended the talk with a favorite quote from St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach Christ always and, if necessary, use words.”
Father Callery, a graduate of St. Catherine and Jesuit who has taught at Jesuit high schools nationwide, has preached retreats and offered spiritual counseling at Manresa House of Retreats in Convent, La., since 2007.