By Tim Lilley
Father Donald Dilger offered a Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Mary Church in downtown Evansville on June 2 to commemorate 60 years of ministry in the Diocese of Evansville. Father Dilger, 88, was ordained to the priesthood in March 1959. Hundreds of people from across our 12 counties, including Bishop Joseph M. Siegel and several diocesan priests, filled St. Mary’s sanctuary for the Mass.
Father Ryan Hilderbrand, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Huntingburg, served as Deacon of the Mass, and Father Chris Forler, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Daylight, served as Subdeacon.
In his homily, Father Dilger focused on the DNA — the Divinely Natural Attributes of the Holy Trinity — as reflected in the readings for the Feast of the Ascension. Father Dilger noted that different books of the Bible present Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven on different timelines.
“In the Gospel of Luke,” he said, “Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension occur in one day. But in the Acts of the Apostles, also attributed to Mark, Jesus ascended into Heaven after 40 days.
“Jesus does not ascend at all in (the Gospel of) Matthew,” Father Dilger added. “And in (the Gospel of) John, He rises from the dead, greets Mary Magdalene, ascends to the Father in Heaven and returns with the Holy Spirit — all in one day.”
He added that ancient manuscripts reveal nine different endings for the Gospel of Mark. “The authors had no intention of writing a true biography of Jesus,” Father Dilger explained. “They expressed the faith according to their talents and traditions.”
He said the Church celebrates the Kingship of Jesus on the Feast of the Ascension, and he offered a personal favorite Biblical description of Jesus, from the letter to the Phillipians:
“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phillipians 2: 5-11).
Father Dilger also thanked everyone who attended, and all those who helped plan the Mass and the reception that followed at the Diocese of Evansville Catholic Center.
Father Dilger’s “Sunday Scriptures” column has appeared in The Message since September 1987. He began celebrating the traditional Latin Mass weekly in February 2012. Since then, he has celebrated the Mass more than 300 times. He celebrates the Mass at Noon Sundays at Sts. Mary and John Parish. All are welcome.
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