The Catholic world has been rocked in recent years by many scandals committed by those ordained to serve their flock. Creating a sort of no-win scenario, conversations tend to balance between outright disgust for our priests or holding them up on a pedestal and believing they can do no wrong. Within this mess of at times unfair judgement and at other times outright clericalism, one will find those humble priests who still live out the whole reason they were ordained, to serve.
In today’s First Reading, there are really two major themes that Peter is communicating to his fellow presbyters, which are still quite applicable today. The first is this notion that priests share in a special way in the glory that has been revealed. The second, is that priests should tend to their flock.
Why do we hold priests in such high esteem? In short, it’s because Jesus has called these men to be witnesses. One of the reasons priests practice celibacy is because they are not just a holy witness of life here on earth, but they live in a way that foreshadows what our life will be like in heaven. They are living, in a sense, the redemption we will all experience at the end of time. I like to describe this fact by using the analogy of eating food. When we eat a meal we immediately taste the goodness of the food, but we don’t receive the fullness of it until we digest it and use it for energy. It’s the same with redemption. We have a taste of redemption now, we long for the fullness of redemption in heaven. Priests then, are an example to us of living the line between both, heaven and earth.
So then the question may be asked, well what if a priest isn’t a good example for us? And here is where the second part of the First Reading comes in. Priests are called to serve. The very way that they are an example to us of the divine is by imitating Christ, the King who came not to be served but to serve. This is not an easy task nor one that should be taken lightly. It becomes even more difficult by the simple fact that we live in a fallen world. I remember when I was discerning the priesthood it became very clear to me how broken men can be who receive the call. It’s not as if you put on that collar and all of a sudden you can do no wrong. So where is all of this going?
The point here is that God has ordained men on this earth to be examples of life in heaven. They ultimately fulfill this reality when they are in service to their flock, just like Jesus was and is. But we also have to be aware of the reality that we live in a fallen world and priests, bishops, and popes are not always going to be perfect. So what is the answer? To me it seems simple, we must believe in the power of prayer and pray ardently for our priests. Instead of towing the line between disgust and worship, let’s pray that our priests will take up the call they have been given and become shining examples here on earth of what it will be like in heaven. A good place to start is the prayer below. From all of us here at Diocesan, God bless!
Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of our priests. Through them, we experience your presence in the sacraments. Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for your people. Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Inspire them with the vision of your Kingdom. Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry. Help them to become instruments of your divine grace. We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen.
Tommy Shultz is a Business Development Representative for Diocesan. In this role he is committed to bringing the best software to dioceses and parishes while helping them evangelize on the digital continent. Tommy has worked in various diocese and parish roles since his graduation from Franciscan University with a Theology degree. He hopes to use his skills in evangelization, marketing, and communications, to serve the Church and bring the Good News to all. His favorite quote comes from St. John Paul II, who said, “A person is an entity of a sort to which the only proper and adequate way to relate is love.”
Feature Image Credit: Nazim Coskun, https://unsplash.com/photos/Wk6zOCfpe4A