The Readings of today’s Mass always present a challenge for parish priests because it lays out attitudes that are dangerous for our pastoral ministry. No priest ever submits to ordination with the idea that he will become a Pharisee and yet all of us know or have experienced priests who sometimes act like Pharisees and intentionally or not drive people away from the Church.
This morning I would like to share some thoughts on priesthood as it is for the majority of men who serve us in the parishes of our Archdiocese.
As you may know, diocesan priests upon their ordination take three promises: celibacy, faith and obedience.
My father called me one day after watching a program on TV about why the Church should do away with celibacy. He asked me if I thought perhaps this was a good idea. I responded somewhat curtly to him by saying, ‘you know, has anyone asked a celibate person what they think about being a celibate. The media always seems to ask those men who have abandoned their vows but never those who live it faithfully and joyfully.
I took the promise of celibacy because I have been called by God to live as a celibate person for the sake of the Kingdom of God. I have been called to give witness to the reality of heaven and I do so joyfully.
Has it been easy, like marriage, yes and no. But the thing that makes it possible is work and prayer and more work and much more prayer. I make my celibate life available for God to complete His work.
All the priests I know, my friends that is, are good men; they are disciplined in prayer and in their practice; they are sensitive to doing their work well; they love people and families, they love serving the parish. You are my family in other words. As your parish priest, I am married to you and I live each day trying to be a better witness to the Truth in King of Prussia.
Am I perfect? NO. Who is? But like you I depend on your prayers as you depend on mine that together we might be perfected in the life of the Christ we love.
Priests take the promise of faith that means we need to study the doctrine of the Church, come to understand it and find ways to make it relevant in today’s world. It is not a simple task to reach three generations of people all at once!
Priests are expected to be faithful to the Catechism no matter what the consequences and we do it with joy!
Priests take the promise of obedience to their Bishop. Obedience is difficult if you don’t constantly, day by day, surrender your will to Christ’s. Yes, all of us have a bit of pride in us and it can get in the way. We pray for humility and for the grace to submit to another’s will.
So, what makes a priest’s life happy?
Seeing you all here this morning! Receiving and giving the sacraments, especially confession and Mass; helping someone die well; teaching young people to open their hearts to Christ and just being with parishioners and seeing them happy – that really completes our lives.
None of us here want to be Pharisees. We want to be righteous before God and each other. So we need to pray for one another and have courage.
If there is one Scripture passage from this Sunday’s readings that best describes a priest’s feeling for the people he serves it would be this:
“With such affection, I share the Gospel of God and also my very self with you, so dearly beloved have you become to me.”
You are good people who deserve a chance for true happiness in this life and in the life to come. So I want to leave you with this message:
Do not be afraid to be yourself before God. He loves you and desires to be with you. Dare to hare that love with others. We can’t go to heaven alone, we need others to help us. Ask for help. It will bring you much happiness and an abundance of spiritual joy!
May God bless you and your dear families, Amen!