A priest's calling
to help us in our prayers this week for our priests, click on the headline for a reflection on just what it means to be a priest in the Church, from the Herald of Hope column in the Catholic Herald.
......I believe we priests are indeed "set apart," not because we are better or holier but because we are different. That "ontological" difference gives us a unique role.
We are not different because we are celibate. At any given moment in the U.S. society over one-third of the adult population is unmarried. Many people choose that form of life because of other roles they feel called to perform. Being celibate doesn't make one better or holier.
We may be different ontologically but that is not verifiable under a microscope. It is important to accept that difference for our self-identity and how we view our inner being, but it is not to be flaunted by us to prove we are better.
We are different because we are set apart to mediate between God and God's people. Whether we like it or not that is our role. The ontological reality within is there so that we can minister to others in a unique way.
We are the ones who dare to approach the altar to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, yes, in the person of Christ and in the name of the church. No one else can step forward to do so and that is what makes us different. We must step forward to baptize those entering the church, babies and adults. We do so because it is our duty, our role. We do so in the person of Christ and in the name of the church. It does not make us better than anyone else -- just different.
We step forward to break open the Scriptures for God's people, trying to relate Christ's message to their human situation today. We do so, not because we are more learned than others, but because it is our role and duty to do so.
We step forward, in the person of Christ and in the name of the church, to witness the commitment of two of our members in marriage. We gather our people around the bed of the sick to anoint one of our members in need. We come forward and act in the name of Christ and the church when one among us asks for reconciliation with God and the community. No one else has these roles. We do so, not because we are better than others, but because we are called to do so.
We are set apart to minister between the human and the divine, the secular and the sacred......
We priests must have one foot in the reality of the human condition and one in the reality of the divine healing. The mystery of the Incarnation -- that miraculous and inimitable union between the divine and the human -- is played out today and in every century of the church. Jesus was that perfect union between the two (one person, two natures they would later call it). The Apostles were expected to be instruments of this mysterious union and then pass on that instrumentality to the next generation and to all times. Their calling and our calling is to mediate the salvation brought by Jesus Christ to all God's people of all times. The union of the divine and human begins in baptism, is nurtured in the Eucharist, and restored and strengthened in every other sacrament. Priests are God's instruments so he can be one with his people.
The priest stands at the point of union, the one set apart to mediate, the one called to have one foot in both worlds, to be a form of bridge between the divine and the human, the circuit through which the current passes. The priest is not better because he does so; he is just doing what God has called him to do and will call him to do to the end of time.
When the community gathers to worship and you as priest must step forward to act in the name of Christ and the community, do so willingly and with confidence, not because you are better, but because you are called to do so........
[Rembert G. Weakland, "Herald of Hope" column, Catholic Herald, 04/04/2002]