Friday, August 13, 2010

The priestly vocation leads to the mystery of the Passion

"Every priest is called to be fully human like Jesus. The priest must experience weakness and share the deep need of every human heart for love. He must find his ideal in a priest who is also weak, frail and vulnerable like himself - and who, like himself, is passionately in need of love. He finds this ideal in Jesus, the great High Priest. Jesus is the human face of God: 'the Word made flesh' - with all the weakness to which flesh is heir, except sin. He feels the pangs of unrequited love: abandonment by his friends, even by Peter, the foundation of the Church itself. He thirsts for love and climbs the hills and the crags like the Good Shepherd in search of the lost sheep. He stands on tiptoe like the distressed father of the prodigal, scanning the horizon for the first glimpse of his son's return. He draws the Samaritan woman gently on to find in himself a perennial spring welling up into eternal life, and the deepest thirst of her heart for love is at last fully satisfied. Jesus is frail like all of us: he sleeps through a storm; and he stops to rest by Jacob's Well, tired and thirsty. The priest needs a God like this: weak, needy, fragile, in need of love - quite simply, human.

Weakness relates the priest profoundly with others. It allows him to feel with them the human condition, the human struggle, the darkness and anguish which cry out for salvation. The priest can minister with compassion to the weakness of others, for he has Jesus, the High Priest, as his companion and friend. 'The core of the priesthood,' Pope Benedict reminds us, 'is being friends of Jesus Christ.' It was the gift of Jesus to his first newly ordained priests: 'I have called you friends.'

How paradoxical the mystery: a priest's strength lies precisely in and through his human weakness! The priestly vocation leads inexorably to the mystery of the Passion and death. There, the priest plunges ever more deeply into the blinding light of love revealed and hidden in human weakness. There, he contemplates his Saviour, 'gentle and lowly', despised and rejected - 'no beauty in him, no comeliness'. We are reminded of St Paul's lesson on the Passion: '[Jesus] was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. We are weak in him, but…shall live with him by the power of God.' The priest is called to identify with the weakness of Jesus in his Passion, even as Paul did: 'With Christ I hang upon the cross and yet I am alive; or rather not I, it is Christ who lives in me. It is true I am living here and now this mortal life, but my real life is the faith I have in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me.'"

-- From an editorial by Fr James McCaffrey, ocd

** Please pray for all our priests: the holy ones, the lukewarm, the ones drowning in grave sin, those still in formation (seminarians) and the ones that are to come...

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