DISCERNMENT ARTICLES

Reconsidering the sacred role of the priesthood

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It’s easy to forget the awesome office of the priest. We see him daily offering the Mass, hearing confessions, anointing, counseling, helping his people to overcome their difficulties and sins.

How often do we stop to think about what the priest really is? One way to do that is to consider different terms for the things the priest does, terms that have more weight, more meaning.

For example, when the priest offers Mass, in reality he is offering the Holy Sacrifice of Christ at Calvary, making that actual same sacrifice really present in a particular time and place, bringing Jesus to the sacred altar in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity so that He can be united to His Church.

Take a second and really think about that…

Consider this example: when the priest hears confessions, what he is really doing is allowing himself to become Christ so that sinners can turn away from their sin, be cleansed of their unworthiness, and stand again perfected before God to worship Him.

Take a second and really think about that…

Think of anything that the priest does by the power of his sacred office, and then put it into the context of its sacred character. The office of the priest is awesome – inspiring awe – when we really think about it.Contrast this with what we know about our weakness and frailty. A priest, as a man, is still subject to concupisence as well as mental and physical infirmity. The office doesn’t change the human character of the man himself. Of course, there are many priests who, in their personal actions, do not strive to live according to the example of Christ, and some who are just plain bad people.But the example Christ gives for His priests is one of humility, virtue, and charity. In spite of His perfect nature, God lowered Himself to become as weak and lowly as His creation. The awesomeness of the priesthood means little if the priest does not live as an example of Christ in the world – emptying himself in order to draw everyone to God. The priest who remembers this is the one who really changes the world, who accomplishes the amazing things God has planned for his live.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote of the incredible reality of what the priest is in his Orations:

“I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God’s greatness and man’s weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ’s priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes.”

If you’re discerning a vocation to the priesthood, this shouldn’t make you shrink away; rather, it should be an occasion to realize that God may have fantastic plans for you, that you might be an instrument for His work of Salvation in our broken world! Are you weak? Christ took on our weakness to recreate us in His image! Offer your weakness up to him, and let it be an opportunity to become more Christlike in humility so that you can do awesome things for God.

As St. Gregory did, realize both your weakness and your potential greatness with the help of God. Don’t be afraid to do what He asks of you!