In gratitude for the gift of the Priesthood
|Fr. Leo, CFR, bestowing his priestly blessing|
"We pray that by growing each day in fidelity and love for Christ, [priests] will be messengers of hope, reconciliation and peace in the midst of their brothers and sisters"
- Pope Benedict XVI, March 31, 2010
Messengers of Hope
How is a priest a messenger of hope?
I remember hearing a homily - quite recently actually - that really touched my heart. The young priest was talking about how the priest is always called upon at life's most difficult moments. The death of a loved one, terminal illness, painful trials, or any other assorted tragedy that you can imagine It's usually when the going gets tough, that the tough get going to a priest. There's nothing like a scrape with our own mortality to lead us closer to Christ and His Church. And when such difficult moments come, the priest is present. He stands there, right in the midst of it all, as an Alter Christus, bringing light into dark and seemingly hopeless places. He is a messenger of hope.
Messengers of Reconciliation
How is a priest a messenger of reconciliation?
Sin is social by nature. This is something that we have heard time and again in homilies. What does it mean? That even a "private and hidden sin" negatively affects not only the sinner but the whole Body of Christ. If this is true (and it is), then the flip side is also true: anytime we do something virtuous for the cause of right, then we affect not only ourselves and the immediate situation, but the whole Body of Christ. Let's take this one step further, when we are reconciled to Christ - through the Sacrament of Reconciliation - this has a positive affect on the whole Body as well. Each time a sinner repents and is forgiven in the Sacrament, and hears those blessed words: "I absolve you from your sins", the whole Body of Christ receives a measure of healing and reconciliation. When a priest sits in the confessional, hour after hour, hearing sin upon sin, absolving and bringing light into dark and seemingly hopeless places...it is precisely then that he is a most powerful messenger of reconciliation.
Messengers of Peace
How is a priest of messenger of peace?
Peace. At the Last Supper the Lord said to His Apostles: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid." (John 14:27) This peace rests upon the heart of a priest a unique way - because of their unique conformity with the Heart of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Pope John Paul II, in Gift and Mystery, explains: "The priest has a mysterious, awesome power over the Eucharistic Body of Christ. By reason of this power he becomes the steward of the greatest treasure of the Redemption, for he gives people the Redeemer in person. Celebrating the Eucharist is the most sublime and sacred function of every priest. As for me, from the very first years of my priesthood, the celebration of the Eucharist has been not only my most sacred duty, but above all, my soul's deepest need." With this said, it is easy to understand why I believe that a priest is a messenger of peace - par excellence - when he celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He brings the greatest gift of peace to the world - when the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ when he speaks those sacred words of consecration. In this way, the priest bring the LIGHT OF THE WORLD into dark and seemingly hopeless places. It is precisely then that he is the most powerful messenger of peace.
To close I would like to encourage everyone to increase your prayers for our Holy Father, our Bishops, and all of our Priests. We don't always have an opportunity to thank them as we ought - let us fulfill the debt of our gratitude by our fervent prayers.