Today is Serra Club’s Priesthood Sunday. It is a day that we should celebrate the priesthood; celebrate our priests by acknowledging this gift from God and respond with honor and respect and recommit ourselves to the ministry of vocations.
St. Paul, in the second reading today, spoke of the gift of ministry – which is the total gift of self to God. St. Paul’s words, describing his life in service to Christ also echoes Christ’s life of public ministry; and it is a narrative of every priest’s life as well.
I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
. . .
At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf,
but everyone deserted me.
May it not be held against them!
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
This is the life that these men were called to and said yes to. For love of God and for love of those whom God loves (us) they are pouring their lives out.Each of these men have taken as their own the first reading today from Sirach. By their saying yes to Christ they have chosen to be the vehicle that Sirach’s message is completed in our lives. Listen to Sirach again:
The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites.
Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.
The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.
The one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens.
The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal,
nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right,
and the Lord will not delay.
So what are we to do today, to honor these men? What is our thanks? Words of gratitude and encouragement? Though words of recognition are helpful to most, I can’t help but think that they are pale thanks for those men who gave their all to bring God to us and us to God.
We should honor them by honoring God. We should realize and put to action our respect for these men who gave their whole life over. Every time you see a priest, remember him at the altar, or in the confessional, or at the hospital – allowing Christ to work through him. The day that these men were ordained Deacons they no longer were individuals; Franklin Duran was no more, David Lawrence was no more – there was an ontological change – their beings were changed – they were now one with Christ, they became His feet, voice and ears. And after ordained to the Priesthood they became Christ’s hands at the altar, – they are set apart, not above, but apart. Father Franklin, Father David is who they are.
Yes, take the time, and not just today, to thank them but always remember the sacrifice given by them for you. To be honest, it saddens and annoys me when I hear people talk about them with their first names. The familiarity that this calls forth is just plain wrong, ontologically, theologically and respectfully. I can’t help but be reminded of the Pharisee in today’s Gospel every time I hear someone talk about Franklin, or David – there is a vein of pride that causes such association. It strips God from them, it belittles their sacrifice, it marginalizes God’s gift of them to us. But it is also important to them to be reminded of who they have become. Too often lately we have heard of, or known, priests who have lost their way and I can’t help but wonder if we had been part of this demise by our lack of respect towards their sacrifice; whether our actions towards them chipped away at the edges of their own self-worth as ‘persona Christi capitis’.
So, starting today, let’s bring to these men the respect and support they so need – so that when God finally calls them home they can say ‘I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.’