Thursday, March 9, 2017
The Catholic Man, the Catholic Priest as Priest
I would suppose that the desire to do this would be greatly affected by the image of Jesus we grew up with. But not all the images are true, in fact, some are demonically false. The dominant one presented in this culture is a image I call "Jesus the wuss." This Jesus is one part care bear, one part guru, and about as emasculated as a man can get and still be a male of the species. He seems to be a bit part actor in a Shakespearean tragedy; a nice guy who dies a tragic death in the overall play of life. This Jesus makes suggestions for life, almost in an apologetic tone. But, were we to actually study the Jesus of the New Testament, we get a different picture.
The Truth of the Matter
The Jesus of the New Testament spoke a Gospel that was so dangerous and revolutionary that it upended everything. His clarion call flew in face of the Roman Empire, the Sanhedrin, the religious authorities so much so that they wanted Him dead. This was a man who spoke forcefully, pointedly, and firmly. While He showed great kindness and mercy, He did not back away from a fight. He didn't care what His image was or what people thought of Him, He came to preach a Gospel. He sealed this Gospel willingly in His own Blood. He went to Jerusalem knowing full well that not just death lay ahead, but an excruciating painful and violent death lay ahead. It is in those last days of His life on earth that He shows Himself to be the great and eternal High Priest. All priesthood flows from His priesthood.
From the Last Supper through the Crucifixion Jesus makes a new sacrifice and sets a new covenant. He is the priest that offers up that sacrifice, he is the slain victim in that sacrifice, and in both He intercedes before the Father for us, the beneficiaries of this sacrifice. Read that line again. In this we have encapsulated the type of priests we Catholic men are called to be. It is this steely eyed, full throated, wise, and strong priest we are called to be.
I speak directly to married men and priests. Each in our own way, by virtue of our baptism (and for priests, Holy Orders) are called to share in the priestly role of Jesus Christ. With our anointing (s) with Sacred Chrism, we are are charged with a share in the priestly role of Jesus Christ. Day in and and day out ,we are called to offer sacrifice for the good of those placed in our care.
The Sacrifice and the One Who Makes it
Married man, YOU are called to be the spiritual head of your home. Your wife has duties as well, but you bear the responsibility before God for being the priest of the family. You exhibit that priesthood by the sacrifice of your time and energy for the good of your family. Their care and protection, their growing in God's grace and Gospel is your responsibility. Some of this you share with your wife, but you are the one called to be the priest who guides and sacrifices within your home. However, you cannot be a priest on your own, independent of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, given through the Eucharist. Your priesthood should lead you and your family into the Eucharistic celebration every Sunday! If your priesthood does not, then you are misleading the portion of the flock entrusted by God to you!
My brother priests, in a even more powerful way, we make present that sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Mass. We make the effects of that sacrifice also present through Confession and Anointing of the Sick. On top of this, like dads and husbands, we too offer up ourselves...our energy, our time, our resources...as a sacrifice as well. We add to this sacrifice, the sacrifice brought by celibacy, as a way of pointing toward the Kingdom of God. We pastors are not businessmen selling holy stuff, but men who are to model for the men and boys of our parishes what being a priest of Jesus Christ means. Our parishioners have a right and need to see in us the fullness of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ and His Church.
When we Catholic men neglect or belittle this sacred duty, it is not merely to the detriment of ourselves, but we poison or starve the flock assigned to us. Can we imagine the Good Shepherd will take this neglect or abuse lightly? Something about millstones and being thrown into the sea is coming to mind.
Brothers, we don't offer sacrifice for the sake of offering sacrifice; sacrifice has an end in mind. Christ did offer His life on the Cross just for the sake of a violent death and good example. No, He offers Himself for our good! He offers Himself as the Prime intercessor before the Father. Likewise, what we offer is not a going through the motions, or a lifeless and embittered action. No, when we offer ourselves up, it is for the good of those who God has placed in our care. Without intercession, we leave our flocks primed for the predators. Our actions without God's help will always fall short.
The devil greatly appreciates a neglectful priest. The devil loves a self-absorbed priest. The devil great appreciates a husband who doesn't pray for his wife, a dad who doesn't pray for his children, a pastor who doesn't pray for his parish. These men might believe that are being alert and diligent, but without asking for God's will and protection, they bring a knife to a spiritual thermonuclear war. If prayer is not a part of our lives (and my brother priests, that is not just limited to Divine Office and Mass), we lower our guard and both we and our flocks suffer. The devil has done well in this society to convince men that religion and prayer are for the women and kids. It is much easier to strike the shepherd and scatter the flock when the shepherd drops his guard.
Men, central to our core identity is that role of protector; we cannot do this without attaching our identity to the identity of Christ the Eternal High Priest. We can shy away like cowards from our role before God to lead and intercede for our flocks. We must lay aside the lies that make us believe that this role is not manly. True manliness is not measured in muscles, money, and power. True manliness is in resolve, courage, strength , and determination to follow in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is no easy thing, as those foot prints are bloodied by the sacrifice that is necessary.
I believe deeply that the destruction of the family and the priestly vocation crisis is laid at our feet. To many of us modeled our call as husbands, dads, and priests on a identity other than Jesus Christ. The Good News is, though, that we can depart from such a false identity and convert to the truth. Now is the time, men! Now is the time to reconfigure our identities away from this world and towards Christ the High Priest! For it is not the world that will judge us in the end...it will be Christ, the Eternal High Priest! What kind of priest will He find in us?