The Priesthood in the Third Millennium:
A Priest Is Not Just A Community Builder Or Animator,
But A Man Of Sacrifice, A Victim, Another Christ
The Mystery Of A Vocation To The Priesthood
We have now spent these days together, preparing ourselves in this “House of Studies” for the sole purpose of fulfilling the ministry that God has given to each of us. Discerning that calling is not an easy task, or one that is lightly approached. But we approach it together, and that, my beloved in Christ, is the reason that we are here.
Priests of the third millennium have to be the ones who will through their preaching, direction, and pastoral focus bring needed leadership to the parishes of our God-protected Archdiocese to meet the challenges that must be met in the decades ahead.
order for Jesus Christ to reign in the world, nothing is so necessary as the holiness of the clergy, so that with their example, word, and knowledge they might be a guide for the faithful.”
Without the ministerial priesthood in God’s providential plan, there is no Church; there are only groups of well-meaning followers of Christ more or less equipped but ineffective without the sacraments groping to understand and live the Scriptures. As St. Paul puts it in his first letter to the Corinthians, “See your vocation, brethren, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble. But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the strong
I very much doubt whether a committee of experts would have chosen Peter to be the head of the apostles, or indeed would have chosen the apostles themselves, given their failings and unstable temperament! Having said this, it is still worth examining the vocation of the young fishermen of Galilee and the other apostles, hoping to catch the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.
Is there anything, then, that we can learn from their calling and their response to that call? The first meeting of Jesus with John and Andrew took place when St. John the Baptist pointed to Jesus who was walking by. “Behold the Lamb of God: behold Him Who takes away the sins of the world.” It is not surprising that when they heard and saw John the Baptist pointing to Jesus they began to follow Jesus. Jesus turned and asked them, “What do you want?”- words that are worth our meditating on. What do you really want? What are you really seeking?
There are many today who do not know what they want, wandering aimlessly through life, drifting through a “parched salty land,” pursuing illusions that cannot satisfy, like moths dashing themselves against electric lights.
John and Andrew replied, “Master, where do you live?”, significant words that express a very important truth. Following Our Lord is not just a question of believing in him but of living with him. Our Lord’s reply shows us precisely this: “Come and see”. Later, Jesus said to them: Follow me, and I will make you into fishers of men”. Immediately, they rose up and did exactly as he asked, leaving their nets, their families and their friends, and followed Him.
There is a divine recklessness about their answer to God’s call. Humanly speaking they were leaving a secure livelihood as fishermen and following an unknown preacher. They would indeed launch out into the deep unchartered waters of the apostolate, relying not on human strategy or wisdom but on the power of God.
These disciples and the rest of the chosen twelve formed the first seminary. . . the first “House of Studies” as it were . . . a seed ground in which Our Lord would plant the seeds of divine life and truth. Jesus would train them, correct their faults, and give the graces they needed to grow in sanctity. He would unfold to them the mysteries of God’s own life, and he would send them out to teach the Good News about the Kingdom even before they had witnessed his death and resurrection. At the same time he would promise them the Holy Spirit, who would bring to their minds everything he had told them. They were to be witnesses of his life, his miracles, his preaching, his death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven. Above all else he would ordain them as his priests, priests of the new covenant who would make present the sacrifice of the new covenant and the victory of the resurrection in the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist.
If Our Lord’s words, “The harvest is rich but the laborers are few” were true in his day, as they were, then how much more is this not true today? Jesus said to the disciples, “You say there are yet four months and then the harvest comes.” Here we see human prudence suggesting, “There is no need to rush; leave it to the future.” Our Lord’s words were quite definitive: “But I say to you lift up your eyes and see the fields, for they are white already for the harvest.” Hence the need for laborers in this great harvest of souls is no less today than it was in Our Lord’s days.
To repeat the question I asked at the beginning: is there anything that we can learn from the call of the first disciples and their answer to that call?
Firstly, they had already some religious formation and knowledge of the Scriptures. This means that the seed ground of a vocation today, as in the past, is a proper knowledge of the Faith; for how can we love what we do not know?
Secondly, there has to be an act of faith. There is no “postcard from Heaven” giving a clear call to the priesthood.
Thirdly, in every case we see the need for sacrifice. In Peter’s words, “We have left everything and followed you.”
Moreover, the disciples were formed in the priestly life by their contact with Jesus, the divine Master who would correct their faults and teach them by his life and words. This continuing contact with Jesus, the supreme High Priest, comes today through prayer and the sacraments, and above all through the Holy Eucharist. The very same Lord continues to teach through the Church he founded. “He who heareth you heareth me.”
The priesthood, then, is not just a profession among others, but a calling that requires a total giving of one’s life. The modern world may not necessarily demand a martyrdom of blood, but it does demand a different kind of martyrdom, particularly in a religious atmosphere that is impregnated with modernism. A priest is not just a community builder or animator, but a man of sacrifice, a victim, another Christ.
May it be so for each of you, as you endeavor to seek God’s divine will and your calling . . . and that you remain always as you are today, dedicated, zealous, pious, humble, and well-formed in your training to approach the priestly calling . . . to be priests for the third millennium