Word Magazine January 1979 Page 18
PRIESTS ARE PERSONS T00,
Homily by Father James C. Meena
After hearing a certain sermon a parishioner asked, “What were you mad about? My response was, “What you heard was not the voice of anger but the voice of pain and frustration, the voice of a person, (because Priests are persons too, you know) crying out to his people and asking . . .
“Is anybody there?”
An inspirational message from Ephesians (4:12-17) teaches that each of us is given a special gift with which to fulfill our discipleship. Priests are often explicit regarding the manner through which we can fulfill our function. You may be tired of hearing them but they bear repeating, —active, not passive, — Involved, committed, dedicated.
St. Luke shows that even Jesus displayed frustration when, after having healed ten lepers, only one returned and he was a heretic. (17:12-19) Jesus expressed His frustration not to the nine that didn’t come back. They weren’t there to hear Him. Many of you complain, “We’re in church. Why is Father yelling at us?” When your Pastor complains about unfulfilled ministries, his soul cries out to yours in agony because he has been called upon to lead you on the path of salvation. From time to time he feels that he really surges forward on that path with programs, ideas and innovations but when he looks back, the “Faithful” are not there. So he goes back down the trail to pick up his flock and start all over again with study programs, inter-Orthodox programs, inter-church programs, a program for the poor, a program to educate those who need education, a program to uplift his own parishioners spiritually, a program to bring the youth into closer fellowship with Christ and His Body and once again he surges down that road encouraged by you. You say, “Yeah Father . . . go get em . . . that’s great . . . that’s a terrific idea.”
But a mile or two down the road of salvation He looks back again and there isn’t anybody there. So he must turn around, go back, pick up and start again because he remembers that the last challenge Jesus gave to Peter was, “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15) And because he loves Him, your Pastor cannot allow even one to go astray in good conscience.
Under such circumstances there are times when he realizes that he is not innovating anymore but simply renewing programs that have never really been tried and tested. Now lest you think I’m copping a plea by saying that priests are persons too, let me point to the great prophet, St. Elias, who called upon the name of the Lord and said, in effect, “That’s enough! I’ve had it!” “For the people of Israel have torn down thy altars and slain thy prophets and they seek my life to take it away.” (I Kings, 19). That great and noble prophet who constantly heard the voice of God so clearly and knew that he was a tool in God’s hand literally begged our Heavenly Father to end his life. Why? Because the people whom he loved the most, to whom God had sent him to minister and to prophecy just frustrated the heck out of him!
The Church is suffering from the agonies of losing Priests to the illness of frustration and disappointment. When you read that Priests have been released from the Archdiocese or are taking leaves of absence, have you wondered why? It’s often because these men are so frustrated that they can’t stand the pain of being disappointed by the people whom they love and to whom they have been sent to minister. Priests are persons too . . . and Priests need to be responded to, not just cheered on.
If you believe that you are really Christians, then you have got to take your personal ministry much more seriously. The hungry need you. The poor need you. The illiterate need you. The Orthodox Community and YOUR PARISH need you.
We watch T.V. ministry programs quite frequently and we see a certain preacher whose biggest problem is increasing the number of His donors from 40,000, which he had in 1978, to 100,000 which he hopes to achieve in 1979. He doesn’t seem to have to worry about “mundane things.” He has professionals to worry about these. Well in your church there is usually one worrier and that’s your Priest. He tries to get the rest of you to be concerned with him and when he sees little or no response he gets frustrated, and when he is frustrated he feels pain and when he feels pain he sometimes cries out in what is interpreted as anger.
Beloved, your Priest undoubtedly loves you very much. You are a good people but unfortunately, like the rest of society, too many of you are just too darn lazy for your own good. And it’s about time you faced up to that fact honestly and realistically. We have a handful of good people doing all of the work that needs to be done in our parishes. Well that’s painful and discouraging and if you don’t think that we have reason to be frustrated, then read the Gospels and the book of Kings, and you will know that I am not alone in my frustration and in my agony. Yet we persevere because we love Christ Who loves you.