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Word Magazine April/May Page 8
THE SUFFERING PRIEST
By: The Rev. Robert E. Lucas, S.T.L.
Although it is true the priest is the hero of the human drama, a wrestler of gigantic stature, his weapons are neither the furor of the proud man nor natural courage, but the meekness of the Gospel and the folly of the Cross. Although he is a man who has refused to participate in the world’s affairs in order to herald the Kingdom of God, he works by mildness and suffering, following the example of His King.
Attacked by “his enemy” (Matt. 13:15) men even hold it against him for telling the truth. “Truth begets hatred,” teaches the saintly Augustine. (Sermon 10) “If the world hates you, be sure it hated Me before it learned to hate you.” (John15:18) A priest must therefore not be astonished by lying accusations. (Psalms 95:5-John 15:25) He will see in all these maligning allegations proof that he is following Christ’s footsteps. (Gal. 1:10) Of course Christ promised that the world and its evil spirit would persecute His priests. He emphasized it would be non-believers, but not faithful Orthodox Catholics who would hold priests in contempt. Christians would dearly love their spiritual fathers and be ever eager to protect them from these onslaughts of the devil. It therefore is concluded if so called Christians hate their priests and maltreat them or cause them discomfort, they are not followers of Christ, they do not belong to His household, they are baptized secularists, non-believers. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
“If you belonged to the world, the world would know you for its own and love you; it is because you do not belong to the world, because I have singled you out from the midst of the world that the world hates you. Do not forget what I said to you. They will persecute you just as they persecuted Me.” (John 15, 19-20)
Though obstinate in spiritual combat and uncompromising in the defense of those entrusted to his care, the priest, when he is personally attacked, demonstrates the tragic figure of God’s servant, God’s docile and obedient servant, Christ Himself standing before Pilate assailed and denounced by those who cannot save themselves without Him.
He is “despised and forsaken by men, a man of sorrows,.. . he is wronged and submits, not protesting but like a lamb is led to slaughter. . .“ (Isaias 53:4-10) He holds his peace because he understands, because he knows God’s plan. The more he is hated and persecuted, the more he loves and prays for his persecutors; the more glorious his place in heaven. He knows because Christ has intimated to him that his fellow man will “oppress the righteous man because he thwarts them in their ways.” (Wisdom 2:10) Above all, he knows he must always pray for his persecutors. He knows redemption will come to those who hate him not only through the merits of Christ’s Cross, but not without the graces his own personal cross will merit for them. He is their suffering mediator, eternally begging the mercy of God to forgive the ignorance of His malfactors. “Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrow. . . he was bruised for our sins.. . and by his bruises we are healed.” (Isaias 53-:4-10)