Sunday, December 27, 2009

Today's thoughts about the priesthood

Regular readers know that one of my constant prayer intercessions are for increased vocations, specifically for priests.

While reading another cautiously optimistic article about increased enrollments in seminaries and a new tide of young people who are giving serious thoughts about becoming priests, I thought of another way to explain the joy of the calling to what many perceive to be a thankless (or even unnecessary) "job."

For a Christian, acknowledging Christ as both Lord and Savior is a lifelong endeavor. One does not "Savior insurance policy" one's way into making Christ truly the Lord of their life. So the analogy I thought of just now is that a priest provides continual soul maintenance and "preventative medicine."

We know in the field of medicine that "preventative medicine" is both essential and also neglected, perceived as being not glamorous or profitable. However, those of all religions who are called to their faith's vocations understand that they are like maintenance people/preventative medicine experts rather than glamorous surgeons who operate one time to save a life. Christians are, and should be, no different. Even if one has that moment of committing to Christ and thus, as many evangelicals call it, "being saved," to hold only that view is to believe that one surgery fixes all of a person's medical problems for life. We know that it obviously not true in real life. Likewise, as we read in the Bible the Old Testament priests were there for the ongoing health of each person's soul, which does stumble often during life, if one is honest. Sin, temptation, bad thoughts and bad behavior abound. Also, just as in a marriage, one's connection to God must be constantly demonstrated and renewed, or it is suspect as being hollow and taking the "marriage" partner for granted.

So I often think of priests as, yes, those who save souls for God, the way evangelicals think of the Great Commission, but day to day I think of priests as the preventative medicine guys, the ones who carry the burden of continual maintenance (which any corporate employee can tell you is the least glamorous but most essential job in a company). Many individuals witness and bring people to God, if Christian, through Christ. But the priests maintain the sacraments, the methods that Jesus provided through his example, in order to keep the relationship with God flowing and growing, helping their flock to avoid the dangers and pitfalls, and helping them in the stumbles that many take throughout life.

I hope that this reflection has been helpful and ask you to join me as I pray for and support growing vocations, and the young men who are called to be deacons and priests. Likewise too I never forget the women and men who are called to consecrated religious life in communities, and I pray too for their increase in both numbers and their fervor for God as he really is, ever present in all the people.