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Living the Priesthood (2021)

Among the numerous pages on my website, you can find one on “Vocations.” There you will find information about “vocation” in general and how everyone is called to live as priest, prophet, and king from their baptism.

You will also find links to articles I have written on life as a lay person, in seminary, and my life as a priest. I recently realized that it has been some number of years so I have written an article explicitly on my life as a priest. (You can read the previous articles I have written for the whole picture on my vocations page.)

As I read through some of these articles, I believe that everything that I have written in the past is still what I would write today. So, rather than write something that would be redundant, I am going to focus on three things that are at the center of how I feel specifically called to serve as a priest.

The first two should be at the heart of any man’s priesthood, the Eucharist (see my video presentation on the Eucharist in my series on the Sacraments, Sacraments: Channels of God’s Grace, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Eucharist is the sacrifice of Jesus given his life for us on the Cross. At the Last Supper, Jesus united his sacrifice to the Eucharist when He said this is my body…this is my blood. It is no longer bread and wine. It is becomes, it is transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Blessed Sacrament, the consecrated host, is not just a symbol of Jesus. It is Jesus. I see presiding at Mass as the very center of priesthood. As the Second Vatican Council said, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith (Lumen Gentium, 11). It is the Eucharist that feeds us with the grace we need to live as God calls. Presiding at Mass is not simply part of my job to me. Presiding at Mass is a privilege to me. I pray for the Holy Spirit to always be at work in me as I preside. It is not about me. It is about doing the will of God (as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done”).

I also consider it a privilege to be God’s instrument in delivering his forgiveness to people in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are sinners. We need forgiveness. We also need to know that God loves us. I pray that the Holy Spirit always work through me to let the person who is confessing their sins see God as a loving and merciful God rather than a judge ready to condemn the sinner.

Many people are familiar with John 3:16. Here I also include the following verse, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).

Ministry is about helping the people to encounter God. The seven Sacraments are key to this (see my video series, Sacraments: Channels of God’s Grace). However, the Sacraments are not the only way we encounter Christ. It is not the only way I can bring Christ to the world. Ministry can happen at any time. For example, I like to take a walk everyday. Often, I do so dressed in the Roman collar to show Christ to the world. This has led to ministry conversations that never would have happened if I was dressed otherwise. There is the time that I walked passed a convenience store with four or five bikers in the parking lot talking. They asked to talk to me. Most of them were fallen-away Catholics. We talked for 15-20 minutes and they asked for a blessing as they started a road trip.

There’s also the day a fallen-away parishioner stopped me and he spoke to me about why he hadn’t been coming to church. Did these people start coming to church? I don’t know (the bikers were from outside the area) but I pray our conversation helped encourage them.

I was even stopped one day by a non-Catholic Christian who said he had seen me various times walking dressed in the Roman collar and thought it was a wonderful witness to the community at large that Christ is present in our community.

So, to get back to what I had been saying, the third thing I love doing as a priest is teaching. Certainly, this starts with preaching the homily at Mass. However, that is just a few minutes. There is much more to our faith than can be covered in a Sunday homily. For instance, the entire Mass is meant to be a deep encounter with God. However, we do not always why we do what we do at Mass. Hence, my webinar series, Uncovering the Treasurers of the Mass.

Of course, including in “teaching” is the numerous articles, I post here on this blog. I would say the silver lining in the cloud of the Coronavirus pandemic for me is how it has led me to write much more frequently on this blog. It started with articles relating to the Coronavirus but has become so much more. I thank God for leading me to do this. I am especially grateful for the both the words the Lord is given me in my current webinar series, Treating Life with Dignity and Respect (Part II is this week – sign up here) and the courage to speak an unpopular message that abortion and assisted suicide (and more) go against the Fifth Commandment, “You Shall not Kill.”

Even choosing topics to write about or do presentations on is an exercise in prayer for me. I do not simply want to pick topics that I like. In my preaching homilies, writing articles, and doing presentations, I pray that I be offering the message that God wants his people to hear, the message the people need to hear.

Related to my love of celebrating the Eucharist, offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and teaching is the role of shepherd. It is the role of priests to help bishops as shepherds lead people to God.

We need to do a better job as shepherds. We need to do a better job of being the Church that God calls us to be (see my document, “What Sort of Church Should We Be?”).

You may be familiar with Mark 6:34, “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (see also Matthew 9:36). Jesus came to be the Good Shepherd (see John 10:1-21).

There are those in the Old Testament days who God had called to shepherd his people who fell short (see Numbers 27:17, 1 Kings 22:17, 1 Chronicles 11:2, and Jeremiah 23:1-4). It is not easy. Please pray for all those who are called to be shepherds today to lead people to the Lord.

Please pray for me to do not what I want or what you want, but to do what God wants, thy will be done.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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