The greatest privilege of a priest is to celebrate the sacraments, and especially the sacrifice of the mass. However, a priest’s greatest glory is found in his obedience.
Amid the media frenzy of attacks on the Church over the last decade, there have been a number of good, holy priests, who for one reason or another have been falsely accused. Prudently, the bishop is obliged to pull him off the frontlines revoking his faculties temporarily while everything gets sorted out. This could take months or even years. It is moments such as these that a priest is called to heroic obedience. It is moments such as these that the priest can be a more effective co-redeemer with Christ. Christ won redemption for us by dying on the cross. What happened on the cross? He prayed, he said few words and he suffered. But what did he do? In a word, nothing. It is easy for a priest to identify his priesthood with his ministry. He feels “useful” when he can celebrate mass, hear confession, visit the sick and the dying. However, his ministry is not his priesthood, but just a consequence of it.
Nothing unites a priest to Christ more than his obedience. Out of obedience to the Father’s plan, Christ became man. Out of obedience, Christ lived 30 years in utter obscurity as a Nazarene carpenter. Out of obedience, he preached the Good News to a people hardened in their ways of seeing and doing things. Out of obedience, he allowed himself to be betrayed, mocked, scourged and crucified.
Christ’s obedience is not forced; he didn’t have to die on the cross, he chose to. He is obedient out of love for the Father and love for sinful man. It is through obedience that he saved us. This is the same obedience that he calls his priests to live even in the greatest trials of life. This is a priest’s greatest glory. He is an obedient servant of the Lord. And what is obedience other than living as a martyr, but without dying?
God willing, at the end of this year, I will enter into the brotherhood of the priesthood. I am proud to become a priest and look forward to a fruitful ministry lived with Christ even if that means being nailed to the other side of his cross. The request of Benedict XVI in his inaugural homily as pope can be the request of every priest today. “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.”
Edward Bentley, LC studies for the priesthood in Rome. He can be reached at [email protected].