Perhaps Protestant friends
or family members have asked you,
based on this Gospel passage:
“Why do you call priests, ‘Father’?”
I know people ask the question,
so I’ll answer it;
and then move beyond it.
If you look further in Scripture,
you’ll see that St. Paul the Apostle,
and St. Stephen, one of the first deacons,
both used the term “father”
in the way Jesus seems to say not to:
Paul called himself a spiritual father,
and Stephen called his persecutors “father.”
So, they did it—in Scripture!
What’s the fuss?
We still wonder why the Lord
said this startling thing:
Then we realize—that’s why:
to startle us—to get our attention.
I will tell you,
these readings certainly have my attention.
The honors the Lord describes—
a seat of honor,
greetings in the marketplace—
people often do that for me!
People are kind, they often insist.
And, yes, I like it;
and it’s easy to come to expect it.
So it’s good that Jesus
startles me with these words.
I need to remember that
it is not about “Martin Fox,”
but about “Martin Fox the priest.”
Whatever I do,
wherever I go, I’m a priest;
I’m a priest no matter what you call me.
We believe that some of the sacraments
change our fundamental state of being—
who we are at our very core.
Baptism does that:
it fundamentally changes us,
from someone “outside”
to someone united to Christ.
Now, I know, that raises a question:
what about those who aren’t baptized?
The answer is, God has other ways.
He’s commands us;
He doesn’t command himself.
Baptism changes us:
we become part of Christ;
we become “little Christs.”
Confirmation changes us--
we become more like Christ:
With Christ, we say to the Father,
“I’ll do this”;
I’ll accept the mission;
I’ll accept the Cross.
And priesthood changes a man:
“I’ll be united to Christ on that Cross:
I’ll be the one through whom
Christ offers the Sacrifice;
my life will be his altar;
my voice, my face,
my person, will be His.”
When I’m in the confessional, I say this:
“You could come in here,
alone, and tell God you’re sorry.
And God will forgive you.
I’m here so that
you can see Christ smile at you;
and, through my voice, hear Christ say,
your sins are absolved, and gone forever!”
Did you notice that first reading
singled out priests?
If I don’t listen to Him;
if I fail to give His teachings faithfully:
God says—to me:
“I will send a curse upon you”!
We all know the quote by Dante:
“The road to hell
is paved with good intentions”;
How many know what
St. John Chrysostom said?
“The streets of hell
are paved with the skulls of priests.”
Pray for priests;
pray for our priests here in Piqua.
Please pray for me.
I know you do; I thank you.
Does all this make me
regret being a priest?
not one bit.
Because the grace
of my baptism and confirmation,
made me want to answer his call,
whatever that means!
And any men here thinking about it:
Your full happiness will come
only in answering that call.
But I need these readings’ warnings.
My hope isn’t how smart I might be,
or how pious or holy I might seem to be.
I have to stand before Christ
as I truly am; we all do.
I still remember my very first Mass—
the very first time
I stood at the altar,
I spoke the words of Christ himself,
holding bread, and wine,
and knowing it became—in my hands!—
His Body and Blood.
I looked at the Host;
I looked at the Cup,
and I thought: God have mercy on me!
I get to do this—to be a part of this—
and my life isn’t totally changed?
I know I don’t have enough faith
for that moment;
I know that my response
is utterly inadequate for that reality.
The temptations are real;
I’m not immune to them.
If you’ve heard me stress,
on other occasions,
the power of God’s mercy—this is why!
It’s frightening and yet so wonderful
to be a priest!
I look out, through my eyes;
I am what I am, Martin Fox.
I see with my prejudices, my impatience;
I see you—looking back:
you’re kind and generous and wonderful.
And then, every once in a while,
it dawns on me—
and there aren’t really words for this—
but I know: I’m seeing you,
through my ordinary self;
but you? You’re seeing Him!