A few minutes ago, you heard
what the Lord has to say to pastors:
Woe to the shepherds
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture.
The Lord Jesus is the only truly good shepherd;
the rest of us try, for better or worse, to point to him.
Of course, it helps if we, pastors, follow Him.
I am trying; but I am a sinner.
Pray for me, please. I know you do; thank you.
Also, I am aware that in recent years,
some priests and some bishops
have let down God’s flock;
on their behalf, I apologize.
It is not easy to be a shepherd of souls:
Aside from the obvious temptations
that all men are prey to,
there are the subtle ones:
“I know best”;
“I deserve it, because I work so hard”;
“That’s good enough.”
But if anyone here
is thinking about the priesthood,
certainly don’t be overwhelmed!
For one thing,
there is such a great joy in being a priest—
precisely because of what St. Paul,
who was a priest, said in the second reading:
“In Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have become near by the blood of Christ.”
Through his Cross,
Jesus reconciled God and humanity;
and that is what a priest’s whole life is all about:
bringing those “once far off” near to Christ!
I don’t mind the challenges of being a priest.
I imagine a father must burst with joy
when he sees his newborn child;
how do you suppose I feel
when I baptize someone?
When I lead someone to faith?
When I help someone
return to his or her faith?
You visit someone in the hospital,
and bring the peace only Jesus can bring,
and it’s all worth it;
You sit in the confessional,
And help someone find his or her way back to Jesus,
After wandering in the wilderness for many years—
And there’s nothing to beat that.
Watch children grow, not only physically,
but also in their faith, and what pride to say,
“I had a hand in that!”
Yes, it can be hard to be a priest—
well, it’s hard to be anything,
unless you don’t mind being mediocre at it—
but, oh, it’s worth it!
And the Lord knows what he’s working with!
You heard in the Gospel
how our Lord brought his Apostles—
his first priests—back together.
They were overjoyed
at all they’d helped make happen in his Name.
But he could see they were tired, too.
And he knew, better than anyone, all their limits!
He chose them, all the same.
One thing comes through—
for us priests, and I hope for you.
If we have any wisdom at all,
we know who really makes it happen:
I really hope you know that!
When I stand at the altar,
Yes, that bread and wine is transformed—
It is a miracle, and it becomes Jesus himself!—
But it is not I who does it.
You see me, but it is Jesus here;
You hear my voice, but Jesus speaks the words,
his own words, and he makes it happen.
Honestly? I don’t have enough faith for this moment:
When I hold bread the wine,
and then it becomes His Body and Blood,
I believe it; but not nearly enough.
How can I remain standing?
How can I not fall on my face for my own sins?
It is not my faith that makes it happen,
But his Love—he is the shepherd,
He is the Bridegroom, who is faithful to his Church.
So for all the honor and awe of being his priest,
which I feel, and I need to recall as often as I can,
I ask you, I beg you:
Don’t see me! See him!