Do you ever feel lonely, left out, unwanted, or unnoticed? It isn't a good feeling, is it? You want to belong, to be part of a group, to feel important to others, to be known by name, and to feel part of a family.
Seems to me that we all need someone to gather us together, build bridges between us, and encourage sharing. We need someone to inspire friendships, and awaken a spirit of hospitality. We need a hand shaker, a hugger, and a smiler. Then everyone would feel welcome and accepted. Ah, yes, the whole day would be lighter and brighter, wouldn't it? If you ask me, I think that's the first task of a priest.
Do you feel tired, discouraged, tempted to throw in the towel, feeling like there is a cloud over your head? Maybe you feel like a failure in relationships or a failure as a parent. Maybe you feel you are not successful in school or in your job. Maybe at mid-life you sense that you haven't accomplished much. Maybe your dreams have fizzled. And maybe you feel that your life as a Christian is no great shakes. You worry about your sins, and you fear death. It isn't a good feeling, is it?
Seems to me that we all need a "master listener" who can name our experiences, who understands what we are going through and tells us we're okay. We need someone who delights in us, affirms our goodness, and gives us cause for joy. This person must be able to assure us of God's gift of forgiveness, so we can put our faults behind us. This person must remind us of God's faithful love in the past, and help us see that his love is still alive in our midst today. This person must be strong in faith. This person must never tire of proclaiming the good news that we are "beloved of God," and that this love is unconditional and everlasting. If you ask me, that's the second task of a priest.
Do you ever feel discouraged? Maybe it is the result of a suffering you feel you don't deserve. Maybe it comes from the loss of a loved one, or a rebuff by someone you once thought was a friend. Maybe you are growing more sensitive to the poor and homeless, and you are tired of the daily accounts of terrorism and war. You long for hope, but it is getting harder and harder to think of the future and smile. The thought of the future fills you with fear. It isn't a good feeling, is it? You want to dream of better days, to know that creation is basically good, and that rainbows will follow the rain.
Seems to me that we all need someone to remind us how God brings good out of evil. We need someone to explain how God's power is at work even when we don't see it, and that there is still much to be grateful for. This person must be an artist who sees beauty amidst suffering, and a poet who speaks of goodness despite human foibles. This person must be a visionary who shares his confidence in the future - because Christ had died but now is risen, and lives among us with his power. It is Christ among us who gifts us with his truth, his strength, and his peace. Knowing this, we then need someone to lead us in celebration and show us how to kick up our heels in joy. We need someone to shout from the highest mountain how great is our God and how great it is to be his people. We need someone to lead us in giving thanks. If you ask me, that's the third task of a priest.
Do you ever experience self-doubt? It seems that others have it together, while you feel fragmented, torn, broken. You long to feel a fellowship with others and wholeness within, but it eludes you. It isn't a good feeling, is it? If other people would only accept the struggling you without judging you, or show a little appreciation of your efforts. If other people would only put up with you when you aren't at your best. Does anyone really know you? Does anyone even care?
Seems to me we all need someone to bond us with other people and to heal the wounds between us. We need someone to set a table of food where we can experience the support of others. We need someone to nourish our drooping spirits and to lead cheers for us along our journey. We need someone to feed us with the Bread of Life. If you ask me, that's the fourth task of a priest.
Does it seem that you are wandering aimlessly through life? Maybe you question life's purpose and wonder about your place in this world. It isn't a good feeling, is it? You long to feel important, to be useful, and to know that your life has meaning. If only someone would point you in the right direction and then send you forth. If only someone would assure you that your suffering has some value, and that you are needed to bring joy to others.
Seems to me that we all need a prophet who will challenge our best self, a chief "foot washer" who will show us the lifestyle of service. We need a dreamer who truly believes we can make a difference. We need someone who will send us forth to serve. If you ask me, that's the fifth task of a priest.
Each Sunday the risen Lord.
1) gathers His people together (Introductory Rites ),
2) proclaims to them the Good News of His Father's love (Liturgy of the Word),
3) leads them in giving thanks (Eucharistic Prayer),
4) nourishes them with His Body and Blood (Communion Rite),
5) and sends them forth to build His kingdom (Concluding Rites),
Please be patient with us priests as we do our part to express the love of Christ. And pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth more laborers into his vineyard.