Year B: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Second Reading: Hebrews 5: 1-6
Most religions have within them those whose role is to act for people in their relations with God. In most cultures, this role is taken by men who have a quality of holiness and on whom may be conferred the title “priest”.
Christianity has inherited the Judaic traditions of priesthood which goes back to earliest times. The priest’s main role was to offer sacrifice on behalf of others - whether it was a sin-offering or one made in thanksgiving.
Over the years, the priesthood has changed - from the married presbyters and elders who presided at the breaking of bread in people’s homes through to the celibate priesthood of our own day.
What has remained constant is the sense of call and the dignity which that call affords. It is a challenging one too - balancing the authority is brings with a the humility to serve those among whom he is placed. A priest is human and fallible but the awareness of his own limitations allow him genuinely to stand alongside those struggling with faith.
The priesthood of the third millennium is still developing. Priests and people are beginning to work together on a more equal footing which, paradoxically, often enhances respect for the unique ministry of the priest rather than diminishing it.
This is a challenge for all concerned as people work out what priestly ministry means. For many years, parishes would have had several priests - now many parishes have none. They have had to confront the question: is the priest a parish administrator - or is his ministry of a different order? To whom should the responsibility of looking after parish buildings and car parking fall? Who should ensure the smooth running of sacramental preparation?
People bemoan the “lack of priests” but a vocation is a gift of the Spirit and, perhaps, we need to discern more carefully what may be happening. It may be that the Spirit is leading us towards a reinvigorated priesthood of men freed to pursue their liturgical and spiritual ministries as lay people take on responsibilities for the administrative and secular side of parish life.
What does it mean for me?
© 2006 Wellspring