Beware of the Catholic priests who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the Westfields, to take the front seats in the churches and the places of honour at BBQs. While this is not exactly what Jesus says in our gospel today, it is perhaps not the first time we have heard this comparison. After all scribes have long robes, priests have long robes. Scribes say lengthy prayers, priests say lengthy prayers. Scribes get a place of honor, priests get a place of honor. Etc.
This might work out very well except for what Jesus says next. This poor neglected widow’s gift of her last two cents makes a great contrast to those self-important property-guzzling priests. Except – apply this to reality. Who are those anxious to be constantly spoken about in the media, who wear spectacular fashion-dazzlers, and or whose job is to make ever greater amounts of money? It’s usually not your local parish priest. And who are those in our society who, despite it’s bling of attractions, like St Francis of Assisi give all that up, giving up the life of a husband and father, to serve and depend radically on God for what they live on? Amongst the most well-known are consecrated brothers, and sisters – and priests.
This is part of the attractive beauty of being a Catholic priest: like the saints of old, to give up everything for God. Like the lover I want to be, to love whatever the cost. And this is why I invite all the young men here, including those of you in school, to consider this question: is God calling me to be a priest?
It’s important to consider for three reasons: Firstly because that’s part of being a Christian. If I am an unmarried man, who is a Christian, then of course I consider this question. Why? Because God made you. What has he made you for?
It’s also important to consider because in doing so you discover your great happiness on earth. If God is not calling you to be a priest – good, then you’ve taken time to see your happiness is not that way. But if God is calling you to be a priest – what are you waiting for? You have found your happiness on earth.
And not only that:if you discover God is calling you to be a priest, then you have also found who you are. One of the crises consuming our contemporaries is that more and more people don’t know who they are. And it is a scandal that in such an advanced society more and more young people can inflict damage on themselves and others in trying to find out who they are and what their life’s purpose is. But in knowing our creator personally, we can avoid much of that trouble: because I allow him, the Good Shepherd to lead me: It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind.
There’s a few myths which can make us hesitate: these are easy to deal with:
- Priests have nothing to do. All I can say is that, sometimes, I really wish that was true for the day. Priests have too much to do. Always. The problem is to limit myself to what I can realistically do that day.
- Priesthood is a life of suffering. Any life on earth is a life of suffering. A Christian life though is mainly one of joy and goodness. Same for a priest.
- It’s impossible to live without sex. Actually this myth is one which causes so much suffering for many people today, when they discover, as many married people do, oh, sex is not enough. It never is. Only God suffices.