This is a rough draft of things that were said at the weekend Masses at St. John the Evangelist in West Chester, Ohio, this weekend.
This is always one of the hardest Sundays to preach on. In fact, the quip is that more heresy is preached this weekend in the Church than in all the other Sundays combined! Why? Because the Trinity is such a hard concept to understand, it is such a hard concept for us to get our minds around, that we invariably fall short of the actual mark. There’s the story of St. Augustine on the beach trying to understand the Trinity. He meets a child who is taking a small pail and going back and forth from the sea to a hole he has dug in the sand. Augustine asks him what he is doing. When the child responds that he is trying to pour the sea into the hole he has dug, Augustine replies: “You can’t do that, it’s impossible!” The child looks back at him and says: “Neither can you fully understand the Trinity!” and disappears.
Now, did that actually happen, who knows, but what it does show for us today is that even though we know what the Trinity is, at least somewhat, we can never fully grasp at the mystery of God; for God is a ‘supra-rational’ mystery, something beyond our ability to understand.
So, how do we discuss it then? What is our entrance point?
For me, I think this is my ‘in’ to discuss the priesthood today. One of the foundational aspects of God as Trinity is that is relationship/community. There is an interchange and interplay within the mystery of God, that we know as Father, Son and Spirit. This is how God has chosen to reveal Himself to the world, through the coming of His Son, Jesus, and the outpouring of the Spirit. This is not a concept that we, as human beings, could come up with on our own.
So, now what, what does that have to do with us? And even more specifically, what does that have to do with me as Vocation Director, i.e. the recruiter of priests?
Well, interestingly, I think, the priest becomes the agent through whom God draws the rest of His people deeper into the mystery of that inner-relationship which is the Triune God. How do we become members of this community? Through Baptism, by the priest or deacon; we are nourished for our journey by the Eucharist, which Christ gives to us through the action of the priest; we are healed through the two great Sacraments of Anointing and Confession, again not by the priest or by his own authority, but by Christ working through the actions and prayers of the priest. So, the priesthood is a necessary and constitutive part of what Jesus left for us who come after him. Why, so we can be drawn deeper in relationship with him.
So, in fact the priesthood gives structure and order to the community established by Christ, launched at the great feast of Pentecost that we celebrated last week, and continually shaped and guided by the Holy Spirit. As he says: “I will not leave you orphans, I will not leave you stranded, I will be with you until the end of time.”
Now, does that mean it is always easy to be a priest: absolutely not. As a priest, I am often put into situations way beyond my capability to deal with them, but somehow God gives me the words to say, the things to do. If it was entirely up to me, I would have fallen long ago!
However, it is a tremendous joy to be a priest, even during those tough days. I found it interesting that a recent study of job satisfaction and overall happiness in life was headed by clergy! We get to bring people closer to Christ, could there be anything greater than that? I don’t think so.
By the way, I say 'rough draft,' because as I was delivering it the first time, I didn't really like it went extemporaneous.