Priesthood: Irreplaceable and Indispensable
In the Gospel according to Saint John, Jesus instructs us that we should “not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life” (Jn 6:27). In these words, we can see the importance and purpose of the Priesthood for the world today. The priesthood is an irreplaceable and indispensable vocation in the world because he exists to proclaim the truth that it is in Christ and His Gospel that we come to eternal life. The priest works for the food that endures for eternal life, not the food that perishes with the end of this earthly life.
Show me the way to Heaven
Once, when Saint John Vianney, Patron Saint of Priests, was on his way to his assignment as the parish priest in the little town of Ars, France, he got lost. He found himself among the fields, in a fog of inclement weather. Once he found a path on which to walk he encountered a young man of only 12 or 14 years. He said to him: “Young man, if you show me the way to Ars, I will show you the way to Heaven!” This simple priest could make such a bold statement because he knew his priestly identity and the importance of the Priesthood. He knew that the priest exists in order to lead people to heaven and that he was called to work for what lasts for eternity.
A world in need of Salvation
Saint Paul in the Letter to the Romans writes: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Romans 10:13-15) These questions are relevant to us today, in our world and in our particular Archdiocese of Boston. The Gospel transforms and gives life to those who believe and follow, but if there is no one to proclaim it, then the world will not be able to receive it. The priest exists to proclaim the life changing and life-giving Gospel. But Saint Paul also asks: “And how can people preach unless they are sent?” So too, we can ask ourselves this question. The answer is that the men who are called by God to be priests are sent by God, through his Church, to proclaim to the world, that calling on the name of the Lord will bring salvation. And what Saint Paul said years ago about those who preach is true also today: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!”
Words of Pope St. John Paul II in Pastores Dabo Vobis:
The Presence of Christ in the World through the Priesthood
“In their turn, the apostles, appointed by the Lord, progressively carried out their mission by calling - in various but complementary ways - other men as bishops, as priests and as deacons in order to fulfill the command of the risen Jesus who sent them forth to all people in every age.”
“The writings of the New Testament are unanimous in stressing that it is the same Spirit of Christ who introduces these men chosen from among their brethren into the ministry Through the laying on of hands (cf. Acts 6:6; 1 Tm. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tm. 1:6) which transmits the gift of the Spirit, they are called and empowered to continue the same ministry of reconciliation, of shepherding the flock of God and of teaching (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Pt. 5:2).”
“Therefore, priests are called to prolong the presence of Christ, the one high priest, embodying his way of life and making him visible in the midst of the flock entrusted to their care. We find this clearly and precisely stated in the first letter of Peter: "I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory" (1 Pt. 5:1-4).”
“In the Church and on behalf of the Church, priests are a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ - the head and shepherd - authoritatively proclaiming his word, repeating his acts of forgiveness and his offer of salvation - particularly in baptism, penance and the Eucharist, showing his loving concern to the point of a total gift of self for the flock, which they gather into unity and lead to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit. In a word, priests exist and act in order to proclaim the Gospel to the world and to build up the Church in the name and person of Christ the head and shepherd.”
“This is the ordinary and proper way in which ordained ministers share in the one priesthood of Christ. By the sacramental anointing of holy orders, the Holy Spirit configures them in a new and special way to Jesus Christ the head and shepherd; he forms and strengthens them with his pastoral charity; and he gives them an authoritative role in the Church as servants of the proclamation of the Gospel to every people and of the fullness of Christian life of all the baptized.” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 15)