Saturday, October 27, 2012
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.” This section of Scripture from the letter to the Hebrews—from our second reading—is one of the top four or five verses I prayed with during my time at seminary and now as a priest because it gives me great comfort. It is a truly humbling experience being called to be a priest. I know of my own weaknesses and sins and am not worthy of such a call. Nevertheless, God does call us in our brokenness to do His work and a priest has the chance to be patient and compassionate in working with the weak because that is what he is.
In our other readings we see a prophecy fulfilled. Jeremiah prophesied hundreds of years before Christ that “I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst…” In the Gospel we see the blind man Bartimaeus healed of his blindness. Indeed “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”
Yet in another place in the Scriptures—in the Gospel of John—Jesus promises “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.” Jesus promises that His disciples would heal the blind and lame, feed the hungry and even raise the dead.
Jesus fulfills His promise by establishing His Church and giving her priests in the order of Melchizedek. And if you think about it, priests do continue Christ’s work and do even greater. For instance, Jesus never baptized anyone. Yet billions of souls have been baptized into Christ at the hands of priests. Jesus told a number of individuals that their sins were forgiven. Countless men and women have been forgiven of their sins—just as Christ forgave sins two thousand years ago—in the sacrament of Confession. Jesus fed the hungry crowds by multiplying loaves and fish. Priests have fed billions by taking bread and wine and consecrating them into Jesus’ Body and Blood. In my short time as a priest I have consecrated more hosts than Jesus multiplied loaves. Jesus raised at least two people from the dead. Yet how many souls have been healed, sometimes physically but always spiritually at the end of life in the Anointing of the Sick.
Of course, it is not the priest in His own power who administers the sacraments. It is the priest living in persona Christi that Christ continues to work in our Church. Thus, we have even more reason to proclaim, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”
Having been a baby priest for a few months now (some of the kids at school now say I am a toddler priest…my hair is coming in and I am starting to walk in my priesthood) I have often asked myself, if I could have one wish for the parishioners I have the honor of serving, what would that wish be? My first wish is that everyone would come to Mass every week and daily if possible. Since you are here I think I should get a different first wish. My one wish, then, is that all of you would go to Confession regularly.
I went to Confession this afternoon. Again, I am myself beset with weakness and sinfulness and can only strive to be a good priest, handing on Christ’s love and mercy to you, by receiving such love and mercy myself. I try to go to Confession every couple of weeks and would suggest that high school students and older ought to go to Confession every month.
Now it might be nerve wracking coming to Confession to Fr. Rich or myself because you are familiar with us. If that is the case, remember you live in Duluth and not in Bigfork and there are many parishes and priests right down the road with convenient Confession times. Most get nervous confessing their sins. Yet I told our twelfth graders last week and I will tell you now—Confessions can be quite boring. I say this, not to belittle our sins, but to put you at ease that we have heard it all and that all Confessions sound almost identical. All Confessions feature someone who wants nothing more than God’s grace and forgiveness, and that is all we priests want to give you.
Be like Bartimaeus who called out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Be like Bartimaeus who, “threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.” Please come to Confession and make my one wish come true.