Monday, June 19, 2006

A word to priests for Father's Day

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
On Sunday, greeting parishioners after Mass, one wished me a happy Father's Day. As I was about to explain that I actually haven't fathered any children, he explained, "After all, you are our father." So that led me reflect a little bit on priesthood and fatherhood. It is no coincidence that we call our parish priests "Father." We might even say that this development (which comes out of the monastic tradition) was inevitable.

St Paul recognized that family relationship through his ministry when he noted, "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Corinthians 4:15). Of course, there have not always been priests (Christian or Jewish), but there have always been fathers. The Greek word from which we get "priest" essentially means a family or community "elder." In the beginning, from Adam and through the time of the patriarchs, it was the fathers (according to God's order and design)who functioned as the priests of their clan, teaching the faith and offering sacrifice and leading worship for their families. That is a part of a father's responsibility. In the family God has gathered together called the Church, he has set apart certain men to function in this way as fathers for that spiritual family--to teach the faith and to offer sacrifice for them and to lead their worship.

To my fellow priests: We often speak of Mary’s role in the priestly vocation, but we should not let Joseph’s role go unnoticed. As he did for Jesus, Joseph (patron of fathers) also models fatherhood for us. When parishioners call us “Father,” will that mean something special, or will it just be a pious title? Fathers guide the growth and formation of those they raise. Like Joseph, God entrusts us with those whom we have not created. They may have been born from another, but we are to be the one God wants to look after them. Will our fatherly love reveal to them our heavenly Father? Like Joseph, we will probably not see the fruit of our labors. But like Abraham, our fatherhood will extend to many more people than you could imagine. People will be placed in our fatherly care for a reason. We won’t always know God’s whole purpose, nor may we live to see the fruit of our labors, but nevertheless, like Joseph, we will be called by God to serve faithfully.

No comments: