“Blest are They” (Gather Comprehensive, No. 659); “We Are Called” (No. 718)
Prayer for Priests
Gracious and loving God, we thank You for the gift of our priests. Through them, we experience Your presence in the sacraments. Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for Your people. Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Inspire them with the vision of Your Kingdom. Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry. Help them to become instruments of Your divine grace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen.
— From the Web site: www.catholicdaughters.org
Excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Priests:
In Jesus, person and mission tend to coincide: All Christ’s saving activity was, and is, an expression of his “filial consciousness” which from all eternity stands before the Father in an attitude of loving submission to his will. In a humble yet genuine way, every priest must aim for a similar identification.
Commentary from Father Daryl Rybicki, pastor, Corpus Christi, South Bend
Of the many obligations and responsibilities that a priest is asked to fulfill, perhaps the greatest challenge flows out of the vow or promise of obedience that each priest makes on the day of his ordination. Kneeling before the bishop, who wraps his hands around those of the newly-ordained, the priest hears: “Do you promise obedience and respect to me and my successors?”
While some people may feel that the vow of celibacy or some other promise that a priest must make might be the most difficult, the promise of obedience looms large, since it involves a “dying to self” for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom. Jesus outlines the plan of discipleship for all believers, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For, whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.” — Mk 8: 34b–35
The priest, in the vow of obedience, loses his life for the sake of Christ, Christ’s people and the Gospel he is called to proclaim and preach. In this sense, the priest truly acts in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”), who humbled Himself in obedience to the Father’s will, “becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” for the salvation of all. — Phil 2:8 Like Jesus, the priest, too, must die to himself, to his own self-interests, to his own ambitions for the sake of the Gospel and the people of God.
In our contemporary culture, humility and obedience are not always considered virtues. In fact, they are often considered negative traits, things to be avoided. Father Daryl references the Second Letter to the Philippians, in which St. Paul beautifully defines Jesus’ humility: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” — Phil 2:4-8.
In this Scripture passage, we see that humility can be a very positive way of living in God’s Holy Spirit. In daily life, true humility helps us be realistic about our individual strengths and weaknesses. True humility leads to:
• Self-confidence and peace: “I know who I am, and I’m okay with that,”
• Joy: “God made me and loves me for who I am,” and
• Community: “I’m comfortable working with others for the sake of the Gospel.”
In St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, we see that, even in the time of the first Christians, the worldly sense of humility was used as a way to conceal “selfish ambition or vain conceit.” We contrast that to humility in the manner of Christ who “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.”
When we live in a spirit of humility, we act with humbleness and obedience. Again, we can contrast humbleness in the eyes of the world (“equality with God something to be grasped”) with humbleness in the eyes of God (“He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!”)
As always, Jesus is our guide. During Lent we walk with Jesus’ on His path of humble obedience. Living our lives with humility and acting with humble obedience is counter-cultural in the eyes of the world, but in reality it leads us to unity with Christ and to community with the people of God.
Like Jesus, like Father Daryl, we must all die to ourselves, to our own self–interests, to our own ambitions for the sake of the Gospel and the people of God. And, of course, we are promised that our reward for true humility of spirit and humbleness of action is to one day join Christ in giving glory to God in heaven!
• Why is it so hard to humble ourselves in obedience to God’s will?
• How do we feel about the spirit of humility and the actions of humbleness? About the virtue and actions of obedience?
• What are some concrete ways we can die to our ambitions for the sake of the Gospel?
God of love and mercy, You call us to be Your people; You gift us with Your abundant grace. Make us a holy people, radiating the fullness of Your love. Form us into a community, a people who care, expressing Your compassion. Remind us day after day of our baptismal call to serve, with joy and courage. Teach us how to grow in wisdom and grace and joy in Your presence. Through Jesus in Your Spirit, we make this prayer. Amen.
— Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium, “A Prayer,” page v, © 1995, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Washington, D.C.
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