Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Homily for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (October 30, 2005)

I was very touched by the Thank-You that appeared in the Michigan Catholic this week on behalf of the parishioners here at St. John Neumann. If you haven’t seen it, the ad thanks Fr. George and me for our priestly service; this week’s edition is filled with parishes thanking their priests for their ministry from parishes throughout the Archdiocese.

The reason for these thank-yous? The last Sunday in October has been designated as “Priesthood Sunday” for the last three years. Providentially, the readings this week speak very clearly to the ministry of priests – but not by describing their successful moments.

The prophet Malachi speaks: “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you:
If you do not listen,
if you do not lay it to heart,
to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts,
I will send a curse upon you
and of your blessing I will make a curse.”

He continues:

“You have turned aside from the way,
and have caused many to falter by your instruction;
you have made void the covenant of Levi,
says the LORD of hosts.”

Our Lord, in turn, criticizes the scribes and Pharisees – not because they don’t have authority – but because of their abuse of the authority given them by the Covenant. He even tells us “call no one on earth Father.” What a day to celebrate the gift of the priesthood to the Church!

It doesn’t take much scriptural research to understand that Jesus isn’t forbidding us to use the word “Father”: St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. John all use the term to describe their own ministry to the Church. We call our male parent “Father,” and we are blessed with the fullness of Divine Revelation through the Sacred Tradition of the Church that has always esteemed and reverenced the clergy by these titles.

Jesus is speaking to us in a much deeper way, helping us to see how important – how essential – the priestly ministry is. The reason we are shocked when a priest – or a bishop – sins so grievously and obviously is that we know they are held to a higher standard. We are all held to the high standard of Christianity; our Baptism has made us sharers in the divine life in a unique and marvelous way. We are called to flourish in virtue, growing daily in holiness because of our reception of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. We are all made members in the common priesthood of the baptized.

Priests, however, are different. They are consecrated by a special sacrament, making them sharers in the ministerial priesthood of Christ; their priesthood is ordered to the universal priesthood of the faithful, but is utterly distinct, unique, and different. Priests exercise their ministry in the person of Christ, at the service of the Church. The priest is not merely chosen by the community and authorized to say certain prayers. Priests are chosen by the Church and given a sacred power through the laying on of hands by the Bishop. The priest, then, is given not the function and duties of priesthood – but the sacred character on his soul that transforms him into “another Christ”, as the Church has called it. As such, he is called to exercise this Sacred Order by teaching, governing, and sanctifying the Church. The standard of the priest is the standard of the Cross.

The very being of a priest, then, should prompt us to praise God for His goodness, because there is, after all, but one Priest: Jesus Christ Himself. He alone is the true High Priest, offered on the Cross once for all. But thanks be to God, he has appointed and ordained men to serve His Mystical Body in his person, to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross, and to feed and nourish His Church.

We could continue to speak much longer about the glory and dignity of the priesthood; by speaking of this gift, we do not in any way diminish the importance and the necessity of holiness among the lay faithful. Rather, the entire Church is glorified by this gift, which honors the entire Body by the honor of Her Head.

I simply love being a priest. Our Father’s goodness and love for His people has never been so clear to me as in the Confessional or in the celebration of the Mass. But I know that the task is a challenging one – a difficult one, one filled with many possibilities of weakness, sin, and – as we have seen in the past – failure. Such failure begins when priests reject the dignity given them by Holy Orders and no longer strive for holiness.

This is why I simply ask for your prayers, on my behalf, and Fr. George, and Fr. Ed, and for all our priests throughout the world. We are objectively transformed by our ordination; yet our subjective conformity to the Sacrament of Orders is a lifelong process. This requires, above all, the virtue of humility. As a passing thought, humility is a virtue that was so well exercised by Rosa Parks. Humility isn’t being a doormat, ignoring the dignity we have as men and women: children of God. No, humility is recognizing the truth of our state; everything we have is a gift from God. We have nothing of our own, except for our sins.

Humbly, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. She knew her dignity. We must know our own dignity as Catholics; society respects us if we don’t “push” our Faith, if we aren’t “religious fanatics.” Are we willing to stand on our dignity as Catholics – adopted sons and daughters of God – and defend our Church, while praying and doing penance for our own conversion? Society may reject us – but Christ has won the victory. We have nothing to fear when we boldly proclaim our Faith.

So, too, the priesthood requires an understanding of the great dignity given it by our Lord. When we diminish the priesthood, expect less of priests, forget the proper title of “Father,” expect priests to dress, talk, and act like the rest of society – when this happens, we deeply offend our Lord and His Church. He has established priests as a sign of contradiction to the world; by humbly recognizing the unique dignity of the priesthood, we are more confident in encouraging our sons in priestly vocations, we appreciate the “being” of our parish priests (not just their work), and we are more docile to hear the challenging words of the Gospel – words of repentance and conversion – from their lips.

By your example, priests are held to that higher standard. By your prayers, priests will become holy, that the entire Body may become a Holy and Splendid Bride, prepared to meet our Lord when He comes in glory. God bless you.