I hate preaching about myself. But today it seems like the Lord is practically begging me to do it. Roman Missal has a special set of prayers for the priest to use, especially on his anniversary. Usually I don’t use them, because I don’t like skipping any Easter-season prayers. But this year, we had an unusually early Pentecost. And, by pure God-incidence, the gospel reading at Holy Mass today includes:
There is no one who has given up houses, or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age—with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come.
I think we can say that most of us priests spent most of our twenties meditating on that verse—when we were getting ready to go to the seminary, and in the seminary.
For My sake. Whatever we have given up, we have given up because of Jesus Christ.
Now, I don’t hold myself out as any kind of venerable philosopher or brave spiritual pilgrim. I have enough trouble just answering all my e-mails in a timely manner. But I can say that becoming a priest of the New Covenant in Christ’s Blood has been about: the meaning of life. I don’t mind wearing black clothes, but that wasn’t the reason.
Let’s put it like this. All of us receive a huge patrimony from the people that bring us into the world. Our language, our manners, the food we get used to. “Culture.”
All of this cultural identity gives meaning to life. Family relationships, friendships, love, the importance of honesty, hope for a prosperous, peaceful, happy future.
But it’s not enough. It doesn’t get you over the last, big hurdle, when it comes to finding meaning in life. The last, big hurdle has multiple names, but they come down to the same thing in the end. Death. Solitude. Silence. The Unkown Foundation of all existence.
Jesus taught us to call The Unknown Foundation of all existence, the great silence, the unfathomable interior intimacy—He taught us to call Him “our Father.” Jesus—the real person, living and very much in-touch with us. He feeds us with His living Body and Blood, so that we can be sons and daughters of the heavenly Father, with Him.
I can honestly say: When I was 21 years old, I became aware that the Blessed Sacrament really is God made flesh for our eternal salvation. The basic Catholic dogma—the Real Presence—it is true. And that makes everything else make sense.
I became aware of that, and I became a priest because of it. I’m not particularly good at any of the pastoral things—leadership, virtue, etc. But I can say Mass, in spite of all my faults and weaknesses. And because of the Mass, life truly has meaning. For me. For all of us.