Saturday, November 21, 2009

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, (Gospel: John 18:33-37) The Priesthood

Perhaps one of the biggest and most disturbing changes that have taken place here in Ireland over the last few years, is the amount of violence that has crept into our society. Twenty years ago we all would have been shocked if someone was murdered. Now someone is murdered almost every day. This is very disturbing and it raises many questions: what has caused so much evil? Why has God allowed it? Have the powers of evil won over the power of God?

We are also used to watching on TV the battle between good and evil. It is a theme in so many films and shows. But it is always presented as a battle where either side may win. However, it would be a mistake to think of the powers of darkness and the power of God being equal, as though either side could win. There is absolutely no question of evil being able to win out over God, or even that it is an equal battle. All things are subject to God. That was one of the striking things about Jesus’ ministry. Every time he encountered people who were possessed, the spirits were terrified of Jesus, because they knew they were totally subject to him. I think it is important for us to remember that the One we believe in is Lord of all things, so there is nothing we need be afraid of when we give ourselves to him.

For whatever reason, God allows that good and evil exist side by side in the world, and Jesus spoke of this through various parables. Probably the most striking parable about this is the one where the weed is planted among the wheat by the enemy and the two grow up at the same time. When the servants ask the master if they should try and root out the weeds, he says ‘no, leave them for now, but they will be sorted out at the end’ (See Matthew 13:24-30). The Lord is telling us that this is how it is for now; we have to be prepared to live with a certain amount of evil in our midst. We do whatever we can to get rid of it, but there is a certain amount that we can do nothing about. This we have to leave in God’s hands.

One of the most extraordinary ways that Jesus continues to be present to us in the world is through the priesthood. For whatever reason, Jesus chose to use ordinary men to make him present in a particular way, and this is something that has baffled us ever since. As you know it is something that people continue to argue about, that it should be different, that there should be women priests, that we should be married, etc. I don’t have an answer to all these questions, and thankfully it is not up to me anyway. But I do firmly believe in the priesthood and that God continues to work through his priests in an extraordinary, though often misunderstood way. Through the priesthood the Lord gives us the Eucharist, which is the most extraordinary gift of all; the gift of himself. He also gives us the forgiveness of sins, the preaching of his word and many other gifts too.

Perhaps what is most bizarre of all, is that God uses ordinary people who are sinners, to be priests. Most of us priests are not geniuses, or saints, but ordinary people and weak people. You have heard me say this before, but one recurring theme in the Bible is that God deliberately chooses weak people to work through, to make it all the more obvious that it is the power of God at work. The priesthood is the same. When you think back through history, how many of the thousands of priests that we have had became saints, or stood out for their extraordinary work? Very few! But that does not mean that they failed, or that God made a mistake in choosing them. The power of God goes on working through us priests, in spite of our sinfulness and weakness. It is another indication that God does not need 'great' people, but people who are open to him and who love him. That is enough.

Soon we will hear of more scandals when the Dublin Report comes out. It is difficult to hear, and it causes great pain and a sense of betrayal, but this is the reality that we have at the moment. However, it does not mean that God does not continue to work through his priests, or that God has lost the battle over evil. The Lord Jesus will continue to be with us no matter what. All things are subject to him. All we have to remember is that the Lord knows what He is doing, even though so often it seems to make no sense to us. Remember that one out of twelve of the apostles betrayed Jesus. That is a very high percentage, but it didn’t stop Jesus from choosing all twelve of them and from using them. God knows what He is doing and that is what we must remember. What is important is that the Lord Jesus is the one we focus on. Scandals will come and go, saints will come and go: but the Lord God remains forever, and will be with us no matter what.

All beings, in heaven on earth and under the earth,
Shall bend the knee at the name of Jesus,
And every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10-11).

1 comment:

  1. For my part, I prefer a priest who is open and willing to share vs. one who appears to be "above it all." I think the priest who can share himself, including his own struggles, is a more powerful example of God working through simple human beings. It confirms my belief that God works through me too. It's also really important to weed out the fallen priests who are uncovered through the scandals so that we can support those who remain. Thanks Fr. Murchadh.