First Reading: Heb 5:1-10; Psalm: 110 R. v. 4cd; Gospel: Mk 2:18-22
THE FRAGILITY OF THE PRIESTHOOD
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
“. . . since he himself is beset with weakness.” (Heb 5:2).
The book of Hebrews reawakens our consciousness to the fragility of the priesthood. Priests are chosen from among men. They are not angels or saints. They are humans just like every one of us. They are chosen and consecrated to mediate between God and man. Yet not exonerated from human weaknesses. Priests too are beset with weaknesses. They are like cracked or broken earthenware mending the broken lives of others. Grace is what keeps the cracked life of a priest together from crumbling. And without this grace of God the priest cannot survive.
Brokenness is a necessary mark in the life of a priest. Priests are broken but not shattered so as to be able to empathise, understand, and mend the broken lives of the people of God. A priest feels his pains and the pains of others. He carries his burdens and the burdens of others. He listens to the people with the ears of Christ; feels for the people with the heart of Christ; and speaks to the people with the voice of Christ. But the priest is not Christ who is God. The priest is only the persona of Christ. A mediator or channel between God and man. So he is also as fragile and imperfect as every other human person beset with weaknesses.
Priests are exhorted to deal gently with the people of God who can be ignorant and wayward because the priest himself is weak too. Conversely, this also applies to God’s people because often we tend to forget that the priest is human too. The priest would fall. But when he falls, pray for him to get up again. Recall that the apostles deserted Jesus in his moment of suffering. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied him. And Paul would complain that what he did not want to do he saw himself doing. These are signs of the fragility of a priest. But as Pope Francis warns, ‘the fragility of each priest is a theological place of encounter with the Lord.’ Priests should never forget this. To survive, the priest needs to talk about his fragility with God.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, we pray for all priests called to serve you and your people. Strengthen their faith and resolve; and grant them the grace to cope with their fragilities. Amen.