(Audio recorded live, 13 November 2021)
Dn. 12:1-3; Ps. 16; Heb. 10:11-14, 18; Mk. 13:24-32
A few thoughts come to mind as I reflect upon these readings with regard to my own priesthood. First, I am well aware of the irony that the readings are apocalyptic, referring to the end times. To be a priest is not all doom and gloom, I can assure you. But, the reality of a final test helps us to begin to choose sides. Life presents all of us with many choices and our faith teaches us that there is a right choice, a right path. Jesus encourages his disciples to strive to enter the Narrow Gate. And upon hearing the words of the prophet Daniel, “At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book.” I hope that all of you would agree that we also want our names written in that book. Jesus says, “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” Yes, I hope we all agree that we want to be among the elect.
So, how do we have our names written in the book of life or how might we find ourselves among the elect? The Church speaks primarily of two vocations by which men and women may orient their lives to God. The first is marriage, which provides the fundamental building block of society and provides governance for the household and larger community. The second is Holy Orders, which provides the sacraments and governance for the Church on Earth. Both vocations allow for a deep expression of love, but there is a unique difference. Those who are married fulfill their love to one another through the covenant of marriage. This starts with a period of betrothal, or engagement, and is consummated on their wedding day. The priest, on the other hand, lives a life of perpetual betrothal, both to God and to the Church. This betrothed love is one of desire and anticipation for the world to come and finds its fullest expression in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15:13). This is essentially what the priest does by betrothing himself to the Church.
So, how did that happen for me? Well, before I became a priest I was doing whatever I wanted for myself. I had a successful career in the jewelry industry; I used my musical talents to build several successful bands. I had most of what I wanted—my own place, a good vehicle, friends. But, I will never forget one day, as I was playing a show in an old prison (another irony) that had been converted into a night club, when I thought to myself, “There has to be more than this.”
In our youth, we tend to search for God in all the wrong places. We think possessions or status will satisfy us, but are often left wanting. Something was missing. For me, it was a relationship with the Creator. And so, having realized that, I began devoting myself to prayer, daily Mass, spending time in adoration, reading Sacred Scripture, watching catechetical videos online, really immersing myself in the faith. By doing these things, my faith grew like never before and people began to ask me if I had thought about becoming a priest. Little did I know how their question would become my own.
I began asking God if he was calling me to be a priest. I would meditate on what it might be like to be a priest, and I would talk to the priests and ask them questions. Some of them were very helpful at referring me to certain books or prayers, but the best teacher I had was God himself. One day, after a daily Mass, I was lingering in the Church, just looking around at the statues. I will never forget how I looked upon St. Joseph and said, “Just show me what to do.” No sooner than I said that prayer did I look down at the communion rail and see a plaque with a prayer for vocations on it. It doesn’t get more obvious than that.
And so, here am I: Your priest. Betrothed to you and Almighty God for the sake of both our souls. As the Letter to the Hebrews says, “For by one offering [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.” We are all being set apart for holiness by God, and our life is an opportunity to conform our will to that of the Father. So, as we prepare to receive the Eucharist today, let us give thanks for the blessings of our vocations, and let us ask the Lord to give us our daily bread, so that we may carry his love out into the world.