As he approaches the altar garbed in his ceremonial vestments for offering the Mass, our eyes are on him. We feel the atmosphere of holiness.
It’s the priest in him. He’s a miracle man. Genuinely Christ-like in his earthly existence and divine in his salvific power.
A real miracle will happen, willed by him on the altar, the table of the Eucharist.
During his ordination to the priesthood, the bishop intoned, “Be well aware of the sacredness of your duties.
“Be holy as you deal with holy things.
“When you celebrate the mystery of the Lord’s death, see to it that by mortifying your bodies, you rid yourself of all vice and concupiscence.
“Let the doctrine you expound on be the medicine for the people of God.
“Let the fragrance of your lives be the delight of Christ’s church.”
During his ordination, the bishop places both his hands on a priest’s head as the essential matter of the sacrament of priesthood.
It signifies that the power of priesthood is conferred by the bishop, a power which the bishop received from Christ through the apostles and their successors.
“Whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven”
With the laying of the bishop’s hands on the head of the ordained priest, his intellect can will God’s will for the salvation of the people of God.
“Take this and eat it all of you. This is my body.”
During the Mass, the priest invites us to accept and receive the incredible paradox and mystery of faith. Awesome!
“Truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you.”
When we accept, we feel the impact of holiness engulf our whole being. Truly we are sons of God and heirs of heaven. Without the priest acting, this authentic and palpable feeling will not descend upon us.
The confessional is another awesome moment when the priest exercises the power of God’s all-merciful love for us.
“Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sin you shall forgive are forgiven.”
Hunger to reconcile
The long lines to the confessional during Lent and the Christmas season manifest our hunger to reconcile with the “Hound of Heaven.”
The confessionals at the UA&P chapel (Stella Orientis), the church at Plaza Sta. Cruz, are open 12 hours a day, waiting for people who wish to humble themselves before a priest, ask pardon for their sins and get reconciled with God instantaneously.
The priest will never deny confession when asked any time, any place. He will even give general absolution in times of catastrophe and imminent death.
The confessional is where the priest primarily makes finding the lost sheep possible, a fulfillment of Christ’s model in the parable of the Good Shepherd.
The finding of the lost sheep is the graphic allusion, the new clerical vision. It’s the priest’s walk-and-talk mission needed to alleviate and soothe the confusion, and the frustrations of modern times beguiled by human freedom and practical materialism.
Pope Francis has a very high awareness of today’s tragic societies, including Christian societies that have surrendered their world of belief to the chimera of unbelief. He feels the Church is hopelessly standing by, unable to open its heart and activate agape to bring back lost sheep.
In an assembly of the congregation for the clergy at the Clementine Hall in the Vatican, Pope Francis astutely said, “He who is called to the ministry is not the ‘master’ of his vocation but rather the administrator of a gift that God has entrusted to him for the good of all the people or rather of all humanity, even those who drifted away from the religious practice or do not profess faith in Christ.”
He added, “Be priests… free of every spiritual worldliness, aware that it is their lives that evangelize rather than their works.”
Taking a cue from Pope Francis’ concept of evangelizing a deeply troubled post-modern world, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, led by Chito Cardinal Tagle, has crystallized the theme of the papal visit in January 2015.
The theme: Mercy and compassion hits the nail on the head. Awa at malasakit are cultural. These virtues always surface as our coping mechanisms when a sea of troubles besets us.
At the level of spirituality, it comes closest to Jesus Christ’s contention: “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.”
Mercy and compassion, when adopted as the walk and talk of today’s priesthood, will introduce a visible and palpable culture of the Church to be relished by all.
It is a much-needed culture of love and spirituality in the peripatetic presence of the priest in the troubled society, where love for the poor is canceled out by an immoral government bureaucracy.
With priests at the forefront of mercy and compassion, Christianity will experience a second spring.
More dynamic Good Samaritan priestly activities will be the new culture of the old Church of Catholicism in the Philippines.