Outside of ourselves: priesthood and a sense of wonder
What causes a man to consider a call to the priesthood?
When we stop to think about our lives and the world we live in, it seems that serving Almighty God as His priest through the ministry of the Church would be very attractive. We live in a world created by God, after all. God took on our human nature in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God sent His Holy Spirit on Pentecost to abide with us and lead us to Himself.
Jesus Christ established the Church and the sacraments to strengthen us in our earthly journey.
The priesthood is not a human invention. The priesthood was established by Christ. Every priest is called to offer the Mass, to celebrate the sacraments, to preach the Gospel, and to be an instrument in the lives of others to lead them to salvation in Christ and eternal life. Why is it, then, that there are so few men willing to become priests? Why do so many other ways of life look more attractive than a life of sacrifice and service to God and His Church?
These questions, in essence, are rhetorical. They do not really have an answer outside of the conversation that takes place in the heart of a man who begins to hear the stirrings of the question: “What if God is calling me to be a priest?”
Why do some men follow, and others allow other voices to take precedence in their lives? While not a definitive answer, much of the reason is found in what a man expects or hopes for from life. I recently was able to visit the Grand Canyon. It was an amazing experience. Even if you think you are prepared for the sight of the Grand Canyon, it strikes you with its grandeur and immensity, and it leaves you with a greater appreciation of the majesty of God and the wonder of His creation.
Part of the experience was that I was surrounded by people who were sharing the same sense of awe and wonder. We all knew we were in the presence of something bigger than ourselves. This sense of awe led to asking deeper questions about life, about creation, and about the role we have to play in God’s plan.
One of the negative consequences of COVID and the continuing pandemic is that we are more and more separated from each other. We do not share common experiences because we are not occupying the same space. However, the experience at the Grand Canyon was different. All of us who were there could not help but marvel and even express our wonder to total strangers.
It could be that one of the reasons we do not have more men who are willing to become priests is because our sense of wonder has been numbed. We are content with what we have. The breadth, and depth, and height of our world has been reduced to the size of the screen of our favorite device.
We have drawn into ourselves more and more. The horizon of our lives is shrinking to that which serves us in the moment. Our aspirations are being reduced to what we want right now.
The call of Jesus Christ always calls us outside of ourselves. It does not require that we have everything figured out right now, but it does require a generosity of spirit that is willing to look beyond the immediate and trusts in the beauty and majesty of God.
Following Jesus Christ as His priest requires a man to put his own dreams and aspirations aside and to put his trust in the Lord. Following Christ fosters a vision of the world that looks beyond the immediate and leads to the eternal.
I pray that many young men from our diocese will be willing to look beyond the immediate, and to consider following Jesus Christ as His priest. Let us all pray that God may grant us a sense of wonder at His majesty, love for His Church, and the desire to serve Him in all things.