What It Means to Be a Priest – I Think

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By: Matthew Janeczko, OFM Cap.

The Capuchin Vocation Office asked me to write a brief reflection regarding my upcoming ordination to the priesthood.  This is what I sent them.

In just a few short weeks, at the Sacred Heart Monastery Church in Yonkers, NY Seán Patrick Cardinal O’Malley will ordain me a priest. A few weeks after that, I’ll begin my work as the new parochial vicar at the same church.

But, you know, it’s really not about me. It’s not about me at all. It’s about God – and what God is up to in Christ. And what Christ is doing in the Holy Spirit, gathering the Body of Christ – the Holy People of God – as a reconciling presence in the world.

As for me: what does it mean that I’ll be ordained a priest? It means that my life will not – cannot – be my own any longer. I’ll be called to be “poured out as a libation” for the sake of all those who I meet, regardless of whether they are daily communicants or those who walk by the front of the church on a humid August night, not having entered Sacred Heart since their baptisms (Phil. 2:17). I will be their priest: all of them, because they were God’s people first.

I’ll celebrate the sacraments for the people: being present with them and for them in the happiest moments of their lives, their saddest, and all of those forgotten times in between. I’ll make mistakes, I’ll inevitably forget names, and I’ll sin too.

But in all that happens, I’ll know that the Lord has called me into great things – into the very kairos of the story of Jesus Christ: the tremendous redemptive act of the Word becoming Flesh (Jn. 1:1), the anguished “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani!” of the Cross (Mt. 27:46), the haunting “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-19), and some day, please God, the blessed words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt. 25:21).

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