Reflecting on the topic of the priesthood in a homily given on April 11, Bishop James Wall told the faithful of a favorite phrase of his, that Christianity “always comes back to the Cross.”
This was an oft-repeated statement from Bishop Wall’s favorite seminary professor, Fr. Jack Brennan. Fr. Brennan was present during the homily, given at the annual Chrism Mass, in which the priests of a diocese renew their vows of obedience to their bishop, and at which the oils used throughout the year for Confirmation, Anointing, and other sacraments are blessed and distributed. Fr. Brennan, Bishop Wall, and the priests of the diocese gathered together for a day of reflection before the evening mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“This evening, our priests, who are configured to Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest in a very special way, will renew their priestly promises. And you, the faithful of the Diocese, the deacons, the religious, the lay faithful – you promise to pray for them,” Bishop Wall said. “Pray that they can be good and faithful disciples. Pray that they can continue to pattern their lives after Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest.”
Bishop Wall noted that Lent is the particular time of year when Christ, priests, and the faithful must set their sights on the Cross.
“And he calls each one of us to be His disciple. He tells us ‘you must deny yourself, you must take up your cross, you must follow after me’. It all comes back to the cross.”
The bishop then turned to the unique vocation of a priest.
“This is one of the days throughout the year when a priest naturally reflects on his calling. Each priest’s calling is unique, but at the same time, it is the same. It’s unique because we’ve been called in different ways, but it’s the same because we’ve been called by the same person.”
This can be seen in the Gospel, he said, when Jesus called James, John, Peter and Andrew, who were poor, to follow him. Matthew was a wealthy tax collector, but he too left his old life behind to become a disciple.
“This immediacy of following Christ is central…when we hear His voice, we should never hesitate. We should leave everything behind and follow Him. We have many examples of priests here in the sanctuary with me who have done this very same thing. They’ve left their livelihood, they’ve left their family, they’ve left all sorts of things in order to follow after Jesus. And as they can tell you and I can tell you, it’s not the easiest life, but we know that all things are possible with God, and we can do all things through him who strengthens us.”
Priests, as well as lay and consecrated Catholics, should strive to develop and maintain and deep and intimate friendship with Christ in order to rely on him, Bishop Wall said.
“When he celebrates Mass, it is Christ who celebrates Mass. When he hears Confession and offers absolution, it is Christ who offers absolution. When he reaches out to those who are sick and infirm…when he gives them the anointing of the sick it is Christ himself who works through him, who anoints the sick and the infirm. That is why it is essential that the priest remain deeply rooted, deeply connected, to the one who has called him to this wonderful, difficult life.”
Bishop Wall then asked the Catholics of his diocese to pray for their priests.
“Pray that they might imitate the example of Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest, who cam to serve and not to be served,” he said, before giving a brief story on the martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a priest who gave his life for another prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.
“That is what a priest is called to to – to not seek after his own glory, but only to offer the glory to God…Pray that your priests, as well as your Bishop, may do this, that we may be faithful to this. And the way that we do this is by remaining in a deep and intimate friendship and relationship with Jesus Christ, the one who has called us to leave everything behind to follow after him.”