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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Contradictions of the Priest  

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Fr. Mitchell Brown
Fr. Mitchell Brown
Fr. Brown is the Rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, NM.

By Fr. Mitchell Brown

A priest is a walking sign of contradiction. In a world which promotes depravity, he  reminds man of his high heavenly calling. When society says man is a slave to his passions  and the passing times, the priest announces the glorious freedom of the sons of God. To those who claim there is no God or that man is divine, he points up to heaven, where Christ the God-Man is seated at the right hand of God. To any who promote self-indulgence and  hedonism, he lifts high the Cross of self-denial. When one has entered into discouragement and despair, and thinks nothing has worth or value, he proclaims Christ and His Cross as the source of our hope. When the poor, rejected, downtrodden, and lost are cast down by the powerful, the priest is there to lift them up and remind them of their God-given dignity.  

For the orphan he prays to our Father in heaven, for the widow he beseeches the heavenly Bridegroom, for those fallen away he seeks a way back, and for those on the narrow path he provides encouragement to run the race to the end. He shows those suffering that they are not alone, and that their pain is taken up and made redemptive in the wounds of  Christ. To the dying he provides the refreshing waters of life that flow from the pierced side of Jesus. To all, he is a symbol of the God of the living, Who sent His Son to suffer and die that we might all live with Him. He is a reminder that love conquers death, and that all can carry their Cross with the Lord.  

The priest is a sacramental instantiation of God’s grace, of Christ’s face, of the Cross  of redemption. Neither allowing sin nor promoting folly, he warns all people of God’s justice  and consoles them with His mercy and love. Like Moses on Mount Sinai, he is to spend  endless hours in prayer for the people entrusted to his care. Like John the Baptist in the sinful desert of this world, he points the way to the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world. By his faithful celebration of the sacraments, He makes inroads for God’s grace in the hearts of men. 

He may not be an expert in finance or in politics, nor should he be. He may not be a  repairman or miracle worker. He is certainly not the perfect Savior. But what he is, that you may expect: that he be a believer himself, one who seeks to live and understand the faith  without which this life would have no meaning or purpose. You may also be ready for him to  be a father – a pastor of the flock – who loves, guides, protects, and corrects when necessary. 

All of this will, please God, be for your good and the good of the Church, for a priest is meant to bring holy order to his community, and in all things seek the salvation of every soul he meets. 

Pray, then, for your priests! Their task is mighty, but made light by grace and your  prayer. Pray, too, for more priests! Indeed, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”  (Mt. 9:37).


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