In the words of Saint Josemaria Ecriva: “A priest is exclusively a man of God. He rejects any desire to shine in areas where other Christians do not need him. A priest is not a psychologist or a sociologist or an anthropologist. He is another Christ, Christ himself, who has to look after the souls of his brother (and sisters) – with the humility of a man who knows he is only an instrument, the vehicle of Christ’s love. For every soul is a wonderful treasure; every man is unique and irreplaceable. Every single person is worth all the blood of Christ.” And a priest is ever willing to die for each soul.
God is the only treasure people desire to find in a priest. The sacrificial nature of the priesthood is clearly seen in the tripartite vows taken at ordination which signify a total commitment to the ministry. These vows which are referred to as evangelical counsels are: Celibacy, Poverty and Obedience. By celibacy, they sacrifice marriage, sexual pleasure and the desire for children (Matthew 19:12). By their poverty, they renounce the world in order to possess the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3). And by obedience, they live like Christ who was obedient even unto death (Philippians 2:8).
A priest does not live for himself; nor can he devote himself to the interests of just his relatives, or friends or native land. Not even his thoughts, his will; his feelings, belong to him, for they are rather those of Jesus Christ who is his life. And in him, he dies!
Cardinal Suhard articulates the “eternal paradox of the priest” in these words: ‘he bears within him those who are contrary. He reconciles, at the price of his life, fidelity to God with fidelity to man. He seems poor and feeble … He has neither political power nor financial means, nor the force of arms that others use to conquer the earth. His strength lies in being unarmed ‘able to do all things in the One who gives him strength’ until he dies in him, Christ our Lord and High Priest.
May we continue to pray for our priests! As for the dead among them, especially Rev Fr. Kevin Onah, may they be granted the eternal freedom of God’s sons. Amen