Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Simbang Gabi 9: The Priest as Herald of the world to come

DECEMER 24, 2017
Jesus, I trust in you!

On the last day of the Simbang Gabi, we hear Zechariah’s song of praise. Remember that he was silenced for 9 months and on the day of the circumcision of his newly born son, his mouth was opened, his tongue loosed, and he began singing the praises of God. His is a fitting song because it was basically about the end of the night of waiting and the coming of the dawn: “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Every Advent, St. Paul reminds us that “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is far spent; the day draws near. So let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Rom 13:11-12) He compared the time of waiting to night and the coming of salvation to the drawing near of the day. And every Advent brings us closer to that promised day. Zechariah ends our Advent journey by referring to the dawn from on high breaking upon us. He recognized that his son, John the Baptist, is the one “who will go before the Lord to prepare his way.” He could almost see the end of the long wait. His son is the precursor and he prepares the way of the one who is sure to follow. The Dawn of Salvation is so close. He is sure to come.

The Precursor of the Lord
This is the witness of John to the coming of the Lord. The priest also gives witness to the same coming of the Lord. He points out the nearness of salvation. Not only does the priest bring Christ closer to people by making him present in the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments, he himself gives witness to the world about the coming end…the day of the resurrection. Leaving his biological family, the priest puts himself in the service of the family of God. His celibacy does not only provide the availability that he needs to fully serve the kingdom. His celibacy is also the sign of the world to come where men and women no longer will marry not be given to marriage because they will be like the angels. His priestly service will be the only one that remains in heaven. In the afterlife, doctors, soldiers, architects, engineers, teachers and other professions will no longer be needed. There is only one thing that we shall do in heaven and that is to worship God for all eternity. That is why Christ’s priesthood is an eternal priesthood. It is one that does not cease on earth but rather in continues in heaven for all eternity.

It is when the priest comes to anoint the sick and to minister to the dying that he clearly becomes a herald of the nearness of the dawn. Oftentimes, people are afraid of calling for a priest because they mistakenly think that the priest is the bringer of death. The priest is not the bringer of death because whether he comes or not, death will come upon a person if his time is already up. The priest comes with the consolation of the sacraments. He provides for the dying person the spiritual helps he needs as he prepares for his final battle on earth. Remember that Satan wants the dying person’s soul. That is why he uses all the tricks and deceptions in his book in order to instill in a person some sense of despair, some thought that he cannot be saved. That is why a person’s greatest battle will be the hour of his death. This is the reason why the ministry of the priest is very important at that moment. The priest comes in the name of Christ. He provides for the dying the forgiveness of sins and also the help of the Holy Spirit so that the person might remain steadfast in his faith in Jesus. The priest is not the bringer of death. Rather, he is the bringer of hope. He is the bringer of mercy. He is the bringer of strength in that moment of great spiritual distress. When a priest ministers to the dying, he is like Zechariah who says: In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us. He, who is ministered to by a priest, will surely close his eyes in this world and will open then in the next, in the world of the eternal day. He need not fear the night of death because the sacraments will make sure that the eternal day will come.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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