Monday, March 10, 2014

To a newly ordained priest

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The season of Lent always opens with the Gospel on the Temptation of the Lord in the desert on account of the fact that this season is a 40 day fast in imitation of the 40 day fast of the Lord Jesus in the desert. “He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” It was then that the tempter approached the Lord. Why tempt Jesus? It is because Jesus is the Son of God. He comes from God. He belongs to God. This fact made Jesus more desirable to the devil. He wanted to get Jesus because Jesus does not belong to him. The devil’s hatred for God moves him to steal what belongs to God in order to destroy its beauty and integrity. The devil works this way even until now. He loves to disturb seminaries and monasteries precisely for the same reason: he wants to destroy what belongs to God.

When the bishop laid his hands on you and prayed the prayer of ordination, Fr. Arvie, you were changed in a very special way. Not only were you given special powers, you were given a new identity…you became a priest, configured in the likeness of Christ who is the High Priest of the New Covenant. In a way, the identity of Jesus becomes yours. This is what it means when we say that the priest is Alter Christus. Yes, you are another Christ through whom the Lord Jesus will continue to perform his saving mission for the life of the world. By the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Jesus draws you close to him. You are consecrated to him. You belong to Jesus.

Thus, Fr. Arvie, you become a more attractive prey for the devil. He will want you because your hands are anointed. He will want you because you are anointed. He wants you for the simple reason that you belong to the Lord whom the devil hates so much. The devil will constantly tempt you through your hunger. He will tempt you to turn stones into bread, to take advantage of your priesthood for monetary purposes. There will always be something you need to have, something you need to buy. And I will tell you…it is really very easy for a priest to fall for this temptation as we all know that religion can easily be turned into a lucrative business. Fr. Arvie, do not set your heart to the love of money. Always set your heart on higher things for man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
The devil will constantly seduce you through your need for affirmation. He will tempt you to make a spectacle of yourself. There will always be applause and recognition which will make you want for more.  And I tell you, it is really easy for a priest to fall for this temptation as we all know that admirers will easily be organized into fans’ club and make you a celebrity. Fr. Arvie, do not perform your religious office for other people to see. Even in the performance of your priestly office, always learn to enter into the inner room of your heart. You do not need the adulation and approval of admirers. You are not a celebrity but a priest. The only one thing you need is the approval of the Father who sees everything in secret.

The devil will constantly seduce you to seek kingdoms, to seek positions of power and prestige. Ikaw pa, Fr. Arvie, you have what it takes to pursue a career in the Church. I tell you, with your intellectual capabilities, you can easily seek promotions in the curia. Fr. Arvie, always keep in mind that the priesthood is not a career. It is a vocation, a way of life that is closely associated with the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Your life as a priest is not a pursuit of promotions. Rather, it is one of self-abnegation. The priesthood is an unending sacrifice. It is an experience of one self-denial after another in imitation of Jesus who emptied himself and took the form of a human slave and humiliated himself even further by obediently accepting even death, death on a Cross. Imitate Christ the Obedient One. His obedience made many righteous. Be obedient to the Bishop. Allow him to break your will if necessary. Obey without question. Obey without complaint. Give up the right to choose your career path. Let it be the bishop’s problem to determine the path your priestly life will take. Remember that the voice of the bishop is the voice of God. Christ’s sacrifice is pleasing on account of his unconditional obedience. Make your offering pleasing also through your unconditional obedience.

Fr. Arvie, keep in mind what the priesthood is…it is the service of God. You were chosen by him. You belong to him. Always serve the Lord single-heartedly. Serve the Lord for his sake. Prefer nothing to the love of Christ. Love the Lord with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your heart, and with all your strength. The Lord your God shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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