Dear Fellow Parishioners,
At the beginning of this week I had my car booked for its annual servicing and as I drove out of the carpark early in the morning I looked back at the spaces reserved along the Priory wall for resident clergy and saw they were all empty. Admittedly, two of our priests are away on holidays, and the others were out on business, but it occurred to me that there may come a time when Catholics arriving at this church may find no cars in the reserved space to tell them if any of the priests are at home or available to carry out the holy duties for which they were ordained!
This Sunday throughout the world we are being asked to pray for vocations to the priesthood and for those who may be drawn to vowed religious life. The pace of our First-world society has picked up to such an extent that those who want to live a more contemplative existence are seen to be unrealistic when compared to the majority whose pursuit is for academic or commercial success. It is not wrong to be concerned with the daily necessities of life, but strengthening one’s relationship with Jesus is of far greater importance. Jesus came to bring us something more than the daily preoccupations of feeding and clothing ourselves or pursuing our careers. He wants to satisfy not just bodies, but souls, by giving them spiritual food that lasts, consisting of his Word in scripture, his Eucharist, and the Communion of faith shared by all those he calls his friends.
Jesus’ last supper was a meal of deep table friendship—with his closest followers—that evolved into the ritualized meal of bread and wine that many of us participate in today. The first disciples soon came to understand it as their special way of gathering - as the way to define their reality and their relationship with one another, a “memorial” meal by which they are drawn to the Father through and with Jesus. In the eight years of training it took for me to become a priest, nothing ever prepared me for the wonder that touched my soul at the experience of being able to lead the congregation into the holy mysteries of our religion whereby the Word is spoken bringing about a dynamic change in us. In a very real way we become the lived presence of Jesus who binds us together into his body through the bread we consume and the wine that courses through our veins so that we become his flesh given for the life of the world. In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us “It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God” but if no one is ordained to speak this word to each generation how can the people get to hear it and ‘by believing have eternal life’?
By our baptism we are all made priests and prophets in the image and likeness of Jesus and we live out that consecration each in our own way. The touchstone or quality that describes the way in which an ordained priest lives out his baptismal consecration is a particular solicitude shown for the salvation and wellbeing of his fellow human beings displayed “by loving as Christ loved you, giving himself up as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice for God”. May there continue to be a car space available for witnesses such as these.