Fr Richard's homily from today's Mass in Richmond (optional memorial of St Laurence of Brindisi)
When I was first ordained - people called me the "baby priest"! On my second anniversary, I can probably be called the "toddler priest"!
What does a toddler know? The anniversary of a priest, however, is a good opportunity to simply remind ourselves what, or rather, who the priest is in the Church’s understanding. The priesthood is not an office that an ordained man possesses but merely one that he shares in: for it is Jesus Christ alone who is the True priest.
At his ordination, the priest undergoes what’s called an ontological change – meaning that at the core of the man’s very being he is conformed to Christ, specifically Christ the Head and Shepherd of the Church. The priest is objectively and radically conformed to Christ the High Priest in a sacred bond. It means he therefore acts in the person of Christ the Head. He is called to imitate the Good Shepherd, to lead God’s people to pasture (as the Prophet Micah prays in today’s First Reading).
The priest, then, is simply an “instrument” – a “living instrument of Christ”. The Lord ordains men to be the instruments of his love and mercy - to perform His Divine actions by His Divine power alone. This “instrumentality” of the priest is none more so evident in the celebration of the Sacraments. Today’s reading where the Prophet Micah speaks of the Lord taking fault away points our attention particularly towards the Sacrament of Penance whereby the words of absolution of the priest as the instrument has been the means of salvation for countless saints throughout history.
And so a priestly anniversary should merely make us give thanks to Almighty God for the sacred order of the priesthood by which Christ’s work of salvation is continued day by day.
St Laurence of Brindisi is a wonderful example for priests and lay people alike – particularly the importance of prayer. He once said: “…God is truly present to us when we speak to him in prayer; that he truly listens to our prayers, even if we pray only with our hearts and minds. And that not only is he present and hears us, indeed he willingly and with the greatest of pleasure wishes to grant our requests”.
So, following St Laurence’s advice, let’s pray today for vocations to the priesthood confident that the Lord will hear and answer our prayer.