Thursday, August 13, 2015

Meditations of a Young Priest

My grandfather was a Methodist minister, so I have a soft spot in my heart for the priesthood. In a very real way, young priests are the hope of the future. They give us hope that as parents we can raise our children to serve a goal bigger than themselves. They give us hope that the Church, as a Mother, is doing something right by raising up enthusiastic and dedicated spiritual children. Following is a guest post from a young priest meditating on the well-known parable of the talents from the Gospel of Matthew (25:14-30).

There will come a point in all of our lives, where we are confronted with a challenge which we think is far beyond our abilities. Whether it’s our coach, our boss, our parents, our children – we are asked to do something which we can’t imagine we’ll ever succeed at doing. The first few times I had to speak publicly – I did anything I could to get out of it. In some ways we’re humble, recognizing we have our limits, or maybe we’re too afraid of embarrassing ourselves, but it’s easy to refuse a challenge which seems beyond us. This challenge often lifts us to a higher level though – if we succeed we are amazed at how we can impress even ourselves. And if we fail, we can still be impressed by how well we did, despite our falling short.

Today, we hear the words of the master “You wicked, lazy servant,” and perhaps we think he’s being a bit harsh. Here’s a servant, pretty much a household slave, being given one talent – which at that time was the equivalent of maybe 15 years wages. So imagine being as unskilled in investments as someone like me, and being handed all that money. Maybe it’s understandable that he was afraid to do anything with it. Maybe there’s an honesty in admitting he wasn’t up for the challenge. But what does the master say – “Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?” The money could have made a profit itself, not requiring him to take a risk by trusting his abilities.

Now I don’t think our Lord is worried about us turning a profit on our investments. We too, however, have been given a great gift like the servant, the value of which is far beyond anything we have or can ever have. We have been entrusted with Jesus Christ. God gave His Son to die for us, to live in each of us, that we may share in his resurrection. We don’t deserve it, and it’s certainly beyond anything on this earth in value, and we’re told to make good use of it. So what do we do?

Well, if we’re being honest, our instinct is most likely to bury it in the same way. Because it is so intimidating, it is a task which seems impossible. We are asked to be like Christ – to empty ourselves of all selfishness, to control all of our desires perfectly, to live only for others and never for ourselves. Thank you Lord for thinking so highly of me, but I think this challenge is a bit too much. And this is very much what the world will tell you. Being a Christian is too difficult, it denies our human nature, it makes us give up what we want and will only make us frustrated and miserable. The culture we live in will tell us to settle for mediocrity – everybody does this sin, everybody does that sin, to expect to do better is unrealistic. God loves us even though we’re imperfect, so we’ll just leave it at that. But to quote G.K. Chesterton, and if you haven’t picked up on this yet he’s a personal favorite – “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult, and left untried.”

The world will point at the young pregnant woman and tell her it’s too difficult to have a child, she has to give up too much, it will crush her future hopes. The world will tell the young unmarried couple to surrender to their carnal desires and give up on trying for chastity. The world will tell all of us to take the easy way, to settle for a life lived for money and pleasure and comfort, because that’s the best we can do. The world has given up on the Christian ideal, it has given up on the fairytale ending – because it believes it’s unrealistic to expect people to live what the Church teaches, it is unrealistic that we could all be saints.

But the gift we have been given, it accrues interest, more interest than we could ever use. Our faith, the life of Jesus Christ in us, is the most powerful force in the world, it can make us saints! But we must let it, we can’t bury it. We can’t abandon hope of ever succeeding, because that is not humility, it is doubt of God’s power. While the world will seek to keep us down, our faith tells us – we are more than that!

Our faith tells the young mother that she holds in her womb a human life, and bringing that life into the world will be a heroic act of love which she is capable of and will bring her endless joy. Our faith tells the young girl she can meet her gallant prince, and the young man that he can find his pure princess, that sexuality is sacred and something which will bring the greatest joy when shared in the intimacy of a marriage. And our faith tells all of us, that we can live for more than ourselves and our comfort, that we can be different, that we can break the mold we’ve been given and prove to the world that there is something more. The world has rejected these ideals, even though they will make us far happier, because they require us to surrender to God. To allow Him to guide our lives, and move us in ways we are not prepared to move and which may make us uncomfortable.

Our faith tells us, that we can be heroes, if only we believe God can do it.

As we approach the altar today, we will receive that great gift, that talent which has a value beyond measure, our Lord’s Body Blood Soul and Divinity in the most Holy Eucharist. Let’s not bury him and settle back into our spiritual ruts. Let’s let him transform us, make us into heroes. Let’s reevaluate our lives – how much of my time and talents do I bury in the internet and TV and gadgets, rather than dedicating myself to prayer and learning about my faith and serving others. In what ways have I looked over a sin as something unavoidable, as something which is impossible to overcome – rather than seek every day to root it out. We should wake up every morning on fire, burning with the desire to be heroic, to be a saint – not because we’re great, because our God is great and he’s the one who’s doing the work. Let us prove to the world that there is something more to live for - that life is beautiful and epic when our lives are defined by that drama of our faith.

Photograph By Matthias Ulrich. The original uploader was Matteo3000 at German Wikipedia (selber fotografiert) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

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