YEAR B: HOMILY FOR SATURDAY OF THE 17TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: VOCATION OF PRIESTHOOD
BY: Fr. Benny Tuazon
(Mt. 14:1-12) Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, Feast Of St. John Maria Vianney, Patron Of ALL Priests!
In today’s Gospel we have the account of the beheading of John the Baptist. It was tragic and cheap. Tragic because John was doing his ministry of reminding King Herod of his illicit relationship with Herodias, the wife of his brother. Cheap because it was the result of fulfilling his promise of giving whatever is requested by Herodias’ daughter. The girl requested for the head of John. John was the last prophet before the appearance of Jesus, the Prophet. He fulfilled Hos mission of preparing the way of the Messiah. He paid for it with his life.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. John Marie Vianney, Patron and model of all priests. It was not easy for him to become a priest. He was academically poor and sickly. These are two important capacities to be a priest. Yet, his spiritual directors did not give up on him. They saw something in him. He finally made it and became a good priest. His greatest achievement was the conversion of the people of Ars.
Priesthood is both a gift and a task. You can ask any priest and he will tell you how unworthy he is of the gift. Priesthood is more than intelligence, holiness, leadership, service, and charity, etc. Priesthood is pure grace from God. St. Vianney testified to that. While Ignatius gives premium on academic excellence, St. Vianney was ordained because his bishop believed it was God’s will in spite of his poor academic standing. As a seminary formator once, I had been a witness to that. There was a seminarian which we did not recommend for ordination. But the bishop insisted. We were proven wrong. The priest turned out to be a good one!
I would not blame Catholics if they see priesthood at present as a prestigious, powerful, honourable, and even luxurious vocation (to some, it is a profession). Maybe, the Church and the priests themselves are to blame. Maybe, also partly due to the pampering parishioners and their families and friends are doing. But let it not be ignored or forgotten what every priest, secular or religious, go through everyday. And, with due respect, specially what every parish priest faces and experiences .
To be a priest is to be available at all times. However, priests do need rests, retreats, recreation just like any other human being. Priests were not converted into robots after ordination, on the contrary, ordination made them more human, thus more susceptible to stress, fatigue, temptations, etc. It is unfortunate that there were times when priests could not attend to some requests. Once a parishioner came for a sick call after my early morning mass. I went. As soon as I returned to the parish, another sick call was waiting. I was tired and had not taken breakfast yet. But I had to go. The dying needs the sacrament. But we do not only minister in the sacraments. We also do administrative works. While we have people employed to do them, we make decisions, hundreds of them everyday! And on certain days like Sundays, we have more masses, baptisms, and meetings of ministries and organizations. Each has different needs. Each expect us to say something meaningful. Add to these some programs for social services which are expected from the Church.
Priests appear to be supermen to many members of the faith. But priests do get sick, get tired, forget, commit mistakes, become hotheaded, do not know everything, fall to temptation, etc. Priests try to be available and effective. But they are just limited. It will be good if the priests accept that. It will be even better if parishioners realize that too. How we wish priests are in the league of St. John Vianney, St. Ignatius, St. Dominic, St. Farncis, and all those great and spiritual pastors. I know they try to.
In behalf of my brother priests, we ask forgiveness and understanding to those we have hurt, misled, and offended. Help us to face and deal with our weaknesses by praying for us and constructively criticise us. Like you, we are in need of salvation and are in constant conversion. But be assured that no matter what, the sacraments and disposal of our ministries are never affected and diminished by our weaknesses. The Church and the Lord Jesus guarantee that. The graces of God are received in full and unblemished even by the unworthiness of the priest. Pray for us always. If God chose us to be His priests, we should learn to follow His will.
“I feel in me the vocation of the Priest. I have the vocation of the Apostle. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth, and this dream has grown with me. Considering the mystical body of the Church, I desired to see myself in them all.”