Dear friends, as we recall the gift and mystery of the Priesthood and of the Eucharist, I'm about to do something that I am pretty sure our pastor won't like, but hey, too bad, I got the pulpit buddy! What I'm going to do is walk over there and give Fr. Bill a big man-hug to thank him, on behalf of all of Saint Pius X, for all he has been for this parish for almost 14 years.
This very day, when Jesus gives us Himself in the Eucharist and thus initiates the ministerial Priesthood, Pope Francis spoke to priests about weariness - both good kinds and bad kinds. It's been almost four years for me and I think I am getting a sense of what he means: there's a difference between the feeling you have after a successful day of hard work and the pain of heart we may allow to overcome us when things seem to go from bad to worse. I think every priest, really every person, is tempted to fall into this type of dejection of spirit, a sort of giving up. Certainly Jesus had every reason to feel the same: his closest followers are simple, sinful, blockheads; many of his family disowns him; the leaders reject him; Pilate doesn't stand up for Him; and Judas betrays Him. Despite these reasons Jesus doesn't fall into that trap. What He does, though, is wear Himself out for His people. He "loves to the end" as we just heard in the Gospel.
Now it's almost a nightly occurrence when I will hear, eventually, these words from the pastor's mouth: “Alright, let's pray! I wanna go to bed. I'm tired!” And let me tell you, this man earns it. You know, I wake up every morning thinking more like St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Mother Teresa, what “small things” can I do with “great love” today? Father Bill, nay nay! He wakes up and thinks, “Hmm... what can I build today? I already got an education center and a rectory. Well, how about a church?” This man goes big before he goes home! If I ever tried that, I'd be tired too!
But honestly, that daily exhaustion is a model of Jesus' sacrifice, of His tireless “foot washing” of the human race. Pope Francis today said to his brother priests: "The tiredness of priests! Do you know how often I think about this weariness which all of you experience? I think about it and I pray about it, often, especially when I am tired myself.… The tiredness of a priest is like incense which silently rises up to heaven. Our weariness goes straight to the heart of the Father."
I have been strenghtened in the true meaning of the priesthood thanks to the example of this priest, and many others, who are so visibly spent by the end of land and the Paschal Triduum.
This is spiritual fatherhood as it was meant to be, and is modeled in the Eucharist. Pope Benedict XVI (2009) "Breaking the bread is the act of the father of the family who looks after his children and gives him with a need for life. But it is also the act of hospitality with which the stranger, the guest, is received within the family and just given us share in its life. Dividing, sharing, brings about unity. Through sharing community is created."
"In the bread that is distributed, we recognize the mystery of the green of weeks that dies, and so bears fruit. Recognize the new multiplication of the loaves, which derives from the dying of the grain of wheat and will continue until the end of the world. At the same time, we see that the Eucharist can never be just a liturgical action. It is complete only if the liturgical agape then becomes love in daily life."
We all are priests. We have to spend ourselves like Jesus did. "This is how they will know you are my disciples, by your love for one another."
When we are spent and exhausted because we have given ourselves, how do we do it again? Where do we find our source of strength? In many ways it is here in the Eucharist, in God given to us.
But also, we can see two things about Jesus that are good models for us.
In the Eucharistic Prayer, we reflect on two things about Jesus: His Hands and eyes. Priest must use His hands and eyes as Christ did. We all must use our hands and eyes as Jesus did.
"Raising his eyes to heaven, to you is Almighty Father"