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Today we see Jesus inviting two sets of brothers to follow him. These four disciples form some of the closest confidants of the Lord during his time of ministry, and Peter of course becomes the leader of the first Christians after the Lord's Ascension. The calling of these brothers is symbolic for all of us of our vocation, our calling to leave behind the things of this world and give our lives to Christ Jesus, but it is especially evocative of the priesthood: "Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." In fact, the US Bishops sponsored a great short-film on the priesthood under the title "Fishers of Men" that I highly recommend you view. If you search for the title on Google or Youtube, you should easily find the video. It's really worth it.
There are actually two types of priests. Priesthood is manifest in the church in an ordinary way and an extraordinary way. Every baptized person shares in the first form, whereas I think I am the only person in the room that shares in the second one (unless there's a secret priest hiding somewhere among us!).
Surprisingly, we are more familiar with the extraordinary way, known as ministerial priesthood. This is natural because of the visibility of the ministerial priest: we kind of stick out a little bit, whether at Mass and in the other sacraments of the Church. The priest wears special clothes even when not in Church, and has a long list of duties and responsibilities in Church Canon Law. We priests go through a process of formation. All of that makes the specific type of priesthood the one we focus on, just as when we say the word vocation we often overlook the universal vocation of everyone to be saints, and rather focus on the vocation to be a priest, sister, or brother.
So what about the "ordinary" form of priesthood? The common priesthood is something we all have by baptism. In being "little Christs," Christians also have some share in Christ's roles as priest, prophet, and king.
Whereas the ministerial priest offers the prayers of the people in worship to God, the great mystery is that the priest is truly like Christ Jesus: his role is not about himself, but about others. The priest is a man for others; another Christ, called to wash the feet of the faithful and lay down his life that they may live more fully in God. To put it simply, the ministerial priesthood is meant to build up your priesthood. My role as the leader of prayer is to help you to pray.
But what makes a priest? Is it the clothes or the particular role in Mass? Not essentially, for you all are priests. To be a priest is to be one who prays to God on behalf of others like Moses stood in the breach between God and His people, lifting up their longings to Him and beseeching His blessings upon them. So every time a parent prays with, prays for, or prays over their child, they are living their priesthood. Every time a friend prays for another friend, he or she is living their priesthood. Whenever we intercede for another part of the world that is in need, we live our priesthood. Whenever we offer up a small sacrifice, penance, or suffering, we are living our priesthood. Every time we gather at Mass and offer to God the sacrifice of praise, we are living our priesthood.
So when you see the priest at Mass “doing his thing,” you should remember that it’s not just “his thing.” It’s your thing. I stand here representing all of you, who not only consent to the action of this prayer, but are called to actively participate in it, meaning that you pray right along with me, that you offer right along with me, that you cry out to God in your heart in the same words. So as we do that in this Mass today, let us all thank God for the vocation of the priesthood, in both its forms.