The Cure of Ars had a weak voice, and many of the thousands who flocked to his pulpit could not hear him. But they were converted to a better life by the mere sight of him. A lawyer who came away from Ars visibly changed explained to his friends, “I have seen God in a human.”
Non-believers will never be brought to Christ by arguments alone or by brilliant processions and devotional songs, much less by the sight of the fine Catholic schools and large hospitals. They must see God — His goodness, His charity, His purity, His holiness — in each Christian they meet. Some of us priests do not show Christ through our very way of life. St. Paul says, “We are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16). If we are the temple of the living God, what is my position as a priest?
If God dwells in us, which is in the state of grace, we must reach out like Mother Mary who extended her helping hand to Elizabeth when Mary received the Good News from the Holy Spirit. We must reach out like the Samaritan woman who came to fetch water, left her water jar and rushed back to the city to tell the people about Jesus. Jesus awakened in her the quest for the Divine. In Jesus, interestingly, she encountered the love of God (Jn 4:1-42). We must reach out like the Apostles when they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13) and spread the Good News with courage, or like St. Paul who was converted (Acts 9:1-22) by the Spirit of Christ and reached the Gentiles with his God experience or with his encounter of Christ in his whole life. In our contemporary context, we can see the perfect example in Mother Teresa of Calcutta who felt the inner call of God (“I am thirsty,” Jn 19:28) in her heart and dedicated her entire life to the downtrodden and cared for the rejected and dejected of society.
Reflection of God
Taking all these God experiences, we as priests who carry God’s image must allow Him to show through and reflect when people meet us. In a priest figure, the divine–human encounter takes place in the ordinary circumstances of life. Through His messenger, God meets human persons in the very midst of their existential problems. This presence gives a new vision and direction to persons as God has done with each one down the centuries.
For a priest, faith involves a deep understanding of God’s saving grace in his life. It is to trust in Jesus and let go of one’s ego and pride. It takes a lot of humility to stand up and acknowledge oneself as the follower of Jesus. When we have experience of Jesus’ loving presence in our lives, we must also serve others and allow others to experience the same through us. Christian love calls for a readiness and willingness to give oneself in service. Christian love is an inner eagerness to reach out to those in need, whomever they may be.
In one of Mother Teresa’s homes for the dying, a sister was taking care of an old man who had just been brought in from the streets. The driver who had brought the man, was a non-believer in Christianity. Amazed, he stood there and watched the love this sister obviously had for the dying man. Her eyes, her voice, her words, the expression on her face, the way she touched the man all showed tremendously genuine and tender love. As he turned, the driver saw a picture of Jesus hanging on the cross and embracing an old man. He went to Mother Teresa, said to her, “I came here an empty man without God in my heart and without peace in my mind. I leave here full of the presence of God, whom I have met in the love of that sister for the dying man, and full of peace of mind.”
We do not need to do miracles; small actions (like the sister who showed the presence of God in the above incident) also can change and become meaningful miracles for everyone. We must see Christ in every small thing and action like St. John Mary Vianney, the patron of all priests, who experienced trials and difficulties, but submitted himself totally to Jesus and imitated Him in his holy life by praying and serving.
It is only when we come to Christ, when our lives are touched by contact and communion with Him, that a flame begins to burn within us: a flame bringing to us and to others the light of faith, a flame burning with the steadiness of unfailing hope and a flame radiating the warmth of love. With this union with Christ, with His grace and the power of His resurrection, our lives can be as light, salt and leaven.
“The call of Christ” is what makes a life truly worth living, and as Vatican II states, one called by Christ cannot remain indifferent to people of God. We need to personally experience His love. We need to experience His unconditional acceptance of us as we are. Otherwise, the call of Christ would become a demand and a burden for us rather than a privilege. Hence, the priestly call is a call to serve people and exhibit Christ in our everyday lives through simplicity of life, dedicated service and special love for humanity. It is a call to be salt, light and leaven in the society around us, so that we, like the Apostles, will have courage to say “shine through me, Jesus Christ, that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in and through my life” and let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus Christ. TP
FATHER SINGARAYAR, S.V.D., was ordained a priest of the Society of the Divine Word, Mumbai Province, India, on May 5, 2012.