Certain liturgical feasts can well remind a priest of his vocation story. One such feast is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple.
The Gospel of Luke 2:22 recounts how Jesus was taken to the Temple to be dedicated to the Heavenly Father. A temple official named Simeon was there performing his duty, consecrating every male child to the Lord and offering the prescribed sacrifice of turtle doves and pigeons.
Jesus’ Divine Mission
There Simeon reveals a vision of Jesus’ divine mission.
Now, Master let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.
Notice his choice of words: “Seen, Sight, Light.” Memories surrounding our vocation involve the gift of spiritual insight. This insight can be likened to a window, opening before us and revealing the plan of God for one’s life.
At that liturgical celebration presided over by the venerable Simeon, it was as if a window into the plan of God was opened, revealing the call of the Father or His divine Son, Jesus.
When a person is baptized, presented in the temple of the church, a window is opened also, revealing the tenderness of God and pointing the way for the baptized to follow. And that pathway means following Jesus, the Light of our Lives, wherever he might lead us.
For each of us the plan of God revealed in the window opened at baptism takes shape and comes into focus slowly and at different moments in a person’s life. And usually that requires some help. For me, the help I received to see the plan of God was offered by a priest. Like Simeon (who was a priestly type) a priest performs the same function in the lives of many.
A priest, after the heart of Simeon, did just that for me. I recall well the place where that occurred. I often visit the spot on the school playground of my home parish (where I serve as pastor) and recall that moment when a priest by the name of Father Richard Bergman helped me to peer into the window opened at baptism — and helped me to catch a glimpse of God’s divine plan for me.
Available to Schoolchildren
A priest available to schoolchildren was such a blessing for me. Taking time, showing an interest in the youngsters, answering questions about all sorts of things, recounting his own vocation story when asked, a priest casts light on the vocational vision appearing in the window before us.
I have always attributed the awakening of my vocation to Father Bergman and his helpful tenderness as we looked together into the window of my future that day. I knew I wanted what he was showing me. And what he showed me was a glimpse into a priest’s life — as he shared the fire of love he had for the Lord and his priesthood. My heart caught fire with a love for the priesthood through that personal encounter, and that fire has never faded or diminished in its intensity.
God Never Closes Windows
Priests can well benefit from a renewed appreciation of two important things. First, God never closes windows or doors. The window to His plan was opened at baptism; it requires that we faithfully peer into the plan of God revealed there. Second, we can never underestimate the power of the priestly presence to young men — even on the school playground — showing them a glimpse into the joy and anointing of a priest’s life. This may provide a young person just the inspiration he needs to follow Christ’s lead to the altar.
Recently Pope Francis remarked in this vein about all Christians when he said: “God always opens doors (windows). He never closes them. He is the Father who opens doors for us. So do not be afraid of tenderness. When we forget about hope and tenderness, we become a cold Church that loses its sense of direction and is held back by ideologies and world attitudes, whereas God’s simplicity tells us to go forward. God is a Father who caresses us.”
Lord grant every priest the grace to invite others to peer into the open window of God’s baptismal plan. May we ever enjoy the tenderness of God’s simplicity, going forward sharing the same divine embrace through our priestly presence at the altar, on the playground or wherever God’s grace leads us. Amen.
MSGR. CHIODO, a priest of the Des Moines diocese was ordained in 1976 and is pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Des Moines, Iowa.