This week, Holy Week, is the pinnacle of the commemoration and expression of our Catholic faith. The Paschal Mystery of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil of Holy Saturday is the event of salvation. Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, took upon Himself all of our sins, making it possible for every person to be saved from eternal death and to enter into eternal life. To continue this saving act in every age, He instituted the holy Sacraments, of which the Holy Eucharist is the greatest. He gave us also the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation in order that sins could be forgiven throughout time. For this purpose, He gave us the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the priesthood.
Let's reflect for now upon the priesthood. Each priest is ordained by God. It is a vocation, meaning that it is not something he chooses but a life which God has chosen for the ones that He calls. Those called respond freely with a "yes" or a "no" or even a "not at this time." It is not a career. Each priest is in persona Christi, that is, in the person of Christ. Why? Simply because he is to teach as Christ taught, to forgive as Christ forgave, to save souls as Christ saved. As a matter of fact, it is correct to say that Christ teaches, forgives and saves today through the life of each priest.
So, this is the life of a priest. That's why every priest must be respected. But, do you know what? Each priest must respect himself and act as a priest. After all he is in persona Christi 24/7. The priest's vocation is not about himself, but about others -- what Christ wants him to do for people.
Jesus Christ said that He came to serve and not to be served. Can a priest do otherwise? St. John Vianney was named by the Church as the patron saint of all priests. He is a model of how to imitate Our Lord in the priesthood. This saint shunned luxury; he rejected praise. He sacrificed and labored for the sanctification of his parishioners. He lived as an unworthy servant of his Master, Jesus Christ.
All of us should pray for priests. Christ should be the center of our lives, and certainly this must be true of each priest. Let us also pray for more good priests, that those whom God calls will say "yes" now. We pray that a lack of generosity and selfishness will not impede the saving work of Our Lord. May we know the love of God through his priests.