By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, July 2, 2012

Manifesting God's Concern for His People

There is a spirit of great joy in the Archdiocese of Edmonton these days. We have received the gift of a new priest for the service of God's people. On Monday, July 2, Deacon Miguel Irizar was ordained a priest in the presbyteral order for service in this Archdiocese. The joy and thanksgiving that surrounds this and any ordination is spontaneous among God's people. Love and respect for priests seems to be written into our Catholic DNA.

The ministerial priesthood is a wondrous mystery. Those who exercise it are called by God to do the impossible, to do by God's grace what could never be accomplished unaided, namely, to act in persona Christi by a particular sharing in Christ's threefold office of priest, prophet and king. For this reason it is conferred in sacrament by a special bestowal of the Holy Spirit. By ordination the priest is swept up into something infinitely greater than himself. He is given a particular and permanent participation in the unfolding, here and now, of God's plan of salvation accomplished in Christ. His life, therefore, must be one of continual surrender to God's salvific purpose, of putting into practice in his life what John the Baptist once said of his own: "I must decrease and Christ must increase."

The mystery of the priesthood and the wide breadth of its responsibilities was recently summarized beautifully by the Holy Father. In his homily at the Mass to conclude the Year of the Priest, Pope Benedict XVI said that the priest is called "to manifest God's concern for his people." This is true of all ages, of course, but it strikes me as particularly pertinent in our own day. I am increasingly convinced that the host of problems currently besetting Western society stems ultimately from a failure to know and to take seriously God's self-revelation in Christ. Through the gift of his Son and Holy Spirit, the Father has made known to the world not only that God exists, but that God is love, a tri-personal communion of love, and that, precisely as love, he draws near, to love, touch and heal his people and draw them to a share in his own life. When one accepts this truth and, in faith, surrenders to it, life changes and we are possessed of a love and a peace that is beyond understanding, regardless of the circumstances of our lives.

Today, offer a prayer of thanks to God for the priests you know, and even for the ones you don't. Pray for the gift of ever deeper sanctification in their lives, so that, in spite of inevitable human weakness, they will be effective reminders to all of the love and nearness of God.