Sunday, January 12, 2014

Priestly Instrumentality: The Joy of Bridge Building

One of the ancient titles for priests is "pontifex," which means "bridge-builder."  This bridge building happens in a host of ways.  By sharing in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, the priest is instrumental in building the bridge between God and man.  He does this especially through the sacramental life of the Church.  He also is instrumental in building bridges between a specific community and the local and universal Church. (Think of how he prays for the local bishop and the pope at every Mass).  He is instrumental in building bridges between the Church on earth with the Church in Heaven and in Purgatory.  (Think of how at every Mass he mentions the saints and the dead.).  But, he also is instrumental in building bridges among the members of the local Church.

Because the University is on vacation, there was no Mass at the chapel today.  But one of the students who has arrived back to school early met me and we had Mass together.  It was great to offer Mass together. After Mass, I invited him to come with me to a hospice where I had to anoint and offer prayers of final commendation for a man I have known since my childhood.  The young man joyfully accepted the invitation.

The dying man was almost entirely unconscious.  The young man and I prayed for him and I anointed him.  Bridges were being built.  Through the prayers of anointing, the man in his final agony was being more firmly inserted into the Paschal Mystery.  He was being united to Christ who is the definitive bridge between God and man.  In the Litany of the Saints, a bridge was being built between that dying man here on earth and all of the saints in heaven.  In the Final Commendation, a bridge was being built between the mercy of God and this man's entire life.  But, there was also another bridge being built.  A bridge was built between the young man and the dying man. 

Among the most beautiful things in my life as a priest has been the privilege of being an instrument of communion among the people.  I have the privilege of meeting some extraordinary people and I have the privilege of seeing their beautiful witness to the Gospel.  I always consider it an extraordinary grace when I am able to be an instrument that brings such awesome witnesses together.  Whenever I read a good book, I want to introduce others to that good book.  Whenever I see a good movie, I want to introduce others to that movie.  Whenever I encounter the friendship of Christ in the persons whom God places in my path, I want others to encounter them as well.  Today, through the gift of the priesthood, a new bridge was built between two men who never met before.  The young man prayed for the old man and helped him as he prepares to pass beyond our sight into eternal life.  I have no doubt that the older man will repay him.  He will soon stand at the other end of the bridge and will pray for that young man as he makes his pilgrim journey to Eternal Life.

Among the greatest joys of being a priest is the joy of building bridges.

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