Monday, February 5, 2018

Priesthood at the Threshold of Suffering

Five years ago I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and of all the places that we visited, the one that most moved me was the home of Peter and Andrew in Capernaum.  All that remains of their home is some ruins, over which a rather modern church has been built. What I found so moving about that place was the threshold. More than likely, the threshold that Jesus stood upon is still there. It was there, we are told in the gospels, that the entire town came and waited for Jesus to heal them.  After spending hours healing and casting out demons, Jesus got up early and went to a deserted place to pray. The disciples, however, came and found him and spoke words that were far more true than they could possibly have realized: "Lord, everyone is looking for you."

There are times in my life when I feel like Peter or Andrew, standing beside the Lord looking out and seeing the entire town gathered at the door. It must have been a daunting sight. It's not that some people were looking for healing or relief. Everyone was looking! Everyone was at the door. So too, today everyone is suffering. Everyone is looking for Christ. There are those suffering from the ravages of diseases and those who suffer watching their loved ones in pain. There are those who are approaching death and those mourning the loss of a loved one. There are those who suffer from anxiety, depression, or addictions. There are those who suffer from self-inflicted wounds and anger at their past mistakes. There are those who are lost and confused, those who feel abandoned, and those who feel overwhelmed. There are those who have fallen victim to the evil of others and those who have inflicted evil upon others. There are those who desperately feel the need for someone to listen to them, the need for love, the need for a friend.  They come with all of their pain, their humiliation, their sin, their sufferings. They come and they stand at the threshold of Peter's house. They come to be healed by the Lord. Everybody is looking for Him.

The priest stands at the threshold of Peter's House. Christ uses the priest, and allows him to feel in the depths of his soul (in some small way) the reality that "Everyone is looking" for Christ. The priest experiences in a unique way, I think, the depth of humanity's profound hunger and need for Christ. At the threshold of Peter's House, people come and entrust the priest with their burdens and their sufferings. Not always, but often enough, the priest stands at the threshold and feels in his soul the enormity of this reality, that it is not one or two suffering individuals who are awaiting the Lord, but rather "everybody" is looking for Him. These moments are filled with grace and with a union with Christ that is difficult to convey unless you've experienced it. You immediately recognize your own personal incapacity and total unworthiness to respond to this need. All you can do is allow Christ to use you as He wills. You are simultaneously emptied and filled, exhausted and reinvigorated, at the Cross and in the Resurrection. 

Standing at the threshold of Peter's House and looking out upon the vast sea of human suffering, you are mindful that your priestly vocation really is a mystery and a gift. It is at the threshold where Christ meets the suffering and pain of the world. You stand there so that Christ can use you as His instrument. The whole world is looking for Christ, and in some mysterious way, Christ has chosen you to be an instrument of his healing grace. Christ has placed you in an impossible  situation. You are too small to meet the task and too incapable to solve the problem. And yet, this is how Christ chose to do it. He chooses, in every time and place, to entrust weak and limited men to preach in His Name and to administer His Sacraments. He places these men at the thresholds of Peter's House--the Church--so that all who are looking for Christ--that is, everybody--one by one, can be brought to Him and healed.

No comments:

Post a Comment