From Sheep to Shepherds
One of the great wonders of God is His incredible ability and desire to transform men and women from shame to exaltation, from mediocrity to greatness, from sinners to saints. The Lord is constantly guiding all of us in this process, but He does this in a unique way for the devout men who become priests.
Certainly, there is a natural maturation of men who spend years studying and praying in seminary. However, their greatest transformation has nothing to do with their intelligence, or really anything they can naturally do on their own. Their greatest transformation comes with the ability to confer the Sacraments.
No one but God alone can forgive sins. No one besides God can cause mere bread and wine to become Jesus. If every time we received the Sacraments we saw the spiritual effects the same way we see physical cause and effect, we would be more amazed than if we saw someone being raised from the dead!
This is why Christ promised the disciples that they would someday do even greater works than he did during his public ministry (John 14:12). But how can this be? After all, priests aren’t God and they certainly are not without sin. How is it even fitting that priests do more incredible things than Jesus did?
The trick is that on their own priests can’t confer any of the Sacraments, but it is Christ himself acting through the priest. This happens in a unique way when priests celebrate the Sacraments, but Jesus wants to work through all of us all of the time.
This is why St. Paul focuses so much on the fact that the Church is the Body of Christ, we its members. When we love others and bear fruit in our lives it is always Jesus himself acting through us. Without him, we can do nothing. Yet, when we die to ourselves and let Christ work through us, then all things are possible.
So as we approach the time of year when young men are ordained and transformed from sheep to shepherds, let us pray for all priests and seminarians. Though many fall short of representing Christ let us praise God for the priesthood and how despite humanity’s imperfections He works miracles through and in us!
“If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God but the priest holds His place.” – St. John Vianney