Holy Orders: Meditations on the
Eve of Becoming a Priest Forever
By: Rev. Jack Shrum
A young monk goes to his Abba and says to him, “I am praying the Psalms each day, fasting, etc. What else must I do?” The Abba replied, “Go out, lift up your hands and burn.”
These were some of the first words said to me by my retreat director as I began my retreat last week at Conception Abbey. Although I cannot remember the name of the Abba, the last line has stuck with me throughout the week and keeps ringing in my head.
Little by little over seven years of formation and preparation, I have come to realize what it means to be a priest. As a priest, I am called to give my whole life as an offering to God, for His people, guiding them on the road to the heavenly Jerusalem. My whole life is to be a holocaust, an oblation, a sacrifice to the Lord.
In the Old Testament, the priests would offer sacrifice in reparation for the sins of the people and for themselves. Fulfilling the Old Covenant, God the Father sent His only Son, Jesus, to be THE sacrifice reconciling us with God through His own blood. Jesus poured out His life for us. He offered His life on the cross so that we might all have eternal life. From His side poured water and blood, giving birth to the Church.
As a priest of the New Covenant, I am called to be an "alter christus," conforming my life to His, offering myself up in union with Christ for the sins of the people and for my own sins as well. My whole life is to be an offering to God.
At the time of my Confirmation in the year 2000, I knew that I was called to serve God in His Church. I did not know exactly how at first. I now know that I am called to be a priest forever, and cannot imagine doing anything else.
I want to live in intimate union with Jesus, placing myself in His heart, so that all I do is a manifestation of His will, His love. I want to show the people of God, all His children, how much he loves them. United with Christ crucified, I want to show God’s people how much he suffered for them in order to win for them eternal life in heaven with God the Father.
Jesus has shown all of us the road to salvation. It consists in giving oneself completely in love to God and to others. “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mk 8:35) Jesus calls His priests to guide His people on the road. Priests must be the first to take up their cross and follow Him step by step.