One of my readings during this season of Lent has been Magnificat Year for Priests Companion, produced for the 2009 Year for Priests. The small pamphlet offers many good meditations on the role and dignity of the Catholic priesthood. This particular reflection caught my attention for a couple different reasons.
We the laity have a heart that is hungry for God. O priest of God, give us that knowledge of God which came to you when you were alone with him in his immense silence… Make it short. Make it simple. Talk to us about our hunger and your hunger… We will respond and come to you because you are Christ, especially when you preach the Word, his Word. You can heal us and you can assuage our hunger. Eloquence is not important. Sincerity is, truth is, and yourself speaking the truth… Your role is to show us the tenderness of Christ, his compassion, and his mercy. This is what will protect the Church. This is what will bring about its rebirth. Nothing else will… Only God’s truth as it comes through you, as you yourself have agonized over it, prayed over it, gone into the darkness of faith and come out with joy… We all want to be holy in the accepted moral sense, but Christ is not a moralist – Christ is God! He doesn’t love us because we are good; he loves us because he is good. We know this very well but we forget it all the time. A Christian believes in the mercy of God. So you can give us mercy because you have the power of that mercy, and our guilty feelings will disappear.
Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty
At the latest Junto meeting, we discussed the role of the Priest in evangelizing the believers, while the laity should evangelize the unbelievers. We further debated the eloquence and substance of the homily, understanding that the believers have different levels of engagement. Doherty’s mindset is toward a basic but sincere homiletic – one that is full of reflection and at a personal level of the priest interacting as if one-on-one with another. At the same time, simple doesn’t necessarily mean cursory, as evidenced by her statement about agonizing over and going into the darkness to understand the depth of Truth.
As to the laity; our priesthood and our evangelization role – Doherty’s message is equally applicable. Each of us must be reflective, sincere and simple in order to be effective evangelizers to unbelievers. The same concept of a one-on-one relationship is even more essential than having all the Truth ready at-hand. In our zeal to gain converts, do we accept that others may not have the inclination and attraction to Truth that we may take for granted?
Tonight, as we enter the Easter Triduum, and celebrate Holy Thursday and Christ’s institution of the Priesthood, let’s remember to pray for the grace and gift of effective evangelization for our priests and for ourselves.