Priests have been described as the bridge through which others seek God’s mercy, and through which the mercy of God reaches Humanity. This was the position of Very Rev. Fr. Panachy Ogbede, while delivering the homily at the 10th priestly ordination of seven priests of the Archdiocese of Lagos, held recently at Catholic Church of the Ascension, Airport Road, Lagos. Fr. Ogbede said the role of priests as connectors of God and humans is a great task that should remind them that the priesthood is not their own, but belongs to Christ.
Stating that the priest is a victim, Fr. Ogbede said that in ancient time and early religion, the priest and the victim were different and separate, adding that in the present time, they were united and inseparable. He said: “We need the grace of God to fulfill the role as victims because priests will always be the bridge through which others will seek God’s mercy, and through which the mercy of God will reach humanity. This is a great task. It should remind you that the priesthood is not your own, but belongs to Christ.”
According to him, “Having spent 10 years already in this journey, it’s not a sign that you have arrived. What it means my dear friends is that the first five years or 10 years of a priest, becomes very important because it comes with this enthusiasm, it comes with youthfulness, it comes with this great zeal and the tendency to make a lot of mistakes is always high. “So, the mistakes made in this first 10 years can actually characterise who he (priest) is, whether he is going to be afraid for the rest of his life, for those things never to come out, or he will have courage, and he will strictly visit them and say I have known my path well.
This is one of the reasons why we celebrate, thank them for having walked this journey so far.” The homilist said priests are unworthy to be custodians of this inestimable gift, yet, God grants them His grace, so that through them, His glory and the glory of His only begotten son can be reached, as he added that this grace is a great privilege. Urging the priests to learn from the example of Christ, he said a priest must never be carried away by the euphoria of success.
“You must learn to be distinct, exceptional and seek divine guidance always. Do not compete with the people of God, rather, draw yourself close to God who supplies all your needs.” He said that it is the fruit of the Priests’ catch; their 10 years’ experience that they have acquired from their encounter with God that they must share with the people of God. Fr. Ogbede advised the priests not to cut themselves from their prayer life, adding that It is easy for someone to lose his prayer life in a secularist world. “In prayer, you will constantly hear God’s voice and understand that all you are doing today is to continue to renew the answer to the call you had 10 years ago.”
Speaking on behalf of the celebrants, Rev. Fr. Paul Bastos thanked God for calling him and classmates, even unworthy as they are. He said: “We thank God for giving us the opportunity, the privilege because it’s not our right who we are; we are not worthy. But we thank God for calling us to serve in His Holy Church and for sustaining us to this day, these 10 years. So, all I will say is thank you God. “God will not come down to do the work. He always sends His people to do it. And I will say thank you to my brother priests, to the people of God, especially, for giving us the opportunity to serve them, to be with them, even in our shortcomings, they still love us, and they are always there for us.”
On what informed the choice of the parish for the ceremony, he said: “Catholic Church of the Ascension, I remember very well 10 years back in this same church, we started, in this same church, we were called, in this same church, we answered yes. So, coming back here 10 years after, I think that is the best thing we can do. So, as my classmates said, the next 10 years we will see here again by the grace of God.”
Fr. Bastos said the journey in the vineyard of God is not easy, but once they (priests) cooperate with the grace of God, everything will be fine. He said the door is always open for priests in the making, adding that God is still looking for workers in the vineyard. The celebrants include; Rev. Frs. Paul Bastos, Anthony Amusun, Emmanuel Ehiefu, John Njorteah, Augustine Echefu, Michael Mensah and Francis Babatunde.