Continued from LAST WEEK
The priest is a gift to the world because he is called to be a sign of contradiction. He is to be the conscience of the world such that by his very presence, even before he speaks, those who are engaged in activities and behaviours that contradict the values of Christ will be feeling uneasy. As with prophets of old, the presence of the priest who is the prophet of our day, the bearer of the message of God for our time, should convict all wrongdoers. The priest is a gift to the world, because as he strives to be ‘’holy, innocent, beyond the influence of sinners and uncontaminated by the values of the world’’; he gives the world an example of how this life must be lived in order to secure eternal life.
The priest is a teacher of the principles and practices that lead to salvation. He is to lead the people of God on the way to salvation as well as guide them through all the twists and turns, the dangers in the world that threaten salvation. Yes, the priest is a gift of God to the world. But how is the priest supposed to be able to rise above the world so as to be the sort of gift that he is called to be for the world? The priest is in a dilemma; he is in the world but not of the world; the choice of him by Christ has withdrawn him from the world, but he is still physically, emotionally and socially in the world. He is called to be where the sinner is, but he must himself not to be a sinner. The priest is caught in a dilemma. But then Christ Himself recognized this very clearly, and so in John 17, He prayed particularly for them. However, the priest must also rely on the promise of Christ, which says, ‘’My grace is sufficient for you.’’
The grace of God flows down on us as we celebrate the Eucharist and as we pray the Divine Office. The priest need not be counseled about prayers, (Aladura). But sometimes, the priest can be so engrossed in his work of the Lord as to neglect the Lord of the work. As we read the Scriptures and meditate on them, God speaks to us and teaches us what we must do in order to be gift of God to the world. We must read the scriptures in order to hear the voice of God giving us direction on how to overcome the world. The Scriptures are for us the rule and guide for our lives, the help in times of difficulty.
• Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins is the Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos.