When I was a kid, I thought it was extremely odd that the priests at my parish took vacation time. I had no clue that they were allowed to do that. I did not see priesthood as a typical career, but something that took a great deal of sacrifice—including sacrificing any personal time for the service of the Church. For instance I knew that a priest could not get married and have children of his own. I knew that a priest lived simply and was at the service of the Church, mostly through the parish where he was assigned. To me, that meant he was at the service of the Church 24/7.
Now that I am older and understand a little bit more about the workings of the Church and parish as an institution as well as the Body of Christ, it makes perfect sense to me that priests are “allowed” to take time off. From my professional and personal relationships with priests, I know how important it is for priests to take time off—whether that means a day during the week or a week’s vacation. My childhood image of the priest and one that is shared by too many people is that these men are super human. The priest is not super human, but a human of faith. Not being super human does not me he does not do super human things. In fact, through faith in God (who is very super human—not contained or restricted by human limitations), humans can do some super human things.
In the Gospel this week, we encounter something that is very super-human—faith and the consequences of faith known as miracles. What is important to look at in these readings is who displays their faith and who does not. First, Jairus comes in faith to Christ on behalf of his daughter. Jairus is looking for Christ to help. He has faith in Jesus’ power to heal and that faith has a consequence—healing for his daughter. Think for a second of the tremendous faith and courage it took for this man to leave his daughter’s side as she was at the point of death. With full knowledge that he may not be there with is daughter until the very last moment, he leaves and goes to Jesus. What selfless faith!
Second, the woman suffering from a hemorrhage has tremendous faith in Christ’s power. Her faith has a consequence—healing and salvation. Each act of faith draws people to Christ. Each act of faith results in a miracle. Sometimes, like in the case of the woman in this Sunday’s Gospel, it is our own faith that moves us to act, that moves us toward Jesus. Other times, like in the case of Jairus, it is the great faith of others that leads us closer to Him and allows Him to miraculously heal us in big and small ways.
When we look at this connection between faith and healing through the lens of the life of the priest, we can see how these men can sometimes be mistaken for being super human….
Every time a priest says Mass, a miracle takes place. Through the priest, Christ becomes present on the Altars of our Churches and through faith we draw nearer and nearer to Him.
Through the priest, Christ brings healing to those weighed down by sin in the Confessional and those sick and dying through the Sacrament of Anointing.
When a man, who is all things worldly and impure, through the constant prayers from his mother or grandmother, has an encounter with Jesus and repents…that’s a miracle. (When that man enters the seminary and becomes later becomes a priest…that’s a miracle too)
When society makes champions of sexual immodesty and immorality and then a priest, through His faith in Christ, makes a promise to and lives out a life of celibacy…that’s a miracle.
When society becomes more and more divided under a false flag of hateful relativism disguised as “equality” and “tolerance” making others feel discouraged or afraid to speak the truth and a priest stands up and preaches God’s love strengthening our faith…that’s a miracle.
When a loved one dies suddenly, and your priest is there to help you not only in celebrating the funeral Liturgy but also on a personal level, following up with you as the months go by when it seems like everyone else is going on with their lives…giving you hope and encouraging you in faith…that’s a miracle.
Yes, a priest is human—a human with sins, struggles, and brokenness. But he is also a human that recognizes he needs to go to Jesus in faith to heal his brokenness. He is a human that allows Christ to work in and through him in these various situations. He is a human that shows an example of faith, attracting others to the super human person of Christ, increasing our faith in the one, true God—God who performs miracles big and small in those who have faith in Him.