Grace to you!
Today, we conclude our reflection on sacramental grace. Tomorrow we will wrap up the entire discussion on grace by reflecting on special graces or charisms.
Recently, I had an edifying discussion with a younger priest. “I have come to realize,” he said, “that the joy of the priesthood is in being poured out for the good of others.” It couldn’t be said any better. God bless his soul.
The happiest priests I have ever known are those who are driven to respond to God’s call for service. It could be praying for people, visiting them when they are sick, offering Mass schedules that fit the parish timetable (not special interest groups, the so-called moneybags), spending ample time in praying and preparing the homily so as to feed the people well, and being available for the people.
Simple gestures such as hanging out with people when it isn’t convenient and having a listening ear when they are burdened and want to share, all add up to fulfilling the mission to serve.
Joyful priests have learned from our Lord that their calling is rooted in the grace of service. “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Ordained ministers and married couples share one grace in common, namely, the grace of service. They are called to serve others in a special way. Ordained ministers are granted the grace to serve the Church, the people of God. Married couples are granted the grace to serve one another and their children, if they are blessed with children. This grace is granted them during ordination and during the sacrament of matrimony.
Observe the life of joyfully married couples. The man has known how to step back and let the wife who is “in charge of the house” make some tough decisions. Sometimes, the decisions are inconvenient; yet, if peace must reign in the home, and if their love will grow, the man must let go. Self-giving is the key to married love.
Married women also realize they are no longer single. They must sacrifice a lot in the interest of their husband. Parents too have learned the sweet bitter lesson of planning, not around their schedule, but around the schedule of their non-adult children.
You may not need to ask, how do I, a priest who isn’t married, know all these. Many married couples confide in the priest and share many marriage situations, hence I know.
If ordained ministers and married couples must live the nature of their vocations, they fit the description Jesus used regarding Peter: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18).
Isn’t it true that many times people don’t want to have kids because they are not ready for the service-sacrifices connected with having children? They simply aren’t ready to be pulled here and there by kid stuff. The messiness and unpredictability are rather too much for their self-interest.
Some want to remain single, preferring to have the so-called partner, because of the risk of losing some of their conveniences, including their assets. We should be ready to confront these fears.
There is joy in being service-oriented. Hence, the Lord provides ordained ministers and married couples the grace of service when they receive the sacrament of their vocations.
I hope you are aware that many of the graces of the other sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Confessions and Anointing of the Sick) are for the direct benefit of the recipients, save for Holy Orders and Matrimony which are first directed in service of others (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, n. 1533-1535).
Hence the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls them the sacrament of service. “Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God” (CCC, 1534).
On this Day 27 of Advent, we ask the Good Lord Jesus Christ to grant us the grace of service, so like Mary (see Luke 1:39), we shall hurry in haste to serve others. Amen. Christmas is an apt time to serve.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.