Endangered Species

In many ways, we are like Bartimaeus, the blind beggar. In our complacency, a few of us are sitting by the roadside and waiting for Jesus to pass by. In our repentance, some of us are begging Jesus to have pity upon us. And in our blindness, most of us are asking Jesus to help us that we may see things as they really are.

To see and face ourselves as we are and to embrace the realities of life are difficult things to do. Although we are not physically and spiritually blind, there are times when we cloud our vision and distract our senses in our effort to mask reality and make it conform to our needs and wants.

Like the blind beggar, we seek to correct our vision. Some of us could be either farsighted, that is having difficulty in seeing objects up close or nearsighted, where close objects are seen clearly, but objects farther away appear blurred. It is this nearsightedness, this myopic vision that I would like to alert you. We need the voice of Bartimaeus that we may find our way to the future of our faith.

It is probably not coincidental that we also celebrate today World Priesthood Day. Last June, Pope Benedict proclaimed this year to be a Year for Priests. Moms get one day in May. Dads get one day in June. What do priests get? A year. Before I got carried away with this thought though, I suddenly remembered that this year in the Chinese calendar is also the Year for the Ox, the Year for the Bull. There is no correlation, however.

Only a handful would consider being a priest. A year before I was ordained a priest, our seminary class had T-shirts made with the imprint: Expectant Fathers. Twenty years away from that, I am thinking of having another T-shirt made with this printed: Endangered Specie.

If I may presume, there is only a handful among us here, if ever, who probably have asked our son or our grandson in thinking about the priesthood. If I may assume, there is only a handful among us here, who are doing something about the shortage of vocations to the religious life and to the priesthood.

I can relate with your hesitance. At first, my father was also against my decision about the priesthood. And, I can relate with your reluctance to address vocations because there are several arguments about living the life of a priest. If you are a priest, you cannot marry. My answer to that is I am a priest and I am married. I am married to the Church. And I am blessed to have the Bishop as my good father-in-law.

If you are a priest, you will not be wealthy. My answer to that is I am already wealthy, because I do not need much. Poverty is not how much you have, but how much you need. A rich man may still be poor if his needs are many. And the best thing for me as a priest is that my retirement pay is out of this world.

If you are a priest, you cannot have children. My answer to that is I have children, lots and lots of them. That is why you call me Father, although some of you are older than me. Acting in the person of Christ, I am your spiritual father. And if you had been a father, you would know how a father feels when he talks about his children.

Had I not been a priest, I would not have the joy of seeing newlyweds promising to love forever in the Sacrament of Marriage, the happiness of baptizing your children, the humility of granting you absolution in the Sacrament of Penance, the unique privilege of celebrating Mass for your needs and the hope of healing the sickness of your loved ones and uniting their souls to God in the Sacrament of the Anointing. And had I not been a priest, I would not have the blessing of being assigned here at St. Charles Borromeo.

We need to duplicate our prayers with our actions. Pray not just for more priests, but pray for better priests. We can help vocations by supporting our Catholic school, our Religious Education programs and our parish. From good Catholic students come good parishioners. From good parishioners come good priests. The Serra Club has also started the Chalice Program in our parish this weekend. Be that family who will host the chalice blessed by Bishop Smith. Be that family who will pray for vocations. Be that family who will pray for the future of our Church.

So that when Jesus heals our vision and clears the clouds in our eyes, he will also tell us like he told Bartimaeus to go our way because our faith has saved us. And once we receive our sight, just like the blind beggar did, be able to follow Jesus on the way.

25 October 2009

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