Monday, June 20, 2022
Fr. Matthew Gomez - The Archdiocese of Miami
Throughout the past few months, I’ve been traveling the Archdiocese of Miami visiting with sixth graders talking to them about vocations. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop sponsored a program which began in Detroit in the 1980s called Focus 11, offering 11-year-olds (sixth grade) and 11th graders an opportunity to start thinking about their vocation.
The main point of Focus 11 is to change the question asked by family members, teachers, and friends, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” By asking this question we put God in control, and we begin to think about how we can respond to God’s calling, our vocation.
This is the first year back in person since the pandemic, and I thought that visiting classrooms would be a good opportunity to engage with the students. It was a wonderful adventure that began on March 29 at Mary, Help of Christians School and culminated at St. Agnes on June 2. A Holy Week recess and an Easter break gave me a much-needed respite, but all the schools were visited (except for the Basilica of St. Mary, Star of the Sea; I promise I will make it out there next year).
Part of my conversation with the sixth graders includes a question-and-answer session where students ask all sorts of things. Simple questions like, “What is the best part about priesthood?” or “What would you be doing if you weren’t a priest?” Some students are a little bolder in their questions and ask tough ones like “Why can’t priests get married?” or “What has been the toughest moment as a priest?”
I can honestly say that the questions have been my favorite part of my visits.
But I was presented a question that led me to think, reflect, pray about, and even contemplate during my annual retreat a few weeks ago: “Why are priests important?”
My initial answer was that we are not important. We are important insofar as Christ lives in me. If I am living my priesthood authentically then you don’t see Matthew Gomez, you see Jesus Christ. That’s what makes us important. I added that by virtue of our baptism we are all important because Christ lives in each one of us. The student appreciated the answer; but the question lingered in my heart.
Priests ARE important insofar as we “have been taken from among men and been made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin” (Presbyterorm Ordinis #3 quoting Hebrews 5:1).
Priests ARE important as we “have been consecrated by God in a new manner at [our] ordination and made living instruments of Christ the Eternal Priest that [we] may be able to carry on in time his marvelous work whereby the entire family of man is again made whole by power from above” (P.O. #12).
Priests ARE important because we serve as a bridge between God and humanity in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We serve as a bridge between humanity and God in the sacrament of reconciliation.
I am not important because of who I am and what I have done, I am important because Christ has chosen me to be a collaborator with Him in His plan of salvation. The only thing left to say is, thank you Jesus!
As we approach the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us pray for the sanctification of priests. Let us pray that the Lord may inspire more men to lay down their lives in the ministerial priesthood. Let us pray that we, each and every day, will give thanks to God for the importance of the priesthood.