Sunday, March 16, 2014

Priests are odd. They are meant to look at the same world as everyone else, but from a particular slant, so as to pick up things others might otherwise forget. To be sure, every single person in this room is called by God to be a witness for Jesus Christ. Priests are supposed to do so for the community as a whole. Priests are called to see God’s hand, his call, his gift, his warning, in the lives of the people he has given us to care for. The artists of whom I spoke saw things that seem ordinary. But they could see more there. They saw the work of the God who crouched down to where we live in Jesus Christ, and lifted who we are up to heaven in his resurrection. It is part of priests’ job to see ordinary and extraordinary things in these, the people God has put into their care, and to tell them so. In this, priesthood is a kind of artistry.

There is a tradition in the spirituality of Anglicanism of what one contemporary author has called “Easter in ordinary.” In the same vein, the Anglican poet George Herbert speaks in this way of committing the most ordinary acts to God:

All may of thee partake;
nothing can be so mean,
which with this tincture, “for thy sake,”
will not grow bright and clean.

As a priest, the things you are looking at are not odd, nor in reality is seeing things in the light of what is most real, most true. But to the world, to the way the world teaches us to see things, it seems odd. The things that shine with the light of the Holy Spirit, someone facing death with courage, someone raised up from addiction, someone challenging a wrong in a costly way, these seem like little things. The outsider looks at the Church in its flaws and humanity and sees things as lowly as pavement, as passing as waste. But it is not to be so with you. To accomplish this, you, like those artists, have to keep your eyes on things most do not look much at: prayer, the Scripture, the inner significance of ordinary things, the spiritual weight of suffering.

Read it all.

No comments: