Jan/Feb 2023 Two weeks, eight funerals and lessons learned. By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of…
One of the most powerful moments of a priest’s ordination is when he lies prostrate in front of the altar. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I made this deal with the Lord: “Lord, you called me to this life. I lie down before you today and I promise to give you my best. The rest is up to you. Help me to be a holy and loving priest.”
In the September issue, I introduced the topic of my vocations column for the next few months – how a man who wants to be a priest must first become fire. This month, we are talking about sacrificial fire.
Sacrifice is a common theme in the Old Testament. In Leviticus, a book often overlooked because of all the rituals and sacrificial language, we read about one of the main requirements of sacrifice. “If the communion sacrifice one offers to the Lord is from the flock, be it a male or a female animal, it must be presented without blemish.” (Lv 3:6) Much more can be written about the theology of sacrifice, but, for our purposes, I am focusing on what it means to be without blemish. That is to say, the animal sacrificed for the Lord is to be among the best of the flock. These sacrifices, also referred to as burnt offerings, were placed on the altar of the Lord.
Here’s the point: God wants our very best, our 100% effort. Therefore, that line from the Old Testament often quoted by Jesus still rings true today: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” (Dt 6:5) God wants our whole hearts; undivided.
Our diocese is in the midst of the Our Shepherds – Our Future Capital Campaign. A majority of the funds raised will support seminarian education. Brothers and sisters, first, let me take this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for your generous financial support that will not only help our men today in formation – I too am a beneficiary. I am very grateful to the faithful of the diocese who have given generously so that we can continue to subsidize the costs for seminarian studies. But I also bring this up because the seminarians know that they are to be good stewards of the generosity they have received. They know that the faithful support them both financially and, more important, spiritually. This very fact inspires them to continue to give their best, because the people of West Michigan hope and pray they will come back as good and holy priests.
God continues to call men from our community to be priests. He also expects the best out of these men, these future priests. They are called to give the very best of themselves to the Lord and to God’s people. But this is true as well for all of us in the context of our own vocation. We are all called to give our very best to the Lord. I encourage you to think about your sacrificial offering to God, and I am not talking solely about money. St. Paul sums it up best, “Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” (Rom 12:10-11)