One of the most prominent Church figures in the 20th century is Pope John XXIII. He was canonized on the 27th April 2014.
Besides the fact that it was he who got Vatican II Council started when nobody expected a 78 year-old Pope to do so, he was also prominent because of his figure.
Before he was elected Pope in 1958, one of his appointments was being papal nuncio to France. It was then that one of the French diplomats described him as “a sack of potatoes”. And if we look at photos of John XXIII, we will somewhat agree.
But one of the prominent characteristics of John XXIII was his sense of humour. Once he went to a school and there he asked the boys what they would want to become when they grew up, and one of them said that he would want to be a pope.
The pope smiled and said: Oh anyone can be a pope. Look at me! If I can become a pope, anyone can become a pope.
Such was the humour of John XXIII. But jokes aside, he knows that not anyone can be a pope, just as not anyone can be a priest.
This Sunday, the Church also celebrates Vocation Sunday and the Church is called to pray for more vocations to the priesthood.
We are called to reflect upon Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and the reflection is focused on the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.
The reflection goes further for those whom Jesus is calling to be His priests and to follow Him to lay down their lives for His sheep.
It is often said that God will provide. And so it can also be said that God will provide priests for His Church.
But the crisis that the Church is facing is the falling numbers in vocations to the priesthood, and at present there are only 10 seminarians in the Major Seminary, and that is already ringing the alarm bells for the future.
Added to that are the scandals that have rocked the Church and smeared the dignity of the priesthood.
With all those factors weighing in heavily on the Church, the resultant is that there is a growing skepticism and cynicism about the priesthood.
This skepticism and cynicism is reflected in this so-called poem and the title is none other than “No one wants to be a priest” and it goes like this.
It goes like this:
No one wants to be a priest because …If he begins Mass on time, his watch is fast;If he begins a minute later, he keeps people waiting.If he preaches too long, he makes people get bored;If his homily is too short, he is unprepared.If his voice is strong when preaching, he is shouting;If his voice is normal,people do not understand what he is preaching about;If he goes to visit families, he is always out:If he does not, he does not care for them.If he asks for donations, he is a money-face;If he does not do it, he is too proud and lazy.If he takes time in the confessional, he is too slow;If he makes it too fast, he has no time for his penitents.If he renovates the church, he throws away money;If he does not do it, he allows everything to rot away.If he is with the youth, he forgets the old.If he warms up to old aunties, he must be missing his mummy.If he keeps distance from all of them, he has a heart of stone.If he is young, he has no experience;If he is old, he should retire.As long as he lives, there are always people who are better than him;BUT IF THE PRIEST DIES....THERE IS NOBODY TO TAKE HIS PLACE!Because no one wants to be a priest!!!But God will provide and the Church must keep praying that those who are called will respond.
And the Church must also pray for those who have responded to the call to be good shepherds who will lay down their lives for the sheep.
As for myself, having been a priest for 17 years, when I was appointed parish priest of this parish, I knew that the sacrifice will have to go one notch higher.
And this sacrifice is best expressed in the Eucharist where I lead the community into prayer with the sign of the cross at the beginning and call upon God’s blessings on the community at the end of the Eucharistic celebration.
In between, I pray that we will be delivered from every evil and that we will have peace and be safe from all distress.
The fundamental task of a priest, as the 2nd reading would put it, is to form his people to be God’s children and to be like Him.
And if his people do not behave like God’s children, then the priest is called to do penance and pray for them because he is accountable for their souls and their salvation.
So I am accountable for your soul and your salvation. And do I want to be held accountable?
I can only firmly say “Yes” because I am doing this for God who has lavished His love on us by calling us His children.
And God wants all of us His children to be with Him in heaven. And it is my mission as the priest and the spiritual father of this parish community to do that.
Pope John XXIII died on the 3rd June 1963 and his last words were these: "I had the great grace to be born into a Christian family, modest and poor, but with the fear of the Lord. My time on earth is drawing to a close. But Christ lives on and continues his work in the Church. Souls, souls, may they all be one.”
I had the great grace to be a priest serving in this parish community. I also hope to teach you the fear of the Lord and to love Him.
May you pray for us priests that we continue the saving work of the Lord so that we will all be one in Christ … on earth, and in heaven.