I walked past a row of bookshelves and without stopping to browse, my gaze was unexpectedly and mysteriously fixed onto Fulton Sheen's The Priest Is Not His Own. It left a slight impression. I somewhat understood what this title means.
Even more unexpectedly, Fr. Philip Heng, SJ was con-celebrating Mass at the Church of St. Joseph for their feast day. It was his first time there and after Mass, a line of parishioners waited to ask for his blessings and prayers. Without hesitating, without a word of complaint, he attended to every one of them and their needs. Having had interrupted sleep the night before, he must have felt exhausted. The heat of the early afternoon probably intensified the fatigue. Yet, not a sign of tiredness was shown.
What would I have done in his shoes? What would you have done? I would have probably preferred to go get my funfair coupons and grab a bite to first tame the growling tummy, and then patronise the game stalls and have some fun playing the games too. I might have just, to escape from the crowd, headed directly, as invited, to the priest's house and have my meal there in peace.
But a priest is really not his own. His life is no longer his. It is for the service of God. Is it not? And it is the same for all religious men and women. This is probably what it means to be broken and poured out for all. An entire rearranging of priorities so that God becomes the one and only, and thereby, everything done must serve this one priority. A true servant of God, no more of one's own self. Taking the example of Jesus Himself, and walking in His footsteps, imitating Him in all His ways. A total denial of self. An unmeasured love for the people; a love which is not counted or rationed. Constantly receiving from God to constantly give to others. A disposition not of hoarding but of an openness, of pouring out. Of allowing oneself to bleed for the greater glory of God and in so doing, becoming one with the Master who bled for humanity.
A priest is not his own. His life has been surrendered to God, so that it is, henceforth, God who lives in this servant, works in this servant, and labours in our lives through this servant, who truly becomes the visible, tangible and effective hands and feet of God, the presence of God in the world. God comforts us through this servant. And perhaps, not only the religious men and women are such worthy servants of God. Anyone who loves God and imitates Him with sincerity and steadfastness becomes His children and His workers.
Can I open my heart so fully to God?
Can I die to myself completely?
With God's graces, I know I can.
But will I choose to?
6 May 2012, Sunday