BEST Of MYSPIRITUAL ADVISOR: Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on the qualities needed for good priests.  This provocative reflection should lead all of us to start looking for a few good men.  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please read Matthew 23:1-12.  (Originally Aired on October 20, 2011.  Mark Kurowski was at the Interfaith Youth Core Leadership Institute in Chicago this week. He will return next week with a life reflection. #GreatCatholicPreaching).

 

{mp3}2011 10 30 A 62 31 Ord{/mp3}

For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/30/2011The 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 23:1-12.
In the Catholic Church, we believe that God works through the Bishop and the seminary to provide for us what we need in a priest.  We believe that God provides what we need in a priest, not necessarily what we want.  We are saying theologically that we believe that God provides for us because we are more inclined to choose what we want more than what we need.  Theoretically, this system allows priests to speak the Gospel more freely because their paycheck is not tied to how good they make people feel.
But, if we were going to hire our priest, what kind of ad would we put on Monster.com?
Wanted: a weak wimpy sort of person who is not entirely sure what the will of God is.  This person must make us feel as though it is alright to not obey God completely because, of course, we are all on a spiritual journey working out our own salvation.  Qualities that are desired are uncertainty, a lack of energy, a person who values a 35 minute Mass, and a demeanor that does not upset the applecart.  Please apply immediately.
I don’t think we would actually post that on Monster.com, but in actuality there are churches and Catholics who would love to have pastors who fit this description.  I think that the problem that I have with this want-ad is that if flies in the face of choosing Joshua to succeed Moses.  As you know, Moses was not allowed to lead the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land.  Joshua, his successor, had the leadership role for this task.
God used the crossing of the Jordan River to show God himself chose Joshua to succeed Moses.  The Lord proposed that the priests enter a flooding Jordan River and he would make it part so they could all walk over on dry land—small cheese after the Red Sea.  Joshua says something interesting as this is all happening.  He says to the people, “Hereby you shall know that the living God is among you.”
Joshua’s role was to be the one who reminded the people that “the living God is among you.” (As if the water parting once again wasn’t enough of a reminder!) It was Joshua who was to proclaim with authority that God calls us to live according to his covenant.
Today, every priest worth their salt should speak as one who has authority by God, just like Joshua.  They should be a person who knows what God is calling his people as a community to do and challenges them to do it as an act of faith.  All priests today should be people who care more what god thinks than whether or not the congregation thinks the homily is entertaining or fun.
So, I think that the first thing we ought to look for in a priest is someone who knows they are called by God and who is willing to wear the mantle of shepherdly authority.  Maybe we need to revise our ad:
Wanted: someone who know how to be a Christian and will tell us.  They need not read their Bibles every day, nor pray for us.  This person should possess the following qualities: highly intellectual, struggling to live the faith the point that they just throw up their hands, a person who is our priest only from nine to five and who reminds us often that they have a private life and can do what they want in it.
Somehow, I don’t think this squares with what Jesus has to say to his disciples about the Scribes and the Pharisees who showed up in this Gospel.  They were people who were zealous about their religion.  They were also people who did not practice what they preached.  Jesus is calling us to have apostles as priests who will not only preach a homily, but live a homily.
If you priest preaches that you should pray and read your Bible every day, he should pray and read his Bible everyday more than he expects you to do it.  If your priest tells you to tithe, then he needs to tithe.  If your priest wants to lead you to a deeper spiritual understanding, he had better have a deeper spiritual understanding himself, and go see a spiritual director.  Who wants a priest that is just like us?  Do we go to school and want our Math teacher to know as little as we do about math?  Do we want to go to the auto-repair shop and put our car, our life, in the hands of someone who knows no more than we do about cars?
Jesus tells us that the Scribes and the Pharisees not only didn’t practice what they preached, but they loaded upon the people so much more than what they were willing to do that it because a burden.  Our priests not only need to practice what they preach, they need to practice it well.  At a minimum they need to aspire to practice it well and admit their short comings.
So, maybe we need a different job posting:
Wanted: a priest who is very concerned about driving big luxurious car, having the best parking space, getting a big salary, wearing the best vestments and getting more respect than they deserve.  Above all, as a congregation, we want someone to be our priest who always has to have their way and will be-little anyone who doesn’t let them have it.
Jesus is pretty clear that we do not need that “Big Daddy Priest” described in that job posting.  What we need more than anything else is for those who serve god for the sake of serving God.  This is what Jesus means when he says, “The exalted shall be humbled and the humble shall be exalted.”
A great man once wrote, “Give me one hundred men who hate sin, and nothing else, and love God, and nothing else, and I will change the world.”  We need priests who are not priests because they like the security of the appointment system and its benefits.  We need priests who are not priests because they are on a power trip.  We need priests who do not keep track of bishops and their appointments like football players on the trade wire.  We need priests who do not think that because they have “sacrificed” they deserve, well, just deserve.  We need priests who love God more than life itself. We need priests whose motives are beyond reproach.
There they are the qualities of a priest.  So let’s rewrite our job posting:
Wanted: someone called by God who is willing to take up the authority given to them out of their deep and abiding love for Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It needs to be a person who is willing to sacrifice the comfort of their home town, relationships with extended family and the big paycheck they could get in the secular world.  The quality needed in such a person is a resolute belief that Jesus has called them to be used to save the souls of people lost in sin.  They need to have a burning desire to lead those saved souls in a deeper worship life and social action for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Good enough?
Two other points need to be made before we close this reflection.  The first, if you know anyone who qualifies for this job description, please let your bishop know.  You should say to them, “you would make a good priest.”  Please do not think they are too old, or too young, or too whatever.  Let God use you as a burning bush to call another Moses.
The second thing, today I stress that these qualities
1.    Being called by god and willing to do what he tells you,
2.    Not asking anyone to do what you are not willing to do,
3.    And doing what we do as an act of love to God,
all of these can be asked at some level for all Christians.
I declare to you that the living God is among us.  He loves us and forgives us our sins.  Let us all try to live out all of these things as we invite  those who have these gifts in large measure to answer the calling of God.  Amen?  Amen.
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