by Fr. Mark Adame Bakari, OFM
Vocation to the religious life and to the priesthood is a gift. It is a gift that is both unmerited and undeserved. It is not something that we earn nor is it something that we are entitled to. Instead, it is all because of God’s graciousness. Here we see that we who are ordained are not more special than others. Nor are we better and holier than others that is why God called us to this life. In the midst of our own share of weaknesses and limitations, God still has called us. And through His grace, He continues to qualify and strengthen us.
To serve God’s people as a Franciscan priest is a privilege. At the same time, to serve is an opportunity of humble thanksgiving for this precious gift that God has blessed me with. I am ever thankful that God has called me to this life. God has given me this precious opportunity to serve Him and His people through offering myself and doing my humble part in spreading his Word and His love.
What have I given up? There was not much to give up I suppose. Only perhaps the greater opportunity to be with my family, the life of my own, the possibility of pursuing a career, and the joy and fulfilment of raising my own family. But in the midst of these sacrifices, God reciprocates a hundredfold. He gives back abundantly through the love, care and support of people who have become my greater family. God cannot really be outdone in His generosity, and you dear sisters and brothers are the glowing signs of God’s love and generosity.
As priests, though we are not more special than others, most often we are treated with special treatment and with high esteem. People trust us and welcome us to be part of their families and their lives. During the celebration of the Sacraments, we represent Jesus. During confessions, people entrust their sins, their deepest secrets to us as we become God’s instruments of His forgiveness. These are all inspiring and encouraging, but at the same time humbling as well because of the sense of unworthiness. But again, not because we deserve but it is all because of God, all because of God’s grace. May this same grace inspire me to always look up to God for “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity –
As published in the March 26 issue of the Parish Bulletin.