Priesthood: Should it be a priceless gift or a precious profession?

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Centuries may be buried in the cemetery of bygone reminiscence with years, months, weeks and days, the inseparable parts of a century. Science and scientism, technology and technocracy may become the throneless kings of the world. Atheism and hedonism may trample down the theistic beliefs and concepts. The dreams of knowledge of access to galaxies other than our Milky Way galaxy may become a reality. Humans, with their inquisitive and curious mind, may conduct millions and millions of excursions to the space and find a place conducive to live. Regularities may give way to irregularities: but priesthood should have no change. It should always remain as a NOBLE VOCATION not as a profession. Have a glimpse at these words- vocation and profession.

Vocation is a feeling that one is called to a certain kind of work especially religious. Theologically speaking, priestly vocation is the call to live the unique and permanent priesthood of Christ. This vocation is prerogative. It is clear in (Mk 3, 13- 15) “and he went up to the mountain and called to him whom he desires, and they came to him. And he appointed the twelve to be with him and to be sent out to preach and have authority, to cast out demons”.

Priestly vocation demands a total commitment to the will and plan of God and it is a special call for a noble cause. In short priests are the personnel of Christ. Profession is a paid occupation. An advocate, a teacher, a policeman, a postman etc are professionals: For the professionals each profession is a way of life and it’s time bound. But priestly vocation or priesthood is not the way of life but it is the marrow of a person as air to humans. God calls us even before we are born in the womb of our own mothers. We see in the Old Testament the callings of different prophets to fulfill the mission of Yahweh. Here the commitment of the prophets was not to the world but to the will of Yahweh. The prime aim of a professional is to meet the daily needs of his life and to lead a comfortable life. His commitment is to this world. Therefore every profession is profit oriented and money oriented.

So if we consider priesthood as a profession and if we simply pooh pooh the spiritual and divine design of priesthood, then it is a bundle of cacophonic futility and gigantic absurdity. Here the only motive will be power, money and authority. Whenever the temporal realities were given preference to spiritual realities, priesthood was degraded to the status of profession.

This ugly consideration of priesthood as a profession brought infamies and breaks in the Catholic Church. What was the reason behind the emergence of the Protestant church under the leadership of Martin Luther King? What was the reason behind the Reformation that took place in the 16th century? There may be dogmatic reasons but apart from that the reason is explicitly clear, the popes, priests etc led a life of ease and comfort. The “sale of indulgence” was the notorious among them. Those ignominious and unwanted things happened just because they considered priesthood as a profession, not as vocation or as a call of God. Therefore the moment priesthood embraces professionalism, that is to say the absolute degradation of its divine purpose, there starts the decline of the Church, debacle of the charisma of the Church, the deterioration of the missionary mandate of the Church.

In conclusion let me call your attention to the purpose of Jesus’ Incarnation. Jesus came to this world not as professional, but as a Personnel of God the Father. He accepted the call of God (vocation). What was his divine call? His call was to save the humankind from the muddy madness of sinful nature. Jesus did not come to this world as a professional politician to introduce any money bill for the innovation of the world economy, nor did he come as a professional correspondent of any medical research or as a discoverer of any scientific invention. Our Lord Jesus came to this world as the Son of God with a divine purpose of imparting salvation to all. The duty of priests is to continue the work of Christ, which is a noble vocation not a profession.

Fr Johnson Kuppayil
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