To all Priests
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt.16:24).
I wish to dedicate today's reflection to my TENTH PRIESTLY ANNIVERSARY. It was on August 5th, 2006. It happened after long years of seminary formation, just like that. As I marched through the central isle of Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri, in Southeast of Nigeria, the questions I asked myself were, "Is that all? Then what next?" The entire church was filled to the brim, to the capacity of over four thousand. The choir chanted the, "Priestly People, kingly people, holy people, God's chosen people. Sing praise to the Lord", repeatedly. Initially, it was all joy, then suddenly a feeling of fear gripped me. Maybe I didn't know it would be that intense. Standing in front of my archbishop and the whole crowd to pronounce my vows, then lying face-down to listen and meditate on the litany of the Saints seemed to me like dying. It was serious. What else could I say- "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself", so says the Master Jesus.
Priesthood is self-denial. And you won't believe how many things priests deny themselves for the sake of this journey -family, marriage, possessions, etc. I have always been confronted with this question, "Why did you chose to be priest, by the way"? It's not hard to answer- "It's God, all about God". That's just it. It's a hard life to live after all. If not God, I wouldn't be priest. If not God also, I can't live the life of a priest, so also other priests called to God's ministry. No one can explain the mystery of the priesthood completely, so it's all about God.
The next factor is family. My family sacrificed a lot to see me become priest. They gave me all the support, sometimes to the point of denying themselves too. They gave up their comfort, put up with my acceptance to be priest. My dad and mom had us nine children. They labored under thick and thin to train us in the way of God. You know what training one kid could be like, what more nine. Dad was a great pillar, and still is. My mom was my backbone, may God rest her soul. So, I owe it up to them. That's why I love the family so much. You can't beat the family.
The denial which the priest goes through is one with God in focus. As he carries his cross, his pains, anxiety, loneliness, etc, he must follow Jesus. He must look up to the Master. He must be ready to serve as the Lord did. Christ says, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt.16:24). It is important to always follow Christ on our journey. Not only as priests, but as God's children. We have to follow him as we carry our cross, else it weighs us down. This is my invitation to all who read my post today;
-never lose sight of Jesus.
-be sure God will pay you back in abundance.
May the priestly blessing be on you.